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> What skills/knowledge did the Finns have that wasn’t available to Russians?
First of all, skiing. It was cold as hell, −43 °C (−45 °F) at worst, and everything was covered in snow. Finns learned to ski since they were kids, using it as a method of travel everywhere. This made the Finnish soldiers far more mobile in the cold terrain. The Finnish army fought the entire war using guerilla tactics, and being able to out-manuever the enemy was paramount.
There was also the equipment. The basic Soviet soldier dressed in regular khaki uniforms and their tanks were olive colored. In the white landscape they stood out. Finns on the other hand dressed entirely in white, using layers to protect from the cold and donning a lightweight white snow cape to hide them from sight. Because Finland is so far up in the north the dark hours during the night were also very long, further hiding their movement.
This combination of a fast and agile almost invisible army was a nightmare for the soviets, as the Finns regularly surrounded them and cut off their supply lines, leaving them huddled in pockets (motti), where just surviving was an ordeal. Then they attacked them from all sides, easily taking out a superior force.
>Historian William R. Trotter describes these conditions thus: “The Soviet soldier had no choice. If he refused to fight, he would be shot. If he tried to sneak through the forest, he would freeze to death. And surrender was no option for him; Soviet propaganda had told him how the Finns would torture prisoners to death.”
The Battle of Suomussalmi [illustrates this well,](http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/Battle_suomussalmi.jpg) you can see the way the Finnish forces slipped through their lines and attacked them from all sides.
The Finnish army had 11,000 men fighting against 45,000-55,000 men and a whole tank brigade, yet they came out victorious, only losing a 1000 men with another 1000 wounded. They also captured 43 tanks, 71 field-guns, 260 trucks, 1,170 horses and 29 anti-tank guns.
The [wikipedia page](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Suomussalmi) has a good analysis of this battle:
*The battle of Suomussalmi is often cited as an example how a small force, properly led and fighting in familiar terrain, can defeat a vastly numerically superior enemy. Factors which contributed to the Finnish victory included:*
* Finnish troops having higher mobility due to skis and sleds; in contrast, Soviet heavy equipment confined them to roads.
* Finnish strategy was flexible and often unorthodox, for example, targeting Soviet field kitchens, which demoralized Soviet soldiers fighting in a sub-Arctic winter.
* Soviet army being poorly equipped, especially with regard to winter camouflage clothing.
* Finnish army had very high morale: they were defending their homes. Soviet troops had only political reasons for their attack, and consequently lost their will to fight soon despite their continual political mind control of army.
* Soviet counter-intelligence failures: Finnish troops often intercepted the Soviet communications, which relied heavily on standard phone lines.
* Finnish troops’ equipment being well suited for warfare in deep snow and freezing temperatures.
* Soviet objective to cut Finland in half across the Oulu region – while appearing reasonable on a map, this was inherently unrealistic, as the region was mostly forested marshland, with its road network consisting mainly of logging trails. Mechanized divisions had to rely on these, becoming easy targets for the mobile Finnish ski troops.
* Simplicity where needed, as the final assault was a simple head-on charge, decreasing the chances of tactical errors. Rough weather also favoured comparatively simple plans.
* The Soviet Red Army was still suffering from the aftermaths of Stalin’s army purges in the 1930s, with many replacement officers being incompetent and inexperienced.