Battles in Kuhmo 30 November 1939 – 13 March 1940
Kuhmo was an active battle ground for the duration of the war. Commanded by general Gusevski, the 54th division was targeted to Kuhmo and after that, further to Kajaani and Oulu. The Soviet troops made an offensive to Kuhmo along two roads.
The northern wedge proceeded on road 9121. It was halted in Tyrävaara. This is where the Kekkonen Detachment launched a counteroffensive and fought victoriously on 28 December in Kiekinkoski, and proceeded towards the border. The Soviet troops retreated almost to the other side of the border line. At the same time, the Red Army left the flank of the southern wedge open.
In south, on road 9111, the Russian main offensive proceeded first to the Kuhmo-Lieksa road, at Rasti junction, and cut the Finnish connections to south. Then it continued the attack towards Kuhmo all the way to the Jyrkänkoski battle stations. The nearby Hotakanvaara experienced heavy battles. 8.12. The Finns tried to launch a counteroffensive. It was not successful, but as a result, the 54th division dug into a position by the Saunajärvi road.
From the Rasti junction, the enemy 118th infantry regiment started on Via Karelia toward Lieksa and proceeded all the way to Savijärvi. There, it was engaged in a "motti" battle and destroyed. This battle was mentioned in the section about the battles in Lieksa.
After the turn of the year, there was a slower period in Kuhmo. When the destructive battles had ended in Suomussalmi, the 9th division commanded by colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo – the victorious commander of the battles in Suomussalmi and the Raate road – was transferred near Kuhmo, and all the troops in Kuhmo were placed under its command.
On 29 January 1940, the Finns launched an offensive from the direction of the Kiekinkoski road – cleared by the Kekkonen detachment – to the flank of the Soviet troops in the Saunajärvi – Löytövaara area. The eastbound connections of the Soviet troops were cut, and several "motti" sieges were established. For example, the Luelahti motti boxed in major general Gusevski and his staff. The Finns occupied several sieged targets, but some were left surrounded, and the peace negotiations saved some of the sieged troops.
Other Soviet troops tried to come to the aid of their sieged troops. Violent battles were fought in Kilpelänkangas, but the Soviet attempts did not succeed. Colonel Dolin's 2,000-strong ski brigade was one of the groups coming to the rescue via forests to Luelahti. The Finns devastated the entire ski brigade in the Kesseli - Vetko grounds by 16 February 1940.
Some 1,400 Finns died and 3,100 were injured in the Kuhmo battles. About 10,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives. They were buried in the battle grounds. There are many memorials for the Soviet soldiers.
Memorials of the battles in Kuhmo
There are nine Winter War memorials in Kuhmo.
In Jyrkänkoski, by Via Karelia (road 75), there's the common memorial for the battles in the Kuhmo region. The other memorials are in their corresponding battle grounds, mainly by road 9111. On road 9121, there's a memorial in Tyrävaara.
Memorial in Jyrkänkoski
The memorial of the battles of Winter War near Kuhmo is on Via Karelia, about 9km south of the Kuhmo centre. It is erected in the spot where the Soviet troops stopped proceeding. There's a sign pointing to the memorial in the Jyrkänkoski parking area. The tank obstacle serving as the memorial stone was designed by Yrjö Vuorio, a teacher. The copper plaque says ”This is where the enemy stopped proceeding on 7 December 1939”. The area has restored tank obstacles, trenches and other defence structures, and an info board depicting the battles. The memorial was unveiled on 7 August 1960.
Memorials on road 9111 from west to east
Memorial for the fallen from Taivalkoski in Luenlahti
27 soldiers from Taivalkoski died in Kuhmo. 19 of the fell on 4 February 1940. The memorial was designed by master builder Kimmo Huotari. Its 27 stones symbolise the honoured deceased. The memorial is in Kaihlampi, Luenlahti, about 9km from the Via Karelia junction.
Memorial for the fallen Soviet soldiers in Luenlahti
In the vicinity of the previous memorial, there's a memorial for the fallen Soviet soldiers. It was designed by master builder Arvo Rissanen. The Finland - Soviet Union Society unveiled it on 6 September 1970. The memorial says ”In memory of the Soviet soldiers fallen in the war 1939-1940”.
The Niska defence line in Saunajärvi
The pioneer detachment of the Kainuu brigade restored a dugout and a small portion of a trench of the Finnish defence line in 1965 and again in 1984. Another round of restoring work took place in 1996-97. The Niska defence line also has a memorial for fallen Russians: ”In memory of the Russian Soldiers fallen in 1939-1940”.
Memorial stone for soldiers from Mänttä in Löytövaara
A small memorial stone is by the road at about 5.5km from the Niska defence line and 100 metres east of the Löytövaara house. The stone reads: ”Brothers in arms from Mänttä, Heikki Männistö 2 March 1940, Sulo Norojärvi 25 February 1940, Tauno Palonen 13 March 1940”. The memorial was unveiled by brothers in arms from Mänttä.
Memorial in Kilpelänkangas
The memorial site is about 7.5km from the Niska defence line. Violent battles raged, when the Soviet 23rd division tried to come to the aid of those sieged in a "motti". The memorial was designed by architect Birger Stenbeck, who operated as a platoon commander in the battle. The memorial says: ”In memory of the heroes who died in the Winter War, in Kuhmo 1939-1940. Here the Finnish man unhesitatingly defended his fatherland. May their deeds obligate the next generations.” The brothers in arms erected the memorial on 10 August 1958. In Kilpelänkangas, there's a 3.5km hiking route in the battle grounds of the Winter War. The scars left by the battles are slowly covered by newly grown forest.
Memorial for inhabitants of Laamasenvaara
The memorial is in Ala-Laamasenvaara, some 1.5km from the road on the north side. The Kuhmo detachment of the Kainuu Border Guard Guild erected the memorial on 15 May 1996. ”The war in Kuhmo started on 30 November 1939 at 9:45 in Laamasenvaara. One of the two border patrol men bringing the evacuation order to the Ala-Laamanen's house was killed, and the other was captured together with the people living in the house”.
Memorial in Tyrävaara
The memorial is for the battles in the Kiekinkoski area. Made of natural stone, the memorial was designed by Yrjö Vuorio, a teacher. The memorial says: ”In Winter War 1939-1940, the battle detachment Kekkonen halted the proceeding of Russian troops on these grounds, and by launching a counteroffensive, and retook the land in Kiekinkoski and all the way to the border. Honour – Fatherland.”
The memorial is on the Hukkajärventie road (9121), 11km east, on the north side of the road.