HS in Åland Åland urged to wake up to Russian threat – Mariehamn tell HS what it’s like to live right next to the Russian consulate

Yellow the wooden house is easy to spot from afar. There are other old wooden buildings along the Esplanade decorated with lime trees, but this is surrounded by a solid iron fence.

Mainland Finns may be surprised: in the yard, above all, the Russian flag flies.

The security situation in the Baltic Sea has intensified recently. Russian warships sailing across the sea attracted attention, and Sweden sent troops to the island of Gotland.

Professor Emeritus of Political Science living in Åland Göran Djupsund expressed in an HS interview this week that Åland should also be threatened by Russia.

However, Russia is already in Åland, albeit on a small scale.

Read more: Åland should wake up to Russia, says professor living on the island – This is how a Swedish researcher assesses the defense of the island

Read more: Russian warships leave the Baltic Sea, but new threats are likely to come: “Finland and partner countries have strengthened their defenses for this very purpose”

Russia established his consulate in Mariehamn in 1940, which we have now come to see.

The consulate’s responsibilities include overseeing the region’s disarmament, the so-called Moscow agreement said the same year.

Doctor of Political Science Jukka Tarkka has described the consulate’s original purpose as a “miniature-sized surveillance commission”. He no longer believes the consulate has much significance, which is why he has questioned its existence.

“It is a rather unbelievable situation that one region of sovereign Finland is under the control of the Russian Federation,” Tarkka told HS in 2020.

Like Finland, Åland was part of Russia for more than a hundred years. The Russians take credit for founding the city of Mariehamn, for example. The city was named after the emperor Alexander II’s wife, empress Maria Alexandrovnan by.

Read more: “It is an incredible situation that one region of Finland is under Russian control” – the new book describes Åland as a “loaded weapon”, not least because of the Russian presence

The consulate assists Russian residents and tourists in Åland, as well as business, according to its website. According to Statistics Finland, in 2020 there were about 160 people living in the region who speak Russian as their mother tongue.

Consulate must be viewed from the outside.

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Current consul Alexander Rogov began work in October 2020. HS asked him for an interview, but he refused, citing voluntary coronary quarantine.

Instead, Rogov suggested visiting his Instagram page, for example.

On Instagram, the consul has been quite active, albeit in the last year. He encouraged the Russians to vote and told of his meeting with the mayor of Mariehamn.

Otherwise, Rogov seems to keep a low profile. He posted a link to his most recent interview, though a year ago and containing only one quote.

“Compared to learning Finnish, Swedish seems pretty simple,” Rogov said Ålands Radio.

In Mariehamn Russia’s “presence” is taken calmly. They live next to the consulate Michael and Claudia Glandberger praise their neighbors.

“They are good neighbors. They have been in it forever, for a very long time, ”says Mikael Glandberger.

He says he always talks to the consul occasionally, mostly about the weather and the news. Claudia Glandberger, for her part, says she has never specifically thought about it.

Opposite the consulate on the other side of the Esplanade is an American-born Bryan Mead.

“No problem, no worries. I haven’t been inside myself, but my ex-wife went there for catering work. It’s a great house, ”Mead says.

Claudia and Mikael Glandberger live next door to the consulate. Mikael tells how linden alleys intersect in the city in the form of a cross. In the middle of the cross is a church.

Bryan Mead, who has lived in Åland since 1994, believes Russia needs a consul in the region, as “Russia is about half the world”.

Right in peace, however, the consulate cannot be covered. We ask the consul via text message if it would be appropriate for him to photograph the house with the small imaging helicopter we carry. He doesn’t answer at all.

As we talk to Mead, a police car turns on the road. One of the police officers says that he has already concluded that we are from Helsingin Sanomat.

“The consul is worried you’re going to fly the drone here,” he says.

It turns out that there are a lot of no-fly zones in Mariehamn where the imaging helicopter is not allowed to fly. A few hours later, the consul himself communicates the same.

Consulate existence can seem dramatic if one does not know the history of the matter or how long the consulate has been in Mariehamn.

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This is what the Åland Provincial Council, ie the head of the self-government board, says about the consulate Veronica Thörnroos. He is also the leader of the local center party.

Thörnroos himself has, in his own words, no relationship with the consulate, as foreign policy does not belong to Åland. He says the same about the situation in the Baltic Sea region. It is handled from Helsinki.

“The security situation in the Baltic Sea region has changed. The security situation has deteriorated, ”says Thörnroos. He lays out his words carefully.

“But foreign and security policy belongs to the state. We are not an active partner in discussions or negotiations. For our part, we try to monitor and keep an eye on the situation. ”

Finland has an obligation to defend Åland. Due to the demilitarized nature of the area, no permanent military structures or troops may be deployed.

Chief of Staff of the General Staff of the Defense Forces Janne Huuskon there are other means of defense than taking troops to the island.

Read more: Finland stepped up its preparedness – What does it mean?

Read more: Chief of Staff of the General Staff: Preparedness has been strengthened, the security situation is difficult to predict

Read more: Finland, like Sweden, has increased its military readiness, says the expert: “It’s just not common to talk about it”

Provincial Councilor Veronica Thörnroos strongly insists that foreign and security policy is a matter for the Finnish state, not Åland.

Of the Ålanders the majority follow the Swedish media, Thörnroos estimates. From Finland, Svenska Yle will be monitored at most.

In Sweden, the security policy debate has been lively. Debate on NATO, Gotland, Russia and the President Vladimir from Putin has been exceptional, wrote HS’s Stockholm correspondent Jussi Sippola this week.

Read more: In Sweden, the security policy debate has entered new rounds, but there is at least one difference compared to Finland

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“People closely monitor the security situation through the media,” Thörnroos says, referring to Sweden’s visible actions on Gotland.

“They know something’s going on, but I don’t think they’re scared.”

Thörnroos says he believes the Ålanders trust the president Sauli to Niinistö, which expressed its support for demilitarization and neutrality in October.

He also believes that the people have “strong confidence that the Finnish Parliament will be able to handle the situation”.

Read more: Putin and Niinistö had a “long and thorough” telephone conversation, Niinistö expressed serious concern

What do the neighbors of the consulate think? At least not the security situation in the Baltic Sea, they say.

“I think the general opinion is that people don’t see it as a big problem, even though maybe we should. This morning my Australian friend called and asked what was going on here and whether Russia was going to invade Finland and Ukraine, ”says Mikael Glandberger and laughs.

“In general, the people of Åland are a relaxed people, for better or worse. We don’t care very much about what’s happening outside our area. Everything works and we have almost no crime. ”

Presently Russia is unlikely to attack Åland or Gotland, says docent at the Swedish National Defense College, assistant professor Tomas Ries To HS earlier this week.

The Glandbergers and Bryan Mead say Russia’s attack on Åland would be stupid. And they do not consider President Putin stupid.

“She has a summer cottage in Åland, did you know that?” Glandberger asks.

The claim is perhaps a bit exaggerated but in itself true. The National Land Survey confirmed in 2014 that the Russian presidential administration owns a beach plot in the northern part of Åland.

If there is no Russian threat in the minds of the Ålanders, so what? Coronavirus, of course, just like in mainland Finland.

According to Mikael Glandberger, the pandemic has changed the minds of the islanders. We would like to decide more about our own affairs. Counselor Thörnroos also deplores the restaurant restrictions that have been decided in Helsinki.

According to Glandberger, the prime minister Sanna Marin yes, you know what is good for Helsinki and Turku, but not what is good for Mariehamn.

“It’s the only thing people complain about.”

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