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The Long Border

Finland shares with Russia the second longest border among the countries of EU, some 1340 km. Finland became independent from Russia 100 years ago when, in 1917 took advantage of the so called “Russian October’s Revolution” and declared itself independent. The two countries clashed also during the Winter War when Finland lost part of its eastern border territory. Nowadays after the creation of the European Union and the Schengen area the Finnish border has become the last outpost of Europe before Russia. In the latest years, Russia is, apparently becoming more and more influent in the world trying to get back to its old role of one of the world leading nations. For this reason it has become more threatening for its neighbourhoods and for its old enemies.?The border starts in the northern region of Lapland, where the average density of the population is way lower that one person per square kilometre, and it goes south until the Gulf of Finland passing through the easter most inland point on Europe. I decided to visit the border and spend some time with the people who keep it safe: the Finnish Border Guards also called Rajavartiolaitos.
©Alessandro Rampazzo 2016

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Lapland is a very vast and depopulated region. The border with Russia extends for 380km. Patrols can take days to reach the furthermost cottages.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
On the control deck of the the Merikarhu ship. Due to a malfunction of a land radar the ship was deployed to be used as radar bridge for the time of the reparation.
The Border Guard is a cooperative authority in charge of controlling the long Finnish border inland and on the sea.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Border Guards in Lapland spend many days away from the main station, moving from cottage to cottage along the border. Reindeers are quite common encounters in the region as they are free breaded here.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Finland is the European Union country that shares the second longest border with Russia 1340km. In Finland territory there is also the easternmost inland point of EU.
Finland is also a border country of the Schengen area. The control of the border is fundamental not only for the security of Finland but also of the whole of EU.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
From the top of the watching tower Russia is visible on the horizon line

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Patrols are normally composed by two Border Guards. Juha(R) use his trained dog to spot tracks and in case follow them.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
When an emergency happens Border Guards working at the sea are trained to respond within 30 minutes but usually it happens faster and after few minutes they're already on the boat.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Mika 36 years old works as Border Guard since 2001.
Many of the border guards share a big love for nature.
"If you don't like to stay in the wilderness you can't do this job in this area, sometimes we spend 4-5 days where the only person we meet is our patrol mate all the rest if forest and nature"

  

December 2016 - North Karelia - Kaurila Border Guard Station.
A frozen lake.The border line passes exactly in the middle of it, marked by a white and a black buoy. on the other side Russia. In 2015 a group of three Syrian asylum seekers coming from Russia illegally entered Finland crossing the lake during the first months of the years.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Mika 36 years old. After few hours patrolling the border he and his patrol mate reached a cottage where to rest for a bit and cook some food.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Finnish people are very much into saunas and Border Guards aren't any different.
Especially after a day spent in the cold, patrolling tens of kilometres of border, the best thing to recover is to have a warm sauna

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
In the Coast Guard force patrols are composed by at least three people. Sometimes their job can appear very easy and relaxing but during their shifts they are always ready to take action in case of any illegal crossing of the border or any emergency at sea. Just few days before they had to intervene at late night in stormy conditions.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
Finland share with Russia the second longest European border, 1340km.
The small island in the frame is the last Finnish piece of land before Russia. Buoys in the water mark the exact border points

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
The Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard force and is in charge to control the Finnish border with Russia on the sea

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
Alexi is a young 25 years old Border Guard working at the Hurpu station in the south east district. Shifts are between 4 and 6 days in a row where they live together with their fellows like in a small community. "it's very important to have good relationships between us because these are the same people that in case of danger can save my life"

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
The border between Finland and Russia in the Lapland region reaches 380km of extension. Its very important to constantly patrol the border also to remember the location of the cottages along the border and be able to easily reach them even in the hardest weather conditions.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
The southern coast of Finland is hugely populated with small island. Border Guards visit regularly the islands for checking on the surveillance equipment installed there.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
Frontier zone start generally some hundreds meters before the actual border line with Russia. The area is strictly interdict to any civilian

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Cottages are very small and they can normally host no more than two people. Working shifts for Border Guards in Lapland can be as long as 5 days in a row, in which they are always ready to respond in case of emergency.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
Watching towers are deployed on many island along the border. Janne a 31 years old official, checks the Russian coast line looking for Russian boats or inland activity.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Juho a Border Guard officer at the crossing point with Russia.
Salla, in Lapland is one of the two crossing points, in the region, between Russia and Finland.
During the Winter War a renowned battle took place in Salla. Russian army tried to cut Finland in two entering the Finnish territory with a huge amount of soldiers precisely here. With very few soldiers most of them Border Guards , Finnish army, thanks to the knowledge of the area succeeded in stopping the attack.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Tommi a 33 years old border guard officer heats up a sausage in the stove of the cottage. Breaks during patrols are very important. Especially during winter time, the body consumes a lot of energies to stay warm and it's important for the Border Guards to always be in optimal working conditions.

  

November 2016 - South Eastern Finland - Hurpu Border Guard Station
Antti a 45 years old officer, gives indication to the pilot during a sea patrol along the border with Russia. Patrols take place at different times of the day. Even if illegal crossings are very rare to happen, showing the Finnish presence to the Russians works as a deterrent.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
The border between Finland and Russia in the Lapland region reaches 380km of extension.
in this picture Russia is just few meters beyond the fence that is being checked by the patrol

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
After starting the wooden stove Tommi and Mika eat some food and drink some coffee before continuing with the patrol.
Visiting the cottages continuously is important to keep them in operative conditions and to memorise their location in the forest.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Lapland Border Guards constantly patrol the northern border between Finland and Russia. The area is vastly depopulated and keeping track of every activity going on at the border is fundamental for the security of the country. Because of the extreme operative conditions any electric surveillance equipment wouldn't be able to work because of the cold and the lack of power source.

  

December 2016 - North Karelia - Ilomantsi Border Guard Station
Timo 37 serves as Border Guard since 2003 when he joined the force as a cross ski athlete. Since 2009 he is no longer an athlete, and works full-time as a border guard.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Just on the top of a mountain in front of the Russian border an observation post stands completely frozen. Depending on the season, some smaller posts are used or not.

  

December 2016 - North Karelia - Ilomantsi Border Guard Station
Timo 37(L) and Marko 47(R) lit up a fire in the middle of the forest to prepare some coffee and cook sausages before heading back to the station. Making fire is not a daily activity even if it was in the past, when there were no patrols cottages where to stop. Nowadays every border guard must have skill to make fire in emergency cases especially in the Lapland district where there are many wilderness areas.

  

December 2016 - Lapland - Salla, Kelloselkä Border Guard Station
Tracks between cottages must be kept in practicable conditions so to ease any activity in case of emergency.