On This Day – Finland Declares War on Russia


On this day in 1941, Finland entered the Second World War by declaring war against Russia. Operation Silver Fox saw a joint German-Finnish military operation aimed at capturing the key Soviet port at Murmansk through attacks from Finnish and Norwegian territory.

As early as July 1940, Germany had kept a watchful eye on the nickel mines of Petsamo, a Finnish port very recently seceded to the Soviet Union as Finland lost the Winter War. During Blue Fox operations, German forces moved into Finland after negotiations that brought the ambitious Germany and the vengeful Finland together. On 22 June, two German divisions struck from Norway and penetrated Petsamo which was already surrounded by Finnish troops. The port fell quickly from the shock of the surprise attack.

The second phase of the attack was launched on 29 June 1941 as German and Finnish troops marched across the barren northern terrain. Exposed German vehicles became easy targets for Soviet air and artillery attacks, and logistics became so difficult that the attack virtually halted as they approached the port city of Murmansk. The southern offensive was also launched on 29 June with German troops marching through thick ancient forests. The Soviet troops, enjoying a much shorter supply line, slowly gained dominance as skirmishes took place on the stagnant frontlines. German Lieutenant General Eduard Dietl, commanding officer of the offensive, declared the operation a failure on 22 September after seeing all his troops being tied down and his frontlines becoming defensive lines.

By the end of hostilities, Finland managed to defend its independence, but had to cede nearly 10% of its territory, including its second largest city, Viipuri, and pay out a large amount of war reparations to the Soviet Union.