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Väinö II of Finland (Central Victory)

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Väinö II
Prince Wolfgang of Hesse.jpg
Reign 28 May 1940 – 12 July 1989
Predecessor Väinö I
Successor Henrik
Spouse Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden
House House of Hesse
Father Väinö I of Finland
Mother Princess Margaret of Prussia
Born 6 November 1896(1896-11-06)
Castle Rumpenheim, Offenbach am Main, Germany Flag of the German Empire
Died 12 July 1989(1989-07-12) (aged 92)
Helsinki, Finland Flag of Finland


Väinö II (Wolfgang Moritz; 6 November 1896 – 12 July 1989) was the King of Finland from 1940 until his death. A member of the House of Hesse, Väinö was the son of Väinö I and Princess Margaret of Prussia. He became heir apparent when his father was elected king in 1918.He served as the commander of the Army of the Isthmus during the Winter War and the Interim Peace. Succeeding to the Norwegian Throne in 1940 upon his father's death, he led Finland during the Continuation War and oversaw peace time reconstruction of his country. He pioneered an “active neutrality” policy, under which Finland retained its independence while maintaining extensive trade with members of NATO as well as those of the Warsaw Pact. He wad Finland's longest reigning monarch of 50 years.

Early life

Accession and war

Commander during the Winter War

In late autumn 1939, Väinö urged his father to declare war on the Soviet Union, but he was refused. However, when the war he desired broke out on 30 November, Väinö was given command of the Army of the Isthmus with Lieutenant General Hugo Österman as his chief of staff. Väinö concentrated on a realistic analysis of the situation, instead of pessimism or over-optimism. While he was at the front politics in Helsinki would cut the war short.

At the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union formed a puppet government and cut connections with the Helsinki government. The Finnish Army fought defensively in battles during December 1939 and January 1940. The Soviet Union was forced to drop the Terijoki Government and accept negotiations via Stockholm. The Western allies threat to make peace with Germany influenced the Soviet government to seek an agreement. Prime Minister Ryti persuaded the rest of the cabinet to settle for peace and signed the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The peace agreement, in which Finland lost large land areas and faced the burden of resettling 400,000 refugees, was generally considered crushing, and personally humiliating for the Crown Prince.

From prince to king

King Väinö I suffered a stroke in May, and was left incapacitated for his final days, so the heavy responsibilities of state leadership were shared by Ryti, Field Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim, Crown Prince Väinö, and Tanner. Considering this and the fact Väinö was openly opposed the peace treaty, preparations were made to re-enter the war when the time was favorable.

Väinö succeeded as Väinö II when his father died on 28 May, 1940.

Towards German orientation

Finland's changed policy from a Scandinavian orientation up to, and during, the Winter War, to a German orientation after the Winter War, was not in the least pursued by the convinced Fennophile Väinö II. He had no illusions about the true nature of Germany. Traditionally Finland had been associated with Britain by stronger commercial ties, but as the Baltic Sea was dominated by the Germans and Soviets, lost markets had to be found elsewhere, and the Germans were willing to trade.

The relatively limited space given to German propaganda and ideology, or their domestic sympathizer fringe groups in Finland, can probably be seen as one of the many important joint contributions of Väinö II, Ryti, and Mannerheim. Väinö II must also be credited for the fact that Finland remained a genuine democracy unlike any other continental European country that participated in World War II.

In August 1940 Väinö also agreed to secret military cooperation with Germany, in order to strengthen Finland's position vis-à-vis the threatening Soviet Union. Over time it became increasingly likely that the war between the two great totalitarian powers was turning in Germany's favour, and the experts' opinion - even among the enemies of Germany - was that in case of invasion the Soviets could not stop the German war machine. Väinö apparently turned, step by step, to being in favour of seizing the opportunity to secure Finnish claims to areas he saw to be in the country's interests, in case the great realignment of ownership of East European territory by force would materialize.

Thus the cooperation begun in late 1940 ultimately developed in 1941 into preparations for re-annexation of the territories lost after the Winter War, in case Germany would realize the rumoured plans for an offensive into the Soviet Union. The Continuation War, when it commenced, would also come to include occupation of East Karelia, which nationalist circles had championed since the 1910s.

Wartime success

When Germany's assault on the Soviet Union began in June 1941, Finland remained formally neutral until Soviet air raids gave an expected reason to fulfill the invasion plans some days later. Väinö made a radio speech after the outbreak of the Continuation War where he announced that Germany would win the war against the Soviet Union.

Finnish troops soon regained the territory lost in the Winter War and a substantial buffer zone beyond. A considerable number of members of parliament were not excited by the idea of crossing the old borders, but obviously Väinö convinced Tanner and the Social Democrats to remain in the cabinet despite their opposition to the conquest of East Karelia. Väinö's ability to thus maintain a broad coalition government strongly contributed to morale and perceived national unity. In fact, from January 1941 to March 1943, even the far-right Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) participated in the government.

On 19 November, 1942 the Continuation War was concluded on favorable terms. Finland retained its sovereignty, its parliamentary democracy, and its market economy. Territorial gaines were considerable; Karelia and Petsamo gained territory at the expense of Russia. Numerous Karelian refugees were relocated back to their homes.

Titles and styles

Monarchical styles of
Väinö II of Finland
Kingdom of finland coat of arms by fenn o manic-d5dz9c9
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir
  • His Highness Prince Wolfgang Moritz of Hesse (6 November 1896 – 9 October 1918)
  • His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Finland (9 October 1918 – 28 May 1940)
  • His Majesty The King of Finland (28 May 1940 – 12 July 1989)
Väinö II of Finland
Born: 6 November 1896 Died: 12 July 1989
Royal titles
Preceded by:
Väinö I
King of Finnland and Karelia
1940 – 1989
Succeeded by:
Henrik

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