Finland Borders a Cemetery in the East
The Russian-Finnish border is one of the places where it is most clearly evident that Russia is not a civilized country. The presence of nuclear weapons, a large stratum of rich people, diplomats with fluent knowledge of foreign languages, culture in the form of museums crammed with treasures from all over the world and flocks of tutu-clad ballerinas as a sign of belonging to the "first world" is shattered by the rocky landscape of abandoned villages in Russian Karelia.
The fact is so obvious that even the most stubborn Russian patriot cannot argue with it. Because Finland is Europe, it is comfortable and convenient. And the comparison in this regard has always been not in favor of Russia. But Russia is about greatness and fear. But this story is also about the fact that this border is the western limit of Russia's absorption and digestion of the Finno-Ugric world. And the neglect of Karelia and the part of Leningrad oblast near of Ladoga lake clearly demonstrates this.
The "Russian world" is a stranger in these lands. It cannot rule over them. However, there are no more people who used to be there. Those who survived the hard times have been pushed to the west. This is especially evident north of Lake Ladoga, in Vyborg and other places that became Russian in 1940-1945. In a way, a parallel can be drawn with East Prussia. The presence of strangers there for decades in an environment not created by them leads to the destruction and neglect of the environment around them.
Formation of the Border
If one did not know that the "Russian world" turns everything its claws can reach into trash, one could build a theory that the miserable existence of the territories taken from Finland is Russia's revenge for the time when they were outside its bosom, to which they were forcibly returned first in 1940 and then in 1944.
Or the theory that this is how Moscow takes out its anger at Finland's intransigence, which did not want to recognize Russia's power and cheerfully join the Kremlin-controlled "family of fraternal nations." Indeed, Finland is one of the countries that managed to achieve independence from the Communist-ruled Russia in 1917, after the overthrow of the tsarist regime.
This was facilitated by the fact that during the empire, Finland was indeed autonomous, even to the point of minting its own currency. St. Petersburg's attempts to curtail autonomy, on the contrary, gave the Finns experience in the struggle and deprived them of illusions about Russia.
Back in the USSR, there was a myth that "Lenin gave Finland independence." Therefore, they said, the Finns owed the Soviets. In reality, the Finns had to win their independence in a bloody battle, first with their "reds," who obeyed the orders of the Russian Bolsheviks. Then, directly with Red Russia.
The border was initially established along the administrative border of the Grand Duchy of Finland. But during the war with the Bolsheviks, it was quite expected that the Karelians, who were related to the Finns, would prefer to live in a national state. As a result, Finland even officially recognized the North Karelian state and helped it, but the Bolsheviks won.
Similarly, right in the immediate vicinity of the city of the "cradle of the three revolutions," as the Bolsheviks called former St. Petersburg, then Petrograd, the Republic of Northern Ingria, populated by Finns-Ingermanlanders, emerged on the Karelian Isthmus. It fiercely defended itself, and thus survived until the end of 1920.
The Bolsheviks perceived all borders with the former possessions of the Russian Empire as a temporary annoyance and planned to return those countries that they believed had unjustly fled after 1917. Molotov, the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs under Stalin, was indignant at the memories of the failures of the "returns" before his death.
Russians also have a myth about the "justice of the USSR's territorial claims" to Finland, the rejection of which became the pretext for the Winter War of 1939-1940. They say that the Russians simply wanted to move the border away from the "cradle of three revolutions" (at that time, Leningrad). They even offered to exchange land in Karelia! But the course of events itself shows that the Bolsheviks needed Finland in its entirety.
This is proved by Stalin's creation of the fake "Democratic Republic of Finland" on the first day of the aggression in the captured city of Terijoki (now Zelenogorsk). With which they quickly concluded an "agreement on the exchange of territories". The fake "FDR" gave away the lands close to Leningrad that Stalin was so tormented by. And she promised to "ratify the agreement" as soon as FDR was in power in Helsinki.
But since the Kremlin failed to win the Winter War according to its own scenario, and there was no grand march to Helsinki, the Bolsheviks quietly forgot about this "agreement." They concluded a completely legitimate agreement with the real Finland. The USSR received 40,000 square kilometers of Finnish territory on the Karelian Isthmus, in Western Karelia and Lapland, a number of islands in the Baltic Sea, and parts of the Rybachy and Srednyi peninsulas in the Barents Sea in the North.
Before that, the threat to Leningrad from the proximity of the border was imaginary. Now, Finland's participation in World War II on the side of the Soviet Union's enemy, Germany, became inevitable. In the Prolonged War, the Finns regained their lands for three years and seized a large part of Russian Karelia, which Moscow had elevated to the status of a union republic just after the Winter War. But Germany was defeated, and Finland was defeated along with it, although it again managed to defend its independence and avoid Russian occupation. However, territorial losses were also unavoidable: in the North, the Petsamo or Pechenga region of more than 10,000 square kilometers became part of Russia.
The Demon of Finlandization
Thus, the current Russian-Finnish border was finally formed as a result of the Soviet conquests in World War II. At the same time, Finland remained a capitalist country, part of the West. But these 1,272 kilometers of border with the Western world were not actually perceived in Moscow as dangerous or problematic all the time after the end of World War II until the very end of the USSR. Moreover, this particular border was perceived by Russians as neutral and positive even in the times of the Russian Federation, right up to the very last moment.
Rather, the non-aligned country was a window to the world for both the Kremlin and the average Russian, who is interested in more than just the picture on TV. The reason for this is "Finlandization," i.e., a certain limitation of Finland's sovereignty alongside the great USSR. Finland, with its elite loyal to Moscow, has become an opportunity to circumvent sanctions and purchase equipment.
For Finland, the USSR and Russia were also a large profitable market. It was the only country in the Western world whose army was armed with Soviet weapons. The disappearance of the USSR caused economic problems for Finland. Later, the situation stabilized. Finland became home to the Russian rich and, later, the middle class. It was an opportunity to experience comfort and a Western lifestyle.
And the situation finally changed only after the start of full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine. Ukraine's successful resistance demonstrated that Russia is not so strong as to guarantee a victory over a defending country. At the same time, it has become clear that Russia lives in a resentment and is sick of revanchism. So, invading a country that has no security roof is not a fantasy. In 2023, Finland quickly joined NATO.
Finland evacuated about half a million of its citizens from the territories that Moscow seized during the Winter War and the Continuation War. The USSR settled the depopulated lands with immigrants from different regions. At the same time, the great tragedy of the Finno-Ugrians, who had always lived near Ladoga and in Karelia, was being played out. This is a clear illustration of what would have awaited the Finns in the event of a loss of independence.
The Ingrians Lutheran Finns of the Leningrad region suffered several waves of deportations in the 1930s. They were finally deported in 1941 as related to Finland, which had become an ally of Germany. They were finished off by expulsion in 1948.
The dispersal across the USSR was followed by assimilation. The Karelian-Finnish SSR was abolished by Moscow in 1956, lowering its status to that of an autonomous region of the RSFSR. The Karelians lost their traditional way of life, their "unpromising" villages and hamlets were destroyed, and they were driven to settlements where they became a minority. Karelians have lost their identity and are no longer related to the landscape as their ancestors were, which made their lives successful.
Currently, there are 5.5% of Karelians in Karelia, or up to 30 thousand per half a million. The Karelian language is spoken by no more than 20-25 thousand people throughout Russia (a certain number of Karelians live compactly in the Tver Oblast). It is the only language of the titular people of the Russian autonomy that does not have the status of an official language in the region. The language is not being passed on to younger generations, it is endangered...