In the Second World War, Finland sided with Nazi Germany to launch a surprise attack on the Soviet Union from the north and occupying the Karelian-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic (KFSSR). As a result, 14 concentration camps were established.
Last week the FSB (former KGB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency) declassified documents from the national archives of Russia’s northern region of Karelia.
According to Sputnik, the documents revealed details of atrocities and torture exacted upon prisoners of Finnish concentration camps.
On Monday, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced that it would look at Finland’s actions during the so-called Continuation War (1941-1944) based on the newly declassified documents.
The committee said in the press release that it would be investigating "genocide of the civilian population of the Karelian-Finnish Soviet Republic on racial grounds" under article 357 of the Russian penal code.
Russia claimed that living conditions, food supply and working conditions did not meet the conditions required for sustaining life and as a result thousands of people died in the "concentration camps".
Not ethnic cleansing
According to Ilta-Sanomat, the publication of declassified archival documents was widely reported in Russia's leading state media.
Jussi Nuorteva, the Director General of the National Archives, talked to Ilta-Sanomat and said, “Finland did segregate based on ethnicity in the camps but the wartime authorities’ actions could not be regarded as ethnic cleansing.”
Finnish historian Ville Kivimaki estimated that 50,000 civilians had gone through the camps between 1941 and 1944, and over 4,200 never left.
According to Yle, Antti Laine, an academic specializing in the occupation of eastern Karelia, said it is not surprising or new that Russia is investigating what it calls a ‘genocide’.
"It’s an age-old story, which bubbles up in a similar way from one year to the next. It is about the Soviet Union’s fight against fascism, in which Finland was the fascist enemy," said Laine.
He added, "This is part of a process that is linked to the strengthening of powers in conjunction with the recent constitutional changes. It goes with Putin’s move to seek another term in office. In general it is linked to the current political situation in Russia: there is a rewriting of history going on right now."
The head of the Committee of Inquiry of the Russian Federation is Alexander Bastrykin but the body operates directly under President Vladimir Putin.
Following the war, the KFSSR was dissolved and the region was incorporated into the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.