Finns in Russia 1917–1964

In September 2020, the National Archives of Finland launched a five-year research project concerning the fates of Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964.

Finnish Red refugees at the Izhora camp in 1920.
Finnish Red refugees at the Izhora camp in 1920. Photo: Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, RGASPI.

Before the revolution in October 1917, tens of thousands of people classified as Finns based on their language, identity or ethnic background were living and working in the Russian Empire (i.e. outside the Grand Duchy of Finland).

The plan is to study the phases of those who moved to Russia, those who were settled there and those who returned from Russia in as much detail as possible. Data will be collected up to 1964, the end of Nikita Khrushchev’s (Joseph Stalin’s successor) rule.

The project will create an interactive database of Finns and their biographies in Russia since the revolution in October 1917, as well as documents and photographs related to them.

The research project will produce new information on the phases and situation of Finns in the Soviet Union as well as on the terror and resettlements during the Stalin era. The information will be published in non-fiction books as well as in scientific and popular articles. The project and the related research work will also serve international historical research.

The research project is heavily based on the source materials kept in the archives of Russia and Finland. As a result of the war in Ukraine, the National Archives froze co-operation between the two countries, after which no material purchases have been made from Russia.

Data on Finns have been obtained from Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan, as well as from the archives of Western Europe and America. Sources such as memoirs, letters, diaries and other documents the research project has received and will receive as donations from individual citizens and families will also play a major role.

The Prime Minister’s Office will finance the research project from 1 September 2020 to 31 December 2025 by over two million euros. It has also appointed a steering group for the research project, which is chaired by Timo Lankinen, Permanent State Under-Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office. The other members of the group are Permanent State Secretary Matti Anttonen from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Assistant Professor Katri Pynnöniemi from the National Defence University and Professor Kimmo Rentola from the University of Helsinki. The National Archives of Finland will set up a scientific monitoring group for the research project.

The research project is led by historian Aleksi Mainio, PhD, docent. Here you can find out more about the employees in the project. A network for young researchers will be established alongside the project.

The Finns in Russia 1917–1964 research project is implemented in cooperation with the Finnish Literature Society’s (SKS) oral tradition collection Stalinin vainojen muistot (memories of Stalin’s Great Purge). Read more about SKS’s oral tradition collection (in Finnish).Link opens in new window.

Participate in the research

Everyone interested will have an opportunity to participate in this interesting research, because the project will pilot crowdsourcing the recording of the research material via the Zooniverse online service.


Materials, information and tips for the project

Information and tips can be sent to the Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964 research project.

The project is very interested in materials in private and family archives, such as postcards, letters, diaries, photographs, documents, and oral traditions and stories. Copies of these materials can be sent to the research project by email at [email protected].

Please note that the document copies sent to the research project may be published in the interactive database of the project or in other publications. 

Employees in the project

Project Manager Aleksi Mainio

Aleksi Mainio. Dr, docent Aleksi Mainio has worked as a university lecturer and historian at the University of Helsinki. He has studied the history of Finland and Russia in the early 20th century and specialised in questions of violence, terrorism and intelligence. He has also studied the history of media during the Cold War and the violence in 1918. In the Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964 project, Mainio is studying Finns in Moscow and writing a book about the fates of various groups of Finns during Stalin’s Great Purge.

Researcher Ira Jänis-Isokangas

Ira Jänis-Isokangas Dr Ira Jänis-Isokangas has been working as a researcher and head of training at the Aleksanteri institute, part of the University of Helsinki. She has been studying the sociopolitical development in Russia and in the Soviet Union with a particular focus on power, resistance, legislation and security bodies. She has also studied the importance of nationalism in the behaviour of Finnish activists and Soviet youth in Georgia. In the Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964 project, Jänis-Isokangas examines the Finns who ended up in the Ural region and in Kazakhstan and their fates.

Researcher Jesse Hirvelä

Jesse Hirvelä Master of Political Science Jesse Hirvelä is a postgraduate student at the University of Helsinki. He has been studying Eastern Europe, the history of Russia and the Soviet Union at the turn of the 20th century, and Finnish communists in the Russian Civil War. The dissertation of Hirvelä deals with the Finnish communists in Leningrad, their activities in Ingria, and their relationship with the Bolshevik nationality policy. In the project, his responsibilities include the St. Petersburg region and Soviet Karelia.

Researcher Aappo Kähönen

Aappo Kähönen. Dr Aappo Kähönen works as an Adjunct Professor in political history at the University of Helsinki. He worked for eight months at Lakehead University in Canada as a visiting professor in Finnish Studies before joining the project. Kähönen has studied the relations of Russia and the Soviet Union with Finland from the mid-19th century to the 2020s, with a view of the interaction between foreign and domestic policies. His research topics have varied from relations during the Cold War and controlled economy reform attempts to border policies in today’s Russia. In the Finns in Russia project, he is responsible for examining the status and mobility of Finns in Northern Russia and in Siberia, from Arkhangelsk to Irkutsk.

Planner Sami Outinen

Sami Outinen. Dr Sami Outinen (political history) is a social historian. He has studied Nordic social democracy, economy, employment and labour market trends at the University of Helsinki. In the Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964 research project, Outinen works as a planner in developing an interactive database. He will focus on studying the motives and social impact in Finland of those who moved from Finland to the Soviet Union and back between the two world wars.

Researcher Anton Eteläaho

Anton Eteläaho. Anton Eteläaho has a masters degree in Arts and bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He is a bilingual with Russian as one of his native languages. Eteläaho's master’s thesis deals with the life of the Russian adjutant and photographer Ivan Timiriasev (1860–1927) in Finland.

Presenting the project in events

The Finns in Russia between 1917 and 1964 research project will occasionally be presented in related events, and it will also organise its own events.

Further information