Yeltsin considered selling Karelia back to Finland in 1991?

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
Russia's Republic of Karelia

Much of this territory was captured from Finland during the Winter War (1939-40) and subsequently in WWII also.

Leadership of the Russian Federation seriously considered selling the Republic of Karelia back to Finland in 1991, according to an interview with former Russian deputy foreign minister Andrey Fedorov in the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat. The territory in question, located beyond the eastern border of Finland, was ceded to the Soviet Union during WWII.

In opposition to his earlier statements on the matter, however, Fedorov now told the paper that the Finnish government was never informed that such an option was even on the table.

In July of 1991, it had been 18 months since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union had crumbled and newly appointed President Boris Yeltsin struggled to hold the Russian Federation together.

His fledgling government compiled a list of territories with nationalist factions that could potentially rise up and demand autonomy or create border disputes. The Republic of Karelia was included due to what was perceived as rising insurgency in the area, Fedorov told the paper.

Later that same year, the state coffers of the former USSR were running low. At this juncture, Yeltsin and his team went to so far as to calculate a 15-billion-dollar asking price for the ceded territory, Fedorov said, with the aim to possibly offer it to Finland.

Adjusted for inflation, the modern-day equivalent of the price that was settled on by the Russian authorities is 22.5 billion euros.

Contradictory statements

This is not the first time Fedorov has gone public with his claims. The former deputy minister of foreign affairs first spoke of old Russian designs to sell Karelia in August 2007.

At that time, he claimed that then-Finnish President Mauno Koivisto and Foreign Minister Paavo Väyrynen were aware of unofficial discussions on the matter, but now he told the paper that the deal was never revealed to anyone outside of Russia.

"The discussions in the Russian government were held behind closed doors," he told the paper in 2019.

Väyrynen has also said he has no recollection of ever discussing the matter with Russian officials.

Fedorov said the Russian Federation decided later, in 1994, that the so-called "Karelian question" was officially closed.
Former Russian minister: Yeltsin considered selling ceded Karelia territory to Finland in 1991

Andrey Fedorov

FWIW, as the article kinda itself says, he has been known to spew bs, on occasion, just to keep his name in the media...

And Gennady Burbulis, who was his boss back then, as Foreign Minister and later Deputy PM, under Yeltsin, and has written many books about it all

has come out in Russian media to refute Fedorov's claims, says there was never any plan by anyone to cede Russian land anybody, ever: Соратник Ельцина опроверг сообщения о планах по продаже Карелии

Burbulis had also, back in 2007, threatened to sue a Finnish newspaper that implied same at the time: Russian Politician Threatens Legal Action Against Paper
Dec 2013
What did Soviet Union with Karelia after Finns were expelled from it ? Nothing much ! What was one of the most active region of Finland became somehow something depressed and depressing…. Poor Finland so far from God and so close to Soviet Union at that time. ! It is what is surprising with Russia today, with a declining population and territories in the East which are becoming more and more empty, who among Russian politicians has a real vison to stop this trend ? Russia wants to keep all territories which it took during or after WWII but seems unable to offer to them prospects of development. To which a point, beside nationalism, does it make sense ? History is full of surprises, Germany which lost 1/3 of its territories after WWII is so much better off than Russia and could focus on rebuilding the country and implementing the huge economical development since the 1950ties when Russia in comparison has a hard time to solve its contradictions and flees into autocratism, nationalism, corruption and the need to have foreign enemies instead of trying to become something attractive for others. What would be Karelia today without its annexation by Soviet Union ? It is what is frustrating actually with Russia, one can see the very big potential of the country, but the way it is run, leads most of the time to consider that the incentive is not put on what would give her a normal future with a real civil society, an healthy economical development etc.… Instead half of the budget is financed by income coming from raw materials exported to other countries. Russia imports much and exports little manufactured products but weapons… Instead Finland starting from a very low level after 1945 was able to build an econmy baed on exports and offer to Finns a normal life according to Western standards.
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