Finnish–Russian border

The easternmost point of Finland is the western part of an island in Lake Virmajärvi, divided by the border. The white and blue striped pole on the left represents the Finnish border zone, while the red and green striped pole on the right represents the Russian border zone. The short white pole in the middle marks the actual border.
Border zone signs in Paljakka (fi).

The Finnish–Russian border is the roughly north/south international border between Finland and Russia. Some 1,340 km (833 miles) long,[1] it runs mostly through uninhabited taiga forests and sparsely populated rural areas, not following any particular natural feature or river.[2] It is also part of the external border of both the Schengen Area and the European Union.

Border crossings are controlled and patrolled by the Finnish Border Guard and Border Guard Service of Russia, who also enforce border zones (0.1–3 km on the Finnish side,[3] at least 7.5 km[citation needed] on the Russian side). Entry to a border zone requires a permit. The electronic surveillance on the Finnish side is concentrated most heavily on the "southernmost 200 kilometers" and is constantly growing in sophistication.[4] Russia maintains its 500-year-old border patrol in the arctic region as elsewhere and plans to upgrade Soviet border technologies to both save on cost and to fully maximize the efficiency of the Border Service by the year 2020. But Lieutenant-General Vladimir Streltsov, deputy head of the Russian border service, noted that electronic surveillance will never replace the human element.[5]

The border can be crossed only at official checkpoints, and visas are required. Major border checkpoints are found in Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa (fi), where customs services on both sides inspect and levy fees on imported goods.

The two endpoints of the border are a tripoint of Norway, Finland, and Russia (69°03′06″N 28°55′45″E / 69.05167°N 28.92917°E / 69.05167; 28.92917 (Muotkavaara tripoint)) in the north on Muotkavaara, and the shore of Gulf of Finland, in which there is a maritime boundary between the respective territorial waters, terminating in a narrow strip of international waters between Finnish and Estonian territorial waters.


Old Finland, transferred to the Grand Duchy in 1812.
Treaty of Tartu in 1920: Repola and Porajärvi, occupied by the Finnish government, were returned to the Soviet Union, while Petsamo was gained by Finland.
Territorial losses of Finland to Soviet Union in conclusion to World War II; Porkkala was returned in 1956.

The first border treaty concerning this border was signed in Nöteborg in 1323, between Sweden (to which Finland belonged) and the Novgorod Republic. The Treaty of Teusina moved the border eastbound. The Treaty of Nystad in 1721 and the Treaty of Åbo in 1743 moved the border westward. However, after the Finnish War, the Treaty of Fredrikshamn converted all of Finland from Swedish territory to a Russian possession, the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Finnish–Russian border was moved back to the pre-1721 location, so that the Grand Duchy gained the so-called "Old Finland", territories previously held by Sweden, in 1812.

After Finland became independent in 1917, there was the Finnish Civil War in 1918, and even after this war, the Russian Civil War continued. Finnish activists often crossed the border into Soviet territory in order to fight in the "heimosodat", wars aiming at Finnish ethnic self-determination and possible annexation into Finland. However, this came to an end in 1920, when the Russian/Finnish Treaty of Tartu in 1920 defined Finland as independent and demarcated the countries' common border. However, Finnish fighters would still take part in the East Karelian uprising and Soviet–Finnish conflict of 1921–22. Finally, the Finnish government closed the border from the volunteers and food and munitions shipments in 1922.

The land border was later demarcated in the Treaty of Paris (1947) following the Continuation War (1941–44), in which Finnish Karelia, including Finland's second-largest city Viipuri, parts of Salla and Petsamo were ceded to the Soviet Union. The new border cut through Finnish territory proper, severing many rail lines and isolating many Karelian towns from Finland. The Soviet Union demanded emptying the territories first. Finns were evacuated from the area and resettled elsewhere in Finland; almost nobody was willing to stay. The areas were resettled by Russian immigrants. The Porkkala naval base was leased by the Soviet Union, but returned to the Finnish government in 1956. The naval border was established in 1940 and more accurately defined in 1965.

The border is uncontroversial and clearly defined by law.[6] Both states verified the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity in the first Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1975.

During the Cold War, the border constituted part of the perimeter of the Iron Curtain. Crossing the border was not possible for much of its length. Only a very limited number of border crossing points existed, and the Soviet government permitted only escorted trips to select cities; border zones were off limits to tourists.[7] There was little contact between cities that were relatively close to each other on opposite sides of the border, such as Imatra and Svetogorsk. On the Finnish side, there was a border zone where entry was allowed only with a permit, but habitation was permitted and residents could continue living in the area. The Soviet side had extensive electronic systems and patrols to prevent escapes. Soviet border surveillance began at a great distance from the actual border, and was as extensive as elsewhere along the Iron Curtain. The first surveillance was already in railway stations in cities, where the militsiya monitored potentially suspicious traffic. The border zone began at 120 km from the border. A special permit was required for entry, and there was the first line of control with electronic alarms. At 60 km, there was a raked sand strip (to detect footprints) and a thin alarmed tripwire. At 20 km, there was a three-meter barbed wire fence, with a top that curved inwards towards Soviet territory. The fence had an electronic alarm system. However, it was not protected underground and tunnelling under it was possible. Finally, at the international border, there was a border vista. In the north, this was followed by a Finnish reindeer fence. However, unlike in the West proper, the government of Finland did not protect illegal border crossers but returned them to the Soviet authorities if captured. Illegal border crossers had to get through Finland to e.g. Sweden in order to defect to the West.[7]

In the Moscow Armistice signed on 1944 between Finland, Soviet Union and United Kingdom, a small peninsula towards the Gulf of Finland, Porkkala, was rented to Soviet Union as a military base. This created in effect a southern border crossing to the Soviet exclave, operating all the way to 1956. Border crossings were in Luoma (checkpoint) (fi) and Tähtelä (fi). In 1947, Finnish trains were allowed to pass through the base, but the passenger car windows were blinded and locomotive replaced while crossing through. Earlier between 1940–41, Soviet Union had rented Hanko Peninsula, Hangon vuokra-alue (fi), as a military base. Apparently there was also a border crossing to the exclave at the time.


In 2015, 9.1 million individuals crossed the border, half of which through Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa.[8]

Finland is the country that issues the most Schengen visas to Russians.[9]


On 26 November 1939, the Soviet Union's Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila, and blamed Finland. The Soviets used this false flag operation as the pretext to start the Winter War a few days later.

According to a Russian media report, Finland closed its Raja-Jooseppi (fi) border crossing with Russia, a counterpart to the Russian Lotta (checkpoint) (ru) border post, on 4 December 2015, an hour and a half before the day's scheduled closing time and thus prevented fifteen people of Mid-East origin from crossing the border. According to the same source, some Finnish border officials confirmed that Raja-Jooseppi had closed early that day while a spokesman for the same department said the checkpoint closed at its regular time of 2100 hours. Note the time zone difference between the checkpoints (Eastern European Time and Moscow Time), one hour in winter.

On 27 December 2015, it was reported that Finland had blocked access for people to cross over Russian border on bicycles via Raja-Jooseppi (fi) and Salla. Many asylum seekers had reported to have earlier crossed the border riding bicycles, however according to Finland, this measure was due to ensure safety on slippery roads.[10] However, it has been earlier reported that Finland is known of winter bicycling culture, and even Oulu has been named as the Winter Cycling Capital.[11] On 29 December it was reported that the main reason for banning the bicycles was not the road security, but to block the inflow of immigrants and that the original message of bicycle ban was due to lack of resources in the border office during holiday seasons. Furthermore, it was noted that the asylum seekers started to use cars instead of bicycles. Furthermore, Finnish press called the asylum seekers as illegal immigrants, dishonoring the UN Convention of Refugees. The Finnish Press noted also, that they suspect that this is a new trick of someone who organizes the asylum seekers flow.[12][13][14]

On 23 January 2016, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, member of the Finns Party was reported discussing at the northern border of Salla about inward "people smuggling", and noting that the conclusion that somebody at the Russian side was organizing and regulating the inflow of immigrants was in his mind apparently true. He further noted, that it is imminent that the process is an act of procession.[15] Furthermore, a communal representative of the same Finns Party noted, that the inflow of immigrants causes disturbance for Finns driving to the Russian side to purchase petrol, as the border stays stuck due to immigration proceedings.[16]

In March 2016, Finland and Russia announced that the Raja-Jooseppi border crossing at Inari and the Salla border crossing will be temporarily closed from third country nationals: only Finnish, Russian and Belarusian citizens are allowed to use these crossings for at least 6 months.[17]

List of border checkpoints

From north to south.

In addition, there are provisional border crossing points:

  • Haapovaara
  • Inari
  • Karttimo
  • Kurvinen
  • Leminaho
  • Parikkala
  • Ruhovaara
  • Imatra railway crossing point (Imatra–Kamennogorsk railway, freight only)

Of these, only Inari and Parikkala were actually used in 2015.[8]

Passport stamps

The following are Finnish ink passport stamps applied at the Finnish–Russian border.


  1. ^ Grenfell, Julian; Jopling, Thomas Michael (2008). FRONTEX: the EU external borders agency, 9th report of session 2007-08. House of Lords Stationery Office. p. 13. ISBN 0-1040-1232-3. 
  2. ^ []
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  4. ^ "Electronic surveillance grows at Russian border as border guard strength is cut". HELSINGIN SANOMAT INTERNATIONAL EDITION - HOME. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Borisov, Timofey (28 May 2012). "Shpion v tsifrovom formate". Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  6. ^ []
  7. ^ a b Timo Laine. Torakoita ja panssarivaunuja - Silminnäkijänä hajoavassa neuvostoimperiumissa. Tammi, Helsinki, 2014.
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External links