May 28, 1995 in Nation/World

Russians Swarm Finland With Money

Associated Press

A half-century ago, Russians swarmed over the Finnish frontier with guns blazing. Today, they’re back, armed with bags of money instead.

They’re giving new life to this town of 56,000, about 15 miles from the border, making it thrive while the rest of the country trudges through the slow recovery from a severe recession.

“I reckon every business in Lappeenranta has benefited from the Russians,” said Heimo Leminen, who last year sold about $950,000 of tires to Russians - about 40 percent of his total trade.

“They come with bags of dollars and order truckloads of tires,” Leminen said, grinning. “Many companies would have gone bankrupt if it hadn’t been for the Russians.”

With this kind of a boom going on, Lappeenranta businessmen aren’t inclined to ask where the Russians’ money is coming from, even though Russia’s economic troubles are legion.

“Most of them appear honest,” said Mayor Markku Andersson.

Most of the Russians come to buy food, clothes, household appliances and furniture, some of it used. Last year, they spent 12,000 nights at hotels in Lappeenranta, up from 3,000 the previous year.

Finns, who share a 795-mile border with the Russians, traditionally are wary of their eastern neighbors. They fought two wars in 1939-1944.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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