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In 1920, Finnish communists based in the USSR attempted to assassinate the former Finnish White Guard Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.
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The Soviet leadership believed that the old empire possessed the ideal amount of territorial security, and wanted the newly christened city of Leningrad, only 32 km (20 mi) from the Finnish border, to enjoy a similar level of security against the rising power of Nazi Germany.
In April 1938, NKVD agent Boris Yartsev contacted the Finnish Foreign Minister Rudolf Holsti and Prime Minister Aimo Cajander, stating that the Soviet Union did not trust Germany and that war was considered possible between the two countries.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 led to the collapse of the Russian Empire during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War of 1917–1920, giving Finland a window of opportunity; on 6 December 1917, the Senate of Finland declared the nation's independence.
The new Bolshevik Russian government was fragile, and civil war had broken out in Russia in November 1917; the Bolsheviks determined they could not hold onto peripheral parts of the old empire.