70 years since last Soviet troops left Norway

The last Soviet troops left Norway on this bridge across the Jakobselv border river.

70 years ago, on September 25 1945, the last Soviet troops left Norway, nearly one year after they liberated the region from Nazi occupation.


The Petsamo-Kirkenes offensive started October 7th 1944, when Soviet forces started a counter-offensive against the German strongpoint line just 70 kilometers northwest of Murmansk. The German forces were driven back from Petsamo (Pechenga today) into Norway, and the first Red Army troops crossed the border to Norway on October 18th.On October 25th 1944, Kirkenes became the first town in Norway to be liberated from German occupation, more than six months before the end of the war in Europe. 

The Soviet forces continued driving the German troops westwards to Tana. The Red Army stopped their advance in the settlement of Rustefjelbma on November 8th, after order from Moscow.

According to the memoirs of Deputy Commanding Officer of the Soviet troops in Kirkenes Igor Diakonoff, in late September 1945 they received a three days’ notice from Moscow to bring every single soldier out of Norway. The other order they received, was to obtain an official document from Norwegian authorities that there were no material claims toward the Soviet Union.

The Soviet commanding officers did get their document. A note dated September 24th 1945 tells how Soviet forces hindered the retreating Germans forces from destroying homes and important infrastructure and saved 20-25,000 people from forces evacuation, how the Soviet forces helped the local population with food and other supplies during the winter of 1944-45 and assisted in rebuilding roads, bridges and the airport.

The document was signed by Captain R. Karlsen, Norwegian Commanding Officer in Sør-Varanger and Colonel P. Lukin-Griege, Soviet Commanding Officer in Eastern Finnmark, but according to Dyakonov’s memoirs, it was he himself who wrote the text.

This document was one of several newly digitalized photos and documents that were released by the National Archives of Norway to mark Liberation Day in May 1915.

Soviet troops leaving Norway in September 1945. Sør-Varanger Museum

Norway on the right side of the Iron Curtain
While Soviet troops were stationed in Finnmark, behind the scenes in Moscow, there were people in the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry who wanted to push the Norwegian-Soviet border westward to Tana River, and claim a military “long-term lease” for areas near Tromsø, Hammerfest, Vadsø and Vardø, but none of these suggestions were followed. They were obviously stopped at the political top-level, by Josef Stalin himself. Aftenposten writes.

Already in December 1941, while German troops were fighting outside Moscow, Stalin had baffled the British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden in the Kremlin with very clear ideas about where Russian influence would go after the war: they should have the last word in the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, and mostly recover Tsarist Russia’s borders. This he asked the British to accept. In return, he would not oppose British bases in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway after the war.