The fascinating story of the Battle of Varolampi Pond aka the Sausage War.
The Soviets were firm on their objective of invasion and were ready to accept the colossal rival that came with it. In 1939, on the 30th of November, half a million Soviet soldiers charged towards the North with an armada of artillery and weaponry and a tremendous number of troops. But the foe that awaited the Soviets was certainly not a mighty or colossal entity. Against the common assumption, it was not the hostile Nazi Germany that the Soviets had to face; instead, the Soviets had to engage with Germany’s small Baltic Sea neighbor, Finland.
The Soviet Union was a dominant military power during the Winter War, and it seemed evident that Finland would be unable to resist the force of such a formidable opponent. The much smaller Finland did not have the firepower or the numbers that the Soviets possessed. But war is seldom straightforward, and the Finnish had a surprising little savior: sausage.
There were a few reasons why a war between the Soviet Union and Finland became an unfortunate reality. The primary reason was Stalin’s anger that Finland chose not to integrate itself into the Soviet Union, even though Finland had historically been part of Russian territory. Finland broke off from the Russian empire during the Russian revolution of 1917. Hence, Finland represented the former glory of Russia that had been lost after the removal of the Russian Tsar in the 1917 revolution. Stalin aimed to reintegrate Finland into Russian territory to reclaim that lost glory and reassert Russian dominance globally.
The Soviets launched a swift attack on Finland, invading the capital city of Helsinki by November 30, 1939. Soviet hostility was met with international resistance, but ultimately Stalin’s ambitions could not be stopped by the dismays of international commentators. Given the asymmetric nature of the war, it seemed likely that the Soviets would be able to capture and control Finland in a matter of a few weeks.
But one factor that was largely unaccounted for was the inexperienced nature of Soviet forces. In an effort to further his control, Stalin had removed thousands of officers in the Red Army and replaced them with his supporters. These new officers were utterly loyal to Stalin but lacked the experience and expertise of their predecessors. Additionally, many of these more recent officers were inexperienced at dealing with the harsh and cold weather in the Winter War.
The sausage stew was just one of the meat-filled rations that the Finnish soldiers had been consuming to prepare them for a confrontation with Soviet soldiers. The Soviet soldiers began to overindulge their cravings and wasted precious time eating the stew. It is during this delay that the Finnish were able to regain the upper hand against the Soviets. As the Soviet soldiers consumed the food before them, the Finnish forces initiated a surprise attack of their own.
The Finnish soldiers showed no mercy to the starving Russian soldiers and charged at them with bayonets. What ensued can only be described as the chaos of war. The battle featured up close hand-to-hand combat and saw the deaths of many Russian soldiers in a gruesome manner. The Soviets were left shell-shocked at what had happened. In just a few moments, the Finnish soldiers tore apart the ranks of the Red Army. The entire scene can only be described as a bloodbath.
The Legacy of The Sausage War
While the battle itself was short-lived, it had enormous consequences for the war and managed to hinder the progress the Soviets had made. The “Sausage War” became a testament to the fragility of the Red Army and the ingenious thinking of the Finnish forces. Nevertheless, the battle could not permanently stop the Russians from taking Finland for themselves. The Sausage War was succeeded by 105 more days of war that ended with Finland ceding its territory to the Soviet Union. No matter how hard they tried and how smartly they fought, the Finnish could not protect themselves from the military strength of the Soviets.
Against all odds, Finnish forces were able to strike back at the Soviets during the Battle of Varolampi Pond, also known as the Sausage War. During the Sausage War, Finland’s success was surprising and prompted even Hitler to rethink his strategy on his planned invasion of Russia during the Second World War. The events of the Sausage War primarily prompted Hitler to design his invasion of the Soviet Union.
Fortunately for the Soviets, Hitler did not pay close attention to how vital the harsh and cold climate of the Winter War had been in its outcome. Failing to realize that any war against the Soviet Union would require extensive training to fight through freezing temperatures, Hitler, too, failed in his invasion of Russia in 1941.