A disgraceful era we should never repeat in Finland

by , under All categories, Enrique

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.


  1. Enrique

    Good question. What surprises me, however, is how little we have talked about this and how much damage it did to us. By damage I mean how it took 51 years for Finland to be finally integrated politically and economically as a western European country. As you know, we became EU members in 1995. Thank god that era is behind us! Even so, it still lives inside some of us.

  2. Tiwaz

    What is there to talk about? They tried to run. Good for them. They tried to run across wrong border. Bad for them.

    What Finland should have done? Refuse to return them to USSR? Great idea. Let’s start a conflict with superpower next door! And for sake of few people who were not even our citizens…

    Realitycheck, Finland did what it did because it was most sensible road of approach. Finland exists to benefit Finland and Finns. It is not some kind of ultra-altruistic system there to do some morally vague “right thing” no matter how much it costs. And it is not international red cross.

    Finland has, and should always have, priority importance on what is good for Finland and Finns. If something places those priorities in jeopardy, it is not worth doing.

  3. DeTant Blomhat

    Theres actually been a book published just last year I have in my bookshelf the book Jussi Pekkarinen-Juha Pohjonen:Ei armoa Suomen selkänahasta-Ihmisluovutukset Neuvostoliittoon 1944-1981 that goes through pretty much all the cases.

    The president is currently crying over the 20’s and 30’s and handing over the POW’s to Germans. Most of the current politicians were around in the 1970’s – you expect them to confess?

    See now as USSR won the war they must be good. You understand good. they’re the good guys. Besides which publishing that kind of a book before the 1990’s would have gotten your ass in jail for “endangering relations with a friendly nation”… and we all know what *the* friendly nation was.

  4. DeTant Blomhat

    “Did Helsingin Sanomat ever write an editorial on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia?”

    No, and they didn’t write either that the Finnish army was in heightened alert and ready to mobilize due to Soviet fleet operations and activity on the border.

  5. Enrique

    I agree totally with you. I will look for the book that you mentioned. I understand all the challenges and dangers that Finland went through during the cold war period, however, this part of our history and how we had to comply to Moscow’s demands was a terrible pill to swallow. We should never allow such a thing to happen to this country.

  6. Enrique

    Another shameful matter of that era were all the sacred cows and how only Finland’s “wise men” could only give their opinions on foreign policy. But Finland was intelligent: under the Soviet Union’s nose it integrated slowly back into Western European organizations such as EFTA and the like. That long road from September 1944 ended in 1995, when we became EU members for better or worse.

  7. DeTant Blomhat

    ” We should never allow such a thing to happen to this country.”

    Yes well blame the Germans for starting and loosing the war.

  8. Tiwaz

    Tell me, what is disgraceful in ensuring survival of your nation, society and culture?

    Should we have committed suicide just because it would fit some foreigners moral compass?

    If tomorrow USSR was reborn, and we had people fleeing across our border and we had ultimatum “Return them or else…”

    What should we do?

    Refuse to return them? You Enrique might want to do that. And when that “or else” took place… Your foreigner ass would be on first flight out from Finland. While my Finnish ass would be called to service and I, along with hundreds of thousands of my countrymen, would face unfortunate job of trying to sell our country and lives so expensively that our benevolent neighbours might reconsider conquering our land.

    It is good to have holier than thou attitude when you have nothing at stake. When you have something to lose, it becomes whole different case.

    I care little about returning few russians running from oppression to their deaths, if alternative is to bring russian army knocking at my door.

    • Enrique

      A society lives on values and ethics. Those that don’t ensure their swift demise. What should have Finland done?
      Not return a SINGLE refugee. Let them flee to Sweden or anywhere in the West. The Russians would not have known if the Finnish authorities would not have returned them.
      What you are pointing out is what has corrupted people and nations: should I save my skin or make a stand to save many skins?

  9. DeTant Blomhat

    The thing Enrique is, you read that book . That matter of fact was there was a border treaty and then there was the system. If the Russians knew there was a person come over the Finns found him in the border area, the jurisdiction was at the border and that was an immediate return. People who got as far as inland then could and would apply for asylum if they had the wits for it and some were either given permits or passes to travel. Actually in the 1945-50 era Sweden returned the refugees more directly than Finland. The USSR border was quite effective keeping the people in. Then came the 1970’s and the airplane highjackings, which treaty was immediate return so as to discourage highjackings.

  10. Kristian

    Today’s multiculturalists are the heirs of the people who in their blind Communist idealism / Soviet boot-licking deported these poor people over to the USSR.

    Most disgraceful was the actions of the communist-infiltrated Valpo after the war, when they handed over Estonians and other Baltic Finnish kinsmen who had fought for Finland, not to mention the 50 000 Ingrian Finns.

    • Enrique

      Kristian, you talk of “monoculturalism” as if it has existed for ages and now there is multiculturalism. Look at your genes, see what you eat,
      what food and products you buy, and then come and tell me how “monocultural” you are. Not very, I’d suspect. What does communism have to do with multiculturalism???

    • Enrique

      Just take a look how many “foreign” things that determine your ever day life. Finland has already been influenced by multiculturalism. Don’t tell me know that the pizza is an invention by a lost tribe called the Finns.

    • Enrique

      OK, I will use another term: multicultural society. Is that better?

  11. Tiwaz

    -“A society lives on values and ethics. Those that don’t ensure their swift demise. What should have Finland done?
    Not return a SINGLE refugee. Let them flee to Sweden or anywhere in the West. The Russians would not have known if the Finnish authorities would not have returned them.
    What you are pointing out is what has corrupted people and nations: should I save my skin or make a stand to save many skins?”

    Really? You think Russians did not have spies in Finland? Hell, we had whole 5th column of reds in Finland who would have been overjoyed to blow the whistle.

    What good would it do to anyone for Finland to rock the boat and end up in serious trouble for sake of few Russians? Worst case scenario, we would be invaded and end up occupied as well.

    Total amount of people not living under oppression would have dropped by about 5 million. Yay! That would be SO smart.

    Smart guy knows that they have in principle right to speak crap about bikers in snagarijono while flanked by huge guys with leather jackets and markings of Hell’s Angels on them but do not do it.

    Idiots think that their ideals are more important and end up beaten to death.

    Ideals come second to survival. As long as you survive, you have chance. When you are dead, it’s game over.

  12. Kristian

    I don’t talk about monoculturalism anywhere, really. A stupid term. My point in this thread was that the communists and soviet-lovers who deported these people (this most heinous of Finnish crimes proving our racist attitudes, I presume) are the multiculturalists of today. I’ll say it again: find a green-red politican who favours multiculturalism, and do a little research on their past. Gasp! All soviet-sympathizers. They’ve simply found a new boot to lick.

    And as for my genes, typical Finnish I’m afraid.

    And what consumerism has to do with multiculturalism? Nothing. That’s why I’m bewildered by multiculturalists celebrating the assimilation of traditional cultures into hedonistic western consumerism.

    • Enrique

      You talk too generally. I see multiculturalism as something where different cultures live in the same place and find synergies between them.

  13. Tiwaz

    And can you prove any succesful, first wold society which does not suffer from divisions, racial problems and instability after attempting multiculturalism?

    You can’t.

    Multiculturalism just does not work. It presumes that humans are not humans to work. Different cultures do not join hands and have happydance, they fight for dominance. More different the cultures, more radical the clash.

    Your delusional illusionary multiculturalist heaven does not exist because it cannot exist.
    It cannot exist just like anarchist society cannot exist. Because anarchists eventually end up in conflict with one another and that is end of voluntary based society.
    Nor communism. So stop spewing this crap about multiculturalism until you can prove that it can work. And you may not try to use Finland as test subject.

  14. Kristian

    And that is why you are the useful idiot, because the out-come is an Americanized mongrel-nation, perhaps with a 1980’s Beirut-phase in between.

    • Enrique

      –Americanized mongrel-nation, perhaps with a 1980’s Beirut-phase in between.

      You have to be kidding. But it shows how cultures interact. It is a pretty dynamic process.

  15. Kristian

    And don’t forget, those who managed to escape beyond Finland, were aided by evil Finnish racist russophobic nationalists. 😉

    • Enrique

      Nope, only people with empathy for the suffering of others. If you want to talk about lost values, that is one that is in short supply in our society.

  16. DeTant Blomhat

    Just some statistics for the POV – USSR in the 1960-1970 era had 4000 people emigrate from the USSR legally. Four thousand… the ideology at the time was labor shortage due to the war years still, that is why in the 1950’s the USSR demanded so fiercely all “citizens” to be repatriated.

    • Enrique

      Yes, but there is a thing as the UN Convention of Human Rights. People have a right to move if they wish.

  17. DeTant Blomhat

    I think the USSR wiped their ass with both the League of Nations and UN declarations. USSR was in the UN *before* Finland and in the security council. That was the UN’s problem, not Finland’s.

    • Enrique

      It does not matter. The UN Declaration of Human Rights, which was spearheaded by people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, can be applied to all countries. It is a human declaration of basic rights irrespective of the culture. If you think it is only a “piece of paper,” it shows that you live in a country that follows human rights. Your views would be different if you lived in Myanmar or some other one with tin-pot dictators.

  18. Tiwaz

    No it wouldn’t. Or have you heard that this piece of paper has changed lives of those people in Myanmar? Their leaders wipe their ass with those declarations.

    Countries where that declaration is followed, would do it without useless UN paper. And those who do not follow that declaration use it as toilet paper.

    So net achievement by UN declaration… 0

    • Enrique

      I believe your response shows how little you know about the outside world. Imagine if you would be president of Finland. What would be the first thing you would do? Throw hundreds of thousands of people in jail and have “imagined enemies” of the state shot in front of a firing squad? Or would you turn Finland into a dictatorship where the only law of the land would be you?
      I think your opinions would change radically if you were thrown in a dark cell with no due process. Or has your “monocultural” education taught you to be rude and lack total empathy for others?

  19. Tiwaz

    You show how little you know about Finland i****.

    President does not hold such power in Finland. And our army would not obey me.
    What makes you think Finland would be different in any significant way if that useless UN paper had never been written?

    Do you honestly think that people like Saddam Hussein, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung or whomever is pulling strings in Myanmar ever gave that piece of paper any more than cursory thought?

    How many dictators you think thought “Oh shit! I better make sure I respect UN declaration of human rights! Else they might… Erm… They might not do anything!”

    Dictators do what they want. Republics and other less dictatorial societies would respect their own human rights laws regardless of UN papers.

  20. DeTant Blomhat

    “I believe your response shows how little you know about the outside world. ”

    The thing is we know too much of the outside world. The USSR was thrown out of the Lague of Nations after the attack on Winter War in 1939. The result =?

    The UN is almost as impotent as the League of Nations. Its lost its teeth. The unfortunate truth is:

    “Do you honestly think that people like Saddam Hussein, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung or whomever is pulling strings in Myanmar ever gave that piece of paper any more than cursory thought?”

    Don’t think Ho Chi Minh belongs into that list but Pol Pot does… anyways Enrique – what effect did the UN declaration of human rights have on the Argentine military junta?

    • Enrique

      I was thrown in a prison cell in Argentina for not having my ID with me. I had no rights, not even the right to make a phone call. So inside the cell I remembered Jimmy Carter’s human rights policy… Now, you who has been spoon-fed and lived in a country that gave you an education, even your basic human rights, to question what that paper means in light of all the people that don’t have such a right shows me that you are out of touch with the world.
      Think about it this way. What would the world be if such a declaration did not exist? What about if people thought, like you, that the UN Declaration of Human Rights was only a piece of paper… I think, we would, then live in a place many times worse than today.

  21. Tiwaz

    So what DID that piece of paper do to you? Were you any less in the cell because there was useless piece of paper written somewhere?

    Did Jimmy Carter rush like rambo through the prison, gun in hand shooting the bad guys, to liberate you?

    You had no rights no matter what that paper said. What IS matters, what someones dream is. Is irrelevant.

    Reality trumps dreams.

    • Enrique

      That is the sheer realism. Societies must have ideals, without them they turn into worse animals. The paper UN Declaration of Human Rights did not free me from my prison cell, but it taught me the importance of such ideals and that they should be defended nail-and-tooth anywhere, even in Finland.
      But, coming from you, it must be difficult to understand this.

  22. Tiwaz

    So why didn’t you stay in Argentina to defend it?

    Reality is, your UN paper gave you nothing. I would have my rights and freedoms be there UN trash paper or not. Because this society works that way. Because it is the Finnish way.

    Society which you try to destroy. So I defend it tooth and nail.

    Coming from you, I doubt you understood that. I know about defending. I am doing it right now for my own small part. I am defending my right to be Finn in Finnish Finland, against tyranny of you and your kind.

  23. DeTant Blomhat

    “I was thrown in a prison cell in Argentina for not having my ID with me.”

    My mother was as well in 1943 or so.

    And actually, in principle – in Finland you could face exactly the same thing. Of course in 1943 my mother was using a shortcut across a railway depot and that was a strategic no-nonsense. But basically – I’ve been fined for having a bottle of beer in my pocket in the 80’s… The mileage varies but currently in Finland you can be arrested for 24 hours if you cannot prove your identity.

    So yes there are ideals, and there is UN Human Rights declaration that Finland has signed – but I still see no relevance between ideology and reality.

    • Enrique

      –So yes there are ideals, and there is UN Human Rights declaration that Finland has signed – but I still see no relevance between ideology and reality.

      Ideology is what gives us hope; it is the glue that keeps societies together.

  24. DeTant Blomhat

    “I had no rights, not even the right to make a phone call. ”

    Yes well Argentina and Finland are not USA. Actually I have one weird friend from Argentina who moved to Finland and fought for her residence permit to be in Finland and she is here because she likes it. I’d like to be as the mosca in the cieleing to hear you two debate this issue.

  25. Tiwaz

    -Ideology is what gives us hope; it is the glue that keeps societies together.

    No it is not.

    Culture keeps societies together. Common culture.
    Ideologies are ones that separate societies, along with cultural, religious and class divisions.

    Communism was ideology, it did not keep society together, it tore it down and rebuilt it into something that did not work. Ideologies have fundamental flaw that most, if not all, are never going to work if they are put to practice.

    That is because humans are unable to design system which works. It is too complex to build. Multiculturalism, communism, anarchism, objectivism, fascism…

    All are failures. Ideologies built around this or that idea which might even be good or noble ideas, but failing to provide robust, stable and strong society. Like one we have in Finland now.

    Instead, they create situations where societies collapse.

  26. alex

    ALEKSANDR SHATRAVKA,it’s me.Thanks you people in Finland who fights for us at 1974.There were a brave people who realy like freadom, they fight with Soviets at 1939 and they won . The covards served to Urho Kekkonen, Soviets and nazy.I spent 9 yrs in Soviets jails.My brather MIKHAIL SHATRAVKA was tortched and die later. ANATOLY ROMANCHUK did die from cancer and BORIS SIVKOV a brocken man when i sow him in 1982.I was realesed from jail at 1986 by KGB and they send me to USA.I am citizen of USA .I did visit Kuusamo at 2005.Finland is a beautiful country like my America. http://www.panoramio.com/user/2216003