[ End of article ]
Since September 20, 1944, when Finland was forced to submit to Russia's crushing armistice terms, there has begun the "liquidation" of Finland's independence, once held up as a model for the democracies of the world. News from Finland has been scarce, but what little has trickled through the present tight censorship raises grave questions as to Finland's hope for continuance as a free and independent people.
Reporting as a representative of the Federal Council of Churches, Dr. A. L. Warnshuis, who recently visited Europe, stated, "I have brought a special appeal from Finland where the harsh armistice and internal conditions mean the sovietizing of that country." ("The Church Situation in Europe", News Bulletin of the National Lutheran Council, Jan. 26, 1945.)
Oscar Jacobi, who visited Finland recently, obviously made an understatement when he said in Colliers (Jan. 20, 1945) that some of the text in the next chapters of Finland's history "is going to be contributed by Moscow". In Finland's recent parliamentary elections, the truly significant factor was not that the elections were outwardly "free" but that there was present fear and psychological intimidation. The Russian newspaper Pravda made clear to the Finnish people that parliamentary elections in Finland were "not to be considered an internal affair of the Finns." To this she added the right-cous-sounding assertion that "allied nations' public opinion" was closely watching Finland's election to see whether there would be a "complete victory for the principles adopted at the Crimean conference." Taken together with her claim that "the Young Communist party is the second largest among the Finnish parties today", this statement clearly implied that only a decisive vote for the Communists would be considered in accord with the principles adopted at Yalta. (Contrast this with the observation of Newsweek, on March 19, 1945, that "the Finnish electoral campaign is being watched closely in Washington and London for indications of Russia's attitude toward popular elections in countries under its control." Italics ours.)
Thus, while the Soviet Government has publicly announced its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of the countries brought under the orbit of her control, Pravda indicated to the Finns in no uncertain terms how they must vote! Russia's attitude, revealed in her government-dominated press, is vastly more significant for Finland's future than the "freedom" claimed for the recent elections. Equally significant and even more ominous is the fact that the Russian newspapers, once the election was over, have taken to accusing the Finnish authorities of being too "lenient" and "formalistic" in bringing to trial so-called "war-criminals". It is not difficult to see the directions which further pressure and intervention will take.
In 1940 American sympathy for Finland, to use the words of William Henry Chamberlain, was "warm, instinctive, and practically universal". President Roosevelt called it "axiomatic".
During the past two years the mists of war propaganda have clouded Finland's case and Americans have been unable to hear her story. Finland's voice has been largely silenced in this country. Do Americans realize that for almost two years prior to the throwing out of the Finnish minister the Legation in Washington was not permitted to present Finland's side? The minister and his staff stood with hands tied while their enemies were permitted to hit at them as they chose. The floodgates of Russian propaganda were opened, and there was utmost freedom for one-sided Communist and anti-Finnish statements and misstatements. This is surely a curious logic when a people considered the most literate in the world, a people who maintain free assemblies and meet with honor their obligations, are discounted and suppressed while the spokesmen for a totalitarian power, "a dictatorship as absolute as any other", are free to speak!
Today, strong voices are being raised in protest over the sacrifice of Poland on the altar of expediency and power politics. It is inevitable that Americans will compare the achievements and decisions of the great powers with their expressed war aims. The only real hope for Finland, Poland, the Baltic countries, and other small democracies will lie in an enlighicned and vocal public opinion guided by the principles of justice and fairness. Security and peace plans are now in the making. The great majority of Americans are sincere in their desire to cooperate for world security and a lasting peace. We are equally sincere in asking that reason, justice, and fair play will be brought to work on the peace.
The tremendous responsibility of the leading powers is clearly set forth in an editorial of the New York Times in these words, "Under the Crimea Charter, the United States, Great Britain, and Soviet Russia assumed joint responsibility for developments in Europe, and pledged themselves in particular to see to it that the liberated people of Europe, including the former Axis satellites, have a chance to attain liberty and self-government, through the democratic process of free elections under conditions of internal peace." (March 11, 1945.)
Finland was never an "Axis satellite". She was not an ally of Germany and had no commitments to her. Throughout the war she maintained consistently that her defensive struggle against Russia was wholly independent of the major conflict. In fairness to Finland and to our own long-standing friendship and sympathy for her we should consider carefully the record of events in the successive phases of her effort to retain independence.
Russia Attacks Finland
In October, 1939, when it was already plain that Russia intended to invade Finland after the same manner in which she took over the Baltic democracies, President Roosevelt made an effort to stay hostilities and sent an urgent "personal" note to President Mikhail Kalinin of the U. S. S. R. expressing the "earnest hope that the Soviet Union" would "make no demands on Finland which are inconsistent with the maintenance and development of amicable and peaceful relations between the two countries and the independence of each" (New York Times, October 14, 1939). In his note the President referred to the "long-standing and deep friendship which exists between the United States and Finland."
In his reply of October 16, 1939 President Kalinin reminded President Roosevelt that Russia in 1917 recognized Finland's independence, and expressly stated that "the sole aim of the negotiations [with Finland] is the strengthening of friendly cooperation between both countries in the cause of guaranteeing the security of the Soviet Union and Finland." (New York Times, Oct. 18, 1939. Italics ours.)
Thus at the very moment when Russia was making plans to attack Finland she sought to deceive the world in regard to her real intentions.
A survey of events since the first Finnish-Russian war which began with Russia's aggression against Finland in 1939 shows that Finland was from the very beginning concerned with only one aim, the preservation of her own independence and territorial integrity. She was not an ally of Germany, she had no commitments to Germany, she was not out for conquest, nor did she have any grandiose ambitions of destroying communism in Russia. She was fighting for her own very existence, and that is all.
In 1939 Finland was attacked by Russia. What happened then was an open story to the entire world. Finland's struggle was hailed as a defense of liberty and justice. A great flood of sympathy was released particularly in America over this wholly unwarranted and ruthless aggression by a neighbor fifty times stronger. The League of Nations unanimously expelled Soviet Russia from membership because of her attack on Finland. President Roosevelt, in an address before the American Youth Congress (New York Times, February 11, 1940), summed up the feelings of the American people in these telling words:
"Here is a small republic in Northern Europe. A republic which, without any question whatever, wishes solely to maintain its own territorial and governmental integrity. Nobody with any pretense of common sense believes that Finland had any ulterior designs on the integrity or the safety of the Soviet Union.
"The American sympathy is 98 percent with the Finns in their effort to stave off invasion of their own soil. That American sympathy by now is axiomatic.
"The Soviet Union, as a matter of practical fact, as everybody knows who has got the courage to face the fact, the practical fact known to you and known to all the world, is run by a dictatorship, a dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world.
"It has allied itself with another dictatorship and it has invaded a neighbor so infinitesimally small that it could do no conceivable, possible harm to the Soviet Union, a small nation that seeks only to live at peace as a democracy and a liberal forward-looking democracy at that."
Finland's courageous and skillful defense has not been forgotten. The odds, however, were too great, and America's refusal to allow her to purchase arms probably was a decisive factor in her collapse. When the Russians broke through the Mannerheim line on the Karelian Isthmus and reached Viipuri, Finland was compelled to submit to a peace which deprived her of approximately a tenth of her territory, including the historic city of Viipuri, the naval base of Hanko, the shore of Lake Ladoga, and other territory in the north of Finland. Almost a half million Finns "in one of the most impressive informal plebiscites of modern history moved voluntarily and en masse into the shrunken part of Finland. Practically none chose to remain under Soviet rule." (American Mercury, July, 1944, p. 11.) The Treaty of Moscow deprived Finland not only of a substantial section of territory but also of approximately fifteen percent of her productive capacity. This was Finland's reward for defending herself against unprovoked aggression.
Striving to Maintain the Peace
The interval of peace following the treaty of March, 1940, was a trying one for Finland. She scrupulously observed the details of this treaty, but the Soviet Government lost no time in exerting pressure of various sorts in order to gain a stronger hold. The Soviet diplomatic and consular corps was more than doubled in size (in Helsinki alone there were 31 in the diplomatic corps and 120 assistants), and efforts to develop a fifth column among the Finns were none too subtle. Constant espionage was carried on by these nominal consular officials, for whom permission to travel in restricted areas, with freedom from any control by Finnish authorities, was insistently demanded by Moscow.
The words of a British publication, all the more striking because Great Britain was formally at war with Finland, portray clearly the difficulties Finland had with Russia during this period. This magazine, The Nineteenth Century and Afterwards, said in its March, 1944, issue:
"Although Russia had declared herself satisfied with the treaty, she profited by the helplessness to which Finland had been reduced to impinge upon Finnish domestic affairs and Finnish foreign policy. For example, Finland attempted to promote a defensive association of the Nordic countries which, had it come into existence, would have drawn Finland, Norway, and Sweden together against Germany. Under Russian pressure Finland was obliged to desist. The personnel in the Russian Legation at Helsinki and in the Russian consulates throughout the country was numerous far beyond normal needs, and there was constant interference in Finnish internal affairs. Demands, which had not been made in the peace negotiations, were made when Finland was unable to resist them. Amongst these demands were the demilitarization of the Aaland Islands under Russian control, a preponderant Russian share in the management of the Petsamo nickel mines, the surrender of rolling stock beyond the amount stipulated in the treaty, compensation for goods removed from the ceded areas, the cession of the Vallenkoski Rapids (which were entirely on the Finnish side of the frontier). All Finnish attempts to promote trade with Russia and to promote a better understanding in the realms of science and of letters were rebuffed. When Mr. Molotoff was in Berlin during the month of November, 1940, he demanded that Russia have a free hand in Finland. The demand was refused by the German Government. It is not surprising that the Finns, who have little sympathy with the Germans - and still less for national socialism - should have felt some relief." (Quoted from the Congressional Record, May 3, 1944, p. 3967.)
Among other demands not included in the Moscow Treaty was the request of the Soviet Union that Finland permit Russia to run its own trains to and from Hanko through southern Finland. The trains were used for the transportation of Russian troops and munitions. Finland objected strenuously to this request but was finally compelled to consent in July, 1940. At this time Russia and Germany were in close collaboration against the Allies. With the precedent established by Russia, Germany was able to secure the consent of Finland to the transit of German troops to and from Norway through the wilderness of Lapland. Thus the German movement of troops was through northern Finland, the Russian movement through the vital areas of southern Finland. Interestingly enough, the Soviet Union did not protest the permission given the Germans (in September, 1940), and when she attacked Finland a second time, no reference was made to the German transit. Russia didn't even use it as a pretext.
It has been found to be excellent anti-Finnish propaganda to cite the presence of German troops in Finland. And it is, if one omits to mention why!
Russia Attacks Again
Finland did not enter war against Russia a second time because of Nazi sympathies. Russia was the aggressor again in June, 1941. This was the eventful month when Germany invaded Russia. While Russian propaganda has attempted to make out that Finland used the opportunity to regain lost territory, the facts speak otherwise. Note carefully the following:
Our own State Department's press release, dated December 18, 1941, giving the official chronology of events in 1941, has these cryptic and tragic words concerning what happened on June 22, 1941:
"Germany invades the Soviet Union; the latter raids Finland; Hitler's speech and Ribbentrop's statement on declaration of war against the Soviet Union." (New York Times, June 23, 1941, pp. 1:8, 4:2. Italics ours.)
On the very day, June 22, 1941, when the Russian-German war started, Russia resumed active hostilities against Finland. On that same day the Russians bombed the Aaland Islands and attempted to bomb two Finnish warships. On the 23rd, Abo (Turku) was bombed by 24 Russian airplanes. The open city of Willmanstrand was bombed on the same day - so was the Malm airdrome near Helsinki. The Russian Government was asked for an explanation, but no answer came.
Finland herself had refrained from any military action. On the 24th, the Finnish minister in London assured Mr. Eden that Finland would remain on the defensive. But by the 26th more than ten Finnish towns had been bombed by the Russians and had suffered heavy casualties. On that day, President Risto Ryti broadcast a declaration that Finland would fight in self-defense. "There was a unanimous vote of support for the Government when it reluctantly, and after some days of delay, entered the war against Russia for the second time, in June. 1941. This unanimous vote was for the same reason as the unanimous vote of the American Congress after Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. It was in response to days of one-sided bombing of Finnish cities by Soviet airplanes." ("The Tragic Case of Finland", American Mercury, July, 1944. Italics ours.)
So it was not until after Russia had repeatedly attacked Finland and after there was no longer the slightest question of her intentions, that the Finnish Parliament approved military resistance, and only after Russia had refused to answer repeated Finnish requests for explanations of the attacks.
The Finns had been utterly exhausted by the previous war with Russia. But it was clear that their last chance of survival as an independent nation was disappearing. They fought in self-defense for a second time. Their army regained the territory wrested from Finland in March, 1940, and pushed only into Soviet Karelia where they established a natural defensive position. For two years there was little more than patrol activity on this front. In fact, it became known as a "sit-down war". It is an unsubstantiated Soviet canard that Finnish guns took part in the bombardment of Leningrad which because of its closeness they could have easily bombarded at any time had they so decided. They took no part in the German offensive against that city.
Not only did the Finns refrain from joining in offensive action against Leningrad, but at the very time the Russian resistance at that city was described as most desperate the Finnish Army was only about 28 miles from Murmansk Junction and could have cut that important Russian supply road if she had wanted to. The Finns did not push this great military advantage, and it is impossible to believe that the reason was aught else than their trust in us. If the Russian defensive position was as desperate as has been described it may well be that this fact was a decisive factor.
Harsh Peace Terms
Finland was not dominated by Nazi Germany, for if she had been she could not even have begun to discuss armistice or peace terms with Russia, as she did in February, 1944. William Henry Chamberlin has pointed out that Finland's taking the initiative in opening peace negotiations is "convincing proof" that she was not a puppet in the hands of Germany. (The Tragic Case of Finland," The American Mercury, July, 1944, p. 13.)
Time and again Russia's first peace terms for Finland were referred to as "reasonable." It is little wonder if some Americans were misled into thinking the Finns to be stubborn, stupid, and perhaps indeed Nazi-dominated in failing to jump at the chance of "getting out of the war."
Even a superficial study of the terms should make it clear that they were anything but reasonable. Russia's first set of terms, given through representatives in Stockholm, demanded the breaking off of relations with Germany, internment of German troops in Finland, the restoration of the frontier enforced by the Moscow Treaty in 1940, postponement of reparations discussions, demobilization of the army, and the disposition of Finland's port on the Arctic Ocean, Petsamo, for later negotiations.
In spite of the harshness of these terms, the Finnish Government decided to continue negotiations and was supported in its attitude by the Parliament. After some exchanges of notes Finland sent Paasikivi and Enckell to Moscow to discuss the terms. Near the end of March the Soviet Government gave new armistice terms and, through clever propaganda, gave the world to understand that Finland was to receive more lenient and moderate conditions.
The terms, however, laying down six conditions, were more specific than before and far more harsh:
Finland was to sever relations with Germany, intern German troops, and withdraw Finnish troops to the 1940 border all during the month of April. Soviet war prisoners and civilians were to be returned to Russia immediately; only if the armistice became a peace treaty, exchange of prisoners would be reciprocal. Half of the Finnish army was to be demobilized during May and the entire Finnish army returned to peace time strength during June and July. In addition, Russia demanded that Finland pay an indemnity of $600,000,000 American dollars in goods within five years time. Petsamo and the Petsamo area were to be ceded to the Soviet Union.
These terms fixed a time limit on internment of German troops physically impossible to fulfill. According to American press reports there were approximately a hundred thousand German troops in northern Finland and these could very easily get reinforcements from Norway. Either Finland would have become engaged in a two-front war or, being compelled to accept Russian aid and admit Russian troops, would have sacrificed everything for which she had fought since 1939. The withdrawal of Finnish troops to the 1940 border would also have been next to impossible within the time limit demanded, and it was complicated by the further problem of moving the entire population of 300,000 people with all their goods from the Karelian area to other parts of Finland. Not one of these people would have voluntarily remained in Karelia. With the cession of her second largest city, Viipuri, and the extensive system of natural waterways and railways in eastern Finland, and with the loss of 15% of her yearly exports, the economic unity of Finland would have been broken completely.
In the light of the above and of the fact that Finland had lost much of her productive capacity through the loss of manpower and other factors of war, the demand for an indemnity of $600.000,000, to be paid in the brief time of five years, was the most crushing term of all.
In the first place, Finland was not the aggressor, and hence the staggering indemnity was contrary to all principles of justice and decency. In the second place, the indemnity amount, perhaps seemingly small to Americans now accustomed to speaking easily in billions, was more than the total national income of Finland during the peak years prior to the war. Its payment would have absorbed all Finnish exports; moreover, payment was to be made in goods with prices not determined in advance, enabling Russia arbitrarily to set her own prices. For America in a similar position an equivalent sum would be roughly $120.000,000,000.
Acceptance of the terms would have brought Finland to economic starvation and servitude in an impossible attempt to pay an impossible indemnity. Failure to have paid to the full would have only given Russia a pretext for finally seizing Finland and accomplishing her announced aim of exterminating the Finns "from the face of the earth." (Pravda, June 23, 1941.)
The Finnish Parliament rejected the Soviet terms unanimously. The Finnish people themselves knew them to be unjust and impossible of fulfillment. Acceptance would have been disastrous to the very existence of the nation. The Russian terms were an ultimatum, and Finland was given no opportunity to present counter-proposals. It was a take it or leave it proposition.
Russian Pressure Brings About Diplomatic Break
On June 15, 1944, Finland paid its debt installment of $148,000. which it theretofore had been paying regularly and promptly for years. On the following day Finland's minister to the United States, Mr. Procopé, was ordered to leave the country on account of activities described as "inimical" to the United States. A few days later diplomatic relations with Finland were severed.
In the meantime, Russia marked the opening of the second front in Europe (on the part of the Anglo-American forces) by launching a large-scale attack, not at once against Germany, hut against Finland. While for the gigantic Russian army this was a relatively minor undertaking, "yet the fact remains that on Moscow's list of political priorities the defeat of Finland has been given precedence over that of Germany." See Human Events, June 21, 1944. Puny Finnish defenses were no match for the Soviet power-house, strengthened immeasurably since the winter war of 1939 by American planes and tanks. The Mannerheim line on the Karelian Isthmus was soon breached.
Under constant pressure from Russia, our State Department had warned the Finns to "get out of the war" or to take the consequences. To the little nation of some three million souls who had desperately tried to keep out, this phrase must have had a callous ring! Aside from the fact that Finland was not the aggressor either in 1941 or 1939, it appears obvious that such warnings could have no practical meaning as long as the United States and Great Britain could offer her no honorable way out or assure her that surrendering did not mean loss of independence. In the words of William Henry Chamberlain, "Had the American Government, with Soviet consent and authorization, been able to offer Finland at any time a peace settlement based on restoration of the 1939 frontier backed up by some international guarantee, the Finnish Government could have been rightly accused of obstinacy and bad judgment in refusing to accept such a settlement." (American Mercury, July, 1944, p. 13.) The fact is that no such offer was ever made.
To the overwhelming majority of Americans and especially Americans of Finnish extraction, now heartsick over the fate of the country of their forebears, the reference to "inimical activities" on the part of Finland's minister and the repeated suggestion that Finland was pro-Nazi simply did not make sense. Minister Procopé was recognized as an outstanding diplomat in Washington, in spirit thoroughly American. His dismissal made it possible for American Communists to hint that the last "Axis listening post" had been removed from Washington, a suggestion which was rank injustice to a man who had served as President of the Council of the League of Nations and who was regarded in Washington and throughout Europe as a man of unimpeachable integrity. The senior Senator from Michigan, Arthur H. Vandenberg, paid this tribute to Procopé a few days later: "I cannot find it in my heart to believe that Hjalmar Procopé, a gallant Finnish patriot, is guilty of anything which does not stern from distraught anxiety for his beleaguered homeland and from complete devotion to the harassed life-blood of the magnificent Finnish democracy. It leaves me morally certain, in the absence of proof to the contrary, that he has never harbored so much as one vagrant thought that was consciously hostile to our own United States." (Congressional Record, June 19, 1944, p. 6219.)
In that same address Senator Vandenberg, whose statesmanship has made him an outstanding delegate to the World Security Conference, made this significant statement: "Only 24 hours before his recall, this Minister once more paid Finland's debt installment, inherited from World War No. l, still uniquely faithful to her undefiled word even in the midst of new and desperate travail. This is not the act of an enemy. For the sake of history, and perhaps, for the sake of belated justice in the post-war world to come, I cannot forget these things, amid the bewildering contradictions of this crashing conflict." (Italics ours.)
A Crushing Armistice
"The armistice terms which Russia and Britain have imposed on Finland are so severe that she may not survive as an independent nation. If the purpose is to make her a puppet of Russia, a good start has been made. If the intent is to build a free, healthy, and peaceful Europe, then the Allies began with a failure... The idea that such a tiny state can be a menace to Russia, the mightiest land power in the world, is fantastic claptrap." (Editorial in N. Y. World-Telegram, Sept. 22, 1944.)
On the diplomatic front Russia had now gained what she wanted. She could put the pressure on Finland without concern for possible interference from her allies.
The power of Russia's armies was more than Finland could withstand. On September 20, 1944, she was compelled to accept the armistice terms demanded by the Soviet Union, terms no less devastating than those offered earlier.
Petsamo in the north was ceded to the Soviet Union. In place of Hanko, Russia demanded and received on a fifty year lease basis the even more strategic Porkkala peninsula on the south coast of Finland. The frontier established by the Moscow treaty in 1940 was restored. Finland undertook to withdraw her troops at once beyond the line of this frontier and to transfer her army to a peace-time basis within two and a half months.
German land, naval, and air forces remaining in the country were to be disarmed and turned over to the Soviet. The attempt to fulfill this clause has proved to be, as was to be expected, a bloody business involving the exhausted Finnish army in a prolonged and bitter struggle in the north where the Germans have systematically destroyed Finnish towns and homes in a slow retreat into Norway. Oscar Jacobi, writing in Colliers (Jan. 20, 1945), says he had a good look at the fighting in the north, where "men died or suffered all the hardships of a major-scale war." 'Thousands of Finns, torn from their homes in the northernmost areas, have now had to move southward through the new devastation, complicating the already desperate housing and food situation.
In regard to the reparations clause forced on the Finns, Jacobi writes:
"The Moscow armistice agreement was worded so as to give the Russians wide latitude in interpretation - something about which the Finns felt (and still feel) very uneasy. In the reparations clause, they got their first bitter taste of this loose wording. The $600,000,000 originally asked for by the Russians was reduced in the treaty to $300,000,000 which pleased the Finns no end. But there was a catch to it.
"Reparations are to be paid not in cash but in kind, and the Russians have decided they will credit Finnish deliveries against reparations only at prices obtaining in 1938. Since these are vastly lower than today's, Moscow's dictum means in reality that the Finns will have to deliver products worth $700,000,000 at today's prices!" (Colliers, Jan. 20, 1945, p. 69. Italics ours.)
For America, in a similar position, an equivalent sum would be roughly $140,000,000,000. Some sum for a nation with a population no larger than the city of Brooklyn! A terrific price for resisting unprovoked aggression!
"War criminals". Among the articles of the armistice was also the agreement to collaborate with the Soviet "in the task of the detention of persons accused of war crimes, and the trials of such persons". This follows the invariable Russian pattern.
Genuine war criminals should not go unpunished. Finland's only "crime," however, was in defending herself against unprovoked aggression, in 1941 as in 1939, and in choosing to stand up for her rights and to fight for her freedom against the forces of vicious despotism. Finland's leaders were motivated by their concern for Finland's future. They were pro-Finnish and not pro-Nazi. In a note to Great Britain on October 6, 1941, the Finnish Government said: "Finland wages her defensive war free from all political obligations, but grateful that she need not this time fight alone."
That the concern of Finland's people and her leaders at the time they chose to defend themselves against impossible odds was not without ground is now plain from reports that come from Europe. "What has already happened in the Baltic nations is a fearful story," writes Dr. A. L. Warnhuis. "I was told that 600,000 of these people have fled before the advancing Russian armies... It is Russia as a nation state and its imperialism that is feared... The fear persists, and we ought to be concerned about this great issue and do everything that is right and possible in re-enforcing the Soviet promise of non-interference in domestic affairs." (News Bulletin, National Lutheran Council, Jan. 26, 1945. Italics ours.)
The armistice has also made it possible for Russia to extend her grip on Finland in various ways without making her interference in domestic affairs appear too obvious and yet in time permitting her hold to become ever stronger. Finland has been compelled to disband all patriotic organizations and at the same time to release from prison all Communists and any others who had been confined for treason. These are the ones who are making the loudest cry over "war criminals" and the need for "people's tribunals" to try them. It is they who are and will provide the link between Finnish Communists and Moscow and who, to prove that their hearts are in the right place, are serving as willing errand boys to create the proper possibilities for further Russian interference. Seeking to cooperate with the Soviet in the matter of trials by taking them up through the orderly procedure of her democratic courts, Finland has now been accused by the Russian news agency Tass of investigating "crimes" in a "formalistic manner" (New York Times, March 21, 1945). With the strong backing of Russia, the extreme leftists will keep clamoring for the establishment of people's tribunals empowered to deal out summary justice in the true Soviet manner. The Soviet's record in bringing such "justice" into the Baltic countries and Poland promises to make Finland's "ordeal of peace" even more fearful than her "ordeal of war".
Some may still ask, "Is not Russia our ally?" We may well ask in turn, "Does this justify her as an aggressor against a democratic neutral nation which has always been our friend?" Moscow does not conceal her objective of absorbing Finland into the Soviet Union. "Nor is this a new ambition", comments Human Events (June 21, 1944), "As far back as January, 1940, Mr. Herbert B. Elliston, a former British national who is now chief editorial writer for the Washington Post, reported from Helsinki:
"There is no doubt that the price asked of the British for a Russian pact included acquiescence in the extinguishment of Finnish independence. The Finns are grateful to the British for refusing to be accessory to the crime, a word, incidentally, which sounds like a Sunday-school picnic to one who witnessed the bombing of Helsinki."
The great statesman and diplomat, Andrew D. White, who was U. S. minister to Russia in 1892-1894, wrote in regard to Russia's traditional policy and attitude toward Finland, "To say nothing of the policy of Russia in Poland and elsewhere, her dealings with Finland thus far form one of the blackest spots on the history of the empire." (Autobiography of Andrew D. White, Century Co., 1917, p. 70. Italics ours.)
Is Finland Worth Saving?
The aims for which we have been fighting this bloodiest of wars persist in intruding on our consciences even while the heat of battle is at its fiercest, and their demands for attention will mount as the making of the peace approaches.
If ever, it is now that Americans should steep themselves in the philosophy of our ideals clearly expressed in the statements of our statesmen and leaders.
A great interpreter of the American spirit, President Woodrow Wilson, has voiced the reasons why we are constantly concerned with the liberty and welfare of other countries:
"Why is it that all nations turn to us with the instinctive feeling that if anything touches humanity it touches us? Because it knows that ever since we were born as a Nation we have undertaken to be the champions of humanity and of the rights of men. Without that ideal there would be nothing that would distinguish America from her predecessors in the history of Nations." (The New Democracy, II, p. 44.)
And America's spiritual heritage and destiny are set forth in these immortal words:
"America has never seen its destiny with the physical eye. The destiny of America is an ideal destiny. It is her incumbent privilege to declare and stand for the rights of men. Nothing less is worth fighting for, nothing less is worth sacrificing for." (The New Democracy, II, p. 68.)
The small nations whose future is now being determined for a long time to come cherish dearly those very rights for which we ourselves have been willing to go to war. The great English historian and statesman, Viscount Bryce, author of The American Commonwealth, the classic work on American government and institutions, has stated the case of the small nation in these words:
"The small States, whose absorption is now threatened, have been potent and useful - perhaps the most potent and useful - factors in the advance of civilization. It is in them and by them that most of what is precious in religion, in philosophy, in literature, in science, and in art has been produced.
"We may be able to arrest the forces which seem to be making for that extinction, but we certainly ought not to strengthen them. Rather we ought to maintain and defend the smaller states." (Essays and Addresses in War Time, 1918, pp. 12, 14. Italics ours.)
The principle of self-determination for nations is a fundamental American doctrine. This is evident from the following declaration of President Wilson:
"National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their consent.
Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawn in a game. The day of conquest and aggrandizement has gone by."
The saving of Finland and the other democracies from the disaster which has overtaken them is, therefore, more than a matter of sentimental feeling for America. The principles and ideals for which we have always stood are involved. When President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill wrote the Atlantic Charter, they restated in simple and clear terms those same ideals of self-determination and freedom which are part and parcel of America's heritage - ideals stated first in our Declaration of Independence.
Whatever may have been said later in the interests of expediency concerning the Atlantic Charter, its promises that the victors would not "seek aggrandizement, territorial or otherwise"; that "There shall be no territorial changes which do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned"; that the peace should "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live"; that "sovereign rights and self-government shall be restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them", are in perfect accord with the ideals of our American heritage. In his recent message to Congress, President Roosevelt asserted that "we shall not hesitate to use our influence - and to use it now - to secure so far as is humanly possible the fulfillment of the principles of the Atlantic Charter."
Our traditional policy of friendliness and help toward small democracies, which is entailed in our own undying love of freedom, will not permit us to stand by and to watch a helpless people be deliberately destroyed without our exerting every possible influence "to arrest the forces which seem to be making for that extinction." Especially must this be true in the present conflict in which the liberation of countries which have felt the iron heel of the dictator is one of our declared aims. We were once a small nation ourselves. We have fought for justice and self-determination. Every corpuscle in our body rebels against the philosophy that "might is right". To allow anything less than full freedom and governmental and territorial integrity to Finland or to the other threatened countries would be virtually to repudiate the principles for which we have always stood and for which we have again gone to war.
A voice from America's past arises even today to remind us of our tremendous responsibility. In an address in New York City on December 15, 1916, that great American Secretary of State, Elihu Root, expressed thoughts which are applicable to Finland. If the word "Finland" were substituted for "Belgium", one would think that he were speaking of Finland today. We commend his thoughts to every American for consideration:
"Poor Belgium, peaceful, industrious, God-fearing, law-abiding, Belgium, she had no quarrel with any one; she sought no nation's territory; she coveted no neighbor's goods; she threatened no one's security, but she stood in the way of a mightier nation's purpose, - and she was stricken to the earth! [This is exactly Finland's present tragic situation.]
"What we have to do is not merely to protest in the name of humanity, - it is to assert a right, it is to call upon the world to assert a right, a right under the law of nations for the protection of humanity and of civilization. This is our concern."
Even if Finland were a backward and uncivilized country, she would be entitled to America's support. It happens, however, that Finland, to quote Cecil Gray, an English writer, in his book on Sibelius, is "one of the most - if not, indeed, as is very probable, quite the most - advanced and progressive country in Europe today."
Her political constitution, adds Gray, "is the last word in enlightened democracy. "In fact, her constitution is largely modeled after our own. Representative government, free speech, a free press, and other cherished liberties of free men are to be found in Finland the same as in America. According to an editorial in the New York Times, March 1, 1940, "Finland, in the last twenty years, has been a projection of American democratic institutions in the Old World. Her guiding principles have been ours, her democracy is as genuine as our own."
Everyone knows how under the compulsions of war there is tremendous pressure to suspend at least temporarily many of the democratic traditions and processes of a nation. The following dispatch, sent by Jack Fleischer, United Press correspondent, as late as March 20, 1944, tells its own remarkable story of the staying power of Finland's democracy even under the burdens of war and the pressures exerted by Germany:
"The Finns still possess the right of free speech and exercise it greatly. Foreign broadcasts are not forbidden, and huge numbers listen to the London radio regularly.
"Anti-Jewish legislation, which the Nazis wanted, never made headway in Finland and, according to information from leading Jews of the country, 2,000 Jews are able to live with the same rights as other Finns and are aiding in the war effort." (New York Times, March 21, 1944.)
It is facts like this which give concrete significance to Finland's assurance that she was waging her defensive war "free from all political obligations".
We know of no more fitting a conclusion to our discussion of Finland's case than two eloquent tributes paid her during the Winter War, one by a Briton, the other by an American.
Winston Churchill, the great British leader, stated in a world-wide radio broadcast:
"Only Finland - super´b, nay sublime, in the jaws of peril - Finland shows what free men can do. The service rendered by Finland to mankind is magnificent. We cannot tell what the fate of Finland may be, but no more mournful spectacle could be presented to what is left of civilized mankind than that this splendid Northern race should be at last worn down and reduced to servitude worse than death by the full brutish force of over-whelming numbers. If the light of freedom which still burns so brightly in the frozen. North should finally be quenched, it might well herald a return to the Dark Ages, when every vestige of human progress during two thousand years would be engulfed."
No technical step of conventional unfriendliness which war exigencies may require, writes William Henry Chamberlain, can erase from the memory of Americans this splendid tribute and he adds, "It would be a bitter irony for Finland, for Great Britain and for the world if Winston Churchill should find himself compelled by circumstances to contribute to the realization of the prediction so forcefully expressed in these last two sentences."
We feel that the final tribute to Finland should come from an American. The following is from the Christian Science Monitor:
"If you were to name the greatest nation in the world, would it be the richest; would it be the one whose possessions are the most wide-flung; would it be the most populous or that which boasted of the most destructive guns and the most powerful army? Perhaps it would be that nation which paid its debts, which, courageous as the Greeks at Thermopylae, fights a barbarian horde, which faces annihilation rather than compromise its liberty - whose men today die on the battlefield and whose women and babies starve and freeze behind the lines. If this is the nation you would seek, there stands Finland."
Is Finland worth saving?
Published by Save Finland Committee. O. J. Larson, Chairman. 406 Lonsdale Bldg., Duluth, Minnesota.
[ Beginning of article ]