The battled in Lieksa 30 November – 27 December 1939
In Lieksa, the battles were fought by two roads coming in from the other side of the border. In south, on the Inari road (5223) and in north, the Kivivaara road (5241). The latter was better known as the Rukajärvi road during the Continuation War. Books by Finnish author Antti Tuuri, and later the film "Rukajärven tie" brought the notion to the wider public.
The North Karelia Group, a part of the North Finland Group, fighting in Lieksa in the Winter War, was commanded by colonel Erkki Raappana.
On the southern Inari road, a Soviet battalion attacked on 30 November at 06:30 to the Inari guarding post. The guarding patrol helped evacuate the civilians and retreated to Palkinjärvi for the night, and later to the so called Viisikkojärvi line. This is where the enemy stopped their proceeding. The Finns launched an offensive against the Soviet troops on 24 December 1939, and the Soviets retreated on the other side of the border, unprompted. The Finnish troops grouped in defence on the border, and began reconnaissance patrolling at the flanks and the rear of the Soviet troops.
On the Kivivaara road, the Soviet I and II 529th infantry regiments crossed the border on 30 November at 7:00 in Kivivaara, and proceeded to a Finnish delay line in Änäkäinen. In Änäkäinen, engaged in battle were the 12th Finnish Separate Battalion and the 13th Separate Battalion. Both attempted counteroffensives to drive the enemy back to the border, but they failed. Soon after, the Finns quickly fortified new stations at the Puuruu line, and fell back there on 8 December 1939.
Here too, the Finns launched an offensive on 24 December 1939, where the priority was to cut the road for the enemy. After the battles, the Finnish troops returned to their starting point. Here, too, the Finns were surprised to find the enemy stations empty on 26th December. The Soviet troops were retreating towards the national border. The Finns reached Kivivaara on 27 December 1939. They were stationed there until the peace came.
Another Soviet battalion attacked towards Lieksa, in Sivakka, Kuhmo, on Via Karelia. It was halted in Mämmivaara. On 19-20 December 1939, the Finns engaged in a siege battle, where the Soviet troops were surrounded and the battalion was destroyed. The Finns also gained a substantial amount of equipment.
Memorials of the battles in Lieksa
By the Inarintie road (5223), there are three memorials:
The easternmost is on the slope of Inarinvaara hill, within the area of the current border guard. It reads ”Here fell reservist Kalle Rajala on 30 November 1939”. He was the first honourable deceased on Inarintie.
The next memorial to the west, near Via Karelia by the Inari-Kitsi road, close to the junction of the roads. The plaque read ”The Kitsi line in the Winter War”. The area was the ground for delay battles against the Soviet troops on 1-5 December. The memorial was erected in 1970.
The third memorial is on Via Karelia in Hatunkylä, on the Lieksa side. It's a memorial for the ”Viisikko line”. There's also a protected memorial forest, restored trenches and machine gun nests, and tank obstacles. The Viisikko line saw battle in 6-25 December 1939. The memorial stone was unveiled on 1 December 1959
The Kivivaara road (5241) has five memorials:
The easternmost memorial on the Kivivaara road, closest to the border, is on a hillside in Louhikkomäki. The memorial for the first victims of the Winter War has the names of three persons, between 13 and 52 years of age. They were captured by the Red Army and killed.
The memorial stone for the Änäkäinen – Vornanen battle line is by the Kivivaara road, at Vornasenvaara, where the battle was fought. The memorial says ”This was a battle ground in 1-8 December 1939. The site has restored fortifications. The area has four marked hiking routes, where you can see fortifications and battle grounds of the Winter War, and parts of the Salpa Line, which was built later. The distance from Nurmijärvi to Änäkäinen is about 7km.
The memorial stone for the Puuruu battle line is at lake Puuruunjärvi, some 2km from Änäkäinen toward Lieksa. The plaque says ”This was a battle ground in 9-25 December 1939”. The Finns stopped the enemy from proceeding at the Puuruu line.
Near Jongunjoen Lomapirtti, there's an artillery gun memorial, unveiled by the Lieksa detachment of the North Karelian Border Guard Guild on 3 June 1996. The enemy attempted a breakthrough at Jongunjoki on 9 December 1939, but failed.
Another memorial for the Kivivaara battles is in Nurmijärvi village centre. A plaque on the stone has a picture of the armoured arm of Karelia with a sword, and the years 1939-40.
The Soviet troops tried to invade Lieksa also from the Kuhmo directions, through Via Karelia. A memorial of the Savijärvi battles in the Heinäjoki area is on Via Karelia, about 8km north of Nurmijärvi. The memorial is on a bank on the east side of the road. The stone says: ”An enemy battalion was destroyed here on 20 December 1939”.