The Finnish Karelian League was established by Karelian local governments, parishes and provincial organizations on 20th April 1940 - immediately after the Winter War. At first the chief aim of the association was to attend to the interests of Karelians who had lost their homes in issues of resettlement and compensation. After the resolution of these economic issues in the beginning of the 1960s, the association shifted its emphasis to the preservation of the Karelian cultural heritage.
Today the Finnish Karelian League comprises about 500 Karelian societies operating in Finland and abroad. The vast majority of its 50 000 members are evacuees, but 5 000 young people also play an active role. The young established their own organization, the Karelian Youth Association, in 1980, but the young and the old remain in close co-operation with each other.
The Karelian League arranges a host of activities for example in handicraft, sports, music, theatre, folk dancing and travel. These activities culminate annually in the Karelian Festivities, which gathers more than 10 000 people to attend seminars, processions, concerts and folk dancing and other activities throughout Finland. Besides the culture issues, the Finnish Karelian League has revived the issue of ceded Karelia in the 1990s. The League hopes that those in charge of Finland's foreign policy will bring up the Karelian issue with Russia and try to find a solution with the help of cross-border cooperation.
Throughout recorded history, Karelia had been under the rule of either Sweden (Finland) or Russia (Novgorod), but its inhabitants were almost exclusively Finno-Ugrians. After Finland gained independence in 1917, Karelia was divided between the two states, Finland and Soviet Union.
After the war a total of 430 000 evacuees, 407 000 of whom were Karelians, were resettled in different parts of the country. The Soviet Union populated the unsettled ceded area quickly.
In addition to the Karelians, the inhabitants of Petsamo and a partly of Salla and Kuusamo also had to leave their homes in Northern Finland. The evacuees, comprising more than 11 % of the Finnish population, were relocated in different parts of the country through a resettlement programme that was commended by the international community. Resettled communities were not broken up. The Karelian evacuees assimilated quickly and have since played a significant role in the political, economic, scientific and cultural life of their new communities and the country as a whole.
In their negotiations with the Soviet Union, Finland's post-war leadership, including Presidents Paasikivi and Kekkonen, tried to bring up the subject of the return of ceded Karelia, but without success. The response was always a clear 'no', as it still is today.
For further information contact: the Finnish Karelian League, Käpylänkuja 1, FIN-00610 Helsinki, Phone +358 9 7288 170, Fax +358 9 7288 1710, E-mail: toimisto(at)karjalanliitto.fi
The Viipuri Centre - The Finnish centre for information, culture and civic activity in Vyborg.
This ceded zone has been for centuries a bridge of communication, a borderland. As the latest form of cross-border cooperation, Viipuri-keskus, a Russian-Finnish Culture, Information and Civic Activity Centre was opened in the only border district between the European Union and Russia on the 1 of June 2001. It is a tangible example of cross-border cooperation.
The Viipuri Centre makes known the history of the ceded Karelia and the Finnish traditions of the area. The past of the area is presented with the help of lectures, courses, exhibitions and other events. It also gives guidance on matters that are necessary in the building and maintenance of a modern society, such as presentations on Scandinavian model organisations and voluntary work. Reciprocally, the centre also offers presentations on Russian culture and society to the Finns travelling in the area. Presentations on modern Russian culture are also available.
The aim of the activities is to raise interest among the present inhabitants of the area in the past of their present home district and to offer models of public activity in order to contribute to the social, economic and cultural well-being of the area. The exhibitions and events arranged in the centre will contribute to the mutual cultural knowledge and offer the travellers in the area guidance and a meeting point. The Viipuri Centre is also a venue for events organised jointly for the Finns and the Russians.
For those interested in starting a business in the area, the Viipuri Centre helps to create contacts to the local trade and business.
As a meeting point for different cultures, the Viipuri-keskus will reinforce the communication between the former and present inhabitants of the area, help in understanding the problems and facilitate the sound development of the security policy of the area.
The Viipuri Centre was established by the following Finnish Associations: the Finnish Karelian League, the Finnish Literary Society of Vyborg (Viipurin Suomalainen Kirjallisuusseura), the Vyborg Association (Viipuri-yhdistys), the Karelia Club (Karjala-klubi) and Handelsgillet i Wiborg.
The Viipuri Centre is located at the address of ul. Keppa 9
(former Suokatu) in Vyborg. Entrance bulvar Kutuzova.
For further information contact: Viipuri-keskus, Phone + 358 (0) 9 2722 430 or in Vyborg. Tel. +79643794224, E-mail: helsinki(at)viipurikeskus.fi, viipuri-keskus(at)vbg.ru, Internet homepage: www.viipurikeskus.fi or the Finnish Karelian League, Käpylänkuja 1, FIN-00610 Helsinki, Phone +358 9 7288 170, Fax +358 9 7288 1710, E-mail: toimisto(at)karjalanliitto.fi.