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Karelian-Finnish Friendship society closes down

An announcement appeared in the social network VKontakte of the chair of the Karelian-Finnish Friendship Society Yelena Barbashina, inviting the members of the society to a general meeting on April 23 in Petrozavodsk in the House of Karelian, Finnish and Vepsian Production. The agenda of the general meeting will include two items: 1) Liquidation of the Karelian-Finnish Friendship Society in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation; 2) Appointment of a three-member liquidation committee.

Soome-Karjala sõprusselts

Closure of society

The notice says: At the beginning of 2024, it became clear that the Karelian-Finnish Friendship Society would not be able to maintain its legal registration, so it had to be closed down. Since the procedure of liquidation (drawing up the documents at a notary and publishing the notice in the ‘Gazette of State Registrations’) is expensive, the membership fee for 2024 is requested to be paid in advance of the meeting, 400 rubles or possibly more.

In an interview published in the Karjalan Sanomat/Omamedia portal on 10 April, Yelena Barbashina elaborates on the background to the liquidation of the association. First of all, she pointed out that the financial situation of the society is bad and in fact, in 2023 the activities of the society stopped.

Despite the standstill, the NGO is obliged to make annual and quarterly reports in accordance with the Russian Law on NGOs. The reports must be submitted electronically to the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Tax Service, as well as to the Karelian Statistical Service. The reports must be signed with an electronic signature. Last year’s and this year’s first quarterly reports of the Friendship Association have already been sent to the state authorities for processing. For the next quarterly report, the society will first have to obtain a new electronic signature and the necessary computer software, but the organisation does not have the money, Barbashina said. The organisation also no longer has the capacity to hire an accountant, she added.

Karelian-Finnish society

The society currently has around 40 members and the number of members has been declining rapidly. The membership fee is 400 roubles per year. According to the chairman, the activities of the society were affected by the coronavirus. Communication with Finnish partners was interrupted and became virtual. However, despite the pandemic, the society was more successful than ever in 2020 in its project activities. This year, two project competitions were won. One was the Russian President’s project competition and the other the Karelian Head of State’s project competition, says Barbashina. Thus, in 2020, the project ‘Contribution of Finns to Karelian Culture’ was launched. Support was also received from the Karelian republican budget. The last project was ‘Karelian Finns in the capital and districts’, which ended in 2022.

Uncertain times

The society’s chair Barbashina admitted that she first had doubts about the meaningfulness of the Karelian-Finnish Friendship Society in early 2023. This was due to the current world political situation, even though the society has never been involved in politics. The society has been trying to develop and support cultural relations between Karelia and Finland and cooperation between the nations at the grassroots level, she stressed.

No body has pressured her to end the society’s activities, the chair said, recalling that the society’s statutes stipulate that the organisation has three main tasks. Cooperation with Finnish partners, development of relations between Karelia and Finnish municipalities and support for the culture of Finns living in Karelia. ‘Unfortunately, relations between Russia and Finland are not developing in a positive direction and it is difficult to predict how many years will pass before relations improve. It’s a shame that there is a friendship association between Karelia and Finland, but there is no friendship between our countries’, said Barbashina.

The Karelian-Finnish Friendship Society was re-established in 2009, with 100 members at the beginning. By 2019, however, the number had decreased to 60. Sergei Pronin, director, director and actor of the Karelian National Theatre, was elected chair. Yelena Barbashina has chaired the society since 2010. The financial situation of the Society deteriorated in 2023, mainly due to the fact that it did not win a single project competition.