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The Second World War and the Baltic States


Edited By James S. Corum, Olaf Mertelsmann and Kaarel Piirimäe

This volume places the history of the Second World War and the Baltic states into a multidisciplinary and international perspective. It includes contributions from the fields of diplomacy, strategy, military operations, intelligence and propaganda. It presents not only a multi-layered interpretation of a region affected by total war, but also reveals a great deal about the nature of that conflict. It discusses the attitudes of the great powers towards small states, the nature of military operations around the advent of mechanization and close air support, and techniques of population control and of steering opinion in the era of ideological regimes. Contributions on these topics add to our understanding of the Second World War as a pivotal event in the history of Europe in the 20 th century.
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Mediation and Intervention in the Back of Beyond: Small States in the Eastern Baltic and France’s Strategic Calculations, 1936–1940


Louis Clerc

I wrote that France was not interested in anything else than the preservation in the future of friendly relations between Finland and Russia. Apart from that, France did not care about Baltic questions and felt the utmost sympathy towards Finland.1


This statement by Finnish diplomat Carl Enckell conveys the essential characteristics of France’s relations with the Eastern Baltic during the interwar period: a lack of concrete involvement in Baltic issues; a tendency to consider the newly independent small states of the region in terms of wider issues, and finally, if these global concerns largely dominated French decisions, the role of bilateral relations in shaping concrete reactions to developments in the Eastern Baltic.

France’s relations with the Baltic states and Finland in the 1920s and early 1930s

After the Crimean War, three powers appeared to hold the Baltic Sea: Great Britain, to which France tended to delegate concrete actions in the region, Russia, and Germany. With the Dogger Bank affair in 1904 and the conclusion of the Entente Cordiale, the French encouraged cooperation between Russia and Britain2 and were critical of national movements inside the Russian empire.3 France also tried ← 21 | 22 → to counter German influence in Sweden and Denmark, albeit with little success:4 Demark and Sweden both affirmed their neutrality in 1914,5 and Franco–British efforts to get the Nordic countries to mitigate their neutrality brought only Norway closer to the Entente.6

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