The Search for a Socialist El Dorado
Finnish Immigration to Soviet Karelia from the United States and Canada in the 1930s
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2014-04-01
In the 1930s, thousands of Finns emigrated from their communities in the United States and Canada to Soviet Karelia, a region in the Soviet Union where Finnish Communist émigrés were building a society to implement their ideals of socialist Finland. To their new socialist home, these immigrants brought critically needed skills, tools, machines, and money. Educated and skilled, American and Canadian Finns were regarded by Soviet authorities as agents of revolutionary transformations who would not only modernize the economy of Soviet Karelia, but also enlighten its society. North American immigrants, indeed, became active participants of socialist colonization of what Bolshevik leaders perceived as dark, uneducated and backward Soviet ethnic periphery. The Search for a Socialist El Dorado is the first comprehensive account in English of this fascinating story. Using a vast body of documentary sources from archives in Petrozavodsk and Moscow, Russian- and Finnish-language press and literature from the 1930s, oral history interviews and secondary literature, Alexey Golubev and Irina Takala explore in depth the “Karelian fever” among Finnish Americans and Canadians, and the lives of immigrants in the Soviet Union, their contribution to Soviet economy and culture, and their fates in the Great Terror.
Chapter 1. Finnish Immigrants in North America and Russia
Chapter 2. Two Perspectives on Soviet Immigration Policy: Moscow and Petrozavodsk
Chapter 3. To Karelia!
Chapter 4. The Failure of the Immigration Program
Chapter 5. American and Canadian Immigrants in the Soviet Economy
Chapter 6. North American Finns in Soviet Culture
Chapter 7. Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communication
Chapter 8. American and Canadian Finns in the Great Terror
Chapter 9. Wartime and After
The authors’ command of their subject matter is masterly, their approach combines both breadth of view and depth of detail. The book is unpretentious in tone, but impresses by the weight of sheer facts. This insightful book can be recommended for everyone, who wishes to understand the world of the 1930s, with its illusions and its harsh realities. The story is unique, well researched, and well-written.
—Timo Vihavainen, Professor of Russian Studies, University of Helsinki
Drawing on a vast range of new sources, including their own oral history interviews, Golubev and Takala have written the first major account in English of a most dramatic and revealing, yet still little-known, episode in twentieth-century history—the mass immigration of North American Finns to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, this volume off ers powerful and moving insights into not only the causes and course of the immigration but also into the experiences of the migrants and the tragic fate that awaited many of them during the Stalinist repressions. With this superb book, Golubev and Takala confirm their reputation as two of the best Russian historians writing today. The Search for a Socialist El Dorado will be the standard work on this subject for many years to come, and will appeal to readers interested in the history of the Soviet Union, of modern Finland, and of diasporic communities in the United States, as well as anyone concerned about understanding the historical meanings and importance of migration, ethnicity, identity, political belief, space, and place.
—NICK BARON, University of Nottingham, author of Soviet Karelia: Politics, Planning and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1920–1939