The address by Prime Minister A.K. Cajander on the 23rd of November 1939, at Helsinki Fair Hall, at a national defence celebration arranged by Finnish private enterprise owners

The people of Finland stands in front of an unexpected incident. The events followed in a quick succession and the whole sequence of events emerged as a total surprise for the majority of the Finnish people.

It is hardly a wrong conclusion if one, trying to interpret the present flow of events around the world, sees it as an expansionist tendency of the great powers, a constant and understandable phenomenon in world history irrespective of whether you consider it being justified or not.

The Tsarist state had in its final days a strong westward drive down to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The independent status of Finland was an obstacle to this goal and this was the motive to end the internal home rule, the autonomous status of Finland. The years of oppression in Finland derived from that. This policy was essentially different from the benevolent policy employed by the previous Emperors, especially Alexander I and II who therefore enjoyed an undivided love of the Finnish people. This new policy embittered and strained the relationship between Finland and Russia to the extreme.

History seldom follows a straightforward course. The great war crushed the intentions of the Tsarist regime. On its ruins the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics was born. It recognised nations' rights to self-determination and it has on all occasions assured its willingness to maintain friendly relations to her neighbors. Even the independence of Finland was recognised by her.

Thus the end of the World War also brought independence to Finland, but not without pain. The new situation was stabilised only after a bloody campaign, during which Germany gave Finland strong support which is not forgotten in Finland. Equally unforgettable is the support given by the Western Powers and America to stabilise the independent status of Finland. That was followed by twenty happy years of peace and construction, years only seldom shaded by dark shadows.

A little over two months ago the Soviet Union approached the Finnish Cabinet making certain propositions which were explained as aiming to improve the security of St. Petersburg or Leningrad and at strengthening the friendly relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union.

These proposals were not completely unexpected. The forthcoming talks, concentrating on requirements to improve Leningrad's security, were anticipated in private conversations with some members of the Finnish cabinet a considerable time earlier.

As we all well remember there were negotiations between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union to accomplish a pact. The issue of Leningrad's security - concerning the so-called indirect aggression and other similar subjects - were discussed in such a manner which could have threatened the independence of Finland and the Baltic countries. The government of England, however, did not support these attempts. This is remembered here with sincere gratefulness. There was no outcome in the negotiations which also caused the specific issue concerning Finland to fall through.

A new decisive turn of events in Europe and even in the whole world took place when Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a non-aggression pact which in some respect even exceeded the regular scope of such agreements.

The pact came like a bolt from the blue. In Finland, however, it was not a complete surprise. As early as 1937 a remark was made by a prominent foreign authority about a possibility of the Soviet Union and Germany concluding a pact perhaps in the near future. But the very timing of this non-aggression pact was, I guess, a complete surprise to all of us.

In certain Finnish circles this new agreement was greeted with considerable hopes. Expectations were that this relaxation of contradictions, previously a prevailing feature between the Soviet Union and Germany, would have a calming effect on tension in the Baltic Sea and the countries around it. This presumption, however, disappeared soon. In Finnish domestic politics, this pact has a significant effect on the agendas of the political parties. It destroyed the assumption that the Soviet Union and Germany were ideologically incompatible and as a consequence of this all kinds of political speculations based on this contradiction were crushed. You can say that this pact thus strengthened the basis for a domestic concordance in Finland.

The non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was immediately followed by the war between Germany and Poland which itself ensued a new war between the Western Powers and Germany. A universal conflagration was thus ignited.

The Oslo countries, Finland included, declared themselves to be absolutely neutral in this campaign between the great powers. Despite their neutrality Finland and other Oslo countries suffer continuously and heavily from the economic consequences of the great war. Furthermore, especially Holland, Belgium and Finland but Switzerland, too, have been able to keep their neutrality only by maintaining an extremely efficient guard for their defence.

In the opposite case, their declaration of neutrality would scarcely have been respected.

When Poland was near to collapse the Soviet Union marched its troops into eastern Poland and occupied it. Simultaneously the Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs made it known to the governments of Finland and the Baltic countries, as well as to other countries, that it would conduct a policy of neutrality towards them.

The defection of a Polish submarine to Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) was at first brought out as an excuse for proposals made by the Soviet Union to Estonia, which then finally resulted in allocating important military bases to the Soviet Union in Paldiski (Baltischport), Saaremaa (Ösel) and Hiiumaa (Dagö). In quick succession similar events followed in Latvia and Lithuania. These three vigorous Baltic countries with their own charasteristic old cultures and a splendid future ahead were overnight turned into more or less dependencies of the Soviet Union.

Especially depressing for us, the Finns, is the fact that among these countries faced by this unfavorable fate is the State of Estonia, our dear fraternal nation. A follow-up was also the mass departure of Germans from the Baltics where they over a time period of 600 years had made history and have loftily carried the national flag of the German stock.

It was to be expected, when thinking about the previous conduct by the Soviet Union, that she would make similar proposals also to the Finnish goverment. It should be stated, however, that the previously expressed reasons for Soviet intentions towards Finland had, at least in two counts, disappeared. The only great power which could have earlier been a potential threat to Leningrad - well, in that case presumably along the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland - namely Germany, has concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, which means that there exists no threat against the Soviet Union and Leningrad from there - without considering the overall present importance of Leningrad to the Soviet Union. And the new Soviet naval and air bases in Liepaja (Libau), Ventpils (Windau), Hiiumaa, Saaremaa and Paldiski permit, as disclosed by the Soviets, the Soviet Union to rule the Baltic Sea and thus the Gulf of Finland and up to the Gulf's farthest recess in front of Leningrad.

Judging from the present facts, all arguments about threats to Leningrad from the Finnish territory are very difficult to understand.

A request for negotiations with the Soviet government was received on the 5th of October. For over a month friendly discussions were carried out between the Finnish and Soviet Cabinets concerning concrete political issues of certain territorial exchanges to improve the security of Leningrad.

The Cabinet of Finland, after discussing with representatives of parliamentary groups and after consulting the highest military command, yielded to Soviet demands in order to maintain good neighborly relations so far as it could, as a representative of an independent nation, to increase the security of a foreign metropolis but without sacrificing Finland's own national security.

However, the Soviets have made propositions which are very far away from those which can considered as prerequisites in securing Leningrad. If they were accepted they would have offended Finland's neutrality and damaged her opportunities for self-defence: it would have meant severing the southern defence line of Finland at two of its most important points and handing over its first-class fortifications to a foreign power. Thus it would had resulted in severe decrease in the security of Finland. Such proposals were unacceptable to the Finnish government.

Because of a lack of common ground for the negotiations they have been interrupted for the moment. This is deplorable because Finland sincerely wants to maintain good relations to all her neighbors and sincerely wants to strengthen these relationships when it does not endanger Finland's own vital interests.

Our nation's conscience is clear. She knows that her cause is right and she knows that things are duly conducted. In making her points of view known Finland has not needed or received instructions from foreign countries. Finland has shown towards the Soviet Union friendliness and compliancy up to such a limit which only can be crossed by weakening Finland's own national security.

Finland will not submit herself to the role of a vassal country. We will not yield to this by someone waging a nerve war or trying to exhaust us or doing the contrary, by offering temptations. Finland will peacefully, with open eyes and determined mind, observe the events in the west and in the east, and as a peaceloving country, which always appreciates good neighborly relations, is at any times ready to continue the negotiations on a basis which does not risk the vital interests of Finland or her national values. No further concessions can be attained especially now when Finland herself gains nothing from these territorial exchanges.

Finland is convinced that it is advantageous to the real interests of the Soviet Union that she has as a neighbor a nation, whose loyalty it can trust in all circumstances.

The global situation continues as tense, and this makes Finland among many other neutral countries to keep a considerable amount of men in arms as protectors of neutrality and also be otherwise prepared.

The time for the first enthusiastic unanimity is gradually over. Everyday activities start again to gain ground. It is necessary to restore the regular ways of living. It is of no use to be constantly prepared for something unexpected but, on the other hand, we should at any time be prepared to adjust our efforts if the situation demands that. The present situation may continue for a long time. We have to accustom ourselves to live and work in these altered conditions. Figuratively speaking, we must learn to plough carrying rifles on our backs.

The industrial production, which to some extent was interrupted in the beginning of this tense period, has to be restored as fully as possible in this changed situation taking, of course, into account the altered commercial demand and difficulties in obtaining necessary raw materials. Both the economical and other activities have to be adapted with greatest accuracy to substantiate the full use of available opportunities in the new conditions. At present the cabinet should restrict its interference in the economical life only to that which is unavoidable in our situation.

The return to everyday life should not imply that one's spirits should be left to disappear. We have to maintain the same high enthusiasm which has become very well manifested when young men openheartedly now join the military service, or when hundreds of thousands of women help the reservists and their relatives, or when the defence bonds are subscribed with unexpected intensity, and in the warm-hearted donations given by private citizens and by a multitude of organisations to various apt purposes. Even in the unimpassionate everyday life that, what is the most essential to the enthusiasm - a devoted patriotic spirit - must stand strong. The patriotic unanimity should not be weakened. Along with this, all that causes discontent, disappointment or mental depression should be avoided and removed.

The danger is all but over. In our continent on both sides of the Rhine and the North Sea an unprecedented rise in tension is witnessed. The time for its outbreak has not yet come but enormous forces are concentrated as a preparation for that. The exact time for the outbreak is not known but nobody can sincerely believe that this leads to nothing. And when the tension in its time once explodes, its remote effects can be felt far away.

There are certain elements in the society who try to sow the seeds of dissension among us, especially at the grass root level. Beware of these elements! Their real effects are so insignificant that no factual relevance can be attributed to them. But abroad their significance can be exaggerated and thus be used to harm our country.

We have to keep together - as a unified nation - like we did at the time of our first challenge, as unanimous as a democratic nation relying on its free will can ever be. The spirits born from our ordeals should and will stand the hardships, too. But even at that moment when an immediate danger is over we have to stay together. All in all we are a small nation and the stability of our international status depends decisively on our unanimity.

The world attention has focused on us without our own active influence. We have been met with a large scale of sympathy between nations. This state of affairs obliges us. Let us make everybody know that we are worthy of the sympathy the world has shown to us in both speeches and deeds.

But first of all let us be worthy of the challenge set upon us.

Every Finnish citizen has his own guard post and everyone is expected to stay alert at his post without defying anyone but firmly defending the rights of the Finnish nation.

We are obliged to this because of our history, we are obliged to this because of our nation's future.


Pravda gave an answer to Cajander's speech in an article "A Buffoon Holding the Post of Prime Minister". This text in Russian.

Речь Каяндера опубликовано по русски в книге: Принимай нас, Суоми-красавица : "освободительный" поход в Финляндию 1939-1940 гг. Часть 2 : Сборник документов и фотоматериалов. Составитель Евгений Балашов. Санкт-Петербург : ООО "Галея Принт", 2000. (Здесь не доступно)


Translation by Pauli Kruhse (). Placenames in parentheses added by the translator.

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