Letters from Russia | According to the governor of Karelia, Sortavala should no longer be called Sortavala – This is how Karelians reacted to the proposal for a Russian name

The intersection of three roads in the Republic of Karelia in Ruskeala, from where it is 30 kilometers to Sortavala.

Ivan follows the current initiatives of the Governor of the Republic of Karelia.

Qthe authorities of Arjala have recently shown great activity in spreading Kremlin propaganda, and the governor of the Republic of Karelia appears to be particularly active Artur Parfenshikov.

He posts diligently on VKontakte, where even his profile picture sums up the message. Parfenšikov’s own picture is combined with the patriotic Yrjön ribbon, which reads: “Karelia, forward!”

The Governor of the Republic of Karelia, Artur Parfenshikov, photographed in St. Petersburg in 2019.

Examples of Parfenshikov’s posts where he presents his z-patriotic projects:

When one of Karelia’s sons falls, the governor offers public condolences: on September 20, condolences went To Petrozavodsk19th day to Petrozavodsk and To Karhumäki (total of four fallen).

When one of the Karelians “excels in a special operation”, the governor awards a reward.

Most recently, on Thursday, September 21, the governor’s office awarded National Guardsmen who “distinguished themselves in a special military operation.” On September 18, the Parfenshikov administration awarded the families of the participants of the “special military operation” in Kontupohja. On the same day was revealed commemorative plaque in memory of a soldier who died in a “special military operation” at Aunus’ school.

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Shortly before this, the governor had a story about Karelian doctors who went “to new areas to help”.

At the end of August, when Parfenshikov organized a celebration for Karelian soldiers who returned from a “special operation” in Ukraine and awarded them with “Medals of Courage”, he also shared his views on why Karelian soldiers visit (and kill and die) in Ukraine: “Today our soldiers and officers are defending real Russian territories, historical memory and traditions.”

Aleksandr Bogdanov (right) was one of the soldiers who received the “Medal of Courage” from Governor Artur Parfenshikov.

After the event, an article was published on the official website of the Republic of Karelia, quoting Parfenshikov’s speech more extensively.

It is interesting that he used the name of the war “the conflict in Eastern Ukraine” and otherwise spoke as if the hostilities were only in the Donbas region. The governor thanked the soldiers who “performed combat duties” as “volunteers” in Donbas “for months”.

From the point of view of Finns, it is probably equally interesting that in the same context he made a proposal for the name of the town of Sortavala.

SUomi is now an “unfriendly country” according to official Russia, and Governor Parfenshikov suggested , that Sortavala would be renamed Serdabol. Serdobol was the Russian name of the city in the years 1721–1918.

The residents of Karelia have generally reacted positively to the posts related to the governor’s “military special operation”. Villagers and perhaps friends and acquaintances of the soldiers write comments under the award and death news, such as:

“We are proud!”

“God bless our soldiers!”

“Our condolences.”

But the residents of Laatoka beach did not agree with the governor’s proposal for a name change.

Russification of the name in Sortavala’s VKontakte group was opposed with the crowd. There were quickly more than a hundred comments under the news, most of which were angry.

“We live in Sortavala, and I have no intention of moving to Serdobol,” wrote one.

“WHY??? Is there nothing else to do, where to put the money? Better build homes, use this money to clean up and develop the city,” commented another.

One responded by asking, “What exactly are these people in power up to?” He continued: “They have come up with a strange problem – restoring old or long-forgotten names to places. Are things so good for us in Karelia now?”

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One succinct comment in support of Parfenshikov appeared among the crowd: “Finnish names can be changed. Finns are now enemies!”

Parfenshikov himself has remained silent on the subject since his opening. It may be that the residents’ squeamishness has reached the governor’s ears.

But he can certainly take new initiatives.

Parfenshikov already in the spring suggested Russification of Kurkijoki village to Kirjaž. For Finns, Kurkijoki is perhaps familiar with the second president of Finland Lauri Kristian Relander as a place of birth.

It is unclear what kind of willingness there is to change the names within the administration and what is still ahead.

Letters from Russia In the series, Mihail, who has escaped from St. Petersburg, Jan from Moscow, and Ivan, who works in Karelia, Russia, write for Helsingin Sanomat. Their real names are not published for security reasons. Work as an independent journalist is a threat to authors, which can lead to arrest or imprisonment in Russia. Stories are compiled and information acquisition is also done in HS’s editorial office. Production and editing: Tuija Pallaste / HS

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