Soviet Union Launches Invasion of Finland

On 30 November, Soviet forces invaded Finland with 21 divisions, totaling some 450,000 men, and bombed Helsinki.

Later the Finnish statesman J.K. Paasikivi commented that the Soviet attack without a declaration of war violated three different non-aggression pacts: the Treaty of Tartu signed in 1920, the non-aggression pact between Finland and the Soviet Union signed in 1932 and again in 1934, and also the Charter of the League of Nations, which the Soviet Union signed in 1934. C.G.E. Mannerheim was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces after the Soviet attack. In further reshuffling, the Finnish government named Risto Ryti as the new prime minister and Väinö Tanner as foreign minister.

On 1 December, the Soviet Union formed a puppet government intended to rule Finland once the war was over. Called the Finnish Democratic Republic, it was headed by O. W. Kuusinen. The government was also called "The Terijoki Government", named after the village of Terijoki, the first place captured by the advancing Soviet army. The puppet regime was unsuccessful and was quietly disbanded during the winter of 1940. From the very outset of the war, working-class Finns stood behind the legal government in Helsinki. Finnish national unity against the Soviet invasion was later called the spirit of the Winter War.

At the start of the Winter War, Finland brought up the matter of the Soviet invasion before the League of Nations. The League expelled the Soviet Union on 14 December 1939 and exhorted its members to aid Finland.

In November of 1939, peace talks between Finland and Russia broke down and Russia invaded Finland with a massive army of almost 1 million soldiers and thousands of tanks and cannons. But, in what was to be the 2nd coldest winter since 1828, the Russian army broke down under the onslaught of cold and the heroic Finnish defenders, who used the terrain and weather to their advantage. The events taking place in this country which straddles the arctic circle would change the political and territorial conditions in Europe for the rest of the century.