The remains of the Red Army soldiers who died in Finland during the Soviet-Finnish War, Russian search engines are still unable to return home to be buried with honors. Why did our fighters become “irrevocable”, Rodina’s special correspondent found out?
In the summer of 2018, together with the search engines of the Arkhangelsk and Moscow regions, I went to Finland in search of the remains of the Red Army soldiers of the 9th Volunteer Ski Battalion. This Red Army division was almost completely destroyed here in February 1940 during the Soviet-Finnish war. My grandfather also fought in the battalion.
… Then, in 1940, conscripted skiers in white felt boots managed to fight for three days. They crossed the border and disappeared into the snowy Finnish forests. Units of the 9th battalion returned home, to the Arkhangelsk region. Relatives of the rest of the volunteers (including our family) only received notifications: “Disappeared”.
Five years ago, Russian search engines were actively assisted by the Finnish side: the president of the association for perpetuating the memory of the war dead Pertti Suominen, the Finnish explorer Ismo Mikkonen, the mayor of the city of Kuhmo Tutti Matte. And even the pastor of the Lutheran church, Timo Sutari, without bureaucratic ceremony later accepted the remains of 24 soldiers found during the expedition for deposit in the temple mortuary.
Pastor Tims Sutari at the site where a monument to Soviet soldiers was erected in 2019. Photo: Tatiana Sukhanovskaya
The fighters found in the Paloaho area, we buried them a year later near the place of their death. Thanks to the help of the government of the Arkhangelsk region and the Russian Military Historical Society, a monument to our soldiers was erected in Finland. And the rest decided to return home.
It was not possible to take everyone with them right away: to cross the border, it is necessary to prepare a package of documents, special transport. Since then, a monument to the participants in the Soviet-Finnish war has been erected in Arkhangelsk (with the possibility of burying undead soldiers), a monument to the dead has been erected, and funds have been found for a new trip to Finland.
Negotiations also continued. The Russian side offered Finland several options – both a new expedition and the transfer of the remains of the soldiers, at least on the border. But five years have passed, and the story of the return of our fighters continues to this day.
– We sent the last letter to the Finnish Association of the Fallen in War more than three months ago. But his leadership is silent. We assume that this is just such a position, because the association is supervised by the Finnish Ministry of Defense. Most likely, the silence is related to the country’s policy towards Russia, Alexei Buglak, Chairman of the Council of the Regional Branch of the Russian Military Historical Society in the Arkhangelsk region, told Rodina.
During exploration work in 2018. Photo: Tatiana Sukhanovskaya
Meanwhile, ordinary Finns treat the epic with the return of our fighters differently. For example, not long ago, the Arkhangelsk rangers received a letter from their Finnish colleague, Ismo Mikkonen: the search engine is optimistic and assures that we must continue to insist on the transfer of soldiers to Russia. By the way, Ismo also refers to existing laws, which no one has repealed in Finland.
– If Ukraine openly announced the termination of the agreements on the search for missing soldiers, the rest of the countries kept them. In a word, there is an agreement with Finland, but there is obviously no desire to fulfill it, – says Aleksey Buglak.
By the way, in one of the last letters, the Finnish side motivated the unwillingness to hand over our soldiers by the fact that it was not possible to determine the origin of the remains. For those who worked on the expedition, this is a strange argument. It is hard to imagine that a Finnish soldier ate from a Red Army soldier’s bowler hat, used his spoon, wore Soviet uniforms and Russian-made skis – all these “silent witnesses” were found among the remains of the fighters.
Installation of a monument to the fallen soldiers of the 9th Arkhangelsk separate ski battalion in 2019. Photo: Tatiana Sukhanovskaya
Neither the Finnish nor the Russian searchers have any doubts about the origin of the remains. However, the Finnish authorities offered to carry out an examination. But how to do this if the names of the soldiers are unknown? With whom to compare the DNA?
Motherland also said that during the expedition, search engines saw the Order of the Red Star in the museum of the Finnish city of Kuhmo: it lay between a cigarette case with the inscription “Nyura” and a detail of the dashboard of a Soviet bomber. . By the number in the order, it was possible to establish the name of the hero – it turned out to be Grigory Konev, who died on August 7, 1944 north of Kostomuksha during the offensive on the Karelian front.
By right of memory and inheritance, the award belongs to the relatives of the soldier, whom search engines managed to find in the Moscow region. But attempts to restore order to Russia are drowning in the drifts of silence from Finnish officials.
Meanwhile, more than a hundred Soviet soldiers lie in two sanitary burials near the city of Kuhmo. They were never buried in the ground according to all the laws of Memory. That does not have and cannot have nationality.