Here’s a Finnish Soldier/Skier, celebrating the amazing victory over the Red Army on Raate Road, on 7 Jan 1940. He’s especially fond of Molotov Cocktails.
Just prior to WWII, Stalin and Hitler entered into an agreement (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 Aug 1939) to split Poland and to let Russia “have” Finland. This Pact helped launch WWII, since Hitler was no longer worried about facing Russia in a “two-front” war. A week after signing the agreement, Germany invaded Poland, kicking off WWII. About two weeks later (after it appeared Germany would easily defeat Poland), Russia also invaded Poland, to claim its share of the prize.
A couple of months later (on 30 Nov 1939) the Soviets invaded Finland in the “Winter War,” expecting to blitz and defeat the Finns within two weeks. Unfortunately for Stalin, his invasion of Finland turned out to be a huge international embarrassment–the League of Nations expelled the Soviets from the League and the courageous Finnish soldiers did an amazing job against the Russian horde. A few months later, Finland negotiated a settlement, giving up some territory to the Soviets. The Finnish desire to reclaim the lost territory accounts for their decision to side with the Germans — when Hitler invaded Russia on 22 June 1941.
The poor military performance of the Red Army in Finland encouraged Hitler to invade Russia. And Hitler’s invasion of Russia (on 22 June 1941) sealed the fate of the Third Reich.
It’s a kind of interesting progression:
1. The agreement to give Finland to Russia helped launch WWII.
2. The Russian botched invasion of Finland helped Hitler decide to invade Russia.
3. The German botched invasion of Russia helped defeat Hitler and end the war.
In the end, it worked out for Finland (even though they lost some territory to the Russians) — for unlike Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, East Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, etc, etc — Finland was able to retain sovereignty.
BUT, what does this have to do with Molotov Cocktails? Well, when Russia invaded Finland, it began by bombing the capital — Helsinki. Facing international outrage, Russian Minister Molotov explained that the Soviets were merely dropping “humanitarian aid” to the starving Finnish population, which the Finnish people called “Molotov Bread Baskets.” To help wash down the Russian bread, the Finnish soldiers began dispensing “Molotov Cocktails,” which proved surprisingly effective at destroying Russian tanks.
Three minute overview of the Winter War: