“The Murmansk office processed 64,307 applications in 2013,” says Visa officer Kristiina Nurmela. That is a tripling of visas over the last five years. In 2009, Finland’s Counsulate branch office in Murmansk issued just over 19,000 visas.
Last year’s numbers are also an increase, although not that sharp, compared with 2012 when 63,488 applications were handled in Murmansk. Finland has outsourced the application handling to the private company VFS that since 2012 has operated a Finnish visa service center down-town Murmansk.
The increasing popularity of traveling to Finland is also highly visible in the statistics at the two northernmost border check-points between Lapland and the Kola Peninsula with a five percent increase in traffic last year to nearly 400,000 border-crossings.
Norway’s Consulate General in Murmansk issued around 28,000 visas last year, less than half of Finland. The figures are, however, not directly comparable, since Norway issues multiple-entry visas valid for longer periods than Finland. A visa to Norway is often valid for three years, and even up to five years. Finland mainly issues one year valid multiple entry visas.
Ninety-five percent of all 1,57 million visas to Finland from world-wide last year were issued to Russians. The majority at Finland’s visa center in St. Petersburg.
The Murmansk Economic Zone was presented as a miracle cure for regional development and as key facility for the Shtokman project. Today, five years on, regional authorities put their faith in the fish industry.
Renowned Norwegian actress Gørild Mauseth is in the leading role when actors and producers from the Gorky Dramatic Theatre in Vladivostok come to Harstad to present a unique version of Tolsoy’s classic play Anna Karenina.
Nuclear safety projects in the Murmansk region wouldn’t be the same without her contribution. Finnish European Parliament Member Heidi Hautala is today one of 89 Europeans barred from Russia in response to EU sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine.
Wistleblower Edward Snowden is winner of this year’s recognized Bjørnson Award, but Norwegian authorities are unlikely to guarantee his safe travel to the award ceremony. The former CIA employee should instead be handed over the award in Pechenga, the Russian borderlands to Norway, a Norwegian university lecturer suggests.