Huge number of booty on battlegrounds at Suomussalmi
The whole armature of the 44th division fell into Finnish hands
Goods looted from Poland, a movie projection car, radios, literature etc. littered all over the road.

— From the correspondent of [newspaper] Uusi Suomi —

— They thought about staying here, said the captain.
We stood on the road from Suomussalmi to Raate and investigated the contents of a lorry now tumbled down to the roadside. Ponderous laced draperies with dashing embroidery, when laying sadly on the ground in the war dirtied snow, caused the captain's remark.

— Furniture in the proper sense we, however, have not found, the captain went on, — but all sorts of small pieces of decoration, pictures of Stalin and other bosses perfectly suited to decorate the walls of an orthodox Communist. And — the captain shoved a heap of goods with the tip of his boot — there you have linen. Even a good Christian might slip himself between those sheets.

— But where these things come from? I said out loud. — Here, at the hunger plagued neighbourhoods of Suomussalmi there is nothing of this kind to be looted, even if there had been an opportunity for looting. At the same moment comes an officer, whose badge is covered by a protective collar — usually you can't distinguish an officer here from others but only by a serene, authoritative posture.

— There is a need for some twenty men at the small tank over there to get it quickly off from here.

The captain gives the proper orders and says:
— When these heaps of garbage will go on the decrease, we possibly will find out where these goods come from. Some can be from the [Karelian] Isthmus because a copy of the [Finnish made] film "Lapatossu" was found here, and you can't find any other explanation for this than that the Russkies have found it in some cinema theater at [Russian taken] Terijoki. But a part of all this might be booty from Poland, and transported here, because they had serious intentions to establish a permanent residence here. Amidst of this garbage one could find parade uniforms for officers - with a hardened white collar inside - and patent-leather boots. Yes, they were ready to celebrate their victory — but, when having a look at the material there is no doubt that they were also ready to fight but all of a sudden a big distress and haste seized them all. Just walk on and use your eyes, so you can see.

An abomination of desolation on both sides of the road

So I walked on towards Raate and used my eyes. In my life I have seen lots of garbage heaps and even a graveyard for cars in America, but this kind of collection of arms I have never in my life seen before. I walk and walk until my knees give a signal for a pause but no break in the row of tanks and guns on both sides of the road can be seen - rapid firing field cannons with long barrels and short barreled heavy mortars - armoured cars, lorries, ambulances, sedan cars, field kitchens, carts with ammunition. And between them, all sorts of things wholesale and retail: caissons, cartridge belts, rapid fire rifles, regular rifles, rucksacks, books, felt boots. This abomination of desolation in all its enormity was so absurd that it almost had tempted me to laugh if only, everywhere where-ever the eye reaches, one wasn't caught by a pitiful view: horses, strangely shrinken by death, and frozen to odd pathetic postures. Hundreds of horses ...

"Just give them a proper bunch of hay, and they are brought back to life .."

On the other had one could only feel relief for these poor animals now relieved from serving their ruthless masters. During this war one has often been amazed by all sorts of senselessness on the Russian side, it is very difficult to name the most striking one of those, but one thing you can't understand is their way to treat the first servant of man. When we departed from the Suomussalmi church we were met by long lines of such horses that it was hard to keep one's eyes dry. They were like horses in old woodcuts symbolizing Hunger and Plague now having set their feet on a Finnish dirt road. Highfooted by nature but, however, now with their blades and hindquarters as bare bony lumps they looked like Bactrian camels. It might sound as an exaggeration to say that the wind was blowing through their ribs but there was nothing that would had stopped it. A sad convoy to see. However, one of my fellow travellers, a bit of a farmer, maintained that a proper nourishing with hay will make them back to good horses as there is nothing wrong with their feet.

A full stack of hay as war booty

There at the booty horses I ask one soldier why the hay for horses had run short so quickly amidst of the surrounded Russkies.

— It is rubbish, there is no shortage, he says. — Not far away you can find a full stack of hay but they have not bothered to bring it here. Or, there has been a noise of shelling and they had not courage to do it. Come and see!

He points with his hand a dead horse with all twigs of birches eaten nearby and even the trunks gnawed high up.

This is what hunger does, says he, and tells a couple of horryfying stories about to what a horse, a herbivore, have resorted.

Professional expertise in clearing the booty.

Fortunately, I now here forceful cursing that takes me back down to the present reality. The clearance party taking care of the booty has a hard job. Using strong lorries the tanks are taken up to the road and furthermore to the west for repair, if needed. Most of them suffer only from breaking down of one of their tracks — works of our sappers during the fights. The clearance continues with a brisk pace as the men have acquired a considerable expertise in this but the Russian gasoline makes the curse loudly.

— What a soromno [doesn't matter] people they are with their own oil wells and all that but still diluting their petrol with water. They all should been put against the wall! blusters a stocky lorry driver-soldier as the engine stops after a couple dull bangs. — Why wouldn't they stayed home if they are not able to wage a modern war!

And like a squirrel the driver jumps down from the seat, gets to the engine, kicks down the gas pedal again and soon the helpless tank climbs to the road and starts its journey to Finnish repair shops.

"They should have stayed at home..."

But the man's last words ring in my ears. "They should have stayed at home ..." Certainly those tens of silent figures, whose contures catch my eyes from beneath a freshly fallen snow, agree. Tens of rises in the snow at one glance, and nearby the road makes a curve and the forest is close, too?

There is hardly anyone among them who rather hadn't stayed at home instead of trying to find a nameless grave here in the Finnish woods. Even if someone of them had become fascinated by their leaders' slogans and had started out his journey to here filled with ardent zeal. This fervour certainly had slackened as he had seen how the invincible Red Army takes care of its soldiers after they have become useless. When the state has been converted into a machinery assembled of wheels, bolts, rivets, instead of living individuals, then these parts suffer the same fate as parts of any machine: a broken wheel or bolt is unscrupulously thrown away.

The enemy division had radios and a movie projection car.

But I have not come to Suomussalmi to philosophize about the pros and cons of the present form of society in Russia. I shall return to it if reporting from this battle gives any reason. Should the same apply to the Russian soldier who, even as dead body, witnesses a lot about his masters.

Possibly I have involuntarily given a false picture about the enemy army. Saying false, I mean too joyless. I probably have already said that the 44. division carried with themselves a well-equipped movie projection car, there were also many exquisite radio receivers. It is, however, up to the military historians to find out, who the audience would have been and what might have heard from the radios. But it is certain that everybody was free to read literature: the road sides were full of books with the name "Istoria kommunisti" — the history of Communism. You certainly could expect more to come, because this book of over 300 pages and a big-sized font was "Kraktii kurs" — a short course. Also a book named "Lenin and Stalin" was abundantly available and more over, a gunner's manual. I would have taken one of these as a souvenir but there was too much see and I am not fond of thick books when I have to carry them for kilometres.


The Epilogue (in Russian) on the history pages describing the fate of the Ukrainian 44th division in Suomussalmi. Machine assisted draft translation into English.

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Finland in Soviet foreign policy, 1939-1940. Documentary material of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and other sources.