Finnish civilians in the area occupied by the Soviet Union
There was not enough time to evacuate all the residents of the areas near the border before the Red Army’s invasion. At least 2,600 Finns were left behind in the occupied areas. The residents of the Karelian Isthmus and the outer islands in the Gulf of Finland were gathered in Terijoki. In the area north of Lake Ladoga, the residents were allowed to remain in their homes for a long time. In February, they were transferred to camps farther away from the front. In May, a little less than 2,400 civilians interned by the Soviet Union returned to Finland. Thirty-one of them were sentenced to imprisonment because of treasonous activities. At least 100 people died in the Soviet Union and approximately 100 remained there willingly.
The population of the area near the border between Lake Ladoga and the Arctic Ocean was not evacuated
In the area between Lake Ladoga and the Arctic Ocean, evacuation efforts were limited. Those who had evacuated voluntarily in October returned to their home regions at the end of November, when the schools reopened. The National Board of General Education announced on 28 November that schools would resume their activities. The mandatory evacuation of the area north of Lake Ladoga was limited.
When the Red Army launched its attack, there was not enough time to evacuate the population that lived near the border. The largest numbers of Finns left behind in areas occupied by Soviet troops were in the municipalities of Suojärvi (Suoyarvi) and Suomussalmi, with smaller numbers left in the areas of Kuusamo and Petsamo.
The residents of the occupied areas became citizens of the Finnish Democratic Republic
The Red Army gathered more than 70 people from the areas it had occupied on the Karelian Isthmus and the outer islands in the Gulf of Finland and relocated them to Terijoki (Zelenogorsk), the capital city of the Finnish Democratic Republic. The population of the occupied areas north of Lake Ladoga was initially allowed to remain there. Local administration was headed by Committees of the Working People’s Front, which were subordinate to the Finnish Democratic Republic. In practice, local Soviet authorities acted as the government’s intermediate echelons.
A little less than 2,400 people who had been left behind in the Soviet Union returned to Finland
The Finnish authorities did not have a clear picture of the size of the Finnish population that had been left behind in the areas occupied by the Soviet Union. According to statistics compiled by the authorities, a little less than 2,400 people were in time able to return to Finland. There is no detailed information available on the people who died in the Soviet Union. More than 1,900 of Suojärvi’s 15,000 residents were left behind in the area occupied by the enemy. More than 300 people were left behind in the occupied area of Suomussalmi, which had a population of a little under 10,500. More than 300 people were left in the Petsamo region.
The Finnish population was transferred to camps with primitive conditions in February
The Finnish citizens of the occupied area between Lake Ladoga and the Arctic Ocean were relocated from their home regions in February. They were transferred to camps that were set up for them farther away from the fronts. The able-bodied were forced to work there. They received a small salary in compensation. The camps had a shortage of food, and the conditions there were very primitive from the Finnish perspective.
2,080 people were interned on three camps
There were three camps. Some of the population of Suojärvi was interned in the Interposelok prison camp in the Pryazha area. Some of them were sent to the Kavgora-Gaymoya prison camp in the Kondopoga area, where some residents of Salmi were also interned. The third camp was the Kintezma prison camp in the area of Ukhta in the Kalevalsky District. This camp primarily housed Finns from the occupied area of Suomussalmi.
According to Soviet authorities, the total number of residents at the camp was 2,079 people (401 men, 583 women and 1,095 children under the age of 16). The Interposelok prison camp housed 1,329 people (194 men, 401 women and 734 children). The Kavgora-Gaymoya prison camp housed 411 people (94 men, 140 women and 267 children). A total of 270 people (114 men, 62 women and 94 children) lived at the Kintezma prison camp. However, the number of residents at these camps, added to the Finnish population of Terijoki, is still smaller than the total number of people returned to Finland.
The peace treaty did not specify the status of the Finnish people left behind in the Soviet Union
The status of the Finnish civilian population left behind in the occupied areas was not specified in the peace treaty that was signed on 12 March 1940. Their return to Finland was delayed, only taking place after the exchange of prisoners of war. The majority of the Finnish prisoners of war were returned by the end of April.
The Soviet government decided upon the terms for the Finnish civilians’ return to Finland on 4 May 1940
The negotiations regarding the civilians’ fate were prolonged. The Soviet Union’s representatives notified Finland of a decision made by its government on 4 May 1940 that defined the terms for the return of the interned Finns. Among other things, they stated that the Finnish citizens were permitted to travel to Finland before 1 June 1940. The Soviet authorities would need to ascertain their desire to travel to Finland. The places where the interned Finns would be handed over were announced on 17 May. They were Vainikkala, the railway station in Värtsilä (Vyartsilya), the village of Lonkka in Suomussalmi, and Petsamo.
The returnees were allowed to bring a limited amount of items
The heads of families and individuals without a family who returned to Finland by train were only allowed to bring 50 kg worth of items. The amount of items that family members could bring was
limited to 25 kilogrammes. Those who returned by horse and cart were allowed to bring more items. The returnees were not allowed to bring any of the rubles they had earned at the camp, and they could only bring up to 500 Finnish marks per person. The export of precious metals was also banned. However, each individual was allowed one ring.
The first returnees crossed the border to Finland on 25 May
The majority of the residents of Suojärvi, i.e. the 1,267 people interned in the Interposelok prison camp, were handed over to the Finnish authorities at the Kaurila Railway Station in Värtsilä. The next shipment of people, 490 Finns from the Kavgora prison camp, was handed over in Värtsilä on 30 May. The same day, the 73 Finns interned in Terijoki were handed over in Vainikkala. The 293 Finns from the Petsamo region and the 13 residents of the village of Kurtti in Salla were also handed over on 30 May. These 305 people were handed over at the Port of Liinahamari (Liinakhamari). The last shipment, 254 living and two deceased from the Kintezma prison camp, were returned in the area of the Lonkka Border Guard Station in Suomussalmi on 3 June. The two deceased individuals had died on the way from the camp to the border. The Finns brought 17 horses with them. The eighteenth had died on the way.
The returnees from the Soviet camps were quarantined and some were imprisoned in Finland
The returnees from the Soviet camps were placed under quarantine for two weeks upon their return to Finland. There the Finnish citizens, who had already endured many hardships, were interrogated by the state police. The most treason charges were filed against the residents of Suomussalmi who were under quarantine in Mieslahti. Twenty-six men and one woman were sentenced. With the exception of one man, all of them appealed the decisions of the Hyrynsalmi Hundred to the Vaasa Court of Appeal. The court of appeal mitigated some of the sentences. The punishments varied. The mildest punishment was seven years in prison and the loss of the individual’s civil and political rights for 10 years. The harshest punishment was 12 years in prison and the loss of the individual’s civil and political rights for 15 years. In all the other quarantine localities, only four individuals were sentenced in total. They were all from Suojärvi.
Over a hundred Finnish civilians died in the Soviet Union
According to information collected by Aune Lämsä, 19 residents of Suojärvi died during the occupation, while another 62 died during the internment and eight on the return journey to Finland. Another 17 people died of undernourishment and illness in Helsinki during the quarantine period. There is no detailed information available on the people of other municipalities who died in the Soviet Union.
At least approximately a hundred Finns stayed in the Soviet Union
At least 61 residents of Suojärvi, 35 residents of Suomussalmi and 4 residents of the Petsamo region stayed in the Soviet Union.
Additionally, three residents of Suojärvi were imprisoned in a Soviet camp and were not returned to Finland. Three of the residents of the Petsamo region were arrested in the Soviet Union.