Exploring 100 Years of Finnish transboundary water interactions with Russia: An historical analysis of diplomacy and cooperation

Juho Haapala
Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; juho.haapala@aalto.fi

Marko Keskinen
Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; marko.keskinen@aalto.fi

ABSTRACT: This study combines the strengths of historical studies and analytical approaches on transboundary water interactions to establish an historical process perspective on transboundary waters. The study analytically separates transboundary water cooperation, water diplomacy, and their broader political setting, and analyses their interplay over a long period of time. The paper presents a detailed case study on the development and transformation of Finnish-Russian transboundary water interactions over the last 100 years, with an emphasis on Finland and its relationship with the Soviet Union/Russia after World War II. The setting remains relatively understudied despite its intriguing characteristics and its importance to the pioneering of water cooperation arrangements such as reciprocal compensation mechanisms. Using four distinct time periods, the study scrutinises how water diplomacy actors, institutional developments, broader political environs, and historical occurrences have ultimately led to the current cooperative setting. The findings emphasise the role played by societal trends in steering politics and water diplomacy as well as in the crafting of transboundary water cooperation. They also indicate how establishing an institutional basis for cooperation requires both political commitment and technical expertise, often over a very long period of time. The findings demonstrate how the institutions of cooperation, once they emerged, resulted in a rather self-governing operating body for everyday transboundary interaction, replacing water diplomacy as the dominant means of interaction in the studied context. Analysing historical trajectories helps to critically investigate our current discourses and practices and to understand the impact that broader societal trends have on transboundary water interactions.

KEYWORDS: Historical analysis, water diplomacy, transboundary water cooperation, international waters, water history, historical institutionalism, Finland, Russia, the Soviet Union