Kari Alenius, The Winter War as experienced by the Estonians
The analysis is focused on three main subjects: 1) the representatives of the Estonian state, 2) the leading Estonian press, and 3) ordinary people. Although outwardly the reactions of the three groups differed from each other, it is likely that the impact of the war was more parallel on the level of experiences.
The attitude of a great majority of the Estonians was based on the traditionally positive image of Finland. Therefore, the sympathy of the Estonians was clearly and unchangingly inclined towards the Finns from the very beginning. The war excited strong emotions and strengthened the already positive image of Finland. This was explicitly seen in the mail sent by ordinary Estonians to the Finnish Broadcasting Company during the war.
The outward reactions of the Estonian state were limited by the fact that Estonia had been forced to sign a pact of mutual assistance with the USSR in October 1939. Although Estonia was not yet occupied or in direct alliance with the USSR, Estonia was nevertheless politically resigned. As a result, the Estonian state could not show any sympathy towards Finland but pursued a policy of strict neutrality. Behind the scene many Estonian high officials expressed their sympathies. On the other hand, a few officials found that Finland had handled its policy unskillfully, and they also criticized those Estonians who demanded pro-Finnish actions.
The Estonian printed word walked the tightrope between the two above-mentioned lines. Under threat of censorship and sanctions, Estonian newspapers had to follow neutrality, publish the official statements of both parties of the war and refrain from their own comments. Estonian newspapers did, however, use a wide range of typographical means to direct the readers to adopt a pro-Finnish image of the war.