When the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939 few would have doubted that the largest army in Europe would make short work of one of the smallest. In the event the Finnish resilience and initiative plus knowledge of their own territory, matched by the complacence and bungling of the Red Army, caused a major upset, with the Finnish nation capturing the hearts of many as they successfully defended their home against Stalin's military machine for months. In the end the Winter War as it was called was ended by a peace treaty in March 1940, but when Hitler turned on his allies and invaded the Soviet Union a year later the Finns saw their chance to regain their territory and did so in what was called the Continuation War. 1942 has no particular significance in this story except that after that winter the Finns had restored their original borders and there was little winter fighting until the Soviets counter-attacked late in the war.
Finland's army was of necessity small, but her soldiers knew their trade in the sub-zero temperatures of winter. Their weaponry was extremely diverse, with purchases from all over Europe as well as captured stock from the Red Army. The principal rifle was the old Russian Mosin-Nagant, and while the sculpting is not of sufficient quality to be positive, the rifles in this set could certainly be these. Several of the figures are armed with what looks like the excellent kp/31 'Suomi' submachine gun, mostly with a drum magazine but one has a box magazine, which probably means it is the Soviet PPD-34 instead. The light machine gun in the hands of one figure is probably the Lahti-Saloranta m/26, although the quality of sculpting is poor and the bipod could not be turned through 90 degrees as it is here. The officer has a pistol, which could be the common Luger P08 or the similar L-35 - both would be appropriate. Given the sculpting we thought all these weapons were suitable choices.
Clothing is a very mixed bag, with several figures wearing partial or complete snow camouflage with hoods. For the rest, some seem to wear coats of various kinds and some wear the m/36 four-pocket service dress tunic. The officer has a double-breasted coat, and both he and several of his men wear the distinctive 'Laplander' boot which was common. Where headgear is not obscured by a hood we can see men wearing the peaked cap (probably the m/36), the m/39 winter fleece cap, the German M1916 steel helmet and another helmet which could be one of several nationalities including Swedish and Finnish. All these are quite correct, and the wide variety on show here, along with the varied uniforms, is very pleasing.
Kit too could be quite varied, and several here seem to have partial sets of old German Great War ammunition pouches, which is fine. Haversacks, grenades and canteens are also to be found, as are spare submachine gun magazines and knives, which were private possessions but very common. One man carries an entrenching tool, and of course one has a full set of skis and poles, reflecting the great importance placed on mobility which helped so few men to successfully resist so many less mobile men for so long. With no absolute pattern to conform to Strelets have done a good job with the research and have made no mistakes that we can see.
The poses include quite a few prone or crawling figures, which fits well with the way the war was fought in those unforgiving conditions, and we thought all the poses were OK. The kneeling sniper reminds us of the importance such men played in the battle and it is good to see one here, while the man with skis is equally symbolic. A high proportion of men have been given the submachine gun, which does not reflect actual distribution during the Winter War as the gun was slow to manufacture in numbers. However the proportion did increase later in the war.
Sculpting is the usual Strelets chunky style, which is fine on relatively primitive ancient warriors but becomes ever more of a problem the further forward in history you go, when finely detailed weapons become more important. The prone men in particular suffer from some loss of detail, although all the figures are very clean and need no trimming.
With no accuracy problems and some decent poses these are not badly done figures. The lack of refinement is a problem, however, although for some that may simply mean there is more latitude in terms of what weaponry is being used. Certainly they are an improvement on the only other set of Finns thus far made - that of Pobeda - which does mean they are not a happy match should you wish to deploy both side-by-side. While the style is not ideal for such a subject this is otherwise a nicely done set.