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Areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union
The Moscow Peace Treaty was signed by Finlandmarker and the Soviet Unionmarker on March 12, 1940, and the ratifications were exchanged on March 21. It marked the end of the 105-day Winter War. The treaty ceded parts of Finland to the Soviet Union. However, it preserved Finland's independence, ending the Soviet attempt to annex the country. The treaty was signed by Vyacheslav Molotov, Andrey Zhdanov and Aleksandr Vasilevsky for Soviet Union, and Risto Ryti, Juho Kusti Paasikivi, Rudolf Walden and Väinö Voionmaa for Finland.


The Finnish government received the first tentative peace conditions from the Soviet Union (through Stockholmmarker) on January 29. Until then, the Red Army had fought to occupy all of Finland. By this point, the Soviet government was prepared to temper its claims. The demands were that Finland cede the Karelian Isthmusmarker, including the city of Viipurimarker, and Finland's shore of Lake Ladogamarker. The Hanko Peninsulamarker was to be leased to the Soviet Union for 30 years.

Finland rejected these demands and intensified their pleas to Swedenmarker, Francemarker and the United Kingdommarker for military support by regular troops. Although Finland in the long run had no chance against a country fifty times its size, the reports from the front still held out hope for Finland anticipating a League of Nations intervention. Positive signals, however inconstant, from France and Britain, and more realistic expectations of troops from Sweden, for which plans and preparations had been made all through the 1930s, were further reasons for Finland not to rush into peace negotiations. (See Foreign Support for a detailed account.)

In February 1940, Finland's Commander-in-Chief marshal Mannerheim expressed his pessimism about the military situation, prompting the government to start peace negotiations on February 29, the same day the Red Army commenced an attack against Viipurimarker (now Vyborg).

Harsh peace

On March 6, a Finnish delegation lead by Prime Minister Risto Ryti travelled to Moscowmarker. During the negotiations, the Red Army broke through the Finnish defence lines around Tali and were close to surrounding Vyborgmarker.

The Peace Agreement was signed on the evening of March 12, Moscow time, i.e. 01:00 hours on March 13, Finnish time. The protocol appended to the treaty stipulated that the fighting should be ended at noon, Leningradmarker time (11:00 Finnish time), and the fighting continued until that time.

Finland was forced to cede nearly all of Finnish Karelia (with Finland's industrial center, including Vyborg/Viipuri, Finland's second largest city; in total, nearly 10% of the territory), even though large parts were still held by Finland's army. Military troops and remaining civilians were hastily evacuated to inside the new border. 422,000 Karelians, 12% of Finland's population, lost their homes.

Interestingly, there was also an area that the Russians captured during the war, which remained in Finnish hands according to the Peace Treaty: Petsamo. However, the peace treaty also stipulated that Finland would grant free passage for Soviet civilians through Petsamo to Norway.

Finland also had to cede a part of the Sallamarker area, the Finnish part of the Kalastajansaarento (Rybachi) peninsula in the Barents Seamarker, and in the Gulf of Finlandmarker the islands of Suursaarimarker, Tytärsaarimarker, Lavansaari (now Moshchny Island о. Мощный), Peninsaari (now Maly Island, о. Малый) and Seiskarimarker. Finally, the Hanko Peninsulamarker was leased to the Soviet Union as a naval base for 30 years.

Contrary to common belief, the Soviet troop transfer rights by railway to the Hanko base were not granted in the peace treaty, but they were demanded first on July 9, after Sweden had acknowledged railway transit of Wehrmacht troops to occupied Norway.

Additional demands were that any equipment and installation on the ceded territories were to be handed over. Thus Finland had to hand over 75 locomotives, 2,000 railroad cars, a number of cars, trucks and ships. The Ensomarker industrial area, which was clearly on the Finnish side of the border, as it was drawn in the peace treaty, was also soon added to the Finnish losses of territory and equipments.

The new border was not arbitrary from the Soviet viewpoint.
  • Before the war, Finland had been a leading producer of high quality pulp, which was an important raw material for explosives. Including the Enso factories, the Soviet Union captured 80% of Finland's production capacity.
  • Finland had to cede 1/3 of her built hydroelectric power, mainly in the form of hydroelectric power plants in River Vuoksimarker, which was badly needed in Leningrad where the industry suffered a 20% shortage of electricity.
  • The location of the new border was consistent with the Soviet defence doctrine, which envisioned taking the fight onto enemy soil through counter attacks and pre-emptive strikes. Under this doctrine, the ideal border should not allow the enemy to have natural defensible barriers; so instead of running through natural border locations like the Bay of Viipurimarker or the swamp region at the isthmus between Lake Saimaamarker and Lake Ladogamarker, the new border ran on the western side of those. But those positions were also very easy to encircle for an offensive enemy of the Red Army, which was soon to be shown.

The Finns were shocked by the harsh peace terms. It seemed as if more territory was lost in the peace than in the war, and the loss was in many ways some of the highest valued parts of Finland:
  • Large parts of the most populated southern region of remaining Finland had been connected to the world via the Saimaa Canal system, that now was severed at Vyborg where it connects to the Gulf of Finland.
  • The southern part of the lost area was Finland's industrial heart.
  • Karelia is considered the heart and origin of the Finnish culture. Before the Winter War, the Soviet sovereignty over the main part of Karelia, and Stalinist atrocities there, had been a major source of grief for many Finns. Under the terms of the treaty, the rest of Karelia was also lost. This started the Karelian question.

Sympathy from the world opinion seemed to have been of little worth. A certain bitter disappointment became a common feature of the Finns' view of other nations, not the least of Swedes, who had offered plenty of sympathy but did not fulfill their obligations of military support for Finland.

For better or for worse, the harsh terms made the Finns inclined to seek support from Nazis, and made many Finns regard revenge as justified. In the end, this might have been a necessary condition for Finland's survival in the World War.

Only a year later, in June 1941, hostilities resumed in the Continuation War.


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