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Forgotten war crimes – Soviet Partisans murder and rape Finnish civilians

The Kinnunen brothers, 14 years old Eino and two years younger Väinö were expecting the 6th of June in 1943 to be another boring day in a long line of similar summer days, spent working and playing in their family farm in the eastern Kainuu.

Victims of the Viianki partisan raid 

Eino was running some errands for his father outside the farm, when a group of armed men grabbed his shoulder. Eino was brutally interrogated by the commander of the Soviet partisan unit about the presence of Finnish soldiers in the village. After receiving confirmation that there were no soldiers in the village the Partisans shot the fourteen-year-old twice to the back with a rifle and left him to die in a pool of his own blood.

At the same time the rest of the 14 members of his extended family were in the family sauna, where they were living after their homestead was burned during the 1939-40 Winter War. Minutes later the door of the Sauna was kicked in and 17 Russian partisans stepped in. The leader of the group shook hands with each of the civilians and then left.

Väinö realized that things weren’t right and pushed his 6-year-old sister Elsa into a nook beneath the benches and jumped down on his face to the floor. Seconds later a sub-machine-gun sprayed death from the doorway. Little Elsa had climbed to search for her mom and died on the floor together with ten of her family members.

“The poor little girl was full of holes” Väinö recollected 76 years later in an interview. Väinö got hit from wooden splinters ripped by the bullets but was otherwise well. Another one of his family members survived unscathed and two were seriously wounded.

11-year-old wounded victim of a Partisan attack

Meanwhile Eino, shot through both of his lungs, had managed to crawl to a nearby country road and lay there for 6 hours before a boy from the next farm noticed him and fetched help. Eino was airlifted by the Finnish Air-Force into a field hospital. The silver lining is that both boys are still alive and participated in the Finnish Independence Day reception by the President in 2019.

In the Soviet and Russian canon the Partisans are by far the most revered myth. The heroic struggle against the Nazi invaders is presented in the dozens of parades across Russia every year. But the myth is not only inflated, but also in some regards completely falsified. The brave partisans choose to rape and murder innocent civilians instead of facing soldiers.

The romantic image of the partisans hides war crimes and cowardice

The USSR conducted at least 45 terrorist attacks against Finnish civilians living in the undefended villages along the border areas. At least 181 civilians were killed in the attacks. The Soviet Partisans weren’t officially part of the Red Army, as the forces were led by the Communist Party and the NKVD. They also weren’t partisans in the sense of the forces down south,that were fighting within occupied territories. These units were trained and equipped in Soviet territory and conducted short raids into Finland. The troops were stationed in Belomorsk and never managed to establish a base of operations within in Finland.

The Finnish counter partisan activity was conducted mainly via tracking the murderers with small Finnish “Sissi” units. Soviet partisans suffered heavy casualties when ever they encountered actual Finnish combat units. Undoubtedly the most notable commander of the units chasing the partisans was Lauri Törni, who later, under the name Larry Thorne, fought as a US Army Green Beret in Vietnam.

Civilians killed at the Seitajärvi massacre

Probably the worst partisan attack against the Finnish civilians happened in 7th of July in 1944 at the village of Seitajärvi. The village was protected by a detachment of few over-aged riflemen and the Soviet partisan unit numbered in dozens. Some of the Finnish civilians managed to escape to the forests and made their way into the neighboring villages, who then alerted the nearest Finnish army outpost by phone.

A Finnish army detachment was sent immediately to Seitajärvi, but they were too late. When the soldiers arrived they found 11 women and children slaughtered with bullets, rifle butts and bayonets. The dead women had their skirts pulled up and the soldiers who witnessed the killing field were convinced that they had been raped. The youngest children killed in the attack was a few months old babygirl named Ritva, smashed casually with a rifle. An 8-year-old girl survived the attack, after playing dead when a Soviet partisan had pierced her with his bayonet.

The Soviets captured three prisoners, but soon after executed them by shooting. The partisan band then tried to return to the Soviet territory. The Finnish soldiers from detachment Sau, led by a Mannerheim Cross knight Olavi Alakulppi were determined to catch them.

Olavi Alakulppi and his platoon hunting partisans 

Olavi Alakulppi is another legend among men, he was world champion skier, who led a special forces detachments in both Winter War and Continuation War. After the war he was wanted by the USSR, so he moved to the USA, joined the US Army, fought in Korea, trained special forces and used Elvis Presley as his driver when stationed in Germany and retired as a Lt.Col.

Alakulppi’s team force marched across the wilderness and managed to ambush the fleeing partisans killing dozens of them, but some managed to escape as the Finnish unit was significantly smaller. The raid on Seitajärvi haunted Alakulppi for the rest of his days and he tried to seek justice for the victims via the UN while serving in the US Army.

Too much for Google
Young victims of the Seitajärvi massacre

Running a terror campaign against innocent civilians must have had an effect on the careers of the people who ran it, even in a communist dictatorship like the USSR? Indeed, it did.

The Komsomol officer responsible of the attacks was Yuri Andropov, who would later on rise to lead the KGB and then the whole Soviet Union. The same Andropov whose plaque in Sant Petersburg was reinstated by Vladimir Putin as one of his first acts after rising to power.

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