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Home » Border Disputes, Europe, Historical Geography, Linguistic Geography, Population Geography, Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus, Struggles Between States

The Russian-Finnish Borderlands: Territorial Changes, Population Transfers, and Linguistic Changes

Submitted by on May 18, 2013 – 9:39 pm 13 Comments |  
An earlier GeoCurrents post mentioned Finns among the nationalities deported by the Soviets before and during World War II. As it turns out, the situation in the Finnish borderlands is rather more complicated than that. The territory between St. Petersburg and Helsinki is home to a number of ethnic groups whose histories range from cultural and linguistic assimilation to population transfer to outright ethnic cleansing. One such groups are the Veps, whose history was the subject of an earlier GeoCurrents post; unlike other groups discussed below, the Veps were to some degree culturally assimilated by the Russians, making a powerful influence on Russian material culture and language in the process.

Finnic_languages_map

A much worse fate befell the Ingrian Finns (in Finnish, inkeriläiset or inkerinsuomalaiset), that is Finnish-speaking inhabitants of Ingria, which is now the central part of Leningrad Oblast in Russia. Ingrian Finns should not be confused with Ingrian/Izhorian-speaking Ingrians (marked in green color on the map on the left), who speak a closely related but distinct language. Descendants of Lutheran immigrants from eastern Finland and the Karelian Isthmus (mostly from Äyräpää, now Baryshevo, Russia), the Ingrian Finns settled in Ingria in the 17th century, when that area, as well as Finland proper, belonged to the Swedish Empire. By the mid-17th century, Finns constituted over 40% of the Ingrian population; by 1695, this number grew to over 70%. However, when Sweden lost those lands to the Russian Empire and after Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703, the flow of migration was reversed. Peter the Great granted lands in Ingria to his nobles, leading many Lutheran Finns to abandon Ingria, moving to so‑called “Old Finland”, the lands to the north of the Gulf of Finland. There, Lutherans constituted a large majority. Over time, the Ingrian Finns who moved to the north assimilated with the Karelian Finns.

Ingrian Finns who remained in what had become part of Russia enjoyed cultural autonomy throughout the 18th and 19th centuries: Finnish-language newspapers were printed, public libraries opened, cultural festivals organized. By the end of the 19th century, the number of Ingrian Finns had grown to over 130,000; at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution it exceeded 140,000. After the Revolution, Ingrian Finns inhabiting the southern part of the Karelian Isthmus seceded from Bolshevist Russia and formed the short-lived, Finland-backed Republic of North Ingria, which was reintegrated with Russia in the end of 1920 according to the provisions of the Treaty of Tartu. However, the region continued to enjoy a certain degree of national autonomy. Between 1928 and 1939, the Ingrian Finns of North Ingria constituted the Kuivaisi National District, with its center in Toksova and with Finnish as its official language.

Beginning in the late 1920s, however, Ingrian Finns began to suffer from the Soviet repression. Some managed to escape to Finland; many of those who remained were either executed, deported to Siberia, or forced to relocate to other parts of the Soviet Union. In 1929-1931, some 18,000 people from North Ingria were deported to East Karelia, the Kola Peninsula, and Kazakhstan and other parts of Central Asia. These deportations were allegedly ordered to with facilitate the collectivization of agriculture; however, the need for cheap labor in the undeveloped parts of the Soviet Union, and more specifically to build the first Gulag camps, seem to have been the real motivations. Subsequently, the Soviet desire to create restricted security zones along the borders with Finland and Estonia resulted in worsening conditions for the Ingrian Finns. Soviet authorities had decided that the Finnic peoples as a whole were politically unreliable, and hence that they had to be closely monitored or simply removed (Martin 1998). In another deportation wave in April 1935, an additional 7,000 people (2,000 families) were sent to Central Asia and the Ural region. In May and June 1936 the entire Finnish populations of several border parishes, totally some 20,000 persons, were transferred to the area around Cherepovets in Vologda Oblast of northwestern Russia. Their villages and towns were resettled with people from other parts of the Soviet Union. In 1937, Lutheran churches and Finnish-language schools in Ingria were closed and publications and radio broadcasts in Finnish were suspended, and in March 1939 the Kuivaisi National District was liquidated.

During World War II, most of the remaining Ingrian Finns were deported as well. The Soviets deported them to Siberia. Then, under Finnish and German occupation, the remaining Ingrian Finns were sent to Finland. After the War, however, Ingrian Finns who had been relocated to Finland were forcibly returned to the Soviet Union, provided that they were Soviet citizens; most were settled in central Russia and Estonia. After the dissolution of the USSR, some Ingrian Finns moved back to Finland, where they are eligible for automatic residency under the Finnish Law of Return. As a result, the number of people in Russia who declared their nationality as Finnish dropped significantly. By the 1990s, moreover, many Ingrian Finns, especially younger ones from mixed families, had been culturally assimilated to Russians and spoke Russian rather than Finnish. Their “repatriation” to Finland caused numerous social integration problems, provoking public debate over the retention of the Finnish Law of Return. In contrast, Finnish-speaking immigrants were quickly absorbed into Finnish society, losing all traces of their Ingrian identity. Ironically, the only “Ingrian Finns” remaining today are those waiting in the Finnish immigration queue.

Karelian_Isthmus

Being a ball in the game of ping-pong was also a familiar role for Karelian Finns, those indigenous to the Karelian Isthmus, the stretch of land between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga to the north of the River Neva. Like Ingrian Finns, Karelian Finns speak a dialect of Finnish.

 

 

 

 

Kievan-rus-1015-1113-(en)

Control over the Karelian lands had once been disputed between the Novgorod Republic and Sweden, but by the 17th century Swedish power had been firmly established.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1721-1743

The area changed hands again as a result of the Russian victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, which ended in 1721. But already in 1703, Peter the Great began building his new capital, Saint Petersburg, in the southern end of the isthmus. In 1812 the northwestern half of the region was transferred, as a part of the so-called “Old Finland”, to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, under Russian domination since 1809. As the industrial revolution gained momentum in the 19th century, the Karelian isthmus became one of the wealthiest parts of Finland. Three major railroads built between 1870 and 1917 connected Saint Petersburg with important cities in the Karelian Isthmus—Viipuri (in Russian: Vyborg), Hiitola, and Sortavala—contributing to the area’s economic development.

Finnish_place_names

By the end of the 19th century the areas along the Saint Petersburg–Vyborg section of the railroad has become a popular place of summer resort for wealthy Saint Petersburgers. Many of the station names on this rail line were still known locally under their Finnish names (shown on the map on the left) well into the 1980s, when my grandparents rented a summer house in Roschino/Raivola.

 

Winter_war

After the 1917 Revolution, Finland gained its independence and was allowed to keep the northwestern part of the isthmus, including Viipuri, the second largest Finnish city. Finnish independence meant that the border was now a mere 40 km from St. Petersburg (known then as Petrograd and later renamed Leningrad), Russia’s second largest city. In an attempt to gain territory and push the border back, the Soviets staged the Shelling of Mainila, a village on the Russian side of the border. Soviet authorities falsely blamed this attack on Finland, which they subsequently invaded in November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War. In order to gain international support, the Soviet propaganda machine—under the direction of Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s Minister of Foreign Affairs—pretended to drop “food packages” over Finland that were actually bombs. The Finns responded by attacking Russian tanks with “Molotov cocktails”, home-made incendiary devices meant as “the drink” to complement Molotov’s “food”. But the Finnish guerilla counter-offensives were not the only challenge for the Soviets, as the natural environment played a major role as well. Soviet tanks simply could not operate in the harsh terrain pocked with basalt outcroppings and extensive marshlands that turned into “a frozen hell” during the winter months. The Soviet army took a heavy death toll. Only in February 1940 did the Soviet forces manage to penetrate the Finn’s defensive Mannerheim Line across the isthmus. Finland was then forced to agree to the Peace of Moscow, under which it ceded all of the Karelian Isthmus to the Soviet Union.

In March 1940, most of the territories ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union were incorporated into Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, although some of the southernmost districts became part of Leningrad Oblast However, the republic was short-lived: few of the area’s residents were willing to stay and fall under Soviet rule. As a result, almost the entire population, amounting to some 422,000 people and 12% of Finland’s population, chose to relocate to other parts of Finland, taking their belongings with them. Only the buildings and machinery were left behind intact, as required by the Peace of Moscow.

Tanya_Savicheva_Diary

After Nazi Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941, Finland initially regained the lost territory, reaching as far as the Russian side of the 1939 border, a mere 40 km from Leningrad. Leningrad, meanwhile, was besieged by the Nazi forces for the legendary “900 days and nights”—one of the longest and most destructive sieges in the world history. Millions died of cold and starvation: at the height of the siege from November 1941 to February 1942, the only food available to a civilian was 125 grams of bread, adulterated with sawdust and other inedible admixtures, and distributed through ration cards. For about two weeks at the beginning of January 1942, even this food was available only for workers and military personnel. The diary of an 11-year old Tanya Savicheva (see image on the left) documenting starvation and deaths of her grandmother, uncle, mother, and brother—the last three pages say “The Savichevs died”, “Everybody died”, “Only Tanya is left”—became iconic of what the city had to endure and was presented at the Nuremberg trials. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad”, celebrating the city’s resilience, was performed there on August 9, 1942.

Going back to the story of Karelia, as Finland gained territory in 1941, some 260,000 Karelian Finns returned home from their places of exile elsewhere in Finland. But in June 1944, Soviet forces pushed the front from the pre-1939 border to Vyborg, and the returned Karelians were evacuated to Finland proper again. Ultimately, no Finns remained in Karelia. As a results, the Soviets drop the “Finnish” part of the Karelo-Finnish republic’s name, for the lack of an ethnic Finnish population. In 1956, the area was incorporated into the Russian SFSR as the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Since the 1990s, some associations have been calling for the return the area back to Finland, despite its lack of a Finnish population.

slide4

The sad saga of ethnic deportations in the Karelian Isthmus is not limited to the region’s Finnish-speaking population. Particularly interesting is the history of the so-called “Russians from Kyyrölä”. The roots of this community go back to the serfs of Count Chernyshev, the first Russian commandant of Vyborg (Viipuri). These peasants were brought to the Karelian Isthmus in 1710 to settle four villages in the vicinity of Vyborg. The largest of the villages was named Krasnoe Selo, or in Finnish Kyyrölä; hence the name of the larger community. A hundred years later, when Karelia became part of the Grand Duchy of Finland, the descendants of these settlers became Finnish citizens. Many of the men, especially those who engaged in trade and crafts, spoke Finnish as well as Russian, while the womenfolk mostly stayed in the villages and spoke only Russian. Despite being surrounded by Finnish-speakers, the Russians from Kyyrölä maintained their native language for many generations.

slide6

During the Winter War of 1939-1940, the residents of the Russian-speaking villages in the Karelian Isthmus were evacuated to the island of Kimitoön (Finnish: Kemiönsaari) in southwestern Finland. The majority of people living in this area were Finnish Swedes; for some reason the Finnish government decided that it would be easier for the Russians to learn Swedish rather than Finnish. In the late autumn of 1940, Kyyrölä people returned home, even though more than 90% of their houses had been destroyed. But at the start of the hostilities between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1941, the Finnish government again evacuated the Russians from Kyyrölä, this time to the town of Hameenlinna, where they were now forced to learn Finnish. After World War II, members of the community—many of them now trilingual in Russian, Finnish, and Swedish—scattered throughout Finland, though many remained in Hameenlinna. Many have intermarried with Finns, and the community has been gradually absorbed into the larger population. Practically all of “the Russians from Kyyrölä” now speak Finnish, and virtually none born since 1950 speak Russian. Nonetheless, they still maintain their religious and cultural traditions: many go back to Karelia for a visit and celebrate the traditional holy day of the Theotokos of Tikhvin, one of the most celebrated Orthodox Christian icons.

 

Sources:

Martin, Terry (1998) The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing. The Journal of Modern History 70(4): 813-861.

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  • linguist.in.hiding

    There is perhaps something I could add to this article.

    > the Veps were to some degree culturally assimilated by the Russians, making a powerful influence on Russian material culture and language in the process.

    This is an oversimplification. There are powerful indications that unknown Finnic languages were spoken in Northern Russia. The Veps surely played a role but the speakers of those unknown langues had a more profound influence. See for example a paper by Saarikivi in:

    http://mnytud.arts.unideb.hu/onomural/kotetek/ou4f.html

    > By the mid-17th century, Finns constituted over 40% of the Ingrian population; by 1695, this number grew to over 70%.

    It should be stressed that of the remaining percents only the ruling class were Russians. The Russian presence there is mostly recent colonization (beginning after the founding of St. Petersburg).

    > (Peter the Great granted lands in Ingria to his nobles,) leading many Lutheran Finns to abandon Ingria

    This is the first time I have ever heard of this. What is your source?

    > By the end of the 19th century, the number of Ingrian Finns had grown to over 130,000; at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution it exceeded 140,000.

    BTW, the lure of (mostly) St. Petersburg was so strong that Finns from Finland “proper” migrated to the area (semi)permanently at the time also. Their numbers could rival those of the Ingrian Finns. It might seem crazy but there was quite a strict separation of these two groups of Finns, although some mingling certainly happened.

    > (of the deportations)

    Certainly many Ingrian Finns didn’t live to tell but the place of deportation of many seems to have been Siberia, other places were marginal.

    > under Finnish and German occupation

    What, exactly, was the Finnish part of this occupation?

    > After the War, however, Ingrian Finns who had been relocated to Finland were forcibly returned to the Soviet Union, provided that they were Soviet citizens; most were settled in central Russia and Estonia.

    or simply killed… BTW, the Karelian autonomous republic was the place of settlement, not central Russia, not really.

    > provoking public debate over the retention of the Finnish Law of Return.

    BTW, that law was repealed, beginning 1 July 2011.

    > Ironically, the only “Ingrian Finns” remaining today are those waiting in the Finnish immigration queue.

    Not wholly true, there remains a group of people around St. Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia who are Ingrian Finns.

    > important cities in the Karelian Isthmus—Viipuri (in Russian: Vyborg), Hiitola, and Sortavala

    Hiitola was not a city. I suppose you mean Käkisalmi. And, geographically speaking, Sortavala is not a part of the Karelian Isthmus. Besides, I suppose these places would have been more like towns, not cities.

    > when my grandparents rented a summer house in Roschino/Raivola

    BTW, this was also a place of the Russian speaking minority in Finland proper. And that was it, obviously not including some Russian speaking “cosmopolitan” people living in towns.

    > Millions died of cold and starvation: at the height of the siege from November 1941 to February 1942, the only food available to a civilian was 125 grams of bread, adulterated with sawdust and other inedible admixtures, and distributed through ration cards.

    BTW, the Ingrian Finns who were caught inside the siege were deported from there to, mainly, Siberia DURING the siege. This undoubtedly saved some lives. It does, however, tell something about the not so tight siege as Soviet (and Russian) propaganda has led people to believe. Stalin hardly cared about the people in Leningrad, his priorities were different, and made the suffering much worse.

    > Since the 1990s, some associations have been calling for the return the area back to Finland, despite its lack of a Finnish population.

    The descendants of those people (and some old people who lived there still remain) haven’t simply vanished. Why shouldn’t their home be returned to them?

    > Hameenlinna

    Actually, Hämeenlinna.

    > (of Finnish Russian and Finnish Russians)

    You might be interested in this:

    http://tampub.uta.fi/handle/10024/67077

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed response, linguist.in.hiding.
      Re: the Veps, I’ve written about this in another post:
      http://geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/the-profound-vepsian-influences-on-russian-culture-and-language
      There may well have been other Finnic groups, but we don’t know exactly what those languages were like, do we?

      The Finnish part in the occupation may have been minor, but they were German allies and did resettle some Finns in the lands that were being occupied. I’d have to check to see if there were any Finnish military units there…

      I completely agree with you that “Stalin hardly cared about the people in Leningrad, his priorities were different”—just the fact that all the provisions were kept in one particular area that got bombed out early in the war shows that they didn’t really think things through or made them better for the Soviet citizens. As for how tight the siege was, I can tell many stories even from my family’s experience—but I was trying to keep the post short. Maybe a subject for another post, some other day?

      Thanks for the other corrections/thoughts/comments.

      • linguist.in.hiding

        > There may well have been other Finnic groups, but we don’t know exactly what those languages were like, do we?

        Actually, if you would read the article by Saarikivi and some other current sources… We can see that the toponymy in Northern Russia indicates a Finnic substratum. Yet, this substratum isn’t exactly like the Veps language. There seems to be other Finnic substrata elsewhere, and the connection to the Veps language is not there. Therefore we must conclude that other Finnic languages were spoken there, and we do know something about them. Not much, but something.

        > The Finnish part in the occupation may have been minor, but they were German allies

        The Finns did not partake in the occupation of Ingria. The Finns only had a deal with the Germans that Finnic people caught there were to be brought in Finland.

        The Finnish view is that the Finns fought a war against the Soviet Union, the Germans were their Waffenbrüder, but the war objectives were different. There is a lot of discussion going on on what “really” happened, but the fact remains that the Finns stressed the independent character of their war making throughout the whole war. BTW, the USA never declared war on Finland. You can blame the Finns as much as you want but after the Winter War faced with a choice between two really bad alternatives would you have chosen the side who had just cowardly attacked you and clumsily blamed you for that? Would you ever trust those same people again? And you know what is going on in the Baltics…

        > and did resettle some Finns in the lands that were being occupied.

        What?

        > I’d have to check to see if there were any Finnish military units there…

        After the beginning of the “Continuation War” (as it is known in Finland) the Finns retook their lost territory but stopped at the old border in the Karelian Ithmus. They may have advanced further a couple of hundreds meters or even a couple of kilometers but that was that. The real occupation by the Finnish military happened north of the lake Ladoga. In the Karelian Ithmus the Finnish troops stayed put till the Soviet offensive. The Finns didn’t partake in the siege of Leningrad nor did they try to cut the railway line that brought material from the Allies.

        There is a massive disinformation campaign going on seemingly forever by the Russian state about the Soviet/Russian history, the minorities in Russia, nationalities bordering Russia and their history and so forth. Finland is a minor goal but take for instance the depiction of alleged German troops on territories ceded to the Soviet Union in a recent Russian war film on the Winter War. Unfortunately, you seem to have taken the bait (even when you have lived in the Soviet Union and seen the extent of the lies…). Some sources:

        http://www.christopherculver.com/ (Russia’s Uralic and Turkish minorities etc)

        http://demographymatters.blogspot.fi/2013/02/more-on-non-occurrence-of-sinicized.html “The Chinese Threat”

        http://izrailit.blogspot.fi/ (someone you could relate to, though I don’t think she would care much about your Nostratic or Altaic ideas, sorry about that)

        I suggest that if possible you should run your ideas about Finns and their history through Vera Izrailit first. I think you get an honest answer that way.

        > As for how tight the siege was

        Well, I’m sure more food could have been brought there. I, in my humble part, am convinced that if your aim is to deport Ingrian Finns from a city in a “tight” siege and you succeed in it, then it is clear that the siege is not really as tight as is claimed. See especially the great Irish famine made much worse by the English, and Holodomor made worse by Stalin, once again. Second, once again, Finns did not partake in the siege of Leningrad.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          > We can see that the toponymy in Northern Russia indicates a Finnic substratum.

          That I don’t argue with. There were other Finnic languages all throughout the Northern Russia area, no doubt about it. The said Finnic substratum obvious was not modern Veps, but we know little about the historical development of Veps. Toponymy gives some information about the lexicon and sound change perhaps, but it is still precious little to draw reliable conclusions on. A historical linguist used to draw mega-conclusions from a handful of toponyms would see the available data as “a lot”, but as a syntactician who knows how little we know of modern, well-documented languages, I can tell how little we know of the disappeared Finnic languages. For example, as you can see in the post linked below, we can’t draw reliable conclusions about the Finnic substratum influence on Russian exactly for that reason.

          http://languagesoftheworld.info/russia-ukraine-and-the-caucasus/finnic-traits-in-russian.html

          > You can blame the Finns as much as you want but after the Winter War

          I am not blaming the Finns, just reporting what happened. Finns were German allies, whatever the thought-process behind that decision and whatever their actual participation in the hostilities. And whether from the Finnish point of view or not, I won’t judge who’s worse: Nazis or Soviets. I think it’s a nonsensical question.

          > the Finns retook their lost territory but stopped at the old border in the Karelian Ithmus

          So they were in the territory that was technically Soviet at the time. Whether it was justly theirs or not…

          Re: the Chinese threat, I don’t see that the view in the link you’ve supplied is all that different from ours here:
          http://geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/siberia/sex-ratios-in-siberia-and-the-chinese-threat

          > about your Nostratic or Altaic ideas…

          I don’t believe in either Nostratic or Altaic hypothesis so I have no “my Nostratic or Altaic ideas”.

          > you should run your ideas about Finns and their history through Vera Izrailit first

          She is welcome to comment here if she so desires.

          > if your aim is to deport Ingrian Finns from a city in a “tight” siege
          and you succeed in it, then it is clear that the siege is not really as
          tight as is claimed

          The siege was tight enough to make massive and reliable movement in and out of the city impossible. That the priorities of the Soviet government weren’t humane in nature, no argument there. Deporting Ingrian Finns instead of… what? evacuating the sick, children etc.—that doesn’t seem right. Though who could tell at the time whether it’s safer to go or to stay? Given how precarious the “Road to Life” over Lake Ladoga was, I am glad I don’t need to make that decision for myself or my family. But also, it should be pointed out that when the Soviets were deporting Ingrian Finns from the city, they didn’t really care if they arrived to the destination safely, did they? Nor did they care in the case of other deported ethnic groups, so much so that some groups lost nearly half of their people.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Let me just add a couple of points to the above:

            1) “the Finns retook their lost territory but stopped at the old border in the Karelian Ithmus” — in the Karelian Isthmus yes, but east of Lake Ladoga (between Ladoga and Onega Lakes) Finns did occupy territory that was never part of Finland, down to the River Svir’.

            2) Together with the occupation of the territory north of Lake Ladoga (the town/train station of Sortavala), this advance of the Finnish army allowed for the blockade of Leningrad to be completed, as the German army captured the territory south but north of the city.

            3) Indeed, in theory the Finnish army could have advanced further south of the River Svir’, and the Germans kept pushing the Finns to do so. The Finns did not. However, it is not clear whether they have stopped where they did purely because of their high moral standards (“чужой земли мы не хотим ни пяди” = we don’t want foreign territory), or because they did not want to collaborate with the Germans at this point (possibly provoking the Allies, because as you point out, the US never declared war on Finland, though the UK did), or perhaps the Finnish army had exhausted its potential in both manpower and supplies. After all, Finland was a country of less than 4 million people at the time, so what military it could support was rather limited (especially compared to the Soviet Union).

            P.S. I am not blaming the Finns for siding with the Germans against the Soviets (which after the Winter War was only natural for them to do). They could possibly have done nothing militarily, which would save them the loss, as well as the post-war reparations to the USSR, but it was not the obvious decision at the time…

        • http://www.facebook.com/rfmcdonald Randy McDonald

          As the author of the second post you link to, I’m not quite sure of its relevance to the subject being discussed.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks, Randy. I don’t see the relevance either…

  • TimUpham

    When the “Kalevala” was compiled, it was from the runic singers in Karelia. Those Finnic people who were Russian Orthodox, kept the old runic songs, while with the Finns themselves, when they become Lutheran, the old runic songs were lost.

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  • Lev Stesin

    My late grandfather was on the Karelian Front in 41-42 where he was eventually taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in the camps (first general “extermination camps for Soviet POWs” and then special camps for Jewish POWs). Those special camps for Jewish POWs is a fascinating story in its own right, but really not related to the topic being discussed. So he was telling me stories about the Red Army not being able to distinguish between Finns and Korelians. The division next to them consisted of ethnic Korlelians. The Finns used to slip through the front lines, eat at the Red Army contins and safely go back. The problem was exacerbated by the fact most of the Korelians did not speak a word of Russian.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      This is an interesting story. Was he at the Soviet camps or German ones? Or both? And you are right that the Soviets weren’t good at drawing “subtle distinctions” between ethnic groups. All the non-Russians from Central Asia and North Caucasus were “Tatars”, “чурки нерусские” and the like… Since the languages are so similar, no surprise they couldn’t tell Karelians from Finns…

      • Lev Stesin

        Those were Finish camps. As I said it is a fascinating, but long story. Definitely worth an article :) Finns were good to the Jewish POWs. They refused to hand them over to Germans and treated them relatively well. My grandfather always felt grateful to Finns for the their treatment (given the circumstances). Of course, after the repatriation there was a year of “Госпроверки” in the coal mines and many other “issues” until former POWs were reconsidered to be War Veterans.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Thanks for sharing this story. My great uncle was in a German POW camp (they didn’t figure out that he was Jewish or he wouldn’t have survived). Then he was in a Soviet camp. That’s the terrible irony. I wrote on this briefly in another post. Maybe it deserves a separate article. But here’s some more on my great uncle. Rather remarkable postcards:

          http://www.misha.pereltsvaig.com/?p=82

  • moe stiven

    dont listen to finish myths made by finnic chauvanist, russians are themselves mixed with ingenious uralic people therefor they are partly ingeniousness

    here see haplogroup N and east asian admixture. Its like you would be bitching about mexicans taking native land away even if they are mixed with natives themselves and are called mestizios.