Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Petsamo were territories ceded to the former Soviet Union after the Continuation War (1941-44). Counterjihadist Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP Olli Immonen sent a parliamentary question Friday asking the government to investigate whether Russia offered in 1991 then President Mauno Koivisto (1982-94) the possibility to buy back the ceded region.
Koivisto, who was the country’s last cold war president, denied in a Helsingin Sanomat interview in 2007 (15 years later!) that then Russian President Boris Yeltsin had offered Finland the opportunity to buy back Finnish Karelia.
Finland used to look like a maiden before 1944. It lost part of its skirt (Finnish Karelia) and an arm (Petsamo) to the former Soviet Union after the war.
Finnish Karelia represents everything that was and went wrong with Europe at the time. It is a small jigsaw puzzle of a terrible war that ended up costing the lives of an estimated 60 million people.
If the offer by Moscow to Helsinki is true, speculation has it that the sizable Russian population in the ceded region was one important reason why President Koivisto did not want to negotiate with the Russians.
In 1991, Finland’s immigrant population was miniscule, totaling 26,255, or 0.5% of the population.
Finns were back then – as today – very set in their ethnic perceptions of themselves and suspicion of the Russians continues to be high in Finland.
The interesting question to ask about the purchase of Finnish Karelia is what role did issues like ethnic and national ”purity,” Finland’s deep-seated cold war mentality and fear of its giant neighbor.
What kinds of passions does PS MP Immonen’s parliamentary question awaken? Is it another PS election ploy to incite nationalist sentiment and lure voters to the embattled party?
If Karelia were returned to Finland under the leadership of Immonen and the PS, what would they do about the Russian population and other ethnic minorities living there? What kind of ethnic cleansing would take place and how would it affect relations with Moscow? Would we return back to the same tensions that characterized Finnish-Soviet relations in the 1930s?
While it is positive to debate our history openly, Immonen’s parliamentary question should be seen as a sham that exposes his ultra-nationalistic credentials.
Politicians like Immonen don’t bring us closer to understanding the Karlian question, but take us further from it.