East Karelia (in Finnish Itä-Karjala) is a name for the
part of Karelia (land of the Karelian and Finnish peoples and a vast inhabited
area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and
Sweden) that since the Treaty of Stolbova in 1617 has remained Christian Orthodox
under Russian supremacy. Most of the East Karelia is now part of the Republic
of Karelia within the Russian Federation.
19th century ethnic nationalist Finns saw East Karelia as the ancient home of Finnic culture, "un-contaminated" by both Scandinavians and Slavs. The idea of annexing East Karelia to Finland ("Greater Finland") was widely supported in independent Finland. It was especially popular during the Continuation War when it seemed possible through German assistance. Most of East Karelia was occupied by Finnish forces 1941–1944. The war was accompanied by hardship for the local ethnic Russian civilians, including forced labour and internment in prison camps as enemy aliens. After the Continuation War, calls for annexation of East Karelia have virtually disappeared.
After Karelia was divided between Finland and Russia in 1918, the Finnic peoples that made up most of the population of East Karelia were promised far-reaching cultural rights. However, these rights were never realised and under Stalin ethnic Finns were persecuted and an intensive Russification began. After the fall of communism, there has been a revival in Finnish culture in East Karelia.
During occupation overprinted Finnish issues (with overprint "ITA- / KARJALA / Sot.hallinto", for "East Karelia Military Administration") and one semipostal were used in the area:
1-7: Overprint on Finish definitives (issued in 1941)
8-15: 1941 second overprint (green colour)
16-27: Struggle for freedom (1942)
28: War victims fund (1943)