Operation Fakel


'Fakel' was a Soviet naval undertaking at the beginning of the 'Talvisota' winter war with Finland (29/30 November 1939).

The 3rd Group of the 1st Mine and Torpedo Regiment laid a minefield off Helsinki, and Vitse Admiral Vladimir F. Tributs’s Baltic Fleet despatched a force of six destroyers, three patrol ships, 13 minesweepers, 12 motor torpedo boats and 25 patrol boats, as well as naval aircraft, to support five transport ships, three barges, eight tugs and 28 motor launches carrying troops to occupy or, if necessary, take the strategically important Seiskari and Lavansaari islands off the Finnish coast in the Gulf of Finland during 31 November.

From the time of the Finnish Civil War (January/May 1918) to the 'Talvisota' (Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939/40), the islands were part of Finland, as part of the province of Viipuri, and are well-sited to control the western approaches to Leningrad and the Soviet naval base at Kronshtadt. The islands, of which Lavansaari had the largest population of all the Finnish islands in the gulf, were evacuated in 1939 in an an operation completed in only a few hours.

During World War II, when Leningrad was almost entirely surrounded and these and many other islands had been occupied by the Finns and Germans, Tributs decided to keep islands of Seiskari and Lavansaari, which proved to be very important bases as the war progressed, and on Lavansaari the Soviets had a minor naval station and a radar installation.