College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


David Snead


Finland, World War II, The Winter War, The Continuation War, The Lapland War, Eastern Front, the Soviet Union, Germany, Co-Belligerency, the Baltic




In an article for the Sunday Chronicle in June 1937, Winston Churchill described Nazism and Communism as “the creeds of the devil.” Caught between these two ideologies that “are at each other’s throats,” Finland attempted to remain a sovereign nation. This would prove to be virtually impossible after the November 1939 Soviet invasion of Finland. While Joseph Stalin and his advisors “expected [a] triumphal parade,” the dogged resistance of the Finnish Army and people “turned [that parade] into a bloody three-month war.” Furnished in the crucible of conflict, battling for their very existence as a nation, the Winter War united a previously divided people and forged a united Finnish national identity. Reeling from the destructive war, Finnish leaders strove never to be in the same position again. This context is particularly important when studying the motives of Finnish leaders. Convinced that it was their only viable option and provided with an opportunity to regain what they lost, Finnish leaders pragmatically decided to commit to a co-belligerency with Nazi Germany in the fall of 1940. However, this decision must be placed within its immediate context—the decades preceding the outbreak of World War II and the Winter War. The Finnish leaders and citizens failed to understand not only the nature of warfare on the Eastern Front but also the ramifications of allying with a nation like Nazi Germany. Finland became intertwined with a genocidal war on the Eastern Front, and some of its soldiers participated in Nazi atrocities committed against Jews, civilians, and Soviet prisoners of war. The Finnish-German co-belligerency played a significant role in the history of World War II and especially in Finland’s struggle as a newly independent nation navigating the complex geopolitical environment.

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