The Salpa-line overview
In the Winter War Finland lost part of its eastern territory. To secure the unsafe frontier the commander in chief of The Finnish army, Field Marshal C.G. Mannerheim ordered to build a fortified position of defence. The fortification, called Salpa-line, was built in 1940-41 and 1944. It is still the largest building site in Finland and Scandinavia. The number of workers was, at its highest, 35000 men. About 2000 women worked at supply duties.
To build the Salpa-line it took only year and half. When we remember the resources of Finland and the working speed, the Salpa-line could be compared even to The Great Wall of China. The Salpa-line is also the longest one-piece fortification line in the World, from the Gulf of Finland to Lapland, about 1000 kilometres.
The totally consistent part of the fortification is situated between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Kivijärvi at Luumäki. About 90 per cent of the permanently fortified constructions are there. From Lake Saimaa to Lake Pielinen in North Karelia the Salpa-line lean to waterways, especially lakes. From Pielinen up to the level of Salla in Lapland, only the most important directions of roads were fortified .
In the Salpa-line there are about 720 reinforced concrete bunkers and some tunnel caves quarried into rocks. The field fortification equipment are made of wood and soil, altogether about 3000 pieces.
Trenches dug with shovels or quarried into rock, were made for about 350 kilometres. Stone antitank obstacles were made for over 200 kilometres. They include more than 350000 single stones, that weigh three tons each. There were also 130 kilometres dug ditch antitank obstacles. Barbed wire obstacles were made for about 315 kilometres.
The typical permanet equipment in the position is a machine gun and accomodation bunker, of which 170 were made. To build one, for instance, 45 tons steel and 5000 sacks of cement (50 kg) were needed. Altogether to build a massive bunker had to be transferred about 10000 tons different kinds of material, in those days 3000 truckloads.
The expenses of the fortification was about 2500 million Finnish marks, nowadays about 550 million US dollars. Sweden helped the work with 900 voluntary men during the first summer and gave a good sum of money, 235 million marks.-- You are welcome to visit the Salpa-line. --
There was no battle on Salpa-line. But for all that, it had a great importance to the result of the war from point of view Finland.
After the war all equipment, which were removable, were pulled down and transfered to the stores or other uses. Now one can see still concrete bunkers, stone antitank obstacles and trenches, camouflaged for more than 50 years.
Some parts of Salpa-line are now restored as museums and destinations of hikes.
Written by Terho Ahonen