The suppressed story of war refugees – Ingrian teachers during World War II

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of Finnish history

Doctoral candidate: MA Reijo Rautajoki

Date and venue: 24.5.2017 at 12 noon, Natura N100, Joensuu Campus

Language of the public examination: Finnish

Language of the dissertation: Finnish

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the education policy of the Finnish primary school system regarding the Ingrian displaced population, the aim of which was to integrate Ingrian teachers into the education system during World War II. Both the Administration of Displaced Populations and the Finnish School Administration participated in this integration process. The premise was that domestic policy in general, and education policy in particularly, should first and foremost support the goals of foreign policy. Primary school education was deployed to support these goals and to strengthen the will for national defense. Teacher education played an essential role in this work.

A nationalistic Finnish tribal ideology was pervasive in Finnish society, affecting education policy in Finland, but also in Ingrian territory occupied by Germany. The prevalence of this ideology began to decrease during 1943, due to declining German war success and the potential peace talks in Moscow.

The research strategy of this thesis is to carry out an empirical study of history, using qualitative methods. The thematic-theoretical context can be found in refugee and population transfer studies of World War II. The core research material of this study is derived from Finnish national archives.

The focus is on Ingrian primary school teachers, who came to Finland from areas currently belonging to Russia, which were occupied by Nazi Germany during WW II. The Population Transfer Office started to integrate the teachers into the Finnish education system, following a decision made by the Finnish government. This integration process was a small effort on a European scale, but considering the circumstances of war it was a significant endeavour to the Finnish society, especially since these teachers had Soviet educational background.

A crucial part of this research is linked to the switch in Finnish foreign policy in the autumn of 1944. The question of the Ingrian teachers in the Finnish education system was overshadowed by the wider question of the displaced Finnish population. The forced return of the Ingrian people to the Soviet Union and the whole Ingrian episode was not part of public discussion in Finland.

 A culture of silence became the rule for many decades. It was not possible until 1990s to bring the long forgotten story of the Ingrian Finns to public awareness and to begin academic research on the subject. The repatriation of the Ingrians was a continuation of the slow genocide practiced by the Soviet administration for 25 years during Stalin’s rule. As the Ingrian people were scattered around the Soviet Union their cultural identity continued its decline. Today their descendants have to large extent been assimilated into the Russian majority.

The doctoral dissertation of MA Reijo Rautajoki, entitled Vaiettu sotapakolaisuus. Inkeriläiset kansakoulunopettajat jatkosodan aikana will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The Opponent in the public examination will be Docent Toivo Flink of University of Turku and the Custos will be Professor Maria Lähteenmäki of University of Eastern Finland. The public examination will be held in Finnish.

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