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Vyacheslav Molotov signing a deal between the USSR and the Finnish Democratic Republic

The Finnish Democratic Republic (Finnish language: Suomen kansanvaltainen tasavalta , also Finnish language: Suomen kansantasavalta , Swedish language: Demokratiska Republiken Finland ) was a short-lived (1939–40) government dependent on and recognised only by the Soviet Union. It nominally operated in those parts of Finnish Karelia that were occupied by the Soviet Union during the Winter War.

The Soviet Union argued that it was the only rightful government for all of Finland that was capable of ending the Winter War and restoring peace. However, before the end of the war, the Soviets gave up this interpretation to make peace with the existing government of Finland.


The regime was also known by the colloquial name of the Terijoki Government (Finnish language: Terijoen hallitus , Swedish language: Terijokiregeringen ), as Terijoki was the first town to be captured by the Soviet Red Army. The government is also occasionally called in Finnish historiography as the Kuusinen Government (Finnish language: Kuusisen hallitus

Swedish language: Kuusinen regering

). Officially the government had the name of the Finnish People's Government (Finnish language: Suomen kansanhallitus

Swedish language: Finlands folkregering



The Finnish Democratic Republic was established on 1 December 1939 in the Finnish border town of Terijoki (now Zelenogorsk, Russia). During its lifespan Otto Ville Kuusinen was prime minister and head of government. The cabinet was made up of Soviet citizens, leftist Finns who had fled to Soviet Russia after the Finnish Civil War.[1] A declaration delivered via TASS on behalf of the Finnish Democratic Republic stated that, "The People's Government in its present composition regards itself as a provisional government. Immediately upon arrival in Helsinki, capital of the country, it will be reorganised and its composition enlarged by the inclusion of representatives of the various parties and groups participating in the people's front of toilers. The final composition of the People's Government, its powers and actions, are to be sanctioned by a Diet elected on the basis of universal equal direct suffrage by secret ballot."[2] Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov spoke to the German ambassador to the Soviet Union on November 30—a day before the proclamation of the Finnish Democratic Republic—saying that, "This government would not be Soviet but a democratic republic. Nobody will set up soviets there, but we hope that it will be a government that we can reach agreement with on safeguarding the security of Leningrad."[3]

Relations with the Soviet Union

The Soviet government entered into diplomatic relations with the "people's government". On the first day of its existence, the regime agreed to lease the Hanko Peninsula; to cede a slice of territory on the Karelian Isthmus; and to sell an island in the Gulf of Finland, along with sections of the Kalastajasaarento near the Arctic Ocean to the Soviet Union.[1]

Kuusinen and Molotov signed a mutual assistance agreement and a secret protocol on 2 December 1939. The content of the agreement was very similar to what the Soviet foreign ministry had planned earlier in October 1939, though it never was presented to the Finnish government. According to the new agreement, the Soviet Union would cede a much larger area, the Eastern Karelia, except for the Murmansk railroad, in exchange for the same territories that the Soviets had demanded in earlier negotiations from the Republic of Finland.[4]

The agreement was signed in Moscow, as ten days earlier draft, the signature location would be Käkisalmi and the Soviet signer Andrei Zhdanov. The Molotov–Kuusinen agreement mentioned leasing the Hanko Peninsula, and determining the number of troops to be appointed in a separate agreement. Before the 1990s historians could only speculate about its existence and content until in 1997, during a joint Finnish-Russian project, the Russian professor Oleg Rzesevski discovered the protocol in the Moscow Kremlin. The content is quite similar to protocols the Soviet Union signed with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in September–October 1939.[5]

Reaction in Finland and abroad

The Finnish Democratic Republic failed to gain support among Finnish workers as the Soviet Union had hoped. Instead, in the face of the invasion, Finnish society became strongly united in what is called the "Spirit of the Winter War". The Democratic Republic also failed to gain any international recognition aside from the Soviet Union itself,[1] although a number of prominent left-wing activists and writers such as Jawaharlal Nehru, George Bernard Shaw, Martin Andersen Nexø and John Steinbeck voiced their support for the government.[6] In Nazi Germany, state newspapers gave their support for the People's Republic because of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[6] Joseph Stalin was well aware of the domestic political situation in Finland based on Soviet intelligence information, and thus did not anticipate that the establishment of the People's Republic would cause any revolutionary action or popular uprisings against the existing Finnish Government.[7]


On 12 March 1940, the Finnish Democratic Republic was merged with the Karelian ASSR within the RSFSR to form the Karelo-Finnish SSR, a Soviet republic in its own right, after Finland had ceded the areas to the Soviet Union in the Moscow Peace Treaty.

Terijoki Government

Minister In office
Chairman of the People's Government and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland[8]
Otto Wille Kuusinen

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Assistant Chairman of the People's Government and Minister of Finance[8]
Mauritz Rosenberg

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Minister of Defense
Akseli Anttila

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Minister of Internal Affairs
Tuure Lehén

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Minister of Agriculture
Armas Äikiä

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Minister of Education
Inkeri Lehtinen

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3
Minister of Karelian Affairs
Paavo Prokkonen

1939.2.12 – 1940.12.3

See also

  • Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic, an earlier, independent socialist state which existed for several months in 1918.
  • Finland-Soviet Union Peace and Friendship Society
  • Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic
  • Commune of the Working People of Estonia



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Eagle & Paananen 1985, p. 26
  2. William Peyton Coates & Zelda Kahan Coates. Russia, Finland and the Baltic. London: Lawrence & Wishart. 1940. p. 114.
  3. Geoffrey Roberts. Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953. London: Yale University Press. 2006. p. 48.
  4. Manninen 2002, pp. 25–26
  5. Manninen 2002, pp. 27–28
  6. 6.0 6.1 University of Jyväskylä - Kansan vallan vaihtoehto Terijoen hallituksen lehdistössä 1939-1940
  7. Jussila, O (1985), Terijoen hallitus 1939–40. WSOY, p. 13, ISBN 951-0-12686-1
  8. 8.0 8.1 Brody, A. et al. The USSR and Finland— Historical, Economic, Political Facts and Documents. New York: Soviet Russia Today. 1939.


  • Engle, Eloise; Paananen, Lauri (1985). The Winter War: The Russo-Finno Conflict, 1939–40. Boulder, Colorado, United States: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-0149-1. 
  • Manninen, Ohto (2002) (in Finnish). Stalinin kiusa – Himmlerin täi. Helsinki: Edita. ISBN 951-37-3694-6. 

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