When the guns fell silent fifty years ago, this signified the end of a national nightmare which had lasted 105 days.
Finland had been drawn into a war which it did not want and did not believe it would have to fight.
In autumn 1939 the Finnish government chose war as a more tolerable option than concessions. That government had hoped that it would be able to avoid both concessions, which it regarded as dangerous, and war.
Two points of view were in fact represented in the Finnish government. One of these held that the nation should be prepared to make considerable concessions if the threat of war became imminent. The other held that an attack was in any case forthcoming, and it would be better to meet it in a forward position rather than move back the front line.
The lack of trust between Finland and the Soviet Union was mutual. The Soviet Union did not trust Finland's ability and willingness to keep its territory from being used in an attack against the Soviet Union. The significance of this lack of confidence was not understood in Finland. Finns laid their trust in concluded
agreements and the League of Nations, nor did they listen to warning voices.
To a large degree, both sides believed that tension need not break out into war, that the display of force would be sufficient and that its use would not be necessary.
This was not the way things worked out: The war was bitter and claimed a large number of victims.
I find it difficult to approve the thought that war was inevitable, much less the thought that it was necessary for the future of the nation.
But when it came, when the government could not avoid it through its actions, it had to be accepted and endured.
The fact that it was endured has had an enormous constructive influence on our national identity and our country's international image.
Opposing the use of violence on principle is an attitude which deserves respect. But for a nation to accept and put this principle into practice is a different matter. There are cases where fewer losses can be achieved through organized defence rather than submission and surrender.
The world received an idealized and simplified picture of the Winter War. In many countries, Finland's image was all the brighter because they wished to believe in their own possibilities to stand up in the face of superior force.
Finland was alone at the beginning of the war, but it received international support during its course. An important part was played by the Allies' plans to come to Finland's aid militarily, but Sweden played the most important role both in assisting our war efforts and in achieving peace. A considerable number of volunteers also came from Sweden.
Peace had to be achieved and it was achieved. The guns ceased to roar. Silence came and so did other sorrows.
When peace came, it came as a surprise. The people had not been prepared for it, nor had plans been made in view of peace. The government was caught unawares when practically the entire population of the ceded territories was ready to leave their homes.
These people chose to set out for other parts of Finland, however, which caused great immediate problems but also created better preconditions for the future.
The treaty ending the Winter War created a durable configuration. Finland did try to regain its lost territory by means of another war, and before a new peace could be made in 1944, the Soviet Union demanded Finland's unconditional surrender and ordered its forces to advance into the Finnish interior. The Finnish army's intensified resistance and the stabilization of the front in summer 1944 created the preconditions for another solution, however. The outcome of the
Continuation War was more or less the same configuration established by the Winter War treaty.
Since then we have continued to build our country. We have witnessed changes in the world and Europe and had an influence on these changes. We have seen the Cold War, détente, confrontation and mutual understanding.
Our own nation has grown stronger and so has its position.
But our geographical position has not changed, nor have our historical experiences.
Russia - the Soviet Union has been and will continue to be our neighbour, with which we have to get along and with which we have got along better and better from year to year.
The relations between our nations are clearly defined in our peace treaties and in the 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which has proved to have durable significance.
For a long time there was some uncertainty regarding the Soviet Union's attitude towards Finland's neutrality, but after President Mikhail Gorbachev's visit last autumn this matter has also been resolved satisfactorily for us.
Those age groups who entered the land of the shadow of death and came back value friendship, fraternity among nations, the peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for one another and joint responsibility for the future and coming generations.
We wish to recall the stages of the Winter War and bring them to the knowledge of younger generations now, when half a century has passed since these decisive days in the history of our nation.
Many of us remember those days ourselves, having done their duty on the battle field or experienced its fears on the home front. The relatives of those who died or were wounded in the war and those who lost their homes as a result of the war have had to live these decades with heavy but dear memories. We also understand the suffering which the war caused our former opponent.
The nation is permanently grateful to those citizens who did their duty. We should particularly remember those who went even farther than their duty, who came though they were not called, who did more than was demanded.
This memorial occasion has been set to mark the date on which peace was concluded. Although this peace was costly, it was honourable. The most important thing was to ensure the nation's future and end the bloodshed. The treaty ending the Winter War made this possible.
During the past decades, Europe has enjoyed peace and prosperity, though this has not true of the world in general. The arms spiral has been broken. The danger of a major armed conflict has been reduced; confrontation has been diminished.
We are living in an era vivified by new hope.