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Soldiers of the Winter War

Two months after the presentation of The Monument of the Winter War web-site on February 3-4 working seminar of the Russian-Finnish project of the same name was held in Petrozavodsk.

The project is financially supported and works within the framework of the Interreg 3A Karelia Eurounion program and is devoted to the events of 1939-40 in frontier territories of Karelia and Finland. It was not usual to speak about this military campaign unpopular for the USSR earlier, since because of mistakes of the Soviet command thousands of Soviet soldiers were lost in fights and have frozen in snow. Financial support to the project was also rendered by Suomussalmi Commune (Finland) and the Center of Manpower and Population Employment of Kainuu Region (Finland). The main coördinator of the project in Russia is Pawel Razinov, the head of the chair of practical psychology of the Institute of Post-Diploma Teacher' Training Institute of the Republic of Karelia.

The basic purpose of the project is building of the memorial near the museum of Winter War in Suomussalmi Commune (Finland) in memory of all fallen soldier both Finnish, and Soviet. In this territory there were fierce fights, and now, 63 years later, is was decided to build a monument to the lost soldiers.

The hard work in archives of both states began and is still necessary. The basic partners and participants of the project are Petrozavodsk State University, Institute of History, Language and Literature of Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Science, Post-Diploma Teacher' Training Institute of the Republic of Karelia, Karelian State Museum of Local Lore, History and Economy and Military History Museum, University Joensuu (Finland), Finnish Military Museum, Helsinki, "Kainuun Sanomat" newspaper, Finland. The project combines research and practical activities directed on perpetuating of names of people, who died during the hardest fights in Suomussalmi region.

Historians conduct data gathering about destiny of civilians from Suomussalmi Commune, the basic information base for development of historical military tourism in Finland and Russia is created. Except for the memorial, the expocentre is created also.

As participants of the project have noted, interest to events of Winter War does not weaken, to which fact the all growing number of visitors of the site incluing from the different countries such as the USA, Ukraine, and the European states testifies. Concerning Winter War there are different opinions. The most popular version is that the USSR has lost this campaign to Finland. There exists guess-work that events of Winter War were conceived as rehearsal to forthcoming more scaled military upheavals. Whatever versions exist, the main figure in these events is the soldier indeed, who was carrying out the duty.

At the seminar the picture with the image of not completed yet memorial complex was shown – about twenty thousand stones stacked on extensive, approximately three hectares large, territory. Each stone is a soldier, whose young heart has ceased to beat in that severe winter that has anticipated events of Great Patriotic War for Russia.

- Each soldier is the son of his Motherland, – Pawel Razinov has told opening the seminar. – No soldier initiates war at his own desire. He will be the main figure during all work of the project.

Pawel Razinov has noted, that not historians, but journalists began to cover the first events of the Winter War.

Performance of journalist Anatoly Gordienko, who has told about the atmosphere of the despair which has captured the Soviet soldiers encircled without winter clothes, valenki, skis and meal, confirmed these words. The entire divisions fallen, and Mekhlis gave orders on executions of the Soviet commanders. Journalist Apu Sundelin carefully studies not only the history of military fights. He told about conditions of life under which soldiers lived, about the fate of the civilians who lived on the territory occupied by the Soviet armies. It is interesting, that young researcher Jussi Kamarainen from the University of Joensuu who arrived on the seminar to Petrozavodsk has become interested in destiny of the Finnish civilians. He has noted that 1700 civil persons from Finland have remained in territory of Russia as a result of events in Suomussalmi, and nobody in Finland studied their destinies. This is another tragical page of Winter War.

Dmitry Alexandrov, the participant of Winter War, spoke also. Dmitry Stepanovich will never forget fields sown with corpses of the soldiers.

- I perfectly remember the last day of war, – he continued. – By night from March 12 to 13 the commissioner of the division has gathered a meeting and has told that at 12 o'clock in the afternoon the warwould be over. An armistice. The are armies of allies were coming to help the Finns. As an answer there was someone's desperate exclamation: "It's a provocation!". The next day was remembered by horrifying shooting, roar of guns which were not ceasing till midday. Sharp at noon everything has abated, and in the terrible silence there was a shout of Professor Suhanov from Leningrad: "Dear granddaughter, I have remained alive!". Suddenly we saw that from the Finnish entrenchments about hundred soldiers have risen. They have risen in all growth, abandoned their submachine guns and came to us. We have also risen. There were embraces, tears, exchange of some small gifts. One Finnish officer said: "This damn war is over!". He wanted to exchange the weapon, but none of us dared such exchange, because for us the weapon was "state". Our commander was afraid to be shot for fraternization. Today I want to wish successes to the Finnish people and to thank organizers of the project!

Paavo Keränen, the coördinator of the Interreg 3A Karelia, has called this project unique. He has also added that its main purpose is not political. It is necessary to find out what was going on during the Winter War and the way these events affected the course of the subsequent military actions in the scale of world war.

Finland knows names of almost all its lost sons. The state of affairs is different for out country. Probably, exact figures of victims (at least among Soviet soldiers) will never be established. On the data from the Finnish sources the Soviet party has lost 23 000 thousand persons killed, Finns have lost about 800 persons. These figures differ from provisional given Russian military historians according to which our losses are less.

Except for the Karelian researchers, representatives of the public, and journalists, famos public figures and scientists from Finland have taken part in the seminar: the secretary of program Iohanna Keränen, the representative of Suomussalmi Commune Erkki Pullinen, the director of Paatteen Portti museum Marko Seppanen, the director of Institute of Military History of the Higher School of Defensive Forces of Finland Eero Elfvengren and others. The witness of many historical military events, journalist, writer and publicist Rudolf Sukiainen in due time engaged in interpreting military and diplomatic negotiations for Stalin and other heads of the country from Finnish has arrived from Moscow.

- Three hectares of stones is a terrible show, – Erkki Pullinen has told. – In this territory a tower will be constructed, and 105 bells of different size, by the number of days of the Winter War, will be established on it. Tolling of bells will emphasize melancholy of the "stone field". The monument will open on March 13, 2003, the day of the ending of the war, as a reminder to those who live nowadays and as a message to the future generations. It is the best way to work for the benefit of peace.

The participant of the seminar Major-General of reserve Valentin Gromov has reminded the words of Suvorov that "No war is not finished until the last soldier is not buried." "It is not the war, but coöperation that should bring us together," – he has told.

The Official Site of the Republic of Karelia,
February 12, 2003

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