Spirit of the Winter War
The Spirit of Winter War is the national unity which is credited with having saved Finland from disintegrating along class and ideological lines under the Soviet invasion during the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 of November 30, 1939 to March 13, 1940.

"The Spirit of Winter War" is significant because it demonstrated that Finnish society had partially healed after 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...

 of 1918, one of the bloodiest civil wars in European history. After the civil war, legislation and the democratic political process helped to decrease the gaps (in income and other aspects) between different classes of society. During the 1920s and 1930s the Social Democrats had participated in several governments, including the government in power in November 1939.

After the Winter War began, Stalin set a puppet regime in Terijoki in hopes that Finnish workers would join and assist the Soviet invasion. However, this Terijoki Government, led by a communist leader of the civil war, Otto Wille Kuusinen, received no sympathy from the Finnish labour movement.

Within Finnish society, the international political calculations of both the bourgeoisie and the working class had just been upset by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 on August 23, 1939. Prior to this act of alliance, many bourgeois had believed that Germany would eventually aid Finland against the Soviet Union as Imperial Germany had done in 1915–1918, while many workers believed that the Soviet Union was a guarantee for peace and a force against Nazi Germany. Now, the socialists witnessed Soviet Union invading Poland instead of fighting against the Nazis. Moderate Finns had trusted the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

, which turned out to be toothless. So on the eve of war, there was very little trust left in any foreign power—be it socialist internationalism, German military, or help from the western European countries.


During the Winter war in January 1940 the Association of Finnish Industries acknowledged the trade unions as negotiation partners for collective agreements regarding labour. This declaration is referred to as Tammikuun kihlaus (Betrothal of January).

The long term effects were similar to the Swedish Saltsjöbadsavtalet (Saltsjöbaden Agreement) in 1938. However the backgrounds for these corporativist
Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that involves association of the people of society into corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common...

 agreements are different. Sweden had not suffered a civil war nor was it under a foreign invasion in 1938 but rather had had a peaceful and steady Social Democratic government for over a decade. The apparent success of Swedish Social Democrats appealed to the Finnish working class more than revolutionary agitation.

Talvisodan henki was coined after the Winter War for use in domestic and foreign politics when national unity and consensus was needed to face challenges ahead. It continues to be invoked to the present day; but while the workers and peasants who had been on the losing, socialist, side in the civil war appear to have genuinely bought into the nationalist sentiment, that feeling of reconciliation does not seem to have been universal in 'white' circles.

In 2005, researcher Jukka Kemppinen hypothesized that the Army High Command had deliberately assigned conscripts from formerly 'red' villages in highly disproportionate numbers to 'cannon fodder' battalions which took significantly greater-than-average casualties.
Kemppinen's claim was countered by Heikki Ylikangas with the argument that less educated workers were more likely to be assigned to the high risk infantry units than more technical field artillery or supply units which relied on horse handling skills. Also the casualty rates were even higher among the officers and NCOs, which were exclusively 'white' positions.

See also

  • Karl-August Fagerholm
    Karl-August Fagerholm
    Karl-August Fagerholm was Speaker of Parliament and three times Prime Minister of Finland . Fagerholm became chairman of the Social Democrats after the armistice in the Continuation War...

  • Rudolf Walden
    Rudolf Walden
    Karl Rudolf Walden was a Finnish industrialist and general.He received his military education in Hamina Cadet School 1892–1900....

  • Väinö Tanner
    Väinö Tanner
    Väinö Tanner was a pioneer and leader in the cooperative movement in Finland, and Prime Minister of Finland from 1926 to 1927....

  • SAK
    Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions
    The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, usually referred to by the acronym SAK is the largest trade union confederation in Finland...

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