Book Review | A large number of Finns were executed in Krasnyi Bor in Punakangas in 1937–38: Aimo Ruusunen’s non-fiction book also opens the lives and daily lives of victims

The journalist, Dr. Aimo Ruusunen, wrote a great book about the Krasnyi Bor massacre and its Finnish victims.

Nonfiction book

Aimo Ruusunen: The Finns of Punakangas. Place of execution and burial Krasnyi bor 1937–1938. Warelia. 144 s.

It was morning September 26, 1938 southeast of Petrozavodsk in Krasnyi Bor, Punakangas.

The Hongs lightly shadowed the cloth forest, the devoted silence of which was broken by the rattling trucks. On their stages, 72 Finns, five Karelians and two others were sentenced to death.

Most of these hard luck had been arrested in early 1938. Although the prisoners were human ruins ravaged by hunger, fear, and harsh interrogations, the flame of miraculous salvation still fluttered in the hearts of many.

Grace was requested but not given: shots echoed on the pine cloth, neck shots. One prisoner after another shortened to the ground, from where the bodies were dumped in a mass grave. The flowing blood stained the earth red.

In the following days, the terror intensified: on September 28, 126 Finns, 21 Karelians, two Russians and one Estonian were chartered to Krasnyi Bor. At the beginning of October, two more large-scale massacres were carried out, in the first of which 158 Finns were executed and in the second 175 Finns.

Great During the terror of 1937–1938, a total of 1,200 people were executed in Punakangas, of whom about 580 could be counted as Finns.

Although pine cloth was not the only killing ground for Finns in northwestern Russia, the proportion of Finnish victims was not as high in other major execution and burial sites.

In Sandarmoh, almost 200 more Finns were killed than in Krasnyi Bor, but there the Finns were only one nationality group among the Russians and others.

Aimo Ruusunen the nonfiction opens up the anatomy of the Krasnyi Bor massacre, but also the lives and daily lives of its victims. Ruusunen focuses his gaze on individual people and asks what made them move to Russia.

Aimo Ruusunen photographed at Oodi’s Gulag seminar in January in Helsinki.­

Finland was moved to the Soviet Union in three waves: at the end of the Finnish Civil War and soon after, at least 10,000 red refugees flowed east. Not all of them remained permanently in the Soviet Union, but thousands remained and often ended up building the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Karelia.

In the second wave, especially in the first half of the 1930s, 6,000 to 7,000 American Finns sailed to the Soviet Union.

The recession years in Finland in the early 1930s, the terror of the Lapua movement and Soviet propaganda gave rise to another large-scale migrant movement, the leap phenomenon. 15,000 or even 20,000 Finns fled east with salads in the hope of a better future.

When Ice-cold winds began to blow from Moscow in the mid-1930s, and Finnish immigrants were in distress. Many tried to escape across the border back to Finland, but it was usually late.

Finnish leaders of Soviet Karelia, Edvard Gylling and Gustav Rovio, was the first to be taken as an eye stick. Later, the human hunt also extended more widely to Finnish immigrants, who began to be sentenced in insane quick court sessions as counter-revolutionary, nationalists and secret agents of “Suomen Ohrana”.

Many of the Finnish victims in Punakangas were ordinary workers, such as lumberjacks and house builders from Kontupohja. Several came from southeastern, eastern and northern Finland. There were 23 women among the executed Finns.

Aimo Ruusunen’s background and personality appear on the pages of the book. The former Moscow correspondent of People’s News could be described, for example, as a one-man Memorial, an NGO that seeks to find out the names of victims of political persecution and save them from disappearance, from the oblivion of history.

At the end of the book, a matrix of Krasnyi Bor’s Finnish victims has been compiled. More information could have been gathered in a carefully compiled list of names and places of birth. The matrix is ​​based on Ruusunen’s long experience, if only two persecution investigators Yuri Dmitryev and Eila Lahti-Argutinan works.

As a researcher, Ruusunen strives for fairness and critical thinking. From time to time, however, he goes too far in his goal: it is well known that the Finnish Security Police Detective Central Police of the 1930s used and chased representatives of the radical left, but it is still not worth equating it with the Soviet secret police NKVD. There were also differences among the persecuted.

In style, Ruusunen’s book represents minimalism: there are not many pages and things, but they tend to be heavy and weighed.

The author leads the Finns in Russia 1917–1964 research project at the National Archives.

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