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Finns not keen on Russian nuclear firm's summer camp for children

A children's summer camp run by Russian nuclear firm Rosatom has failed to capture the interest of Finnish children, with several places left unfilled. The camp is organised at Kalajoki on Finland's west coast for kids from several former Eastern bloc countries, plus Finland.

Rosatom School-logo
Rosatom School organised a summer camp this summer at Kalajoki on the west coast. Image: Marko Siekkinen / Yle

A children's summer camp run by nuclear power firm Rosatom this week has spare capacity, as some 75 participants turned up. The municipality of Kalajoki, in Ostrobothnia, had originally been told to expect 100-300 attendees.

Fourteen Finns are among the campers. Most have some prior connection to and knowledge of Russian culture and language.

State owned atomic energy firm Rosatom is a part owner of the Fennovoima nuclear plant planned for the neighbouring municipality of Pyhäjoki, and will also supply the reactor for the plant if it is approved.

The camp has raised concerns in Finland that it might be used as a propaganda vehicle for Rosatom, but organisers said that there has been no talk of nuclear power, physics or economics.

Different cultures

"That'd be really boring for the children," said Alina Haapalainen-Kamenev of Rosatom's Finnish subsidiary RAOS Voima.

She said the most important thing is learning how to get along with people from different cultures. Organising a camp at Kalajoki seemed natural, as Rosatom is active in Finland. The camp is being held some 30 kilometres south of the nuclear construction site.

One of the camp participants is Anna Maksimov, a 16-year-old Russian-Finn from Raahe. She heard about the camp from her father and came to experience the international atmosphere and to make new friends.

"I also want to learn how to speak a little of these new languages," she told Yle. "There are campers from Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as Finland."

No nuclear talk

Maksimov says there has been no talk of nuclear power during the camp — although organisers did state that the project was a part of the Rosatom School organisation.

That's a Rosatom project aimed at schools and kindergartens in locations where Rosatom has facilities. The project involves teachers and staff from those schools in running the summer camps, while also getting to know the education system in countries where the summer camps operate, according to the Kalajoki camp's creative director, Roman Seliukov.

In Russia participation in the camps is often given as a reward for pupils who do well academically or win a contest. Given the lack of interest from Finnish children, organisers are unsure if they will organise the camp again next year.

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