Finland: ‘Skinning’ Soviet POWs (1939-1940)

Skin of a Soviet POW (Finland) Winter War 1939-1940

Translation and Research by Adrian Chan-Wyles (PhD)

Marshal Karl Mannerheim is a national ‘hero’ in Finland who was in control of the (fascist) Finnish military in the late 1930s and throughout the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union. Finland had been part of Czarist Russia but was granted ‘Independence’ by Lenin in 1918, in the hope that the workers would rise-up and join the Socialist Revolution! However, fourteen Western (capitalist) countries (encouraged by Britain’s Winston Churchill) formed a coalition (known as the ‘entente’) and invaded Soviet Russia. This saw the UK and Germany join forces and attack the Russian Revolution even before the end of WWI! This meant that British and German troops continued to kill one another in France and Belgium, whilst other German and British troops united and ‘invaded’ Russia! As this Western intervention also included the United States, this history is often omitted (as an inconvenient ‘fact’) in Cold War narratives that continuously portray Socialist countries as maniacal aggressors, and their capitalist counter-parts as peace-loving shining lights of virtue! Here is the foundation of the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) which saw the capitalist West join with renegade Czarist Generals in an attempt to restore the old order. Finland was used during this time as a convenient base of anti-Soviet aggression and became particularly friendly with Germany – a relationship that would last until the end of WWII. It is an often forgotten fact that Finnish troops assisted the Nazi German invasion of the USSR, and were often willing participants in the many atrocities committed by the Hitlerites.


In 2016, the famous Finnish animator Katarina Lillqvist received sack-loads of hate-mail from Finnish citizens because she had designed a cartoon demonstrating the bloodthirsty and criminal nature of Marshal Karl Mannerheim.  A prevailing myth is that of the Finnish-Soviet conflicts being ‘race-wars’ between nations (as in the ‘imperialist’ model) when in fact a large section of the Finnish working class did rise up in favour of a Socialist Revolution in 1917 and 1918, but were brutally put-down by the Finnish bourgeoisie (financed by the capitalist West). It was never a race-war – but rather a ‘class-war’. The above cartoon in question is premised upon the real events that took place in 1918 – in the vicinity of Tampere. There had been fierce battles between the ‘White’ and ‘Red’ armies of the Finns. Whilst suppressing the spread and popularity of the Socialist cause, Karl Mannerheim gave orders for mass round-ups and the building of Concentration Camps. In these camps, civilian and military prisoners were subjected to all kinds of torture and brutality, before being sentenced to death en masse. Mannerheim and his faction had been trained in Germany for pro-German military service during WWI, but had been indoctrinated with a Teutonic race-hate of the Russians! Although Mannerheim was viewed by many bourgeois Finns as a potential ‘saviour’ of the country from the Reds – in reality Mannerheim was just as likely to attack any ‘White’ faction that got in his way or did not submit to his rule. In reality, Mannerheim attempted to ethnically cleanse the whole of Finland of Russians (White or Red), despite the fact that ethnic Russians made-up a substantial section of Finnish society and had done for centuries. Anyone who spoke Russian, had a Russian name or expressed or exhibited any pro-Russian sentiment was either executed on the spot, or transported for liquidation in the Finnish Concentration Camps. It is interesting that Mannerheim appears to have put into practice ideas already existent in Germany prior to the rise of Hitler.


Mannerheim and his German-trained ‘Rangers’ established the fascist tone of the Finnish regime that grew-out of the days of the Russian Civil War, and which killed Russians of all classes and political persuasions. Those exterminated amounted to the high thousands, with the exact number deliberately ‘hidden’ by the collective denial that is contemporary Finnish identity. The Winter War of 1939-1940 began with a Finnish artillery attack upon Red Army border units around the 29th of November, 1939. The defensive purposes, the Soviet Government had requested that Finnish troops be pulled back a few dozen kilometers (with Finland being granted a larger piece of Soviet land elsewhere along the border). At the end of November Finnish artillery opened fire upon Soviet Red Army border units – causing a number of casualties. The Soviet Government authorised the ‘Liberation’ of part of the Finnish border area – with the conflict successfully concluded with a peace treaty on March 12th, 1940. This marked the defeat of the fascist Finnish forces and the victory of the Red Army. The Red Army had faced terrible difficulties in Finland due to weather and terrain, but the (Nazi-influenced) Finnish troops behaved in a manner that would soon be unleashed upon the Soviet homeland by Hitler’s own troops. Finnish anti-Soviet propaganda presented the Finnish (fascist) defeat as a ‘victory’ for capitalism, and the Red Army victory as a ‘defeat’ for Socialism and this remains very much the ahistorical paradigm still found in Western textbooks today. The Red Army slowly but carefully encircled and destroyed the Finnish (fascist) forces and despite all the ill-treatment and abuse suffered by Soviet POWs (and the indignity of the treatment meted-out to the bodies of the Soviet dead) still treated the Finnish people with respect. Finland was not destroyed and the Red Army peacefully withdrew. On occasion the fascist Finns executed a Soviet POW, skinned him, photographed the fresh pelt and falsely stated that the Red Army was starving and that Red Army soldiers were now ‘eating’ one another! This bizarre anti-Soviet and anti-Russian narrative can still commonly be found in Western history books, usually alongside the equally false assertion that the Red Army ‘lost’ the Winter War! This is nothing but the typical anti-intellectualism of the inverted bourgeois mind-set

Russian Language Source Article:

English Language Reference:

Alexander Werth: Russia at War 1941-1945, Barrie & Rockliff, (1964) Pages 66-82


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