Strangers from the East - Narratives of Karelian Exiles and Re-Immigrants from Russia Regarding their Intergration in Finland


TITLE OF THE PROJECT: Strangers from the East − Narratives of Karelian Exiles and Re-immigrants from Russia Regarding their Integration in Finland (Academy of Finland. 2009–2012)

LEADER: PhD, Docent Outi Fingerroos

ABSTRACT: Research in the humanities has often been criticised for having little societal and practical significance. The aim of this project is to examine immigration into Finland from the east and the measures take by the Finnish authorities during the post-Second-World-War period. The examination will focus on evacuees from Karelia and on reimmigrants from Russia, and specifically on how their narratives open up a perspective of ‘other knowledge’ on the integration process. The project assumes that the measures taken by the authorities aimed at quickly integrating the immigrant groups, but that there were discrepancies in the treatment of the groups depending on their places of origin. Thus at their best, the official measures promoted the absorption of the immigrants into the main population, but at their most extreme they could lead to discrimination.

The project seeks to elucidate how the economic, communal, cultural and religious conditions that were important for the immigrants were taken into account at different times in integrating the immigrant groups: Which groups were treated better than others, and why did this happen? Above all, the project will explain how the immigrants themselves experienced factors affecting their own integration.

The most important general goal of the project is to produce information that will have societal influence and clear applicability. It aims to activate researchers into a mutual dialogue on subjects related to immigration (the Karelian evacuees and the Re-immigrants from Russia) into a strange country (Finland) after the Second World War. The questions posed by the research can be divided into two entities:

1. ‘Other knowledge’ as a key to questions of adjustment

The project will investigate the narratives that constitute the ‘other knowledge’ that opens up concrete perspectives in questions related to the adjustment of immigrant groups. The object is to produce information about questions of adjustment relating to immigration that can be used in work with immigrants. The questions asked by the researchers are: What is it like to live in a strange country? What is the ‘other knowledge’ on questions of adjustment like?

2. ‘Other knowledge’ as a tool for the producers of ‘official knowledge’ (the authorities)

The most important hypothesis of the project is that ‘other knowledge’ in the form of narratives offers a significant source of information about adjustment in a foreign country. The object of the project is to demonstrate that questions connected with immigration should be solved by using ‘other knowledge’ related to adjustment. ‘Other knowledge’ should also be valued in the same way as ‘official knowledge’, and its significance taken into account in the actions of the authorities. The researchers on the project ask: How do the nationality, ethnic background and relationship to the main Finnish population of an immigrant affect her or his treatment? Have questions regarding the settlement and integration of immigrants been given the same attention as the settlement of the Karelian evacuees in 1945 or the re-immigrants with Finnish roots in the 1990s? Have the same basic conditions − such as the right to land, work, housing and living − been applied as in the case of the Karelian evacuees and the re-immigrants? Have the authorities something to learn from the settlement measures that were applied in the 1940s?