Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement
The Ryti–Ribbentrop letter of agreement of June 26, 1944 was a personal letter from President Risto Ryti to Führer Adolf Hitler where Risto Ryti
Risto Ryti
Risto Heikki Ryti was the fifth President of Finland, from 1940 to 1944. Ryti started his career as a politician in the field of economics and as a political background figure during the interwar period. He made a wide range of international contacts in the world of banking and within the...

, then President of Finland
President of Finland
The President of the Republic of Finland is the nation's head of state. Under the Finnish constitution, executive power is vested in the President and the government, with the President possessing extensive powers. The President is elected directly by the people of Finland for a term of six years....

, undertook not to reach a separate peace in the war
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

 with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 without the approval from Nazi Germany to secure German military aid to stop Soviet offensive. This letter marked the closest to an alliance Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 and Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 came during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Historical background

Although Finland had had residual pro-German sentiments from Imperial Germany's critical support during the Civil War, those were dented by the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 ideology, especially its undemocratic totalitarism and its Herrenrasse view which placed Finns into same slot as slavs. Finland had democratic traditions dating back to at least the 16th century, and after the failed rebellions by left-wingers and right-wingers, the Finns were rather alienated by the brutal sides of the "New Germany".

So it was no wonder that neither Finland or Germany wanted formalized alliance in the beginning in their fight against Soviet Union, though from very different reasons. It was only after the war turned out to last longer than expected that German interest in an alliance treaty rose, although by then Finns had even less interest to bind themselves with a formal treaty. Germany tried several times to pressure the Finns by cutting food and arms deliveries, but the military importance of Finnish participation resulted these resuming quite soon afterwards.

As Nazi Germany's war fortune waned, Finland tried to reach a peace with the Soviet Union in March 1944, which was not popular in Berlin, and hence food and munitions shipments from the Third Reich to Finland were once again discontinued in March 1944.

Soviet Offensive

Finland was terrified by the Soviet summer offensive of 1944 that was coordinated with D-day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 in France. In two weeks, the Finnish evacuated the southern Karelian Isthmus
Karelian Isthmus
The Karelian Isthmus is the approximately 45–110 km wide stretch of land, situated between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia, to the north of the River Neva . Its northwestern boundary is the relatively narrow area between the Bay of Vyborg and Lake Ladoga...

. On June 22 another result was Ribbentrop's unexpected arrival in Helsinki to finally rein Finland into the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...



The deal was the result of negotiations with Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

, the Third Reich's foreign minister, who made a surprise visit to Helsinki on June 22. The letter was given after considerations with Marshal Mannerheim
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim
Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces during World War II, Marshal of Finland, and a Finnish statesman. He was Regent of Finland and the sixth President of Finland...

 and the war cabinet, but was expressed as Ryti's personal undertaking, deliberately avoiding the form of a binding treaty between the governments of Finland and Nazi Germany, that would have required involvement of the Parliament of Finland
Parliament of Finland
The Eduskunta , is the parliament of Finland. The unicameral parliament has 200 members and meets in the Parliament House in Helsinki. The latest election to the parliament took place on April 17, 2011.- Constitution :...


The agreement became obsolete when Ryti resigned on July 31, 1944, and was succeeded as president by Mannerheim, who did not consider himself or Finland bound by Ryti's concession. Within six weeks, Finland had concluded an armistice with the Soviet Union. In accordance with the armistice conditions, the Lapland War
Lapland War
The Lapland War were the hostilities between Finland and Nazi Germany between September 1944 and April 1945, fought in Finland's northernmost Lapland Province. While the Finns saw this as a separate conflict much like the Continuation War, German forces considered their actions to be part of the...

 was commenced to evacuate the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 from Northern Finland by force.

It has turned out that the Ryti-Ribbentrop agreement was less significant for the outcome of the war than it appeared in June 1944. The Wehrmacht had already delivered critical anti-tank weapons and sent a significant air-force detachment to support the defence on the Karelian isthmus
Karelian Isthmus
The Karelian Isthmus is the approximately 45–110 km wide stretch of land, situated between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia, to the north of the River Neva . Its northwestern boundary is the relatively narrow area between the Bay of Vyborg and Lake Ladoga...

. In fact, all necessary military aid was already in Finland or en route when Ribbentrop started pressuring president Ryti; the German diplomacy and military headquarters seemingly acted independently of each other. Before the Soviet summer offensive of 1944, Finland's army was estimated to keep at least 26 divisions, 5 brigades and 16 regiments of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 busy. The Wehrmacht had every reason to utilize the Finns as sort of a rear-troop, still strong and still very dedicated to their task to defend their homeland from a Communist invasion, while the Germans retreated from Russia and the Baltic countries
Baltic countries
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...


The German foreign ministry at Wilhelmstraße
The Wilhelmstrasse is a street in the center of Berlin, the capital of Germany. Between the mid 19th century and 1945, it was the administrative centre, first of the Kingdom of Prussia and then of the unified German state, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office...

, on the other hand, wanted to exploit Finland's precarious situation after the fall of Vyborg
Vyborg is a town in Leningrad Oblast, Russia, situated on the Karelian Isthmus near the head of the Bay of Vyborg, to the northwest of St. Petersburg and south from Russia's border with Finland, where the Saimaa Canal enters the Gulf of Finland...

 to connect military aid to political concessions. Ryti and Mannerheim did not know the internal balance between OKW and Wilhelmstraße and the stakes were too high to risk Ribbentrop's pressuring the Wehrmacht to withdraw its support from Finland. The decision to send the letter was made in the evening of June 25, the same day when Red army managed to break through the VKT-line at Tali
Battle of Tali-Ihantala
The Battle of Tali-Ihantala was part of the Continuation War , which occurred during World War II. The battle was fought between Finnish forces—using war material provided by Germany—and Soviet forces...



The Finnish language
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 word sopimus has a wide scope of denotations ranging from settlement, agreement, contract to pact, and treaty. In this context, agreement or contract may be the most fitting.


The issue of what the Ryti–Ribbentrop Agreement was "in reality", remains somewhat controversial, as also the issue of whether Finland's co-belligerence
Co-belligerence is the waging of a war in cooperation against a common enemy without a formal treaty of military alliance.Co-belligerence is a broader and less precise status of wartime partnership than a formal military alliance. Co-belligerents may support each other materially, exchange...

 with Nazi Germany "in reality" was a concealed alliance, and whether the Continuation War "in reality" was a Finnish war of aggression
War of aggression
A war of aggression, sometimes also war of conquest, is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The phrase is distinctly modern and diametrically opposed to the prior legal international standard of "might makes right", under...

 although initiated as a defensive war
Defensive war
A defensive war is one of the causes that justify war by the criteria of the Just War tradition. It means a war where at least one nation is mainly trying to defend itself from another, as opposed to a war where both sides are trying to invade and conquer each other.-Examples:* The Darius'...

 against a Soviet pre-emptive attack.

Much of the controversy goes back to a Soviet perception of all of the Finnish politicians, except the illegal Communists
Communist Party of Finland
The Communist Party of Finland was a communist political party in Finland. The SKP was a section of Comintern and illegal in Finland until 1944.SKP did not participate in any elections with its own name. Instead, front organisations were used...

, and much of the Finnish society, as one way or another contaminated by that "Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

" that according to Finnish refugees in Russia had won the Finnish Civil War
Finnish Civil War
The Finnish Civil War was a part of the national, political and social turmoil caused by World War I in Europe. The Civil War concerned control and leadership of The Grand Duchy of Finland as it achieved independence from Russia after the October Revolution in Petrograd...

. While the Finns themselves regarded Fascism as a fringe phenomenon in Finland, further discredited by the Mäntsälä Rebellion
Mäntsälä rebellion
The Mäntsälä rebellion was a failed coup attempt by the Lapua Movement to overthrow the Finnish government.On February 27, 1932 some 400 armed members of the Suojeluskunta militia interrupted a meeting of Social Democrats in Mäntsälä with small arms fire...

, in stark opposition to the deep-rooted Finnish democracy, the Soviet leadership, intelligence service and propaganda interpreted Finnish events in the spirit of the dogmatic conviction that most leading Finns, including prominent Social Democrats, were fascists in disguise. As the Soviet Union was an Allied at the time, Soviet views have also been unusually influential on French and English language historians. Also in Scandinavia, this view has gained some popularity. After the war, the Communist Party of Finland
Communist Party of Finland
The Communist Party of Finland was a communist political party in Finland. The SKP was a section of Comintern and illegal in Finland until 1944.SKP did not participate in any elections with its own name. Instead, front organisations were used...

was legalized, and Soviet world views and perceptions were often courteously reported in Finnish newspapers without too obvious debunking, even under nominally Conservative governments.
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