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Motti Tactics in Finnish Military Historiography since World War II

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This article explores Motti tactics, the key research topic in the Finnish art of war. The Finns have earned an international reputation for Mottis (encircled enemy units), which are often associated with winter warfare. However, Motti tactics were also used by the Finns in summer and autumn conditions, between 1941 and 1944 against the Red Army, and in late 1944 against the Wehrmacht. This article traces the origin of the Motti (encirclement) concept and examines how Motti tactics have been interpreted in Finnish military historical literature over more than 70 years. Contemporary interpretations of the topic, drawing upon officers’ own combat experiences, have dominated Finnish historiography until now. The phenomenon has been described as slicing off the road-bound enemy columns to allow their defeat in detail (dispersing the enemy’s forces and destroying it one unit at the time). The traditional view holds that the application of Motti tactics was largely based on the Finnish troops’ greater mobility, the element of surprise, the exploitation of harsh and difficult forested terrain and climatic conditions, as well as on the Finns’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Since the 1970s our knowledge of the topic has accumulated and become more nuanced due to the contributions of a younger generation of researchers, both military and civilian, working with archival documents. This generation, for example, has seen Motti tactics as a part of the evolution of manoeuvre warfare in Europe. Placing the topic in a larger context has led some authors to maintain that Motti tactics had foreign influences, in particular from Germany. They have also identified ways in which this method benefitted from military innovation and mission-type orders.

Affiliations: 1: Adjunct Professor and Senior Lecturer in Military History, University of Eastern Finland,


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