NORMEMO autumn 2022 guest lecture: Victims on display. The instrumentalizations of the memory of Finnish concentration camps in the Russian Republic of Karelia

Olga Davydova-Minguet: Victims on display. The instrumentalizations of the memory of Finnish concentration camps in the Russian Republic of Karelia


Monument to the victims of the Fascist concentration camps in Peski cemetery in Petrozavodsk. Photo: Olga Davydova-Minguet 2019.


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The lecture analyses how the Second World War’s concentration camps organized by Finnish military administration have been present/ed in the public memory of the Russian Republic of Karelia. These camps were organized for the so-called non-national (i.a. Russian) population during the occupation of Karelia in 1941-1944 by the Finnish military administration. Approximately half of the population which remained in the republic after the evacuation in the autumn of 1941 did not belong to ethnicities which were considered by the occupants as close to Finns, such as Karelians and Vepsians. During the occupation, about 24 000 Russians were imprisoned, and about 4 000 died in the camps. After the war, the concentration camps and their prisoners were “forgotten” in the official public memory in Karelia, and the first memorial appeared only 25 years after the war. Still, during the Soviet era, this memory remained “peripheral”, as well as the image of Finland as an occupant.

In the post-Soviet period, this memory became an asset of the organization of former juvenile prisoners of the camps. Through making the memory of Finnish concentration camps visible in the city of Petrozavodsk, the organization participated in the “post-Soviet moral economy of guilt and debt” (Zhurzhenko 2018). The organization opposed neoliberal social reforms by bringing forward its members’ sufferings as victims of both Fascism (simultaneously equating Finns to Fascists) and the Soviet and Russian state (which didn’t recognize their “feat of survival” during the war). 

Since 2014, this memory entered official, state-controlled spaces and places, such as museums, exhibitions and state-aligned media. In 2017, a flamboyant memorial to the victims of concentration camps was constructed on the cemetery where they were buried; in 2019 a movie about the children of the camps was issued, and after that the scenery of the movie was erected in one of the Karelian villages as an educational centre for children. In these activities, the “ownership” of this memory shifted from the organization of juvenile prisoners to the actors conveying state memory politics, where Russia and Russians are presented as victims, not only as winners.


Olga Davydova-Minguet holds a professorship of Russian and border studies with the Karelian Institute of the University of Eastern Finland. Davydova-Minguet’s main research interests fall within the intersection of migration, cultural and transnational studies. She has studied immigration of Russian-speakers to Finland since the beginning of the 2000s. Recently, she has conducted three research projects, concentrating upon the transnational politics of memory in the border areas of Finland and Russia; the media use of the Russian-speakers in Finland; and the images of Russia in Finland. Her current main project delves into death practices among Russian-speaking immigrants in Eastern Finland, and the meanings of death in memory politics in the bordering Republic of Karelia in Russia and Eastern Finland.





Når: 25.08.22 kl 14.15–15.30
Hvor: Zoom / Aase Hiorth Lervik room, Breiviklia, UiT
Sted: Tromsø
Målgruppe: Studenter, Gjester / eksterne, Enhet, Ansatte
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