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Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin surprised his audience in Russia and Finland just before the New Year´s Eve when he undirectly recognized Dorpat (Tartto) Peace Treaty between the two countries, signed in October 1920.
Putin congratulated Finnish President Ms Tarja Halonen by phone because Russia and Finland established diplomatic relations on 27th of December 1920. It was possible to establish diplomatic relations after the countries had signed the peace treaty which was the first peace treaty and agreement on the borders between newly independent Finland and Russia.
The Russian and Soviet and Finnish officials and politicians have kept silent about Dorpat Peace Treaty since Winter War 1939-40. Many politicians pretended that the treaty never took place. It was considered an "anti-Soviet act" if somebody talked about the state borders agreed in the treaty.
Finland and Soviet-Russia established diplomatic relations as sovereign states. They agreed for the first time on their common borders. Always earlier all the borders had been drawn by the imperial and colonial governments in Stockholm, Sweden, and Moscow or St. Petersburg, Russia. Finland had never earlier existed as an independent state and she had never had any opportunity to negotiate about her own affairs. Finland had been a dependent area, either county, province or autonomy.
Putin had no official reason according to the protocol to congratulate president Halonen. Therefore a sudden and surprising congratulation has its own meaning and that was a diplomatic hint. Now after the phone call president Halonen has her first and splendid moment to pick up the theme of that period 80 years ago and the time up to Winter War 1939-40 and put them on to the table with Russians.
That was the hint of Mr. Putin. Certainly he hopes to open talks between two countries about earlier problems in order to find a new basis for new relations.
Diplomacy is an art of its own. No country changes old routines without good reasons. Russian president certainly must have had his real substantial reasons to pick up an odd date 80 years ago which never earlier gave any reasons for festivities. This sudden phone call was that kind of a diplomatic signal which the opposite side immediately starts to consider and study. At least Finland should start to study the real reasons of the call.
It is up to Finland to agree on Putin´s hint and to create a round of innovative diplomacy. We have all the reasons to suppose that the political leaders of Finland will sooner or later produce their own explanation of the phone call.
Ten years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed the new Russian leadership declared that the Soviet state and Communist party had been criminal and behaved criminally against other countries like Finland and then president Mr Boris Jeltsin gave several hints to then Finnish president Mauno Koivisto to start talks between the countries to clear the table after Soviet period, but Mr. Koivisto declined to response.
The same happened between Jeltsin and new Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari in 1994 in Kremlin. There president Jeltsin said with purpose: "Winter War and annexation of Finnish Karelia were criminal aggression of Stalin and Mr. Ahtisaari and I can never accept that kind of acts." Mr. Ahtisaari did not react.
Now president Halonen has splendid opportunity to react on Putin´s diplomatic hint. Halonen has the means to open between the countries that kind of talks which could heal the traumas of Winter War and Stalinist aggression against Finland. Halonen is well known for her human rights record. She has all the clear interests to defend the human rights of Finnish Karelians who lost their homes and land to the Soviet Union in Winter War.
Putin may have interest to clear difficult and black periods of his own country. Jeltsin took the opportunity to try and clean the tables with many foreign countries about Stalinist misdeeds but he did nothing with Finland because then Finnish presidents did not care or dare to start talks. Putin talks in public about many problems of his country and he may understand that Russia could only win and get profit from healing the traumas with Finland.
Halonen has many alternative choices. Russia has a very special interest in the possible future Nato membership of Finland. Russia does not like the idea of Finland becoming a Nato member. Putin may see that if Russia returns to Finland those territories which Stalin stole, Finland could make a deal to keep herself out of Nato. (30.12.2000)
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