Imperial Russia never witnessed any specific positive interest to the formation of “alien” nations and the Karel national movement was no exception. Furthermore, attempts by a part of the White Sea Karels and Finns to incorporate Karels as a component of the developing Finnish nation triggered particular animosity. At the beginning of the 20th century the authorities promoted an ethnocultural myth according to which Karels were closer to Russians than Finns and, correspondingly, ought to become part of the Russian nation.

In comparison to these developments the conception of Soviet nationalities policy in Karelia, formed in 1920, was indeed revolutionary. The model selected then would have encountered most vicious counteraction in Imperial Russia. The leadership of Soviet Karelia, with Lenin’s full support and at least in the early 1920s with the support of the Soviet leadership as a whole, viewed Karels as a part of the Finnish nation, and it was only the political border between the Reds and the Whites that separated the two. The nationalities policy in Karelia was oriented towards this model and it was most successful exactly where it most corresponded to reality, namely in White Sea Karelia. Here the Russian language was replaced with the classical literary Finnish in all spheres of public life without any adaptation of the latter. In those regions where the conditions were more complicated, namely in Southern Karelia, the replacement of Russian with Finnish went on slower, albeit intensively enough.

In this sense, the processes that took place in Karelia in the 1920s–1930s can hardly be termed as formation of the Karelian nation. But the Soviet empire in this period can easily be called the creator of the united Great Finnish nation, although in practice this nation was divided into two parts by the border. The leadership of the Soviet Union and, in equal degree, that of Finland, showed no interest in this border becoming transparent. In both countries the real policy was aimed at the continued opposition with each other in the hope that the enemy will collapse in the future. The leadership of Soviet Karelia, insofar as it was allowed by available means, attempted to make the border more transparent but failed to achieve this goal.


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