ISSN 2330-717X

Putin’s War In Ukraine Remarkably Like Stalin’s In Finland In Almost All Details – OpEd


“If we compare the Winter War [Stalin conducted against Finland] and the Russian ‘special operation’ in Ukraine [Putin is carrying out now], Moscow historian Boris Sokolov says, “the similarities” in expectations, conduct, and quite likely outcome “are striking.”


In a detailed comment for The Insider, Sokolov provides case after case in which what Stalin expected, did, and then was forced to accept anticipates to an amazing degree the same situation in which Putin finds himself today. The details are interesting, but it is the conclusions that are critical (

“In 1939,” the Moscow historian writes, “the USSR started a war with Finland, whose scenario now looks surprisingly similar to the invasion of Ukraine. The war with Finland was also supposed to be a rapid blitzkrieg, the success of which was ensured by the overwhelming superiority of the USSR’s armed forces.

“The Finnish War,” he continues, “was also presented as self-defense and a response to provocations. The propaganda also spoke about the benefits of the invasion for the civilian population, and the USSR planned to install a puppet government in Finland as well.

“Finally, that war, which too had been badly prepared, ended in total failure, with the troops suffering from lack of supplies and frostbite, being poorly motivated and sustaining much higher casualties.  Ultimately, the USSR abandoned the conquest of Finland and limited itself to insignificant territorial gains.”

That precedent is likely to be on the minds of many in the Russian capital including Putin’s given the Kremlin leader’s admiration for and aping of much that Stalin did. 


Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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