Delegate of Finland Rudolf Holsti’s address
to the General Assembly of League of Nations of 11 December 1939

A week past the Cabinet of Finland requested the Secretary-General of the League of Nations to assemble both the Council Board and the General Assembly in order that the matter of the abruptly commenced attack by USSR, which Finland had been subjected to, could be debated. Today, following the determination of the council board on 9 December to effect that the appeal of Finland shall be presented to the general assembly, you have assembled to deliberate the subject matter of that request.

On behalf of Finland I am greatly honored to present to You and via You to the Cabinets of the respective countries, my sincere thanks for the urgency of response to this appeal. For the entire world this represents proof of the fact that regardless of the not inconsiderable political challenges of present day, the founding principles of the League of Nations remain sufficiently strong to support conversion to practical deeds. With the kind generosity of the Secretary-General I had the honour of forwarding members of the general assembly documents clearly and precisely outlining the manner in which the USSR, a fellow member of League of Nations, has in recent times treated us. One would but dare anticipate that forwarding of documentation to the report drafting committee shall indeed be allowed to continue. Opportunity has been afforded to familiarize Yourself with this conflict. Forwarded documentation has supplied comprehensive details. Due to that, my wish is not to revisit individual details, rather would wish to examine the matter specifically from a moral point of view, to enable arrival at practical conclusions.

We have all witnessed the torrent of anger that the USSR has generated world-wide by attacking Finland. Primarily, this is a moral response against this hitherto unknown use of acts of violence. I wish to express the deep gratitude of the people of Finland for this outpour of conscience by the general world-wide population. There is no judgment more austere than that which we pass onto ourselves. Occasionally, it takes place that an individual or a nation initially expresses points of opinion designed to indicate a high level of moral standards, only to at a later stage themselves act totally against these principles. In the matter of this present conflict, it should be borne in mind that the USSR has conveyed to the League of Nations, and noticed, how it itself condemns their attack against Finland.

During the session of the general assembly held on 21 September 1937, the first delegate of USSR stated:

«I feel that it’s the time to put end to using dangerous propaganda as a weapon to support attacking. It is the time, that those, who sincerely support the matter of peace, tell the parrots who are in high positions, that absurdity is absurdity, even if it then is continuously repeated, that it is better to call matters by their proper and correct names and that attack is attack, be it then hidden under whatever form of words. No international principle justifies attack, armed intervention, conquering of other nations and breaching of international agreements.

Additionally, it is the time to tell these preachers of hate that it is not their business to disclose their concerns for the rights of mankind. Those, who have bought to forefront the barbaric theories of the pagan hood and the Middle Ages, do not possess the right to speak in the name of present-day Europe. Those, who have burned to the ground the most beautiful creations of mankind, those, who persecute the most outstanding representatives of Arts, Sciences and Literature, those, who despise the entire civilized world, make themselves the laughing-stock of the world while babbling about necessity of rescuing the civilization and using this as a reason to preach about the crusades against other nations.»

The representative of the USSR continues:

«I am, however, totally convinced that should the League of Nations adopt a strong line against political attack, it would serve to release all of us from new attacks; and then, but only then other nations would be certain that they have nothing to gain by attacking and they should refrain from that act and only then will be realized our common ideal of a world-wide League of Nations, the medium of peace. But we will not realize this ideal by sending questionnaires. We will reach this goal only by common effort against attackers, by a united defence of this peace which we all require and the fruits of which we all enjoy.»

With these words of the delegate of the USSR the general assembly ended their deliberations in the hall which until then had been used during their assemblies. A week later it convened in this magnificent building, the new palace of the League of Nations, and the representative of Finland had the honour of being the first speaker. Being aware of the importance of this historical moment, I then stated:

«I am convinced of that I correctly interpret the feelings of all of the delegates present in expressing the wish that this new building would for evermore be the seat in which every precious thought and humanly aim will receive noble-minded and warm reception, and that nations will learn to locate their real enemies, not in their neighboring countries, but in the misery and suffering.

Since ancient times humanity has searched for gratification of their misguided ambitions in destruction and oppression. The voices of mothers, who with their suffering have created new generations, have received but little response. Women do, however, have their own view of honour, even the noblest of views: love, which sacrifices itself for sake of creating life. The more this quivering voice, which is carried by feelings of honour and sense of duty, is heard within these walls, the better is retention of world-wide peace guaranteed and the fruitful works in all avenues of mankind valued.»

It is perhaps noteworthy that my quote of the delegate of the USSR speech is not an exception. On the contrary, the members of the League of Nations have ever since the very day the delegates of the USSR have entered the League, become accustomed to similar speeches. Initiatives which the USSR has proposed and which it has considered effective means of retaining peace and in particular maintenance of sound relations between neighboring countries, I mention their proposal for determination of an attacker and the adaptation of principle of non-aggression.

In the letter addressed to the Secretary General on 7 December, I referred to the non-aggression and peaceful solving of disputes agreement drawn up on 21 January 1932 as well as the dispute arbitration method agreement dated on the 22 April of same year. The case for this policy of the USSR was made, amongst others, on the basis of the peoples Commissar for Foreign Affairs making the below mentioned public statement at the Council board meeting held in London during March 1936:

«The position of USSR is dictated by its general politics, which are aimed towards preservation of peace and collective arrangements of ensuring safety, as well as the preservation and protection of survival of the medium of peace, the League of Nations. We are of the opinion that it is impossible to engage in battle on behalf of peace, without simultaneously defending the inviolability of international obligations, in particular those obligations which directly relate to retention of presently set borders, taking up of arms, as well as attacks by both political and militarized means.»

These principles and attitudes of the USSR of recent years should not be forgotten whilst judging from a moral standpoint the actions of USSR against Finland since 5 October last, during which period my cabinet was invited to attend negotiations, which culminated in hostilities.

During the 2 weeks immediately past, the land forces, navy and air forces of USSR have brought death and destruction to our country, have terrorized our civilian population and have engaged every available action designed to enable elimination of the resistance of our defence forces. However, the populace of Finland in entirety are loyal to their cabinet.

Nothing gives a better insight to the lack of moral dignity of the cabinet of USSR, than this attempt of preventing Finland from bringing their voice to attention of the foremost venue of the world, the League of Nations. The USSR has established a supposedly democratic cabinet of Finland in a small border-village, the office bearers of which are salaried traitors loyal to the USSR.

General world-wide opinion has not refrained from condemning this act of betrayal. Permit me to bring to your notice the words of the cabinet of USSR during the meeting of 28 September 1937:

«It is quite clear that according to international covenants no assistance of any kind should be afforded to those engaged in rebellious conduct against lawful governments; all assistance so afforded to rebel movements by supply of munitions and in particular troops, would constitute outrageous insult of the international covenants; the act of recognizing the commander of these rebellious forces as the leader of the cabinet does not alleviate the situation, as that would enable any rebellion being declared legal, merely by simply declaring the rebellious forces as the government; the act of recognizing rebel forces as a legal government by itself constitutes intervention.»

These were the words of delegate of the USSR. In relation to this matter the cabinet of the USSR has elected to utilize exceedingly shameful tactics. Following cessation of diplomatic relations between Finland and USSR, the Finnish cabinet requested Sweden to facilitate its affairs in Moscow. This suggestion was rejected by the USSR cabinet. At this point in time Finnish cabinet turned to USA, which had previously kindly offered its services to us. This means was likewise rejected by USSR.

At beginning of my address I mentioned my wish to deal with this matter at hand specifically from moral point of view. As you are aware, the entire world is viewing USSR’s chosen mode of action with growing horror. With before mentioned words I have wished to point out that during the entire time USSR has been involved in concerted action with League of Nations, in every sitting held in Geneve it has made known the principles which now according to international opinion are turning against themselves. Is it possible to imagine a situation more despicable, than that which the USSR has found itself at in their international relations?

As deeply as the Finnish people are touched by expressions of sympathy by the entire civilized world, as totally as they are convinced of USSR’s political pretence, no friendly expressions of sympathy, encouragement, nor condemnation of attack is sufficient. In order to be able to battle against this treacherous attack people of Finland need all practical support and help possible, not just encouraging words. The tears of world’s anger have touched our hearts; Finland itself has shed sufficient tears during recent days. We are not able to protect people of Finland from bullets of attackers, grenades, shrapnel and gasses by international agreements.

With willpower and perseverance that has awakened the admiration of the entire world, Finland is engaged in battle for no less than its very existence. But all over the world, where during these days of terror deep loathing is felt towards the actions of USSR, it is perfectly well known that Finland is engaged in battle in support of the noblest of political ideals.

The Parliament of Finland has yesterday expressed to people of the world the following appeal:

«The people of Finland, who have always honestly endeavoured to build up their future in mutual understanding with all other nations and on the foundation of peaceful labour, are being ruthlessly attacked by their eastern neighbour without the slightest cause on the part of Finland. The conflict was thrust upon us. We have had no choice. The Finnish people fight for their independence, their liberty, and their honour. We defend the country of our birth, our democratic constitution, our religion, our homes, and everything civilized nations hold sacred. So far we still fight alone against the enemy invader, although in actual truth the struggle denotes the defence of the welfare of all humanity.

We have already given proof of our will to do our best in this battle, but we trust that the civilized world, which has already revealed its deep sympathy for us, will not leave us alone in our struggle with a numerically superior enemy. Our position as the outpost of western civilization gives us the right to expect the active resistance of other civilized nations. The parliament of Finland address to these nations this appeal.»

When the cabinet of Finland requested You to attend this meeting, it was with hopes of You finding the means of changing the world-wide sympathy into practical aid. Finland does not request but for the ability to live in peace and to guarantee its own life while giving to the world its small share for the opportunity to create a happier future for mankind.

Gentlemen, return the peace to Finland, so that all nations and individuals, who in these tragic days are warming the populace of Finland with their sympathy for the Finnish people in their battle for their survival will bless You as the defenders of the highest aims of the League of Nations!

Gentlemen, fulfill your duty! People of Finland will fulfill that of their own towards the civilized world and will fulfill it with the most precious they have, their own blood.


Translated by Olli Makkonen, 2011