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A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  550 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
In 1939, tiny Finland waged war - the kind of war that spawns legends - against the mighty Soviet Union, and yet their epic struggle has been largely ignored. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed attacks on tanks, unfathomable endurance, and the charismatic leadership of one of this century's true military geniuses - these are the elements of both the Finnish victory a ...more
Paperback, 285 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Algonquin Books (first published May 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,157)
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Henna Pääkkönen
Being a Finn who was raised overseas, I have never officially studied Finnish history and hence try to educate myself during my adult years by reading books on it… Having my grandparents lived through the winter war, and having my granddad had to evacuate from his home in the Karelian Isthmus, this war hits “close home” and feels like it was only yesterday… I am enormously grateful for the generation of my grandparents for having defended my country and for having managed to keep it “free” and a ...more
A.L. Sowards
Jan 30, 2012 A.L. Sowards rated it really liked it
My little brother has been telling me for years that I should read this book. He told me it would make me want to be Finn for a day. After reading about how cold it was during the war between the Finns and the Soviets in 1939, I don’t think I want to be a Finn (burr!), but I do admire them. A lot.

This book talks about how the Soviet Union invaded Finland. And despite the fact that the Red Army vastly outnumbered the Finns and had far superior air power, armor, and artillery, the Finns did an im
Dec 08, 2009 IWB added it
Shelves: military-history
Much neglected, if not entirely unknown, in American's World War Two frame of reference, is the war as it played out in the Nordic regions; in this case the so-called Russo-Finnish Winter War. This book is an exceptionally interesting account of the Soviet invasion of Finland, presumably to acquire, at the least, Finnish land as a buffer against a possible Nazi advance via Norway. Particularly noteworthy are the acheivements of the Finnish infantry's elite ski snipers, who put a serious damper o ...more
Derek Weese
Jul 24, 2015 Derek Weese rated it it was amazing
It was strange, while reading this book I felt this, rather odd, yet comfortable, presence overcome me. For a time I thought about massive, thick, conifer forests, snowy landscapes, beautiful, yet small and quaint cities, beautiful women and some of the best metal music in the world. While reading this book, I wanted to be a Finn. For a few days, I believed I was an honorary one.
This is an excellent, if brief, history of an event that is largely unknown in the annals of the military history of
All I knew about the Winter War before reading this was that the Finns did unexpectedly well against a massive Soviet invasion in the first year of WWII, and that later they ended up being allied with the Germans. I imagined Finns on skis schusshing around Soviet tanks and snipers in winter camo. Turns out that there was indeed a lot of that, but it mainly occurred in the less strategically significant part of the war in the middle and northern parts of Finland. Almost all of the important fight ...more
Rjurik Davidson
Jan 04, 2015 Rjurik Davidson rated it really liked it
Written before he had access to the Soviet archives, Trotter's book is lively and full of interesting anecdotes. The most interesting part is the early chapter on the reasons for the war. Trotter doesn't - as one might expect - lay the blame solely on Stalin and his hench-creatures, but emphasises their concerns about the coming German assault. Trotter is also excellent on the cynical machinations of international diplomacy. Trotter's ultimate support for the "democratic" Finns, fighting for fre ...more
Andrew Davis
Jan 25, 2015 Andrew Davis rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Well written account of Winter War. The maps could be better, especially when dealing with places that since have been taken by Russians and Google Maps is of no help. A brief synopsis follows.
Finland was ruled till 1809 by Sweden. A part close to Petersburg belonged to Russia. After that belonged to Russia. Soon after October Revolution in Russia, the Finnish Parliament assumed sovereignty.
In October 1939 Stalin issued summons to the Finns to discuss the current situation. Russians wanted some
Prior to being handed this book, I'd never heard of the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940. It was a bizarre debacle chronologically located adjacent to Nazi Germany's opening plays in World War II, and amounted to very little: Stalin's Soviet Union tried and failed to invade Finland, a country whose military strength paled in comparison to the red industrial giant. Although this engagement achieved significant popularity at its time (it's hard to dislike a bona fide David vs. Goliath story w ...more
Rob Kitchin
Nov 15, 2015 Rob Kitchin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Trotter’s book provides a detailed and engaging account of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union 1939-40. It is well written and structured, providing good contextualisation as to the path to war, the roles of key actors and events, detailed accounts of the various battles and how they fitted into the wider war, and gives a good overview from both Finnish and Soviet perspectives. Personally, I would have liked a bit more information about post-conflict events, especially th ...more
Chuck Leonard
Jan 16, 2016 Chuck Leonard rated it really liked it
A friend of mine spent more than 8 years in Finland (late 1970s and early 1980s) helping to first establish a manufacturing facility there and then run it, and in the years since, through many conversations over drinks, he related many stories of the indelible impression that lingered in Finland as a result of WWII... all somewhat confusing since one story they are fighting against all odds against the Soviets on their own and then with the Germans and then against the Germans ... all very confu ...more
Feb 16, 2016 Dachokie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
The War No One Knows About …

Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 provided convenient cover for the Soviet Union to make two aggressive moves to bolster its own security interests. One move was the relatively quiet, but equally destructive consumption of Poland’s eastern half. The other move was forcefully demanding Finland to cede territory near Leningrad. While Poland was quickly crushed between the might of a two-sided invasion, Finland used its terrain, climate and little more th
Dec 04, 2014 Griffin rated it really liked it
The sheer magnitude of what the Finnish face was just absurd, all while being a country of 3 million (USSR was 171 million at the time), not having nearly enough money to purchase modern weapons, having to rely on weapons so old outdated doesn't do them justice. Although the war only lasted months, the fact that the Finnish had a 10:1 casualty rate is almost beyond comprehension. Counterattacks against entire battalions were made sometimes with less than 20 men. It almost seems like this was out ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Ilya rated it it was ok
I have read a great deal of material about the 1939-1940 Soviet-Finnish War in Russian on the Internet, but not a single-volume popular English-language history book about this war. This is such a book. It talks in detail about how the prewar negotiations broke down; why the Soviets did not understand that their conditions were unacceptable to the Finns; the action on each front during the first period of the war, which the Finns, amazingly, won, despite having a much smaller army and few arms c ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Sean rated it liked it
Trotter’s work dealing with this little-known conflict is exhaustive yet easily approachable to the non-historically minded reader. Though the book lacks an introduction the author’s main thesis and purpose in writing this treatise seems simply to be to inform his readers of the conflict—especially those of the English-speaking countries. Though there are criticisms of the book, they are few and shall be briefly discussed hereafter. Trotter ultimately succeeds however in this historical narrativ ...more
May 24, 2010 Shannon rated it it was amazing
While this is not ever going to make a best seller list, and probably no one will pick it up just because I recommend it, my current focus on Michael's Finnish heritage makes this a definite 5 star read. That, and it is an incredibly well written historical war narrative. It tells of the Winter War of 1939-1940, when Russia invaded Finland to create a buffer for Leningrad. This book provides background on the political decision that brought about the war, the main players in the war, gives a goo ...more
Apr 11, 2013 Alan rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ww2-europe
For what it is, a narrative history of the 108 day Winter War, this book is fine. It is well written (but for some curiously archaic language such as a reference to a West Indian volunteer as a Jamaican Negro) and covers the campaign well. I was hoping for a bit more though. The war itself is an interesting story in and of itself of course. The small Finnish military held off a Red Army in a brutal snow and ice-bound campaign for more than three months. While ultimately suing for peace, Finland ...more
Dustin Gaughran
Mar 11, 2014 Dustin Gaughran rated it liked it
It's any wonder that Russia ever won an offensive battle in the Soviet era.
This book is a good example of what happens when a numerically superior force is used in incomprehensible ways against a smaller, more determined force. The Finns fought to their strengths and environment, while the Russians took ridiculously heavy loses using absurd tactics. It's an interesting, niche part of the budding World War to read about, and says a lot for the Finnish as a whole.
Igzy Dewitt
Apr 28, 2015 Igzy Dewitt rated it really liked it
A conversational tone coupled with clean, lucid prose make William R. Trotter's "Frozen Hell" a history book worthy of comment. His account of the Russo-Finnish war is clear, well researched, and fun to read. I would recommend it to history buffs, war buffs, and anyone that wants to have their view of the World War expanded with information of one of the least covered conflicts of the 1930's.

Lovely book.
Concise, Detailed & Unibiased Account: William Trotter's A Frozen Hell does a great job of detailing the events leading up to, and the battles during, the Russo-Finnish Winter War of '39-'40.

Trotter spent a lot of time in Finland doing detailed research for this book and it shows. His writing style is very concise and detailed without being drab. Battle accounts are well written with detailed maps to aid the reader in getting their bearings on locations described therein.

It deals mostly fro

Alan Spinrad
Mar 20, 2016 Alan Spinrad rated it really liked it
Easy read of epic effort by Finland to preserve its identity against overreaching Russians who feared German attack through Finland. Ultimately unsuccessful, but heroic and inspirational, the Finns probably contributed to training the Russians so that when the Germans came through Europe, the Russians could hang on. Good education for me.
May 01, 2016 Melody rated it really liked it
This was an extremely interesting history of the Winter War between Finland and Russia in 1940. It was well written and covers both the military and diplomatic sides of the conflict.

My major problems with the book were (1) my inability to keep the numerous people, companies, etc. straight, and (2) my lack of familiarity with Finnish geography. On a kindle the maps included aren't easy to view or refer back to, so my understanding suffered somewhat. (I'd definitely recommend reading a hard copy
Mar 13, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
I actually gave this fine study of the Winter War, the conflict between Finland and the U.S.S.R. during 1939-1940 4 and 1/2 stars. It's slightly better than Finland's War of Choice, another book about the Finns and WWII I reviewed awhile ago. You can see a longer review of both books on my blog,
Mar 24, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it
****1/2 A must for military history buffs. An epic account how tiny Finland held off, and it many instances defeated, the savage military might of Stalin's Red Army for 70 days during the Winter War.

Outmanned, outgunned, and out-everything-ed except for steely grit, smarts, and determination, the Finns were the inspiration for freedom around the world in late 1939 and early 1940.

Trotter does a great job of intertwining the political and strategic situations with anecdotes of men fighting with a
Mike Harbert
Aug 11, 2012 Mike Harbert rated it really liked it
Trotter has written an excellent history of the Russo-Finnish war (the Winter War). While many historians will address the early stages of the war, few carry the narrative through to the ultimate Soviet victory and the subsequent aftermath. Trotter's descriptions are authentic without losing the reader in arcane details. Maps in the text greatly enhance understanding, but as with any military campaign history, a good atlas makes an excellent resource for understanding.

For those seeking to under
Feb 02, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for anyone interested in military history. It is the story of a little known conflict reminiscent of David and Goliath. The Finns are a tough breed and made the Soviets pay dearly for their aggression. The situation is rather complicated, as the Finns were allied with Nazi Germany, but they were not part of the Axis powers. The western allies left them alone for the most part and the Finns focused solely on the Soviets. The Winter War was started by the Soviets prior to their ...more
May 02, 2008 Kyle rated it really liked it
Aside from Allen Chew's The White Death (written decades before the end of the Cold War) this book is the only serious, widely available English-language history of what is in may respects one of the most fascinating campaigns of the Second World War. The criminal incompetence of the Soviet planners, the desperate struggles of the undersupplied and undermanned Finns and the brutality of the winter, the third and the most powerful force in this epic struggle, are all written with breathtaking ski ...more
Tome Addiction
Apr 15, 2015 Tome Addiction rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Ok I have to say I am biased, I like anything about this war or anything related to Finland and its struggle during WWII. My grandfather fought in this war and through out WWII and yes, he was one of the soldiers who skied behind enemy lines charting routs, spying on the enemy, and drawing maps. Shortly after the war he immigrated to the United States with my mother and aunt.

If you like WWII true war stories than you have to read this book. There are too many WWII books that tell the same story
Apr 26, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
One of the better popular histories of the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union in the winter of 1939-40. The short version is that, while losing some vital ground, the Finns held off the Red Army and inflicted horrific casualties with innovative tactics, raw guts and plenty of tactical ineptitude on the Communist side. While the book is good as far as it goes, it's written wholly from the Finnish point of view, and it's just too bad that the Russian archival material for this conflict isn't ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Jerôme rated it it was amazing
After finishing this book I went out to find more of this author.
Highest compliment I think.
Oct 12, 2014 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read about how the Finnish fought valiantly against the Russians during ww2
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“There were special problems involved in tending the wounded, too, for the same cold that immobilized a man with low blood pressure also tended to freeze drugs solid. Finnish medics went into battle with ampoules of morphine tucked inside their mouths or taped to their armpits.” 0 likes
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