The Soviets were determined to have their entire western front covered in preparation for World War II. Finland was the only surrounding country that put up an effective resistance, which had a large effect on Finland. On November thirteenth of 1939 Russia attacked Finland without a declaration of war, which was later one of the causes of Russias expulsion from the League of Nations. The Soviets underestimated Finland's capabilities of resistance and were not prepared offensively for the War. The Soviets believed that the Finnish workers were going to welcome the Soviets as liberators. However none of the Finnish supported the Soviet government during that period. The Finnish were at first doing well for an army that was fighting a country that had a population of fifty Soviets to one Finnish. The Finnish had both advantages and disadvantages against the Soviets, which were apparent throughout the war.
An advantage the Finnish had over the Soviets was that the war was fought on Finnish territory which the Finnish used as a defense. Finlands geography of massive forests, lakes and other geographical obstacles which were also enhanced during the winter had a major effect on the war. There was about a thirteen-hundred thousand boundary Finland was fighting for. Finland generally had a lot of difficult terrain on which they could conduct both defensive and offensive operations. Much of the northern area of Finland was mostly impassable wilderness containing a few easily blocked roads. Finland was able to use only light covering forces in the North and concentrate most troops in the central southeastern sector, comprising the Kareinian Isthmus and the area north of Lake Ludoga that protected Isthmus from rear assault. ( Zickel pg 44)
Another strategy which was an advantage to Finland was that the White Guards who dressed in outfits similar to skiers were taught the motti tactic. Motti which means cord of firewood, are small, mobile forces that strike at the flanks and the rear of enemies. It broke into small segments which then destroyed the enemies flesh.
An advantage that Finland had which was above and beyond the Soviets was the phenomenally high morale the Finnish had. The Finnish knew they were fighting for their country and national survival. The war claimed to bring the country together like never before. Thousands of citizens without pay spent the summer prior to the invasion to strengthen Finland, hoping to hold out until helped arrived from the west, which was a forlorn hope as events turned out.
Finland was at a disadvantage to Russia because of both the size of Russia's population and the tight budget Finland was forced to work with. The defense review committee, in its report of 1926, called for the establishment of a Finnish army of thirteen divisions, equipped with the most modern arms , to be sure to deter possible Soviet invasions. But because of budget constraints these recommendations were partly instituted so when the Soviets did invade only nine of the divisions were available and their equipment was basically inadequate.
Since Russia underestimated Finlands power, The Winter War turned into a struggle where their were great losses. Finland had many advantages over Russia, but due to Russia's size and the lack of Finlands expenditures it was inevitable that Russia was going to finally seize Finlands territories.
The Soviet Union wanted to strengthen its western front in its preparation to defeat Germany in the upcoming second World War. Russia first seized eastern Poland in September of 1939. Russia soon after entered Estonia, Latuia, and Lithuania. Later that year in October Russia seized Romanian territories of Bessarbia and in June 1940 Russia captured northern Bukavino. With most of Russia's western front covered, Finland was the last country to make the strategy complete. Though the Finland takeover was not as easy as Russia had planned.
Finland was the only country that resisted Stalin's program of expansion, first by refusing to cede territory and then by putting up a determined defense when the Red Army invaded in November of 1939. The Soviet- Finland war also known as the 'The Winter War,' due to the extreme cold conditions of the war, was finally won by the Russians in March 1940. Russia finally won it's original demand and additional territory, but only after fighting the longest war Russia has ever had and in which over one-hundred thousand Soviet troops died. The war had a large impact on Russia in various ways; it also effected Russia in its upcoming war against Germany.
The Winter War pointed out grave deficiencies in the Soviet military capabilities, which Hitler undoubtedly noted. In the 1930's part of Stalin's five year plan tripled its military power expenditures and doubled the size of its regular forces to match the power of its potential enemies such as Germany. But in 1937 Stalin purged the Red Army and deprived it of its military leaders (Period of Purges). Paranoid that the military posed a challenge to his rule, 'Stalin jailed or executed an estimated amount of three-hundred thousand Red Army officers, including three of the five Marshals and ninety percent of all field grade officers.' (Zickel pg 699) During that time Stalin also restored the former dual command authority of political commissioners in Red Army units. These actions severely impaired the Red Army's capabilities in the Soviet- Finland War and World War II. Even though Finland had a relatively poor equipped army, the war was a disaster for the Soviet Union.
Another serious disruption occurred in the Soviet transportation system. The Soviet railroad was suppose to help the Russians since the military cargo shipment originated in many parts of the country. They all fed into October and Murmansk railroads in areas where few highways were able to handle motor transport. This fact and the large distance that the freights had to travel to the front combined caused unloading bottlenecks at final destinations stations and yards. This caused substantial delays which taught The Soviet Union a lesson.
The Soviet Union expected that the war with Finland was going to be an easy obstacle but due to various deficiencies that the Soviets encountered the Soviet-Finland war had major disastrous effects. The war severely impaired the Soviet Union for World War II with the large loss of soldiers and the expenditures Russia had to spend to finally defeat the Finnish.