Polka Your Mines Out

From 1941 to 1942, the Finnish Army played the Säkkijärven polkka on the radio over 1,500 times. The song played on repeat in the city of Viipuri for a solid five months, from September to February.

Why? It jammed the radio frequencies needed to activate the thousand mines planted in the city by the retreating Soviets. The mines were triggered by a three-note sequence which would cause three tuning forks inside the radio device to vibrate, setting off the explosive.

The Säkkijärven polkka, as it turns out, served as the perfect jam to jam to. Fast with a lot of chords, radio researcher Jouko Pohjanpalo chose the hugely popular folk tune (known, particularly among Finnish accordionists, as something of a national anthem) precisely for its speed and because the chords never hit that three-note set-off sequence–though I’m wondering how much of his choice was strictly science and how much of it was a symbolic middle finger to the country that had taken 11% of their land under the guise of “security concerns” only a year and a half before. Either way, it played until the mine batteries wore down and the Soviets could no longer set them off.

Today’s post brought to you by the old-fogey-musical-instruments side of YouTube, and a claim to family history; half my genetics are Finnish. I also found the following in the YouTube comments, under a version of the polka which featured actual lyrics. I’d love to know if this joke originated during the Winter War, the armed conflict that began with the Soviet invasion of Finland three months after WWII broke across Europe and which led to that 11% loss. Still, the Finlanders carved a pretty decent hole in the much larger and better-supplied Red Army troops through the use of guerrilla tactics, before their eventual loss:

A large group of Russian soldiers in the border area in 1939 are moving down a road when they hear a voice call from behind a small hill: “One Finnish soldier is better than ten Russian.”

The Russian commander quickly orders ten of his best men over the hill, whereupon a gun-battle breaks out and continues for a few minutes, then silence. The voice once again calls out: “One Finn is better than one hundred Russian.”

Furious, the Russian commander sends his next best 100 troops over the hill and instantly a huge gun fight commences. After ten minutes of battle, again silence. The calm Finnish voice calls out again: “One Finn is better than one thousand Russian.”

The enraged Russian commander musters 1,000 fighters and sends them to the other side of the hill. Rifle fire, machine guns, grenades, rockets, and cannon fire ring out as a terrible battle is fought… then silence. Eventually one badly wounded Russian fighter crawls back over the hill and with his dying words tells his commander, “Don’t send any more men…it’s a trap. There’s two of them.”


Finally, writing report: Florists yesterday, Pine&Meyer today. Not much progress in either. I need to get back into the habit of stopping over at the library before heading home, which I’ll do tomorrow.

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2 Responses to Polka Your Mines Out

  1. Your Local Friendly IT Guy says:

    This was a fact I needed in my life. And now it is. Thanks.


    • A.L. Schultz says:

      I know, right? I was looking at the sheet music and the transcriber happened to note that yes, this was the one used to stop all those mines. And I was like: what?

      Truth is stranger than fiction.

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