Finland repatriated Soviet defectors





Finland repatriated most Soviet citizens who tried to defect by crossing into Finland from the late 1950s onward.

A new book claims that contrary to suspicions in Western countries, the tough line was not based on any secret agreements between Finland and the Soviet Union, but rather a policy that was unilaterally implemented by President Urho Kekkonen after he took office in 1956.

Nevertheless, according to the book Ei armoa Suomen selkänahasta ("No mercy at Finland’s expense"), not every defector was sent back.

From 1945 to 1981 there were a total of 153 cases of Soviet citizens trying to defect to the West via Finland. In his fresh study, historian Juha Pohjonen says that nearly one in four - a total of 36 - were allowed to stay in Finland, or move on to another country.

Jussi Pekkarinen, a researcher at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and co-writer of the book, focuses in his section on the extradition of prisoners of war, members of Finno-Ugric nations who fought alongside Finland, and hundreds of civilians between 1944 and 1955.

Immediately after the war more than 100,000 people were sent from Finland to the Soviet Union. The book does not reveal what their fate was, but there is an extensive study underway at the Finnish National Archive to learn more of what happened to Soviet citizens who lived in Finland during the war and who were sent back when it was over.

Only one of the defectors who escaped to Finland is known to have been executed. He was Arthur Lööke, an Estonian who was sent back in 1949. His friend, who suffered from ill health, died while he was in Finland.



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