Norway, Russia honour Red Army heroes in freezing wind

Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun laid wreaths at Russian soldier monument in Kirkenes on Thursday.

Thousands lost their lives on the battlefields on the Kola Peninsula before the Red Army in October 1944 liberated Eastern Finnmark. Today, Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun laid down wreaths together with Norway’s Defense Ministry.


Thursday’s ceremony took place at Russemonumentet (the Russian soldier monument) in Kirkenes, a memorial erected in honour of Soviet’s Red Army which liberated Norway’s northernmost county after four years of Nazi-German occupation.

During the war, Kirkenes became a Nazi stronghold with between 70-100,000 German soldiers to protect the flank and from which to launch attacks against Soviet- and allied military convoys in the Barents Sea. Based in Kirkenes, the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union in the north in June 1941, but did never manage to take Murmansk.

Wreaths were laid down by Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun, State Secretary Øystein Bø, Murmansk representative in the Federation Council Igor Chernyshenko, Yevgeny Nikora from Murmansk regional Duma together with Finnmark county officials.

The freezing wind blowing over the ceremony was not there to mirror the colder political climate between east and west.

Norway has frozen most of its military cooperation with Russia  in the wake of the annexation of Crimea, but says that do not hinder a joint high-profile celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Finnmark.  

Kirkenes is Thursday and Friday hosting a Second World War history conference with participants from both sides of the border.

In his opening speech, State Secretary Øystein Bø said what happened during the dramatic weeks and months in 1944 are inextricably linked to Norway’s national memory and heritage.  

“We will forever remember the Soviet forces’ bravery and sacrifice. The liberation came with a high price. Hard and bloody battles resulted in heavy losses of Soviet troops, also on Norwegian soil,” Øystein Bø said and continued by expressing a Norwegian gratitude. 

“We are in permanent deep gratitude to these soldiers for their efforts and their sacrifices in the struggle against the occupation.”

Kirkenes’ liberation day will be marked on Saturday by, among others, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, HM King Harald, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

For more BarentsObserver news on Saturday’s 70th anniversary of WWII liberation follow #liberation44 on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.