A Swedish volunteer in the Winter War. Northern Finland, February 20, 1940.

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To a degree, of course. However, we often downplay (wrongfully so, in my opinion) the other factors at play here. Between the weather and geography of the battlefields, as well as the Red Army’s lack of a proper command structure, the initial phases were doomed from the start. The Red Army had seen a number of purges leading up to the invasion, stripping it of its most competent commanders, leaving behind the bottom of the barrel. These were men that the Stalin regime felt were not a threat, and whose loyalty to the party was unquestionable(read as: willing to fold on their comrades at a moments notice). Therefore, the men who planned the first phase were ill suited for the task, and accordingly failed. It wasn’t until the new plans were drawn up, using lessons learned from the initial failures and those who had shown their true value in the initial fighting, that the Red Army succeeded. I believe that had the Red Army not been purged so heavily leading up to the war, we would have seen a very early Finnish capitulation.

It’s also worth noting that this “exercise” likely saved the Russians from utter defeat when the Nazi’s finally opened hostilities with the country. Had it not been for the Winter War, many of those same Russian commanders who caused the initial failures in the Winter War would have likely still had the commands, and likely lead to even further losses than which occurred during Operation Barbarossa. This is not say these men weren’t still in the Red Army following the Winter War, only that they were now joined by more competent commanders who came up following the Winter War. These men were the ones who led the Red Army to victory over Berlin, not those hold overs from the Winter War.

This is by no means an academic theory or anything like that, this isn’t even my period of research. Just a thought, and I’m sure an actual expert might be able to correct any errors I made here.

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