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Future Citizens or Useful Workforce? Finnish Immigrants and the Communist Party of Finland in Svirstroi, 1931–1934

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Authors:
Jesse Hirvelä PhD student (in political history), Researcher, The National Archives of Finland Helsinki Finland

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https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7823-1528
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Ira Jänis-Isokangas PhD (in history), Researcher, The National Archives of Finland Helsinki Finland

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https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4997-1417
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Abstract

This article focuses on the construction site of Svirstroi and the activities of its Finnish immigrant population and their supervisors. Due to illegal border-crossing, the immigrants had to serve their time in Svirstroi and became subordinates of the OGPU through forced labour. The organisation of work and political education of the illegal immigrants was delegated between the OGPU, the Communist Party of Finland, and the Bolsheviks who were all responsible for the immigrants and their fates.

Based on archival sources and letters of the immigrants, this article analyses how perceptions of labour, propaganda work, and freedom changed from the perspective of the immigrants and their supervisors. Moreover, this study highlights the role of the Communist Party of Finland as a mediator between the immigrants and the OGPU. The history of Finnish immigrants and communists sheds light on the role of cultural-political work and minority experiences within the Gulag system.

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