They are swatting us like flies,’ a Soviet infantryman on the Finnish front complained in December 1939. By the time the conflict was over, more than 126,000 Soviet troops had been killed and another 300,000 evacuated from the front because of injury, disease or frostbite. Finnish losses were also severe, indeed proportionately even more so, at 50,000 killed and 43,000 wounded. Nevertheless, there was no doubt that the Finns had given the Soviets a bloody nose. Their troops showed not only courage and determination, fuelled by strong nationalist commitment, but also ingenuity. Borrowing from the example of Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War, the Finns took empty bottles of spirits, filled them with kerosene and other chemicals, stuck a wick in each of them, then lit them and threw them at incoming Soviet tanks, covering them with flames. ‘I never knew a tank could burn for quite that long,’ said a Finnish veteran. They devised a new name for the projectile, too: in honour of the Soviet Foreign Minister they called them ‘Molotov cocktails’.
Richard J. Evans (The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945)