By Enrique Tessieri
If there was a disgraceful period on how Finland treated foreigners, that period would be the cold war era. Even though Russian troops never took control of Finland such as countries like Poland, Hungary and others, the shadow of the for former Soviet Union hung deep in Finland. This period, 1945 to the early or mid-1990s, should never be allowed to happen again.
Apart from outright censorship and self-censorship of the mainstream media on Finland’s foreign policy, human rights was seen by some officials in this country as synonymous with anti-Soviet propaganda. Did Helsingin Sanomat ever write an editorial on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia? Did Suomen Kuvalehti ever denounce in an editorial the treatment of Soviet dissidents by Finnish Frontier Guards? What role did Alien’s Office head Eila Kännö have in these detentions and their speedy return to the Soviet Union?
Looking at some old files I have from the days I was Financial Times correspondent in Finland, I found one that has never received an answer never mind an apology from the government. On the Amnesty International list dating from the 1980s, there are 12 Soviet citizens who were captured in Finland while attempting to flee “a workers’ paradise” called the former USSR.
If anyone knows of any other cases of former Soviet citizens trying to flee successfully or unsuccessfully through Finland, it would be neat to hear your story.
Here is a short account of what is on the four pages of the AI report:
With respect to the case of each of the USSR citizens named below Amnesty International has received information indicating that the individual was imprisoned in the USSR after having entered Finland and subsequently having been sent back to the USSR by Finnish authorities…
AUGUST 1982: HILLAR PRUUNSILD was arrested by Finnish frontier guards and returned to the USSR, where he was convicted of “illegal exit abroad” under the Estonian equivalent of Article 83 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. This charge carries a maximum sentnece of three-years imprisonment but the term given to Pruunsild is unknown.
JULY 1980: VYACHESLAV N. CHERAPANOV was arrested in Hattuvaara and forcibly returned to the USSR two days later, after he had allegedly been beaten by Finnish police in Ilomantsi. He is currently serving the first part of this sentence in a corrective labour colony for political prisoners in the Perm region, and will not be due to be released before 1996.
1975 VLADIMIR KORFIDOV was arrested and returned to the USSR where he was sentenced to three years imprisonment… Since spring 1980 he is reported to have been confined against his will in a maximum security psychiatric hospital in Kazan.
Other ones include ALEKSANDR SHATRAVKA, MIKHAIL SHATRAVKA, BORIS SIVKOV and ANATOLY ROMANCHUK were arrested in Kuusamo… Their request to speak with officials from the US Embassy in Finland was rejected, as was their request to cross to Sweden…They were driven back to the border in handcuffs and handed over to the Soviet guards.
1973 HEIGO JOQESMA was arrested by Finnish police and forcibly returned to the USSR where he was committed to a psychiatric hospital…
There is also MR RULEV, whose first name is not known, arrested in September 1968 by Finnish frontier guards at Parikkala. After some questioning, he was returned to the USSR… GEORGY IVANOV is another one that did not make it to freedom in July 1967.
Apart from CHEREPANOV, another tragic tale is that of VILHO FORSELL and PEKKA TUPITSYN who were arrested in JUNE 1959 by Finnish frontier guards in the Joensuu region. They were taken to Helsinki prison and questioned for one week, during which their request for asylum was rejected. An official from the Soviet Embassy visited them and urged them to return home. They were transferred back to Joensuu where Finnish guards allegedly threatened to shoot them if they fled. They were handed over to Soviet guards. Each was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment…
Both men were from the Karelian Autonomous Republic. Forsell, born 1932, graduated from Petrozavodsk University in 1957 and worked as a translator. HIS PARENTS WERE OF FINNISH ORIGIN and had immigrated to Karelia from Canada in 1931. Tupitsyn, also a graduate from Petrozavodsk University, was a teacher.