World War II Finland: The Home Front (1939-45)

Figure 1.--The Soviet seizure of Karelia and national conscription significantly reduced Finnish farm harvests, crearing a serious food crisis which persisted into the post-War era. Here we see Swedish nurses feeding Finninish children (January 1946). We are not sure if this was in Finland or Sweden. Medical care also became a serious problem. Beginning with the Soviet invasion and the Winter War (1939-40), the country's medical facilities were hard presse to treat the battlefield casualties. The country's health resources, both personnel and facilities, were swamed and almost exclusively supporting the military. Civilians difficulty obtaining treatment. Some civilans were in military hospitals, but this proved difficult to arrange. The Government organied retired physicians and female medical students to provide care to civilians, but even do health services were inadequate and often not available in rural areas. The problem with food and health care are part othe reason so many Finnish children were evacuated to Sweden.

Finland faced many of the same World War II problems on the home front that were experienced by other European countries. Unlike most other countries, however, it was not occupied by either the Germans or Soviets. It lost important territory to the Soviets, but what remained was not occupied. Thus while under terrible pressure and facing adverse circumstances, the Finnish Government was left intact and able to manage the sutuariin to mitigate the impact on the population. This meant that Government played a much larger role in people's lives than was the case before the War. The most serious problem on the homefront was food shortages. The Soviet seizure of Karelia meant the loss of a substantial portion of the country's most productive agricultural land. This and the conscription of men for the Army substantially reduced food production. Disaster was overted by German food aid. Finland was the only country which Germany provided substantial food aid. Even so, there were serious food shortages which required strict rationing regulations. Food was also a factor in evacuating Finnish children, primarily to Sweden. Many of the children taken in by the swedes had serious health problems as a result of malnutrition. Finland was primarily an agricultural country, but there was some industry which wa also adversely affected by conscription. And because the economy was put on a war footing with manufacturing shiftted to war produvtion, shortages develoed for almost everything, not just food. Health care also proved a serious problem as the country's medical establishment was hard pressed to care for battlefield casualties. Civlian healthcare sffered. Retired doctors and medical students were mobilied. Even so the Finns managed as best they could. According to one historian, "In wartime Finland , the mobilization of economic and human resources suceeded well. The cohesion between the two fronts was never severely disrupted and the stability of the home front, even if burdened, never fell apart. The home front could create a wartime normality, which was needed to maintain stabiliy." [Kinnunen and Kivimäki, p. 231.] Religion was a factor on the home front. The overwealming factor forginging a national consendus and justufying enormous scrifice was fear of the Soviet Union. Despite the extensive war damage, casulties, and Soviet seizures, and impositions, a strong recovery began after Finland reached an accord with the Soviet Union ending the Continuation War (1944). The economy began to recover even while the Finns were still fighting the Germans in the north. One economic assessment maintains that the Finnish economy had reached pre-War levels only a year after the War (1946) and a real boom followed. [Nummela]


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Created: 7:22 AM 4/23/2019
Last updated: 7:22 AM 4/23/2019