A Bit of Forgotten History Related to Migration: the Russians and the Finns

By David North on March 31, 2022

The war in Ukraine can be regarded as both an example of forced migration (the Russian invaders are a particularly unattractive kind of arriving in-migrants) and an emigration-causing event (all of those refugees, some of whom will reach our shores.)

With that in mind, I want to point out that a quite similar war broke out 83 years ago (in 1939) when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, an event that I read about when I was 10, and a parallel to the current one that has been totally ignored by the media.

The wars are almost eerily similar:

  • Big, clumsy Russia invades a much smaller neighbor;
  • Meeting unexpected resistance;
  • In the winter-time;
  • While seeking to push its borders to the west to recover land lost a generation earlier.

The first set of losses followed the break-up of Czarist Russia; the second set of losses followed the break-up of the Soviet Union.

One difference: The West was in no position to be of much help to Finland, being engaged in the first months of what turned out to be World War II.

Another minor difference, in the earlier war Finland got a lot of credit in the U.S. because it was the only nation with a WWI debt to the U.S. that was still honoring it and paying it down. The payments were small but much discussed.

And since guys my age aren’t in the newsrooms anymore, the coverage that I have read about the invasion of Ukraine has missed the parallel.

After a while the invasion of Finland stopped, and in the follow-on treaty Finland lost some territory, including its only link to the Arctic Ocean. I do not remember any talk about Finnish refugees at the time, as there was not much in the way of options because of WWII; the only possible location was in adjacent Sweden (an earlier colonial power).