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Book Review: Suuri viha. Stalinin suomalaiset uhrit 1930-luvulla

Auvo Kostiainen

Hannu Rautkallio. Suuri viha. Stalinin suomalsiet uhrit 1930-luvulla. Helsinki-Porvoo-Juva: WSOY, 1995. Pp. 285, with pictures.

The opening of the former Soviet archives for foreign and native researchers has been a box of treasures for many historians. Hannu Rautkallio, himself a very productive researcher in recent years, has been "digging" in the treasure box. The topic he has written about is very interesting and painful for many Finns because of the deaths which the Finns (and many other nationalities) suffered in the Soviet Union during the Stalin terror.

The topic of Rautkallio's book is most important. However, it is not the first, since even during the Soviet period many Western scholars tried to research the party purges, liquidations and related topics with the help of mostly non-Soviet materials. Also many ex-Soviet refugee scholars touched the topics of nationality development in many cases dealing partly with their own life experiences. In the West also a large number of memoirs and descriptions have dealt with the fate of minorities during the years of the great purges and liquidations of Stalin's opponents.

Suuri Viha starts with general background: the building of Soviet Karelia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Then follows the description of the creation of "Finnish-dominated Soviet Karelia" with Edward Gylling and other Red refugees from Finland's Civil War of 1918 serving as leaders. Other Reds arrived from Finland to join the illegal migrants of the early 1930s. A special group of people who came were the North American Finns, totaling about 6000 persons. Rautkallio gives them a minor role in his book.

The main focus of Rautkallio's book is the process where the Soviet Secret Police, OCPU (later NKVD), controlled economic development and how the liquidations and purges started among Finns in Soviet Karelia and other areas in the Soviet Union. Accusations were usually stated as "Anti-Soviet spying" or "bourgeois nationalism" or "sabotage." There is not very much new information in this section since other researchers such as Kero, Kostiainen, and Irina Takala of Petrozavodsk have already touched the same problems. Also several American Finns have printed their memoirs of the Soviet Karelian experience (for example, Mayme Sevander and Lawrence and Sylvia Hokkanen).

The newest information is the description of the process of liquidations. According to Rautkallio's study, the main personalities in the process were the famous communist-refugee O.W. Kuusinen, who at that time worked in Moscow for the Comintern, and his "servant" Arvo Poika Tuominen. Rautkallio describes their active role and how the Secret Police unraveled the "anti-Soviet" Finns first in the Soviet Karelian areas and soon after that in Leningrad. In that city, according to Rautkallio's findings, it was Tyyne Tokoi who according to Moscow's orders (i.e. Kuusinen) prepared the local communist Finns for liquidation. It was typical for many communists like Tyyne Tokoi that after she had completed her task in the liquidation process, she herself disappeared in the Siberian labor camps. Tyyne Tokoi was the daughter of Oskari Tokoi, the great senator from pre-independent Finland and minister of the Red government in Finland. He also led the Murmansk Legion, and lived in exile in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he edited Raivaaja for decades.

How many Finns were killed in the raids and liquidations? It seems that in the Karelian areas the number might rise to 15,000 and the total number of all the Finns killed in the 1930s to 25,000-30,000 according to Rautkallio. However, the final numbers are yet to be determined. Practically all the members of the Finnish Communist Party in the Soviet Union, perhaps 500 persons, were killed. Only a few officials stayed alive. Kuusinen and Tuominen, of course, survived.

There are some faults in Rautkallio's analysis of the destruction of the Finns. For example, he devotes very little attention to the treatment of other Finns in the country: there were probably more than 13,000 Finns altogether. And there is hardly anything on the deportations and fate of the Ingrians, or as some call them, Ingrian Finns. References to the killings, liquidations and destinies of other national groups are minimal. The fate of the Russian national group needs still much more examination. And when there is more information on many small nationalities, the picture of Stalin's terror towards nationalities will be more clear. But to concentrate almost totally on the Soviet Karelian and Communist Party Finns is somewhat misleading. The Communist Party files from the Moscow archives have overwhelmingly directed Rautkallio's research. And in many places in the study the text looks more like a repetition of party archives, folders and documents.

Rautkallio is unconventional in presenting documentation for his arguments, and this is one of the problems in the book. The text is written without any clear reference to sources. The documentation is found in detail in a special section at the end of the book. However, it is often very difficult to find out which argument in the text is based on which one document or source which is presented at the end.

It is a fact that Rautkallio's book deals with a very important topic. He has had available extraordinary sources, and apparently help from a group of people in Moscow. Thus he has been able to find many details not known thus far. Rautkallio's view, however, is too narrow in the sense of considering the fate of all the Finnish people, and other national groups. His understanding of Soviet history as a whole seems superficial. The fate of the Finns should be better connected to the history of the whole of the USSR. In this sense, the book seems only partly finished. This feeling is strengthened by the large number of printing errors and many minor factual place-name and person-name errors. The publisher last autumn said that there will be a whole series of books by Rautkallio on the topic. I hope the books that follow Suuri Viha will be more complete. The Great Hatred is only halfway to the final picture of the liquidation of the Finns in the Soviet Union.

Published in Finnish Americana, 11(1995-1996), p. 45-46.

© Auvo Kostiainen

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