Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Both Creation and Demise of Karelo-Finnish Union Republic Instructive Now

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 28 – That the Soviet government created and destroyed autonomous republics and changed the borders of union republics over the course of the existence of the USSR is widely recognized. (For documentation and discussion of these changes, see

            But as Moscow considers how to annex portions of Ukraine and how they would be absorbed within the Russian Federation, the Soviet Union’s sole experience of creating and then destroying an entire union republic, the Karelo-Finnish SSR which existed between 1940 and 1956, may be even more instructive.

            The Russian Seven portal has now provided a brief discussion of this case, one that suggests at least some in Moscow are examining past precedents as they think about what to do with portions of Ukraine or eventually of other former union republics in the future (

            The Karelo-Finnish SSR was created by Moscow in March 1940 on the basis of the Karelian Autonomous SSR and including in an aspirational manner portions of Finland that the Red Army had seized in the Winter War. While the Kremlin presented this as the result of the requests of the population, it was clearly intended as the basis for absorbing Finland as a whole.

            During World War II, Finns seized much of its territory; but after the war, the USSR regained much of it, although it reduced its size by transferring territory to Leningrad and Murmansk oblasts. But the republic remained extremely poor and overwhelmingly Slavic rather than Karelian and thus was an anomaly within the Soviet system.

            In 1956, Khrushchev disbanded the KFSSR, returning portions of it to Finland and reducing what was left to the Karelian ASSR. The Soviet population was told this was to save money, but it is clear that the Kremlin’s intent was to gain popularity in Finland and eliminate any remaining revanchism about Karelia there.

            As Moscow considers what to do with Ukrainian territories it has occupied, this combination of domestic excuses and foreign reasons is likely to echo what Moscow did more than a half a century ago in Karelia.

No comments:

Post a Comment