Staunton, May 21 – Two of the most truly “punished peoples” of Soviet times but ones that are left off many such lists are the ethnic Finns and Ingermanlanders who lived in the northwestern portion of the USSR near Finland. But if the Finns ultimately had a country to go do, the Ingermanlanders have suffered from the first years of Soviet power up to now.
Today is an appropriate anniversary to remember their travails. On May 21, 1947, the Soviet interior ministry issued secret decree No. 00544 “On Measures to Move from the City of Leningrad and Leningrad Oblast persons of Finnish nationality and Ingermanlanders repatriated from Finland” (freeingria.org/2018/05/21-maya-1947-goda-vyshel-pechalno-izvestnyj-sekretnyj-prikaz-sovetskogo-mvd-o-vysylke-iz-leningrada-i-leningradskoj-oblasti-ingermanlandskih-finnov/).
At the time of the first Soviet census in 1926, approximately 130,000 people declared themselves to be Ingermanlanders, but as a result of repressions in the 1930s and early 1940s, their number fell to less than 30,000 – even before they were deported as a result of the 1947 decree.
At the conclusion of World War II, the Ingermanlanders were briefly allowed to return to their immemorial homes but that didn’t last. And only the death of Stalin in 1953 did any of them have the chance to return home. But up until 1963, the Soviet government blocked most requests. And only on June 29, 1993, did the post-Soviet government lift these restrictions.
At present, there are only a few thousand Ingermanlanders living near St. Petersburg. They are represented by two groups, Inkerin Liito, the officially recognized one which many feel considers the policies of Stalin by working closely with the special services and the regional governments.
The other is the Free Ingria group whose leaders have been forced into exile but which enjoys significant support among the local Ingermanlanders who show up at its demonstrations, patronize its cafes at which Ingermanland symbols are shown, and who look to Finland and Estonia for support.
Like other more familiar punished peoples from Soviet times, they deserve better treatment from the Russian government and more support from people around the world who care about the rights and freedoms of small ethnic groups that some representatives of larger ones believe they can trample with impunity.