(see 24 November update, below)
“Putin has given the children of Karelia not a summer camp or a sanatorium (none remain in the republic), nor a polyclinic for children — not one has been built during the past 20 years — but a concentration camp,” writes Emilia Slabunova, Yabloko deputy in the Karelian republic’s legislative assembly.
Vatnavolok village, Kondopoga district
As reported on television, a replica of the wartime camps set up by the occupying Finns has been built to recreate the life and daily existence of their under-age internees [during the Continuation War, 1941-1944]. Children from Karelian schools will be brought on “patriotic weekend” visits to the camp in the village of Vatnavolok (Kondopoga district). The funding for its construction comes from a presidential grant to an organisation that, according to its statutes, was set up to help deprived children.
A quarter of Karelia’s children are from families with incomes below the national minimum, comments Slabunova, while the republic in Russia’s northwest has more sick children than all but one other of the country’s 80 plus regions: so much for the president’s recently declared Ten Years of Childhood!
Leftover film props
In 2019 “Vesuri”, a film about under-age wartime detainees in Finnish occupied Karelia, was shown on local TV. It was filmed in summer 2018 and funded by the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and the Cinema Fund; the two organisations provided 30 million roubles, but since the film was not widely shown it only earned 75,000 roubles.
The scenery created for the film was left in a stone quarry near Sopokha village and locals quietly began to use the materials for construction. Natalya Abramova of the Open Possibilities Foundation (Petrozavodsk) suggested that the barracks be moved to a site more suited to tourism and received a 2.8 million rouble grant for that purpose from the RF President. At several proposed sites the local inhabitants objected, including the final location of Vatnavolok (Aitniemi).
“It is not our intention, for example to condemn the Finnish side,” Abramova told Yle News (Finland). “Our task is to talk about history as truthfully as we can, not accusing anyone in particular, but condemning war itself because the civilian population suffers during military conflicts. We want to show that war should not happen again.”