Start of Winter War commemorated on 30 November

Government Communications Department 1.11.2019 12.32 | Published in English on 1.11.2019 at 16.04
Press release 575/2019

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War. The war started when the Soviet Union attacked Finland without a declaration of war.

In the secret minutes of the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union, or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Finland was marked as belonging to the Soviet sphere of interest. This treaty was among the main factors that led to the breaking out of the Winter War. The war ended on 13 March 1940, after 105 days of fighting.

Defending Finland’s independence came at a heavy cost. More than 25,000 Finns died in the war effort and about 44,000 were wounded. Civilian casualties numbered more than 1,000. The losses suffered by the Soviet Union in the war were substantially higher. Finland maintained its independence but had to cede 11% of its territory to the Soviet Union. About 430,000 Finns, or 12% of the population at the time, lost their homes and had to be resettled in other parts of Finland.

Most of the soldiers serving in the Defence Forces during the Winter War were born before 1917, the year Finland gained independence. The oldest were born in the 19th century. In the mobilisation of October 1939, men in age groups born between 1900 and 1918 were called to service. Towards the end of the war, men from older age groups born in 1894–1899 were also recruited. 

Memorial events will be held on the dates when the war started, 30 November 2019, and ended, 13 March 2020.

A candle lit for each day of the war at the National Memorial to the Winter War

On 30 November at 11.00, to commemorate the start of the war, state leadership will lay a wreath at the National Memorial to the Winter War at Kasarmitori Square in Helsinki. After that, 105 candles will be lit at the memorial, one for every day of the war, to honour the Finns, volunteers from abroad and friends of Finland from all over the world who lived at the time of the war.

The commemoration event will be open to the public.

Ecumenical Memorial Service at Helsinki Cathedral on the date the war ended

On 13 March 2020, the 80th anniversary of the end of the Winter War, an Ecumenical Memorial Service will be held at Helsinki Cathedral at 11.00. State leadership will be attending the service.

Inquiries:

Tiina-Kaisa Laakso-Liukkonen, Production Manager, tel. +358 29 516 0220, tiina-kaisa.laakso-liukkonen(at)vnk.fi, Prime Minister’s Office

Jussi Toivanen, Chief Communications Specialist, tel. +358 29 516 0141, jussi.toivanen(at)vnk.fi, Prime Minister’s Office