Finland–Russia relations

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Finland-Russia relations
Map indicating locations of Finland and Russia


Diplomatic mission
Embassy of Finland, MoscowEmbassy of Russia, Helsinki
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki, on 21 August 2019

Finland–Russia relations have been conducted over many centuries, from wars between Sweden and Russia in the early 18th century, to the planned and realized creation and annexation of the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire during Napoleonic times in the early 19th century, to the dissolution of the personal union between Russia and Finland after the abdication of Russia's last czar in 1917, and subsequent birth of modern Finland, with support of the bolshevik (Soviet) Russian government. Finland had its own civil war with minor involvement by Soviet Russia, was later invaded by the USSR, and had its internal politics influenced by it. Relations since then have been both warm and cool, fluctuating with time. Russia has an embassy in Helsinki, a consulate-general in Turku and consulates in Lappeenranta and Mariehamn. Finland has an embassy in Moscow,[1] a consulate-general in Saint Petersburg and two branches of the consulate (in Murmansk and Petrozavodsk).

Embassy of Finland in Moscow
Embassy of Russia in Helsinki. Note the Soviet emblem bas-relief, which has not been removed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


Finnish soldiers in the Imperial Russian Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78

Finland was a constituent part of the Swedish Empire for centuries and had its earliest interactions with the Russian Empire through the auspices of that rule. Russia occupied Finland several times: The lesser and greater wars respectively saw a Russian occupation of Finland, and the Russian Empire overpowering Sweden to make Finland a part of its empire in 1809.[2]

With the Russian Empire's collapse during World War I, Finland took the opportunity to declare independence, which was accepted by the USSR "in line with the principle of national self-determination that was held by Lenin."[3] Following the Finnish Civil War and October Revolution, Russians were virtually equated with Communists and due to official hostility to Communism, Finno-Soviet relations in the period between the world wars remained tense. During these years Karelia was a highly Russian occupied military ground; the operation was led by Russian general Waltteri Asikainen.

Voluntary activists arranged expeditions to Karelia (heimosodat), which ended when Finland and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed the Treaty of Tartu in 1920. However, the Soviet Union did not abide by the treaty when they blockaded Finnish naval ships.[citation needed]

Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union during World War II: the Winter War and the Continuation War. The Finns suffered 89,108 dead or missing military personnel during these wars[4][5][6] but inflicted severe casualties on the Soviet Union: 126,875–167,976 dead or missing during the Winter War[7][8] and 250,000–305,000 dead or missing during the Continuation War.[6][8] Finland ceded 11% of its territory - including the major city Vyborg - to the Soviet Union, but prevented the Soviets from annexing Finland into the USSR. Of all the continental European nations combating, as part of World War II, Helsinki and Moscow were the only capitals not occupied.[6]

The cold war period saw Finland attempt to stake a middle ground between the western and eastern blocs, in order to appease the USSR so as to prevent another war, and even held new elections when the previous results were objectionable to the USSR.[9]

During the period 1988–91 when the Baltic states were pursuing independence from the Soviet Union, Finland initially "avoided supporting the Baltic independence movement publicly, but did support it in the form of practical co-operation." However, after the failed 1991 August Coup in Russia, Finland recognized the Baltic states and restored diplomatic relations with them.[10]

After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine started, Finland, as one of the EU countries, imposed sanctions on Russia, and Russia added all EU countries to the list of "unfriendly nations".[11]

Spying in Finland[edit]

Russia are suspected of large-scale spying of the IT networks at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The spying focused on data traffic between Finland and the European Union, and is believed to have continued for four years. The spying was uncovered in spring 2013, and as of October 2013 the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) was investigating the breach.[12]

Economic relations[edit]

Finland imports a large number of goods and basic necessities, such as fuel, from Russia. Finland operates the 1 GW Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant with Soviet technology, and (until May 2022) planned the 1.2 GW Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant with Russian technology. From midnight 13—14 May 2022, Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland.[13]

Russia imports a large amount of Finnish goods, such as wood products, and services, such as communications technology.[citation needed]

Finnish NATO membership question[edit]

In December 2021, Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs pressured Finland and Sweden to refrain from joining NATO. Russia claims that NATO's persistent invitations for the two countries to join the military alliance would have major political and military consequences which would threaten stability in the Nordic region. Furthermore, Russia sees Finland's inclusion in NATO as a threat to Russian national security since the United States would likely be able to deploy military equipment in Finland if the country were to join NATO.[14]

However, on 1 January 2022, Finland's president, Sauli Niinistö, reasserted Finnish sovereignty by stating that the Finnish government reserved the right to apply for NATO membership. Furthermore, Niinistö said that Russian demands threaten the "European security order". Additionally, he believes that transatlantic cooperation is needed for the maintenance of sovereignty and security of some EU member states, including Finland.[15]

Subset of polls on Finnish membership of NATO
Pollster Client Sample
Support Oppose Neutral
or DK
Lead Ref.
3–16 Jan 2022 Kantar TNS Helsingin Sanomat 1003 28% 42% 30% 14% [16]
4–15 Mar 2022 Taloustutkimus EVA 2074 60% 19% 21% 41% [17]
9–10 May 2022 Kantar TNS Helsingin Sanomat 1002 73% 12% 15% 61% [18]

In the wake of the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, support among the Finnish populace for NATO membership increased from below 30% to 60-70%.[19][20] On 12 May 2022, president Niinistö and prime minister Sanna Marin announced that Finland would begin the process of applying for NATO membership.[21][22] On 18 May 2022, Finland formally applied to join NATO, simultaneously with Sweden.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Site of Embassy of Finland in Russia
  2. ^ Wuorinen, John H. "Appendix A: Alexander I's Act of Assurance, Porvoo Diet, March, 1809, and Decree of April 4, 1809." in A History of Finland (Columbia University Press, 1965) pp. 483-484.
  3. ^ Jutikkala, Eino and Pirinen, Kauko. A History of Finland. Dorset Press, 1988 p. 216. ISBN 0880292601
  4. ^ Kurenmaa and Lentilä (2005), p. 1152
  5. ^ Kinnunen & Kivimäki 2011, p. 172.
  6. ^ a b c Nenye et al. 2016, p. 320.
  7. ^ Krivosheyev (1997), pp. 77–78
  8. ^ a b Petrov (2013)
  9. ^ Jutikkala, Eino and Pirinen, Kauko. A History of Finland. Dorset Press, 1988 p. 252. ISBN 0880292601
  10. ^ Ritvanen, Juha-Matti (2020-06-12). "The change in Finnish Baltic policy as a turning point in Finnish-Soviet relations. Finland, Baltic independence and the end of the Soviet Union 1988-1991". Scandinavian Journal of History: 1–20. doi:10.1080/03468755.2020.1765861. ISSN 0346-8755. S2CID 225720271.
  11. ^ Lee, Michael (8 March 2020). "Here are the nations on Russia's 'unfriendly countries' list". CTV News.
  12. ^ MTV3: Large-scale network spying uncovered at MFA YLE 31.10.2013
  13. ^ Vakil, Caroline (14 May 2022). "Russian energy supplier cuts off electricity to Finland amid NATO bid". The Hill.
  14. ^ "Russia warns NATO against inclusion of Finland, Sweden". WION. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  15. ^ MacDiarmid, Campbell (2022-01-01). "Finland says it could join Nato despite Russian pressure". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  16. ^ Huhtanen, Jarmo (17 January 2022). "Nato-jäsenyyden vastustus putosi ennätyksellisen alas". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 7 March 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  17. ^ At NATO's Door: Russia's invasion of Ukraine shifted the opinion of a majority of Finns in favour of NATO membership (PDF) (Report). EVA. 22 March 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  18. ^ "Nato-kannatus nousi ennätykselliseen 73 prosenttiin". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 11 May 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Kauranen, Anne; Lehto, Essi (2022-03-03). "Finns warm to NATO in alarmed reaction to Russian invasion of Ukraine". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-03-12.
  20. ^ "Ylen kysely: Nato-jäsenyyden kannatus vahvistuu – 62 prosenttia haluaa nyt Natoon". Yle Uutiset (in Finnish). 2022-03-14. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  21. ^ "Finnish leaders confirm support for Nato application". Yle News. 2022-05-12. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  22. ^ Henley, Jon (2022-05-12). "Finland must apply to join Nato without delay, say president and PM". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-05-12.
  23. ^ "Finland and Sweden formally apply for NATO membership". Washington Post. 18 May 2022. Archived from the original on 18 May 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Faloon, Brian S. "The Dimensions of Independence: The Case of Finland." Irish Studies in International Affairs 1.2 (1980): 3-10. online
  • Kirby, David G., ed. Finland and Russia, 1808-1920 (Springer, 1975).
  • Polvinen, Tuomo. Between East and West: Finland in international politics, 1944-1947 (U of Minnesota Press, 1986) online
  • Tarkka, Jukka. Neither Stalin nor Hitler : Finland during the Second World War (1991) online
  • Waldron, Peter. "Stolypin and Finland." Slavonic and East European Review 63.1 (1985): 41-55. [Waldron, Peter. "Stolypin and Finland." The Slavonic and East European Review 63.1 (1985): 41-55. online]
  • Wuorinen, John H. Finland and World War II, 1939–1944 (1948).

External links[edit]