The Cold War
The Cold War is the name given to the period from after World
War II and until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The period
was characterised by the rivalry between two groups of nations that
practised different ideologies and political systems. On the one
side was the Soviet Union and its allies (the Eastern Block), and
on the other the USA and its allies (the Western Block). The
situation was referred to as the Cold War because it never led to
any direct fighting or war.
New neighbour in the east
After the armistice of 19 September 1944, Finland had to give
back the Petsamo area to the Soviet Union and Norway acquired a new
neighbour in the east. This meant many changes for the people of
the area. The Pasvik river, which had hitherto been a connecting
link between neighbours, now became a barrier between them. On the
Soviet side, a border fence and many observation towers were set up
to register all movements on the Norwegian side. It was forbidden
to cross the river and any non-compliance resulted in stiff
Under the Order in Council of 1950, it is not permitted to cross
the border line on land, in the water or in the air. Nor is it
permitted to speak to or to have any other kind of contact or
dealings with persons on the other side of the border.
My fishing spot!
The story is told of an elderly fellow living on the Norwegian
side of the border at Melkefoss. He had been neighbours with both
Russia and Finland, and had always fished in the same spot without
any problems. When the Soviet Union became his neighbour after
World War II, he continued fishing where he had always fished. His
fishing spot was on the other side of the Norwegian-Soviet border,
but he did not care which country and which laws applied. He was
determined to fish, and continued as though nothing had happened.
In the end, the story goes, the border guards got fed up of
reprimanding him; so he simply carried on fishing in
«his» spot in the Soviet Union.
After the Red Army left East Finnmark in September 1945, the
border was guarded by divisions from the Norwegian Army and the
Police. The Sør-Varanger Garrison (GSV) was given its
current name in 1947, and it was decided to build up the garrison
again at the Høybuktmoen airfield that had been built by the
Germans during the war.
When Norway became a member of NATO in 1949, the
Norwegian-Soviet border also became a border between NATO and the
Warsaw Pact countries. This led to a further stepping up of
surveillance on both sides of the border, and the ensuing period
was dominated by mutual suspicion between the two countries.
The intelligence service in Sør-Varanger was expanded
after the war and Sør-Varanger Police Headquarters became
one of Norway’s largest in terms of numbers of employees as
the Police Surveillance Service (POT) was based there. Communism
was strong in Sør-Varanger after the war and as a result
many people were put under surveillance as possible agents in the
service of the Soviets. At the same time, it was important to have
an overview and knowledge of the Soviet forces in order to be
prepared if they should ever attack Norway.
The Cuba missile crisis
The most serious confrontation between the two super-powers of
the USA and the Soviet Union arose between 15 and 28 October 1962,
when a U2 plane on a routine mission discovered that the Soviet
Union had missiles stationed on Cuba that were aimed at the USA.
For 13 days, the entire world held its breath while negotiations
went on between the USA’s President John F. Kennedy and the
Soviet Union’s Nikita Khruschchev. Soldiers at the
Sør-Varanger Garrison were called out with weapons loaded
with live ammunition.
1968 – Soviet demonstration of strength
Early in June 1968, the Norwegian border stations observed
increasing activity on the Soviet side. Several columns of vehicles
were driving eastwards on the Russian Highway and, on the evening
of 6 June, tanks, track-driven vehicles and artillery were observed
on the Arctic Ocean Highway and moving northwards towards Boris
Gleb. Because of bad weather it was difficult to estimate the scope
of the advance and the size of the forces involved. On the morning
of 7 June it was clear that large Soviet forces had grouped and
taken up positions right behind the border line.
On the night of 7 June 1968, the alarm went and soldiers from
the Sør-Varanger Garrison set out for the border line and
prepared to fight. The Soviet divisions dug themselves down and
aimed all their weapons at the Norwegian positions, observation
posts and border stations. It was clear to all that this was not a
routine exercise. Not since World War II had there been such large
Soviet army divisions so near to the border. The Soviet forces
remained in the border area until 12 June.
Hammer, sickle and star. (Photo: Ingar G Henriksen,
Sign by the border street. (Photo: Ingar Henriksen,
|Norwegian and Russian border markers, with
Boris Gleb in the background. (Photo: Gry Andreassen,
|Soviet pins were popular to collect
during the Cold War. (Lent by Kjell Erik Andreassen)
Road sign at Storskog. (Photo: Unknown,
Sør-Varanger Museum Collections)