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The project work continued in Karelia

In July 4-5, 2003 in Petrozavodsk there took place a workshop of the workgroup of the "Monument of the Winter War" project.

The project is realised within the framework of the EU "Interreg 3A - Karjala" program.

The program co-ordinator in the Kajnuu region is Paavo Keranen, project leader - the director of "The Winter War museum" - Merko Seppanen, Russian co-ordinator - Pavel Razinov.

The project leaders, scientist and researches from Russia and Finland met at the workshop. They all met not for the first time. But the new faces also could be met: the Heard of the Leningrad Military Region Archives Mikhrat Musin and the head of the Russian Ministry of Defence North-West Region War History Institution Sergey Kovalev.

They did not come to the meeting just occasionally. The culmination of the project was the ceremonial opening of the Monument to the Finnish and Soviet soldiers fallen in the Winter War that took place in Supmussalmi commune in March 13, 2003. The opening of the memorial made a great impression. Lots of people are coming there to see the "Open Embrace" monument and the Stone Field where 20 000 ordinary stones symbolise the fallen soldiers and to bow to all those who lost their life fulfilling their military duty. But now there came the time of the invisible, hard and laborious task to research the "white spots" in the history of this war where the main part is to make exact lists of all soldiers, fallen in this war. In Finland this problem is practically solved as they had the exact registration of all persons that took part in the actions. In Russia there is still a lot of uncertainties. Its impossible to think of - the additions to the lists of those fallen count thousands of names!

Today, when most documents are not secret any more its a high time to restore the names of all and every solder that lost his life at the battles near Suomussalmi in the cold winter of 1939-40. This work needs a real perseverance, devotion and psychological efforts. Most people were working by the call of their hearts. Now, with the assistance of the Finnish members of the project there came the possibility to start researchers outside Karelia. The two main divisions that took part in this sector during the Winter War were formed in Tula and Zhitomir. The project members with the financial assistance from Finnish side will go to those regions to work in the archives and to meet all those who remember or know something about those who did not return from that war.

The project activity that lasted already for full year raises the responses from the people of different countries. The project is widely covered in the press and presented on the professionally created WEB site "The monument to the Winter War". By the post and E-mail people are writing about the long lasted pains. The letters come even from the USA, Canada and Australia. The researches working on the project are getting the requests and questions from the children of those fallen, many are sending the extant documents. The words about the educational role of the project/ pronounced at the workshop were not just occasional. No one should be forgotten and the young generation should know the truth. There was also a decision not to make one-sided conclusions - that was a war that took too heavy a crop of young soldiers willing to live and to love.

Sergey Kovalev noted that this project ant the erected Monument are the first examples of the "peoples diplomacy", which influenced the revaluation and change of attitude to the events of the past from the side of historians, military and state officials in both countries.

Mirhat Musin noted the example of the activity of the government of the Leningrad region that shows the possibilities of use of the regional resources in fulfilling the presidential decree about the immortalising the memories of the fallen Soviet soldiers. On the name of the government of the Leningrad region and the Leningrad Military Region Archives he presented the project two volumes of the Book of Memory of the Finnish-Soviet War. The Book begins with the rhymes of Vladimir Simakov that seem to reflect the joint project work and the willingness of the two countries to leave in peace:

Beware, the mines are still in the thickets!
Russian and Finns are sleeping on the heavens.

Natalia KRASAVTSEVA
"Karelia" newspaper, N 61 of June 10th 2003,
Agency of the Cultural Information

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