Letter from Deputy Director General Päivi Happonen to Memorial society: Access to the World War II materials in the Finnish archives

Helsinki 1.9.2019


Access to the World War II materials in the Finnish archives

Memorial urged Russian and Finnish archives publicly to open up all the Second World War time records for researchers. The National Archives of Finland wants to inform Memorial, that all records from that time are already open to Finnish and foreign researches alike.

In principle, the public records in Finland are open at once, in some cases they can be classified for 25 or in maximum for 60 years. This means in practice, that the materials from the Second World War time have in Finland been open for researchers already for decades and even the last few classified ones since 2005. Freedom of research is guaranteed by the Finnish constitution.

The Military Archive of Finland and the archives of the Prime Minister's Office (Ministries) were incorporated into the National Archives of Finland since the beginning of the year 2008. Presidential archives are also preserved in the National Archives, except of the archives of the late president Urho Kekkonen, which are governed by a private Foundation. However, the public funding of this Foundation is also channeled through the National Archives and the researchers have access to the records. The records at the National Archives of Finland can be ordered beforehand through an electronic customer service system.

Archives of private persons, associations and other non-governmental actors at the National Archives of Finland are also accessible for the researchers. They must sign a standardized written application in which they promise to use the documents in accordance with the Finnish and European Union legislation and the ethical practices of the research-community. The researchers have a legal responsibility for the correct use of the records which include personal data or other sensitive information.

The National Archives of Finland fully supports Memorial's demand to open up all the Second World War time archives in Russia and Finland with equal rights to all researchers. The validity and reliability of research can only be guaranteed when all researchers have an opportunity to access the records and other scientific evidence upon which the conclusions in research are drawn. This is a fundamental principle of all open and internationally reliable research and this should be supported by all archives and other institutions who are in charge of preservation of documentary evidence of the past.

Päivi Happonen

Deputy Director General

National Archives of Finland