Peace and quiet beyond the border: the trans-border mobility of Russian second home owners in Finland

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of Human Geography

Doctoral candidate: MSSc Olga Hannonen

Date and venue: 3.6.2016 at 12 noon, Futura F100, Joensuu Campus

Language of the public examination: English

Language of the dissertation: English

Russian second home purchases in Finland have grown rapidly since 2000. Russians are the biggest group of foreign property owners in Finland today. They have been the subject of contested debates, in both the Finnish media and Parliament.

Master of Social Sciences Olga Hannonen (Lipkina) has conducted the first study on Russian property purchases in Finland. The doctoral dissertation by Hannonen is the first study on foreign property purchases in Finland and the first dissertation on Russian tourists in Finland. 

The study investigates the Russian motives for property purchase, the role of the border in property ownership, the involvement of Russian owners in the local community, and the regional distribution of Russian-owned properties in Eastern Finland. The study was carried out in the Savonlinna region and the region of South Savo in Eastern Finland – the most popular region for Russian property purchases.

The results show that the concerns about Russian ownership presented through the social debate has been detached from the actual phenomenon. Hannonen states that due to the absence of information on Russian owners and their intentions and limited contacts with Russians, speculations on the topic went wild. While the media was talking among others about clustering of Russian purchases forming “ethnic enclaves”, the study shows that respondents do not really know other fellow nationals and would not purposefully purchase a second home next to other Russian owners.

Hannonen states that motives for ownership and distribution of Russian properties in Eastern Finland are the result of a more complex interrelation of factors than those suggested in public debates. The study shows that transportation accessibility, distance from the border, presence of services and lake landscape predetermine the majority of Russian purchases in the eastern part of South Savo and would affect the distribution of Russian purchases also in the future. One of the leading motives for second home ownership in Finland is safety, both physical safety and safety of investment. It emphasises the importance of the border in Russian trans-border ownership as a guarantor of peace and quiet.

Russian trans-border second home mobility is exceptional in many ways. First, as an East-to-West mobility flow it deviates from the established trajectories of leisure flows, such as North-to-South and West-to-East vectors. Second, Russian second home mobility takes place across the Finnish-Russian border that marks one of the highest economic differences in the world between neighbouring countries. It is also a heavily guarded external border of the EU.

Third, growing tourism mobility from non-Western locations, such as Russia, forces the re-examination of global mobility flows and theoretical approaches towards them. Thus, the theoretical approaches to mobility which are based on case studies from the West and characterised by West-to-East flows have been reinterpreted within the new context of East-to-West mobility using the example of Russian second home mobility to Finland.

The dissertation has both practical and theoretical contribution. The dissertation uncovers the driving factors in Russian second home mobility, its challenges, and its socio-economic outcome and regional distribution, which collectively help address the social debate and inform policy makers. Simultaneously, the study re-interprets Western mobility approaches in relation to Russian trans-border mobility and reveals peculiarities of the East-to-West mobility trajectory.

The doctoral dissertation of MSSc Olga Hannonen, entitled Peace and quiet beyond the border: The trans-border mobility of Russian second home owners in Finland will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The Opponent in the public examination will be Professor Dieter Müller of Umeå University and the Custos will be Adjunct Professor and University Lecturer Paul Fryer of University of Eastern Finland. The public examination will be held in English.

Photo available for download at:

Dissertation book in website: