Soviet provocation met with silence

Photo: NRK Brennpunkt

In the summer of 1968 the Soviet Union marched up tanks and soldiers along the border to Norway. On the Norwegian side the military had no idea about what was happening, a new documentary film shows.


Meanwhile, the Norwegian Minister of Defence did not give any information to his units on the Norwegian-Soviet border until after 32 hours.

The Norwegian TV-channel NRK has looked into recently released documents about the Soviet Union’s military advance towards the Norwegian-Russian border in the summer of 1968. The Garrison of Sør-Varanger are in charge of the Norwegian border patrols. The Garrison head officers at that time are very critical to the 32 hours of government silence following the Soviet advance i 1968.

The officers sent message both to the government and to the Norwegian defence command about the massive line up of tanks and soldiers on the Russian side of the border. However, they were given no reply on how to response to the advance. The officers felt left alone with the Red Army standing apparently ready to attack at any minute.

Meanwhile the Norwegian Minister of Defence in 1968, Otto Grieg Tidemand, was certain that it was only a massive demonstration of Soviet power. In his opinion the Soviet Union would never cross the border and his assumptions were correct. After three days the Soviet troops retreated.

For long it has been debated in Norway why the Soviet Army marched up towards the border in 1968. In interviews done by NRK, former Russian soldiers say that their orders were that American troops were engaged in NATO exercises in Finnmark. The Soviet advance towards the border was a reaction to what they called a NATO provocation.

However, American troops, or any other NATO troops, were never stationed in Finnmark. All exercises were performed in the neighbouring county of Troms. In discussions between the Defence Ministers of Norway and Soviet Union, the Soviet officials said clearly that they did not approve to NATO organized military exercises in this count either.