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Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg closes, cites "impossible" operating conditions

The institute was set up to serve as a crossroads for the Finnish and Russian science and culture sectors.

Suomi-talo Pietarissa.
The Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg had been operating at the heart of the city for 30 years. Image: Mira Pitkänen / Lehtikuva
Yle News

The Finnish Institute in Saint Petersburg has announced it will be closing its doors, following the Finland-Russia Society's decision to withdraw from managing the institute's operations.

The institute was set up to represent Finnish culture in St. Petersburg. It also served as a meeting place for Finnish and Russian academic research and culture through a variety of public events such as exhibitions, concerts and seminars.

Russia's war against Ukraine has made operating the institute practically impossible, according to head of the Finland-Russia Association Niina Sinkko.

"The main issue is our inability to run administrative procedures from the Russian side smoothly. For example, money traffic does not flow," Sinkko said, adding that the financial security of the Institute was hanging by a thread.

The association has further struggled with not being able to promote its anti-war values within Russia's borders.

"We are strongly against the war, but the institute is not able to take a stance on it in any way," Sinkko said, adding that the situation only seems to be getting progressively worse rather than improving.

All activity has been put on hold due to the war since the end of April, with operations expected to cease entirely by the end of the year. The institute employs four people in St Petersburg as well as one full-time employee and one trainee in Finland.

Sinkko hopes that the institute could resume its operations in the future.

"This is an incredibly difficult decision. We tried to find ways that would allow us to operate, however Russian society is becoming increasingly tense and unpredictable," the association's general secretary said.

The institute's closure is part of a wider deterioration of Finnish and Russian relations since the launch of the military attack against Ukraine on 24 February.

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