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.
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Ville Kivimäki, “Introduction,” in Finland in World War II, 20; Talvisodan historia, volumes 1–4 (Porvoo, 1977–1979); Jatkosodan historia, volumes 1–6 (Helsinki, 1988–1994); Suomen sota 1941–1945, volumes 1–11 (Various publishing places, 1951–1965).
Sampo Ahto, “Suomalaisen taktiikan perinne”SotilasaikakauslehtiNo. 9 (1977), 515–516; Sampo Ahto, “Suomalainen sotataito toisessa maailmansodassa,” in Suomen turvallisuuspolitiikka (Keuruu, 1987), 141–143; Sampo Ahto, “Finnish Tactics in the Second World War,” in Revue Internationale d’Histoire Militaire No. 62 (Vaasa, 1985), 177–179.
Sampo Ahto, “Valo Nihtilä – suomalainen yleisesikuntaupseeri,”Tiede ja aseNo. 42 (1984), 22–24; Pertti Kilkki, Valo Nihtilä: Päämajan eversti (Juva, 1994), 46–49; Juutilainen, Mottien maa, (fn. 5), 150–151. See also Martin van Creveld, Command in War (Cambridge, 1985), 174.
Anssi Vuorenmaa, “Itärajan mottitaistelut,” in Kansakunta sodassa: 1. Sodasta sotaan, ed. Silvo Hietanen (Helsinki, 1989), 182–184; Anssi Vuorenmaa, “Defensive Strategy and Basic Operational Decisions in the Finland–Soviet Winter War 1939–1940,” in Revue Internationale d’Histoire Militaire, 74–95.