Battle of Kollaa

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Battle of Kollaa
Part of the Winter War
DateDecember 7, 1939 to March 13, 1940
Kollaa river, Finland
Result Finnish victory
 Finland  Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Woldemar Hägglund
Lauri Tiainen
(Until 31 January)
Antero Svensson
(From 1 February)
Ivan Khabarov
(Until 13 December)
Grigori Shtern
(From 13 December)
Division: (December)
M.S. Yevstigneyev
Corps: (February–March)
Dmitri Kozlov
V.G. Vorontsov
1 division and some small units[citation needed] 4 divisions, 1 tank brigade[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
1,500 dead or wounded (estimate) 8,000 dead or wounded

The Battle of Kollaa was fought from December 7, 1939, to March 13, 1940, in Ladoga's Karelia, Finland, as a part of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War.

Description and outcome[edit]

Despite having far fewer troops than the Soviets, the Finnish forces (12th Division) repelled the Red Army because the Soviets were only prepared to proceed along roads. The Kollaa area had very few roads, all of them guarded by Finnish troops; and the Soviets were not able to proceed cross-country without skis.

Kollaa is often considered to have been one of the most difficult places to defend during the Winter War. It has been estimated that the Red Army fired almost 40,000 artillery rounds at the defence line during a single day, whereas the Finnish artillery could fire only 1,000 rounds per day at the very most.[citation needed]

Finnish military leaders of the battle of Kollaa.

Although the Finnish 12th Division stopped the Red Army, with both sides suffering heavy losses, the Battle of Kollaa continued until the end of the Winter War. The Red Army managed to penetrate the Finnish defence line in Kollaa several times, thus pushing the Finns out of their positions, but the Finns systematically counter-attacked to restore the integrity of their defence line. The Finnish defence came close to collapse at the very end of the war; in fact, the Soviets managed to form a 0.5–1.5 kilometre deep fracture point in the Finnish defence line on March 12. As a result, the commander of the 12th Division of the Finnish Army considered abandoning the main defence line at Kollaa. However, as the news from the sector was that the situation was "not yet that alarming", the commander ordered a counter-attack for the defence line to be retaken the following day. As the news of the concluded peace treaty then reached the front, those orders were cancelled and the men were told to hold their current positions until the end of hostilities.

New expression of Finnish resolve[edit]

A famous quote from the Battle of Kollaa is Major General Hägglund's question, "Will Kollaa hold? (Kestääkö Kollaa?)", to which Lieutenant Aarne Juutilainen replied, "Kollaa will hold (Kollaa kestää), unless the orders are to run away." The simple question and reply have entered Finnish lexicon as an expression of perseverance and resolve in the face of impending difficulty or crisis. The Finnish punk band Kollaa Kestää [fi] uses the name.

The White Death[edit]

The legendary Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, nicknamed "The White Death", served on the Kollaa front. He is credited with 505 confirmed kills according to Finnish military records. The true number may amount to 800 kills in total.

Coordinates: 62°01′40″N 32°15′20″E / 62.02778°N 32.25556°E / 62.02778; 32.25556