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Treaty of Tartu (Russian–Finnish)

Coordinates: 58°22′35.1″N 26°42′37.2″E / 58.376417°N 26.710333°E / 58.376417; 26.710333

Treaty of Tartu
Russian: Тартуский мирный договор
Finnish: Tarton rauha
The Finnish-Russian border was decided in the Treaty of Tartu. Petsamo (in red) became Finnish, whilst Repola and Porajärvi (green) were handed back to Soviet Russia.
TypePeace treaty
Signed14 October 1920
LocationTartu, Estonia
Effective31 December 1920 (according to article 39 of the treaty)
Start of Winter War
Signatories Russian SFSR

The Treaty of Tartu (Russian: Тартуский мирный договор, Finnish: Tarton rauha) between Finland and Soviet Russia was signed on 14 October 1920 after negotiations that lasted nearly five months. The treaty confirmed the border between Finland and Soviet Russia after the Finnish civil war and Finnish volunteer expeditions in Russian East Karelia.

The treaty was signed in Tartu (Estonia) at the Estonian Students' Society building. Ratifications of the treaty were exchanged in Moscow on 31 December 1920. The treaty was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on 5 March 1921.[1]

Political BackgroundEdit

This turbulent time in Finnish and Russian politics influenced the events that led to the Treaty of Tartu. Prior to the Treaty of Tartu, Finnish political parties shifted their sovereign policies several times. In early 1917, the conservative party was split into two factions: The Old Finns and the Young Finns. The Old Finns wanted to keep ties to St. Petersburg close and argued against an independent Finland hoping not to agitate the Russian monarchy and further limit Finnish autonomy. The Young Finns differed in this regard as they promoted the idea of an independent Finland. The third major Finnish party were the leftist social-democrats. These social democrats also wanted to see a free and independent Finland.[2]

All of this changed in the matter of a short few months when the Bolsheviks took control of the country during the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks became an ally to the Finnish social democrats as they shared a general ideology. This changed the stance of the social democrats leading them to become pro-Russian. Meanwhile, the Old Finns, in disagreement with the Bolshevik policies became pro-independence. During the November 1917 election the coalition representing the pro-independence parties won the cabinet election and immediately moved to make Finland an independent nation.[3]

The move for independence upset the militant left and soon after the Finish Civil War began. The Bolsheviks fought with the Finnish left against the independent Finnish forces. The independent Finnish forces won out with the help of German and Swedish volunteers. The border between Russia and Finland became obfuscated as a result of the war.

Following the civil war, the Finnish government sought to seek additional security by forming ties with the Germans. This alliance was short lived with the defeat of the central powers during World War I. With Germany’s demise the Finnish government felt it best to turn to another power as an ally. The traditional history between Russia and Finland made it seem as though this would be the best option for an alliance, despite the difference in socioeconomic policies. The Treaty of Tartu was a launching point to mend the relationship.


The treaty confirmed that the Finnish-Soviet border would follow the old border between the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and Imperial Russia. Finland additionally received Petsamo, with its ice-free harbour on the Arctic Ocean. As far back as 1864, Tsar Alexander II had promised to join Petsamo to Finland in exchange for a piece of the Karelian Isthmus.[4] Finland also agreed to leave the joined and then occupied areas of Repola (joined to Finland during the Viena expedition) and Porajärvi (joined during the Aunus expedition) in Russian East Karelia. The treaty also included Finland handing over the contested region of North Ingria to Russia, thereby disbanding the short-lived Republic of North Ingria. The treaty also had some articles besides area and border issues, including Soviet guarantee of free navigation of merchant ships from the Finnish ports in Lake Ladoga (Laatokka in Finnish) to the Gulf of Finland via the River Neva. Finland guaranteed land transit from the Soviet Union to Norway via the Petsamo area. Also, Finland agreed to disarm the coastal fortress in Ino, opposite the Soviet city Kronstadt located on the island of Kotlin. The Finnish outer islands in the Gulf of Finland were demilitarized.

The treaty was subject to controversy first during the East Karelian Uprising 1921–1922 when the Finnish government allowed volunteers to take part in the conflict.

The treaty was finally broken by the Soviet Union in 1939, when it started the Winter War against Finland.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 3, pp. 6–79
  2. ^ Raun, Toivo (1990). "The American Historical Review". The American Historical Review. 95 (2): 526. doi:10.2307/2163860. JSTOR 2163860.
  3. ^ Brems, Hans (December 1971). "Great-Power Tension and Economic Evolution in Finland Since 1809". Journal of Economic Issues. 5 (4): 1–19. doi:10.1080/00213624.1971.11502994. ISSN 0021-3624.
  4. ^ Pieni tietosanakirja, [1] "The senate had suggested in 1863 that if the promise of handing over the weapons factory in question and its surrounding area to Russia could be realized, then the above mentioned coastal region could be given to Finland. In 1864 there were imperial statutes about that, but that never occurred." (translation from Finnish)

External linksEdit