Grensehistorie Vannkraft Grenseliv

Cold War

After World War II, the world was divided into two power blocks, the Soviet Union and the USA. This was a time of suspicion and both blocks were on guard. The border was under constant surveillance and anyone who had Communist sympathies and any contact with the Soviet Union was monitored. However, despite the Cold War, there were examples of contact between the countries, including a variety of cultural exchanges.

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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 fines.

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.

Alarm! Alarm!

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, sigd og stjerne (Foto: Ingar G Henriksen, Sør-Varanger museum)

Hammer, sickle and star. (Photo: Ingar G Henriksen, Sør-Varanger Museum)

Skilt ved grensegata (Foto: Ingar Henriksen, Sør-Varanger museum)

Sign by the border street. (Photo: Ingar Henriksen, Sør-Varanger Museum)

Norsk og russisk grensestolper, Boris Gleb i bakgrunnen. (Foto: Gry Andreassen, Sør-Varanger museum)
Norwegian and Russian border markers, with Boris Gleb in the background. (Photo: Gry Andreassen, Sør-Varanger Museum)
Sovjetiske pins var populære samleobjekter under den kalde krigen. (Foto: Gry Andreassen, Sør-Varanger museum. Utlånt av : Kjell Erik Andreassen)
Soviet pins were popular to collect during the Cold War. (Lent by Kjell Erik Andreassen)
Vegskilt ved Storskog (Foto: Ukjent, Sør-Varanger museums samling)

Road sign at Storskog. (Photo: Unknown, Sør-Varanger Museum Collections)

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