Russian Karelia is a travel destination for exceptionally large numbers of Finnish tourists this summer. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the final stages of Finland's war against the Soviet Union in WWII and fierce fighting in what are near-by border areas.
Large numbers of tour operators' summer offerings are fully booked and bordercrossing points in the southeast are expecting to see high levels of traffic. Finnish tour coaches have been driving the roads of southern Karelia since May, taking visitors to wartime battlefields and pre-war Finnish towns and villages.
In addition to veterans, the history of the war has started arousing interest among growing numbers of younger people, many the children or grandchildren of those who lived through those years.
Up to now most tourism in the areas which were ceded to the USSR have been mainly shopping trips or nostalgic vists to pre-war homesteads.
Overwhelming Soviet Attack
Soviet armed forces began a major offensive across the southern Karelian peninsula exactly 60 years ago, on June 9, 1944.
It had been expected that the USSR would carry out large-scale attacks on the eastern front immediately after the D-Day landings in Normandy, but it was thought these would be aimed at Germany, not Finland.
The massive level of firepower employed had not been seen before by Finnish troops. Despite stiff resistence, the Finns were pushed back to the 1939 border and then beyond.
The city of Vyborg fell to Soviet troops on June 20th before Finland regrouped and stopped the Soviet advance.