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Russians Discover Ease in Finnish Market

Published: December 25, 2013 (Issue # 1792)

  • More than 600 Finnish companies are already active in Russia and together employ more than 50,000 local citizens.
    Photo: Michael Holler / Flickr

  • The effort by Finland to help Russian’s feel at home takes to the streets.
    Photo: Masmad / Flickr

  • Russian investments include Hartwell Areena, Finland’s largest ice hockey stadium.
    Photo: Lauri / Flickr

The Russian businessmen were baffled. No matter how hard they tried to hint clearly that they were ready to grease the palm of the Finnish bureaucrat in order to get the construction permit needed to build a housing project, he did not seem to understand.

And they at first did not understand when they eventually got their permit, on time and having only paid the bureaucrat the official fee.

“This person had everything in his hands to amass a fortune, but he did not take a dime for himself,” was the reaction of the Russian businessmen, according to Stepan Obraztsov, the head of SKTS, a company that organizes promotion projects and business trips. “Moreover, the official put on a pair of rubber boots and personally went to inspect the construction site, which was another hair-raiser for the visiting investors,” Obraztsov said.

The story is illustrative of the pleasant surprises waiting for Russian businessmen who head across the border to address the Finnish market and get a foothold in Europe.

The Transparency International corruption index released last week confirms the attraction. Finland was ranked third while Russia is in 127th place, up from 133rd a year ago. And the overall business climate rating helps explain the trend. Finland was ranked 12th in the last World Bank Doing Business rating while Russia struggled to go up to 92nd position from 111th where it was in 2012.

The existing ties between the countries are quite tangible. According to the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Russia is Finland’s biggest trade partner. Finnish companies have made direct investments totaling some 10 to 12 billion euros into Russia. More than 600 Finnish companies are already active in Russia and together employ more than 50,000 local citizens.

But Russian investment into Finland has been a lot more modest, with just more than 850 million euros ($1.1 billion) channeled into the country’s economy over the last ten years. Finland is working hard to change that balance.

Accommodating Climate

The effort to make Russians feel at home in Finland is immediately noticeable to passengers disembarking at the Helsinki Airport after the 1-1/2-hour flight from Moscow. They might even have to look twice to be sure they have landed in a foreign country.

Some signs in Helsinki Airport, which itself is not very much different from the modernized Sheremetyevo, are duplicated in Russian.

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Times Talk


Wednesday, Apr. 23

Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of society’s most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.

Thursday, Apr. 24

Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegation’s visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.

AmCham’s Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.

Friday, Apr. 25

Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finland’s Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from

Saturday, Apr. 26

At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping mall’s Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.

Sunday, Apr. 27

Families shouldn’t miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.

Monday, Apr. 28

The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBA’s Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.

Tuesday, Apr. 29

Improve your English at the British Book Center’s Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.