Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Karelian Fever: Idealistic Americans Suffer under Soviet Rule

From the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and from the time of the founding of the USSR in 1922, a small but steady stream of well-intentioned people from both Canada and the United States migrated to Russia, hoping to establish a communist utopia.

That stream continued over the decades.

One demographic segment within this trend was a group of Finns. People had migrated from Finland to both Canada and the U.S., settling and establishing homes and families.

After living in North America for many years, some of these immigrants, and some of their children, formed a movement known as ‘Karelian Fever.’ They migrated back to Finland, where they intended to build a socialist society.

Fueled by visions of economic justice, they did not understand that Soviet propaganda was manipulating them. The communists in Russia and in Finland saw the idealistic migrants as cheap labor.

Finland was not on good terms with the USSR. After the 1917 revolution, Finland, a former Russian possession, declared its independence from Russia. Military conflict resulted as the Finns asserted their autonomy.

Although Finland was opposed to the Soviet Socialists, there was a significant minority of communists and socialists within Finland.

When the Finns from North America arrived in the USSR and in Finland in the 1930s, hoping to build a socialist paradise, they did indeed work diligently. But Stalin did not believe that they were trustworthy, having lived in North America.

Ultimately, Stalin chose to eliminate most of them, as history John Earl Haynes reports:

The tragic end to Karelian Fever might be worth some attention. In the early 1930s, thousands of idealistic Finnish Americans and Finnish Canadians migrated to the Soviet republic of Karelia to help construct communism. Estimates vary from at least 4,000 to as many as 10,000 of these migrants. Most had been born in Finland, migrated to North America, and then migrated back eastward to Karelia. But in their second migration they took with them their children who had been born and raised for some time and in the USA and Canada.

Stalin was paranoid. His secret police fabricated false allegations, arrested many of the Finns, and executed most of them.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, archeologists discovered mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Finns. They had been executed by firing squad, starved to death, or died of disease in internment camps.

Many of these victims were U.S. citizens. The USSR’s actions in this case constituted an act of war. Questions remain about the degree to which the U.S. government was aware of the situation and why it failed to respond in any significant way.