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1944

The Red Army invades Karelian Isthmus in Finland

On this day in 1944, Russia penetrates into East Karelia, in Finland, as it fights to gain back control of territory that had already been ceded to it.

According to the terms of the Treaty of Moscow of 1940, Finland was forced to surrender parts of its southeastern territory, including the Karelian Isthmus, to the Soviet Union, which was eager to create a buffer zone for Leningrad. To protect itself against further Russian encroachment, Finland allowed Germany to traverse its country in its push eastward into Russia, despite the fact that it did not have a formal alliance with the Axis power. Emboldened by the damage Germany was inflicting on Russia, Finland pursued the “War of Continuation” and won back large parts of the territory it had ceded to Moscow in the 1940 treaty.

But as Germany suffered setback after setback, and the Allies continued bombing runs in the Balkans, using Russia as part of its “shuttle” strategy, Finland began to panic and made overtures to Stalin about signing an armistice. By June 9, the Red Army was once again in the East Karelia, and Stalin was in no mood to negotiate, demanding at least a symbolic “surrender” of Finland entirely. Finland turned back to its “friend,” Germany, which promised continued support. A change in Finnish government resulted in a change in perspective, and Finland finally signed an armistice that gave Stalin what he wanted: all the old territory from the 1940 treaty and a guarantee that German troops would evacuate Finnish soil. Finland agreed but the German army refused to leave. Terrible battles were waged between the two behemoths; finally, with the defeat of the Axis, Russia got what it wanted, not only in Finnish territory, but also in war reparations to the tune of $300 million. Finland would become known for its passivity in the face of the Soviet threat in the postwar era.

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