Finnish conquest of East Karelia (1941)

The Finnish conquest of East Karelia (1941) was a military campaign in 1941. It was part of the Continuation War. Finnish troops occupied East Karelia and held it until 1944. For over a month after the outbreak of the Continuation War, the Karelian Army reinforced and prepared to resume its earlier offensive while waiting for the recapture of the Karelian Isthmus. The Soviets had prepared fortifications and brought troops to the front. When encirclements on the western shore of Lake Ladoga were resolved, the Finnish 7th Division was transferred to the junction of VI and VII Corps.

Finnish 14th Division under command of Colonel Erkki Raappana operated under direct command of the Finnish HQ started its advance on 4 July. It was the northernmost Finnish unit south of the demarcation line between Finnish and German forces. It was opposed by elements of the Soviet 54th Rifle Division. It encircled and mauled the defending Soviet 337th Rifle Regiment at Omelia and kept advancing towards its goal of Rukajärvi and Ontajoki River. The advance was halted by Mannerheim on September 17 after the 14th Division had reached its goals.

While the earlier offensive in Ladoga Karelia by the Finnish VI Corps of the Karelian Army had been successful the same didn't apply to all Finnish attempts. The advance of Group Oinonen had bogged down almost immediately and the VII Corps had been completely occupied in clearing the encircled Soviet forces from the Sortavala area. While the Finnish command had stopped the offensive that did not prevent local commanders from preparing for further attacks. This meant repairing roads and railroad tracks leading to the front lines. The left flank of the Karelean Army also received permission to capture tactical jumping-off positions.

Group Oinonen and the 11th Division of the Finnish VII Corps were ordered to capture the Suvilahti-Suojärvi region. The attack was launched on August 19 and forced the Soviet 71st Rifle Division holding the area to withdraw already on 21 August. The Finns pressed on and captured Tsalkki village and crossroads on 23 August. Increased pressure allowed the Finns to advance and reach the eastern edge of the lake Säämäjärvi on September 1.

Finnish plan for the offensive that was to begin on September 4 had the VI Corps advance from its current positions near the lake Ladoga to south-east and reach the Svir River while the VII Corps would first take the important crossroads of Prääsä and then continue to Petrozavodsk. This offensive was believed to be much more difficult than the previous Finnish offensives due to the relatively unfamiliar terrain, wide front of advance and the expectation that Soviet reinforcements would be sent to protect the Murmansk railway.

Finnish forces consisted of the units of the Karelian Army under Lieutenant General Erik Heinrichs. Furthest to the south was the VI Corps under Major General Paavo Talvela who had two divisions (5th and 17th divisions) in front line positions and Group L or Group Lagus (consisting of 1st Jäger Brigade and certain elements of 5th Division) under Colonel Ruben Lagus as mobile reserve. At the center Finns had VII Corps under Major General Woldemar Hägglund who initially had two divisions (1st and 11th divisions) under his command but was soon reinforced with the 7th Division. Further to the north Finns had Major General Woldemar Oinonen's Group Oinonen together with German 163rd Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Erwin Engelbrecht. Furthest to the north was the roughly brigade strong Group K or Group Kuussaari under Lieutenant Colonel Eero Kuussaari.

This page was last edited on 16 June 2018, at 22:15.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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