Thursday, January 23, 2014

Molotov Cocktail and the Winter War

Vyacheslav Molotov
In every riots or violent protest, the participants with coverings in their faces brought either a club or a flammable bottle called the Molotov Cocktail. It is the worst object that can be thrown into any anti-riot police. If used in the streets, it could cause serious damage to the target both cars and establishments. It has been an object of anarchy and defiance. But if curiosity would struck, why is this flamable object called the molotov. Is molotov a person or a place? A look to a event during the period of the start of World War II can shed on why this flammable and dangerous weapon called molotov.

The etymology of the molotov cocktail can be traced to a history of bullying, where one big nation pounced onto a smaller nation. The infamous Winter War of 1939 to 1940 was a war fought between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and, at time, a strategic but weak country of Finland. 1939 was a very momentous year in history. It was the year when Nazi German aggression appeared in form of the invasion of Poland. The leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, knew that the Germany aimed in conquering of Europe. In order to protect Russia from the imminent danger, in August of the same year, he agreed to a non-aggression pact with Hitler. However, the ever-paranoid Stalin was not complacent of the pacts effect. He knew that German invasion would one day come. He assumed that Russia would be vulnerable from an attack if German forces would land in Norway and cross into Finland and then would be free to bombard and invade the motherland. To prevent the trouble, he needed to get Finland either on his side or take by force.

Stalin made efforts to secure Finland. First he used diplomacy to have Finland. Stalin, through his Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, proposed an Russo-Finnish alliance. However, the Finnish determined to maintain neutrality from the wars of the big power, declined the offer. With the failure of his diplomatic maneuvering, Stalin resorted by force, but in order to do so, he needed a reason. in November of 1939, the Russian town of Mainila was bombarded by artillery causing 4 Soviet soldiers dead. USSR blamed Finland; but Finland denied the accusation saying that its artilleries were out of range from Russia. it was obviously a soviet fabrication in order to declare war and go for an invasion. So in November 30, 1939, the Soviet invasion of Finland began. The Winter War began.

The Finnish forces were overwhelmed from the invasion. Their forces lack weapons. They were outnumbered. They don’t have any airpower. In front of them was the superior number and armed Red Army of Stalin, with their tanks and a new cluster bomb, the RRAB-3.

Faced with overwhelming force, the Finnish were very innovative. The Finnish forces resorted to guerrilla tactics. They used their knowledge of the environment and of the terrain. They attacked columns of Soviet forces in ski and wrecked havoc to the Soviet ranks. However, once they face the formidable Soviet tanks, they were in trouble. Some Finnish troops who fought in the Spanish Civil War few years ago used firebombs that they used in Spain to blew up enemy vehicles and armors. They experimented with combustible mixture and placed it in a bottle and put a tar rag at the tip to be lighten up and thrown to the enemy. Then Captain Eero Kuittinen developed the most popular recipe of the firebomb. It contained 60% potassium chlorate, 32% coal tar, and 8% noulee. The firebombs owuld then be thrown at the back of the tanks where the engine was located and targeted to cause an explosion. The firebombs were a success. Eventually, the Finnish mass produced the firebombs at the State Alcohol Factory, known today as Akol, in Rajamaki. The mixture were placed in vodka bottles and tips were standardized.

While the war between Russia and Finland rage, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, explained the events. In a radio broadcast, Molotov explained that the air force was not bombing in Finland, but merely dropping bread to the feed the hungry Finnish. The Finnish were outragedby the lie of Molotov. Because of the broadcast, the Finnish troops dubbed the bombs, especially the deadly RRAB-3, of the Soviet Air Force as Molotov Bread Baskets. To go with the bread of the Russians “to serve as beverage,” the Finnish named their firebombs as Molotov Cocktails. The name stuck and became the slang term for this simple but damaging firebomb.

The Finnish forces, with their tactics and molotov cocktails, held their line throughout winter. However, when the Red Army attacked in spring with their full might, the Finnish sued for peace. As a result, Finland lost a large portion of its territory to Russia.

The war clearly showed the unruliness and the steadfast defiance of the Finnish, very much showing the nature of the molotov cocktail. It is used to defy the authority and to stand against the authority.

See also:
Annexation of Crimea by Catherine II

Axelrod, A. The Real History of World War II: A New Look at the Past. New York: Sterling, 2008. 

Dougherty, K. Weapons of Mississippi. Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 2010. 

Irincheev, B. The Mannerheim Line, 1920-39: Finnish Fortifications of the Winter War. New York: Osprey, 2009. 

Jowett, P. & Brent Snodgrass. Finland at War, 1939-45. New York: Osprey, 2006. 

Lavery, J. The History of Finland. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006. 

Novak, A. Tawdry Knickers: And Other Unfortunate Ways to Be Remembered, a Saucy and Spirited History of Ninety Notorious Namesakes. New York: Penguin Group, 2010.

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