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White Death: Russia's War on Finland 1939-40

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Robert Edwards describes one of the most doomed but valiant defences since Thermopylae. He also shows what effects the conflict had on the world in general, and on Germany in particular, as it watched Soviet embarrassment from the sidelines.


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Robert Edwards describes one of the most doomed but valiant defences since Thermopylae. He also shows what effects the conflict had on the world in general, and on Germany in particular, as it watched Soviet embarrassment from the sidelines.

30 review for White Death: Russia's War on Finland 1939-40

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dеnnis

    Some people complained about excess of diplomatic proceedings and machinations in the book. I for one found this information very useful for understanding various stages of the conflict. Quite the contrary, a simple description of butchery would have definitely left much to be desired. Plus you'll get the taste of battle proper as soon as you reach the middle of the book. Should you crave for it, just fast forward half a book. All the more impressive is the fact that it's author's first proper bo Some people complained about excess of diplomatic proceedings and machinations in the book. I for one found this information very useful for understanding various stages of the conflict. Quite the contrary, a simple description of butchery would have definitely left much to be desired. Plus you'll get the taste of battle proper as soon as you reach the middle of the book. Should you crave for it, just fast forward half a book. All the more impressive is the fact that it's author's first proper book written in a scholarly fashion, with lots of relevant footnotes and references. Something you wouldn't expect from someone, who previously wrote on...British racing of all things! (Stirling Moss, Aston Martin).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kris McCracken

    One of the most captivating (yet little known) stories of World War II concerns the valiant Finnish defence against the invading Red Army through the winter of 1939–40. The Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in November 1939 prompted a combination of shock and outrage in the international community. Yet, three months after the invasion of Poland by Germany, reaction amounted to little more than the Soviet expulsion from the already dead League of Nations. In all respects, the results of what beca One of the most captivating (yet little known) stories of World War II concerns the valiant Finnish defence against the invading Red Army through the winter of 1939–40. The Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in November 1939 prompted a combination of shock and outrage in the international community. Yet, three months after the invasion of Poland by Germany, reaction amounted to little more than the Soviet expulsion from the already dead League of Nations. In all respects, the results of what became known as the Winter War conflict seemed a foregone conclusion. The Soviet Army was reputed to be the best in the world, and the Finns outnumbered 4 to 1 in men, 200 to 1 in tanks and 30 to 1 in aircraft. However, to everyone's surprise, the Finns resisted the Soviet advance and became an international cause celebre. For over three months and with little outside assistance (much to the shame of the West), it looked as if they just might achieve the impossible and keep the huge Red Army at bay. The opening of the Russian archives has allowed Edwards this opportunity to explore the story in a greater depth than historians have previously been afforded, and he offers a new interpretation of this oft misunderstood war. Despite their eventual capitulation – the Moscow Peace Treaty saw Finland cede about 9% of her territory (excluding its population) and 20% of its industrial capacity to the Soviet Union – yet the geopolitical consequences were profound, as Nazi Germany watched the Soviet difficulties from a close distance. This was to have significant influence on Hitler's future direction with regards to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Edwards reflects on the confidence gained by the Hitler's generals, previously so nervous about intentions to invade Russia that they contemplated a coup d'etat to avoid it, were now convinced they could win. In both Britain and France, the spectacle of the Soviet invasion of a neutral neighbour undermined the confidence of the left (although he wryly notes that the headline of the Daily Worker on the opening day of the invasion was "HEROIC RED ARMY SMASHES MARAUDING FINNS"). The Labour leader Clement Attlee expelled one pro-Soviet MP and cleared the way for a coalition with the Conservatives, in many respects reshaping the entire party in the process. Yet paradoxically, the Finnish blunders in many respects also helped revive the Red Army. With the results of his earlier purges clearly on show, Stalin promoted outspoken technocrats like Zhukov and accepted reforms that would later enable the Russians to survive the German assault in 1941 and ultimately reverse the defeats. White Death is itself well researched and written, providing an excellent account of the precursors to the conflict, as well as the conflict itself. Equally strong is the presentation of both the Finnish defence as well as the quandaries faced by an invading force stronger in numbers, yet ill-equipped for the task at hand. Edwards makes obvious the strengths of the typical Soviet soldier, supremely tough and startlingly courageous, but engaged in an ill thought out fight in an unfamiliar and frightening environment. Moreover, thoroughly incompetent leadership (until the promotion of Timoshenko) compounded their misery. Similarly, he demonstrates the flexibility and imagination of the overstretched Finns The abrupt end at the Treaty of Moscow leaves so many unanswered questions that could easily be reshaped into a new volume on the Finn-Soviet dispute. What of the Karelians forced to leave their homes in light of the treaty? What of the (also little known) 'Continuation War' of 1941–4? Highly recommended to anyone into military history, or indeed the fascinating history of Finland itself.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kriegslok

    This is the first book I have read on the Fino-Soviet war and it provided me with pretty much what I wanted - a politico/military history of the move towards, outbreak and fighting of this short and brutal war which was so significant in the approaching conflagration which was WWII. There are a number of key lessons to be ;earned from the David & Goliath struggle which took place the key probably being "don't under estimate the enemy", Add to that the inadvisability of executing all your general This is the first book I have read on the Fino-Soviet war and it provided me with pretty much what I wanted - a politico/military history of the move towards, outbreak and fighting of this short and brutal war which was so significant in the approaching conflagration which was WWII. There are a number of key lessons to be ;earned from the David & Goliath struggle which took place the key probably being "don't under estimate the enemy", Add to that the inadvisability of executing all your general staff and ten attacking a neighbour. Soviet losses were astronomical, while this was in good part a due to a historical Russian military disregard for footsoldiers who were seen as cheap replaceable and expendable it also reflected the effective a-symmetric planning and execution of the hopelessly out numbered Finnish defenders. I found Edwards account of the parallel political and military narratives clear and concise. A good collection of maps help those whose Finnish geography is slight to understand the issues and movements of fronts clearly. I just wish that Edwards had been a little more detailed in his coverage of the final days of the war and continued into what the after effects were. In short a great introduction to an often forgotten prelude to the following years of slaughter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ray Gardener

    A good chronology of the events leading up to and during the Finnish-Soviet war in 1939-40. The perspective of the various politicians, leaders and diplomats filled in some gaps I had, and helped explain why things happened the way they did. My only misgiving is that it was at times hard to follow all of the various characters, as the action has to jump between them due to the linear time flow.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven Petarra

    An ok read, not one of the better histories I've read. The book mostly focuses on the political aspects of the war i.e. what was happening in London/Paris/Moscow/Berlin/Helsinki during each point of the war. The military aspect of the book is unfocused, it's not necessarily bad, but it's just underdeveloped. An example of this is how he talks about Soviet infantry advancing across ice and then the Finnish artillery would destroy the ice underneath their feet and send them to a watery grave. Soun An ok read, not one of the better histories I've read. The book mostly focuses on the political aspects of the war i.e. what was happening in London/Paris/Moscow/Berlin/Helsinki during each point of the war. The military aspect of the book is unfocused, it's not necessarily bad, but it's just underdeveloped. An example of this is how he talks about Soviet infantry advancing across ice and then the Finnish artillery would destroy the ice underneath their feet and send them to a watery grave. Sounds interesting, right? Not to the author, who makes a few passing references to this and never examines it with any detail. I get the feeling that he gleaned this information wholesale from another book without doing any analysis of his own. His prose is awful, it's very difficult to tell what he's trying to say, and this gets to be a particular problem when he decides not to use names. He also has no idea how to end sentences. To quote one sentence There was of course, one other Red Army commander who had already placed himself in a Universe of One by his actions, and that was Georgi Zhukov, whose masterly thrashing of the Japanese Kwantung Army at Nomonhan on the Khalkin-Gol River in September had ensured two things;first, that he had set a standard by which all Red Army commanders would be measured from now on and second, that he himself would be safe from the depredations of the NKVD, which, by its conduct, had started to behave by any rational measure with complete insanity. I would have also liked more maps, as an American I have absolutely no knowledge of Finnish geography and would have appreciated more explanation of it. In short, I will be reading another book to more clearly understand the Winter War.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mick Maye

    excellent book well written. This book is an easy read as the pages flow quickly by. I was surprised how quickly I read this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Roger

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sigve Solheim

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Lippman

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lela

  11. 5 out of 5

    Egor D

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jonas Karlsson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tuomas Mansikka

  15. 4 out of 5

    Desmond.wolfe

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Heliosson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stian Melchior

  18. 5 out of 5

    TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh

  19. 4 out of 5

    Šárka Myšáková

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Bonetti

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bjørn Holmøy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linus

  23. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

  25. 5 out of 5

    James Allen

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Galbraith

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Pedersen

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bernard

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meyla

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