Kruschev On The Fate Of The Skiing Team

"I had firsthand knowledge of what happened, including the strategic miscalculation on our side. The very day the war with Finland started, I was in Moscow with Stalin. He didn't even feel the need to call a meeting. He was sure all we had to do was fire a few artillery rounds and the Finns would capitulate. Instead, they rejected our terms and resisted. There was a false sense of confidence on our side; a few days would pass and we would polish off the Finns. But that didn't happen either. Many of our troops were ground up by the Finns…Stalin lost his nerve after the defeat of our troops in the war against Finland. He probably lost whatever confidence he had that our army could cope with Hitler. Stalin never said so, but I came to this conclusion watching his behavior."

"We soon realized that we had bitten off more than we could chew. We found ourselves faced with good steel reinforced fortifications and effectively deployed artillery. The Mannerheim line was impregnable. Our casualties mounted alarmingly. In the winter it was decided to bypass the Karelian Isthmus and to strike a blow from Lake Ladoga to the north where there were no fortifications. But when we tried to strike from the rear, we found ourselves in an even more difficult situation than before. The Finns, who are a people of the North and very athletic, can ski almost before they can walk. Our army encountered very mobile ski troops armed with automatic high velocity rifles. We tried to put our own troops on skiis too, but it wasn't easy for ordinary, untrained Red Army soldiers to fight on skiis. We started intensively to recruit professional sportsmen. There weren't many around. We had to bring them from Moscow and the Ukraine as well as from Leningrad. We gave them a splendid send-off. Everyone was confident that our sportsmen would return victorious, and they left in high spirits. Poor fellows, they were ripped to shreds. I don't know how many came back alive…And so the war with Finland ended. We started to analyze the reasons why we were so badly prepared and why the war had cost us so dearly. I'd say we lost as many as a million lives…There's some question about whether we had any legal or moral right for our actions against Finland. Of course we didn't have legal right. As far as morality was concerned, our desire to protect ourselves was ample justification in our own eyes."

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