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Tourists from the Estonian SSR in Finland in 1955–1980

Over 9500 tourists in total visited Finland from the ESSR in 1955–1980 in connection with the trade union movement. Over half of all ESSR tourists who visited capitalist countries during the period under consideration travelled to Finland in particular. Accordingly, the tourist groups consisted of representatives of walks of life with larger incomes that belonged to higher social classes: technical experts (architects, engineers, technicians); educationalists (teachers, academics, scientific and research staff); doctors and various civil servants (officials, Communist Party, trade union and Komsomol functionaries). Representation of the working class and kolkhozniks remained low.

There were various reasons for the elitist nature of the tourist groups, yet one of the more important impacting factors was the fact that the authorities expected tourists who went abroad to conduct credible and positive propaganda on behalf of the USSR. The regime feared that workers and/or kolkhozniks could have difficulty in carrying out this task and that they were incapable of having a credible effect on audiences in foreign countries.

Candidates for travel abroad had to go through a long process to acquire a vacation package: formally, the filling out of the required paperwork and the selection of the candidates admittedly took place at a total of five different levels but essentially, the KGB still had the last word on the matter.

Losing out on a foreign vacation package was considered a true personal tragedy at the individual level. The Soviet regime was very well aware of this and used vacation packages to foster outward loyalty. Finland was excellently suited as a destination for tourism abroad because unlike the rest of the capitalist countries, Finland did not offer political asylum to defectors from behind the Iron Curtain and extradited refugees who were caught to the USSR. For this reason, the only possibility was to use Finland as a transit territory for carrying on to Sweden, where one could request political asylum. Unlike Finland. The escape of a member of a tourist group to Sweden via Finland was complicated and for this reason, only three tourists from the ESSR succeeded in this undertaking in the period 1955–1980.