Presidential Forum disagrees on myth of a "separate war"
One of the most jealously-guarded articles of doctrine of recent Finnish history, the vexed matter of the “separate war”, was discussed in the Presidential Forum VIII in the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
The opinion of the war between Finland and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944 having been a separate war, outside the global conflagration. was criticised, and Dr. Oula Silvennoinen, the controversial researcher of this autumn, suggested that the myth of a ”separate war” between the two sides should be buried, as it only creates confusion.
Finland attacked the Soviet Union alongside Germany in the summer of 1941, being involved in the ideological ”war of destruction” of Nazi Germany, instead of being engaged in its own fight, Silvennoinen notes.
According to Silvennoinen, at least the State Police VALPO and Finland’s Military Headquarters were involved in ”the ideological war of destruction, fighting side by side with Germany”.
Moreover, VALPO and the control section of Military HQ allowed numerous Russian prisoners to be handed over to the German Gestapo. Silvennoinen believes that the prisoners were executed.
History professor Henrik Meinander agreed that the myth of a separate war was not based on historic research. The image has been mainly political.
According to Meinander, Finland was entirely dependent on Germany being its ”most important ally” on the main war scene, the eastern front.
However, no consensus of opinion among the participants in the Presidential Forum was reached relating to the nature of the Continuation War.
For example Professor Ohto Manninen continued to regard the ”separate war” as a perfectly good term.
It describes Finland’s revanchist goals in the Continuation War, so-named in Finnish because it was a follow-up to the Winter War of 1939-40, when the Soviets attacked Finland and eventually exacted territorial concessions, in spite of incurring heavy losses in men and materiel.
Finland’s relationship with other countries was crucial - not the relations between Finland and Germany, Manninen explained.
He also pointed out that the Soviet Union tried to conclude peace separately with Finland already in the winter of early 1944. Furthermore, even the United States regarded the war between Finland and the Soviet Union as a separate conflict.
In the spring of 2005, President Tarja Halonen herself noted in a speech in Paris: ”For us World War II meant a separate war against the Soviet Union”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately reacted, and the President’s speech resulted in a lengthy debate in Finland.
”We received only some criticism in Finland, while somewhat more came from abroad”, reported Halonen on Wednesday.
”I still believe that the speech described - and still does - the Finns’ feelings about the matter”, she added.
While not taking back her interpretation, Halonen seemed to regret her choice of words a little.
”I would have got by more easily, if I had spoken only about a war - not a separate war”, noted the President after the history discussion on Wednesday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland and Germany in WW II: Brothers in arms - and partners in crime? (30.9.2008)
Continuation War, 1941-44 (Wikipedia)