Eastern Finland, North Karelia Region
Town of Lieksa (www.lieksa.fi)
Änäkäinen Recreational Forest
The area is managed by the Metsähallitus.
The massive Salpa-line multilayered anti-tank rock obstacles run across Kivivaarantie road, which leads from Änäkäinen to the Finnish-Russian border and was known as the Rukajärventie of the Continuation War. At Änäkäinen visitors can see fortifications and learn about the events of both the Winter War and the Continuation War.
A Growing Threat from the East
The Winter War ended on March 13th 1940 and according to the cession of territory agreed upon in the peace treaty, Finland's eastern border partially moved. Finland's defences were weakened due to some fortresses in the southeast being left on the Russian side of the border.
The constant threat of war led Finland's leadership, already in March, to decide that fortification of the entire border should be continued. Plans were drafted quickly and work began as early as April. The result of this construction operation was a permanent defence line called Salpa Line. The defence line stretched from the Gulf of Finland to Savukoski and continued from there in the form of field fortifications all the way to the Artic Ocean (approximately 1,200 km).
Construction of fortifications was initiated at locations near the national border in the autumn of 1940. Builders were for the most part civilians employed by the army's Fortification Office or army service men. Those tasks requiring specific skills, such as mining, transportation and placement of anti-tank obstacle rocks, as well as heavy fireboxes, bunkers and special structures, were appointed to skilled civilians. Service men built battle and connecting entrenchments, normal rifleman's cells, dugouts and barbed wire obstacles as well as cleared firing fields. Army corps areas' were divided into work districts and their subordinate working groups.
Salpa Line - Finland's Largest Construction Site
Construction work was at its height in March 1941, at which point 37,000 men were working on the project. The army's Fortification Office together with district army corps drafted technical and strategic designs for the fortifications. Five separate army corps were responsible for defending and fortifying the eastern border, and in their areas construction work was carried out by numbered working groups made up of civilians. Construction work on the Salpa Line was temporarily halted when the Continuation War broke out. Construction and fortification of the Salpa Line resumed again in the summer of 1944 and went on through autumn of that year when a ceasefire was declared and troops were demobilised.
Salpa Line has been thought of as Finland's largest construction site. If the task had been given to a single man, it would have taken him 70,000 years to complete.
The backbone of Salpa Line defence line was made up of reinforced concrete sheltered dugouts. The Salpa Line also included wooden field fortifications, anti-tank obstacles, barbed wire obstacles and entrenchments. Salpa Line, in its entirety, consisted of 350 km of battle and connecting trenches, 700 weapons and lodging dugouts made out of reinforced concrete, 25 caves, hundreds of temporary field fortification dugouts, 1,650 field fortification rifle and fire control positions, 500 cannon posts, over 200 multi-layered anti-tank rock obstacles and over 300 km of barbed wire obstacles.
The battles of the Continuation War never reached the Salpa Line, but it has been estimated that the defence line played a role in peace terms negotiated with the Soviet Union. After the war ended the allied forces control commission ordered that Salpa Line be stripped of its armament. The defence line had to be completely disarmed, but the structures along it were not demolished.
The Salpa Line was forgotten after the wars for several decades. Some of the sites along the Salpa Line have now been restored or reconstructed, primarily to serve as tourist destinations. The Salpa Line is protected under the Antiquities Act and it cannot be demolished or altered without permission from the National Board of Antiquities.
Visitors can also see Salpa Line sites at Kongonsaari Island at Pihlajavesi.
Änäkäinen and the Salpa Line are good destinations year-round. There is a Finnish-language information board at Änäkäinen parking area, which features information on Änäkäinen's war history. For more information on the Änäkäinen area contact Koli Nature Centre Ukko.
Directions and Maps
The Änäkäinen Area is located on the eastern side of the Joensuu - Lieksa - Nurmes road (main road no. 73), about 36 km north of Lieksa. The distance to Nurmes is about 57 km.
- From Lieksa you take the Lieksa - Rastinkylä road (no. 524) to Nurmijärvi, where you turn towards the eastern border to Kivivaarantie (road no. 5241). Drive for about 8 km, and then turn left for the Änäkäinen information site, where there is also a parking area.
- The area is even accessible in the winter as the road leading through the area is ploughed up to the Saarijärvi ‘kota' hut with an adjoining parking area.
- On the shore of Lake Syväjärvi there is a parking area for caravans.
- For enquiries on transportation services, please contact Erästely (www.erastely.fi).
- Taxi services in the area are provided by Jongunjoen taksi, tel. +358 (0)13 546 601, +358 (0)400 374 158 or +358 (0)400 589 331.
Starting Points for Excursions
- There are three parking areas in the Änäkäinen Area: at the Kivivaarantie information site, by the road running along the western side of Änäkäinen, and at the southern end of Lake Saarijärvi before the barrier. The parking area for caravans and camper vans is located on the eastern shore of Lake Syväjärvi.
- The terrain in the Änäkäinen Area is rocky with steep cliffs in places, making it difficult to explore, so you should wear sturdy shoes. In addition, there is barbed wire and pits dating back to WWII that have not been marked on the terrain. You should thus be especially careful when walking off the marked trails. South of the Kivivaarantie road there is the wartime Vornasenvaara cave base with no entry at the moment for safety reasons.
- A Finnish language information board at Änäkäinen parking area, which features information on Änäkäinen's war history.
- Guided tours in the terrain organised by Erästely Ky (www.erastely.fi).
- For more information on the Änäkäinen area contact Koli Nature Centre Ukko in Koli
Services for the Disabled
- There are no services for the disabled at the Salpa Line.
This is the webpage www.nationalparks.fi/salpalineanakainen