Staunton, December 7 – Karelia’s 441 Ingermanland Finns, whose ancestors or even who themselves were deported by Stalin in 1942, face an uncertain future despite the 1993 law on their rehabilitation and the development of ties with members of their ethnic community in Leningrad Oblast and Estonia.
Last week, that community marked the 25th anniversary of the Ingermanland Union of Finns of Karelia, a group that has sought to preserve this group despite assimilationist pressures and to keep the memory alive of the forcible and murderous deportation of that nation to Yakutia (Sakha) (nazaccent.ru/content/14103-v-karelii-ingermanlandskij-soyuz-finnov-otmetil.html).
In recent decades, the Intermanland Finns have marked March 15 as the anniversary of their repression, a deportation that the Soviet government described as being “the obligatory evacuation of the Finnish and German population from districts near Leningrad” (nazaccent.ru/content/4196-chernye-dni-repressirovannogo-naroda.html).
According to NKVD documents, the Soviets “evacuated” approximately 28,000 Ingermanland Finns, of whom 4283 were sent to distant parts of Yakutia (Sakha) where approximately a quarter of them died from hunger, exposure, or as the result of suicides, including among the children.
They arrived in Yakutia among some 9,000 “special re-settlers,” most of whom were Lithuanians. The 753 ethnic Russians among them who were classed also as “a socially dangerous element” fell into this category of deportees because they had married someone of one of the deported nationalities.
The Sakha tried to help them, but the Soviet secret police kept the local people away from these “special re-settlers” and many of the latter died of hunger as a result. When the parents died, the children were sent to “so-called ‘orphanages’” where some of them hanged themselves out of desperation.
Although one in every four of the Ingermanland Finns who was deported to Yakutia (Sakha) died and although the number of Ingermanland Finns in the Russian Federation fell from 140,000 before the war to only 34,050 in 2002, some of the re-settlers nonetheless had children.
According to Dalya Grinkevichute, whose book “Lithuanians on the Laptyev Sea” (Yakutsk, 1995) is a major source on the fate of the Ingermanlanders during deportation, there were 85 Ingermanlander children born in Yakutia (Sakha). But that figure understates the reality (sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/?t=page&num=7586).
The reason is that “parents tried to register their babies as members of another nationality in order to save them from repressions. Among such people was Vladimir Yakovlev who later became governor of St. Petersburg and Russia’s regional development minster.
Besides memories and graves, the only thing surviving of the Ingermanland epopee in Yakutia (Sakha) is a six-meter cross erected in 2000 in their honor. (Another smaller cross erected by the Ingermanlanders themselves in the late 1940s survived until the 1970s when the authorities took it down.)
In Karelia, there are now so few Ingermanlander Finns that the future for them is bleak despite help from other Finns in Russia, Finland and Estonia. But there is one very bright spot: Scholars in Karelia have compiled a lyrical epic for the Ingermanlander Finns of that republic (yle.fi/uutiset/novyi_liricheskii_epos_ingermanlandtsev_brosaet_vyzov_geroicheskoi_kalevale/7114229).
Given the role that the Kaleva epic played in the growth of Finnish national identity and the Kalevipoeg one did in that of the Estonians, one can only hope that the new Ingermanland epic Liekku will have the same effect for this small people whose members have suffered so much under Soviet and Russian occupation.
Ingermanland Finns Face Uncertain Future in Karelia