How Finland Survived Stalin: From Winter War to Cold War, 1939-1950

Kimmo Rentola

Original title: Stalin ja Suomen kohtalo

Author: Kimmo Rentola

Published: 2016

Publisher: Otava

Genre: Narrative Nonfiction

Pages: 240

Reading material:

English manuscript in February 2023

A meticulously-researched insight into critical points in the history of relations between Finland and the Soviet Union

Professor Kimmo Rentola explores Stalin’s invasion of Finland in the Winter War, and the decade of fraught Soviet-Finnish relations that followed, including Finland’s exit from World War Two and a possible coup in 1948. This is a dramatic reconstruction of the Nordic republic’s unlikely survival, at a time when its very existence was at stake.

How did Finland evade Joseph Stalin’s crosshairs three times? Did Stalin have a special relationship with Finland and the Finns? Why didn’t he continue the Soviet onslaught on Finland during the Winter War in 1940? Why did the dictator back down from his aspirations and demands towards Finland during the peace negotiations in 1944? Why did 1948 remain the year of an unfulfilled coup in Finland? The answer lies in the relations between Finland and Russia which remain highly timely to this day.

Joseph Stalin has been one of the individuals with the most influence on the history of independent Finland. There are few who have made so many far-reaching decisions as Stalin: he decreed the beginning and the end of the Winter War, the Moscow Armistice of 1944 that ended the Continuation War was signed with his authorization, and when, in 1948, it was time to decide whether Finland would become a ‘people’s republic’ or not, he initially pushed forward but eventually backed down. All of these decisions can be seen as pivotal to the fate of Finland, its society, its independence, the life and death of the Finnish people.

“HOW FINLAND SURVIVED STALIN is a masterfully written and elegant work of historical nonfiction. The reader experiences the critical moments for Finland so closely it is startling. Rentola’s precise and compact narration deepens and widens the understanding of Finland’s fateful years.”

- Lauri Jäntti Prize jury

Download reading materials

Rights sold:
FINLAND: Otava (orig.)
GREECE: Papadopoulos Publishers
UKRAINE: Laboratory
WORLD ENGLISH: Yale University Press

Foreign covers

About author

Kimmo Rentola

Kimmo Rentola (b. 1953), PhD, is a historian and professor emeritus of political history, at the University of Turku from 2006 to 2014 and at the University of Helsinki since 2014. In his research, Rentola has specialized in the history of the Cold War, the relationships between Finland and the Soviet Union, and both Finnish and Nordic communism. His other research areas are the youth movements of the 1960s and the history of intelligence agencies.

His latest title, How Finland Survived Stalin, won the Lauri Jäntti Award for non-fiction literature in 2017, while his previous book Vallankumouksen aave (‘The Ghost of the Revolution’) won the Scholarly Book of the Year Award in Finland in 2007.