Kilin Y. Sociocultural portrait of the commander of the Red Army who participated in the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939―1940 // Studia Humanitatis Borealis. 2013. Vol. 1. № 1. P. 19‒27.



Issue № 1

HISTORY

Sociocultural portrait of the commander of the Red Army who participated in the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939―1940

Kilin
   Yuri
Doctor of Historical Sciences,
Chair, General History Director, Institute of Northern European Studies of the PetrSU,
Petrozavodsk State University,
Petrozavodsk, kilinyuri@mail.ru
Ключевые слова:
Red Army commanders
socio-cultural characteristics of the commanders of the Red Army
the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939―1940
the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939―1940
Аннотация: This article deals with the principal socio-cultural characteristics of forty senior officers of the Red Army, commanders of Rifle Divisions and Rifle Corps, who participated in the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939—1940. The source data is mainly derived from officers’ personal service cards in the Russian Defense Ministry’s central military archive in the city of Podolsk and supplemented by four brief biographies [38―41]. The Soviet-Finnish war is one of the largest local wars of the 20th century. The USSR and Finland massed on the 1400 kilometers long front up to 1.5 million soldiers, with the overall losses amounting to 415 000 troops, and the total death toll of over 165 000 men. The military operation planned by the Red Army’s General Staff as a one-month long blitzkrieg lasted 105 days and heavily strained the USSR’s armed forces, economy and transport infrastructure. The main idea of the author of this article is to clarify the qualitative characteristics of the senior officers of the Red Army, commanders of rifle divisions and rifle corps who took part in the Winter War, to assess the impact of this factor on the course of the fighting and the final result of the war, as well as on the outcome of key battles during the offensive, defense and encirclement. To this end 37 personal service cards from the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and 4 published brief biographies were carefully analyzed. All 40 commanders, colonels, brigade commanders (corresponds to the rank of major general, that is one-star general-officer rank) and corps commanders (corresponds to lieutenant general, two-star general-officer rank) commanded infantry (rifle) divisions and corps, the Red Army’s principal tactical and operational units which participated in key battles of the Soviet-Finnish war at the front stretching from Salla, Märkäjärvi to the Gulf of Finland. The analysis of the qualification of the senior officers of the Red Army clearly shows that the 40 commanders of the infantry divisions and corps were high class professionals with an adequate level of military education, extensive combat experience far exceeding that of the Finnish Army’s officers, long and varied experience of field service, staff service and teaching in the military schools. The failure of the Red Army’s to reach its goal, the defeat of the Finnish Army and the occupation of Finland in a short run was not due to a lack of qualification of its senior officers. Systemic and structural weaknesses of the economy and the armed forces of the USSR played a crucial role in the shortcomings of the military operations at the first stage of the fighting. The original plan of the war was totally unrealistic, the Red Army’s grouping had not sufficient manpower and ready reserves, and the Supreme Command worked inefficiently. At the second phase of the war, from January to March 1940, the undeveloped transport infrastructure of the Leningrad military district made it impossible to move to the front more than 30 fresh divisions, which put an end to the fighting. Furthermore, an acute threat of the Allied intervention in the fighting, as it seemed in the Kremlin, has become a strong political argument in favor of a speedy conclusion of the war.

© Petrozavodsk State University

Is passed for the press: 20 december 2013 year

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