The Battle of Suomussalmi took place eight days after the Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November. The Soviets’ aim was to reach Oulu, cutting Finland in half. The 163rd Rifle Division advanced and on 9 December easily took Suomussalmi. While most Finnish troops had been mobilized elsewhere, the Finns destroyed or booby-trapped most of the city, allowing the Soviets little chance of reinforcement or shelter from the bitter cold. The Soviets soon left Suomussalmi, and after a series of failed attacks on both sides, the Finns eventually took it back, forcing the 163rd Rifle Division to retreat. The Ukrainian 44th Rifle Division was advancing from the east, but the narrow road between Suomussalmi and Raate, and bottlenecks caused by retreating troops, slowed them. The Finns employed a tactic called motti, whereby the Soviet forces were divided, isolated and destroyed in what is known as the Battle of Raate Road. The Soviets suffered a huge number of casualties and left much of their heavy equipment behind.
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