Archaeological study of recent past has been a rapidly growing field of research in Finland and internationally.As part of this trend, researchers have started to pay more attention also to “dark” research themes, such as the cultural heritage of wars, conflicts and other traumatic events. In Finland archaeologists have in the past few years actively documented, for instance, the Second World War heritage at Salpa Line, in Lapland and in Hangö.
However, on the conflict sites that have been left on the Russian side of the border, hardly any archaeological or other field research has been done. An exception are archeological surveys of Finnish Civil War (1918) sites, for example at the Ahvola Battlefield, and the activity of some keen Finnish and Russian enthusiasts. Russian archaeologists and cultural heritage authorities do not usually perceive the Second World War heritage as interesting for research or official protection. This has left the wartime sites as open prey for the so-called “black diggers” who use metal detectors to find treasures from the battlefields.
Mannerheim Line is internationally perhaps the single most famous and legendary scene of the Finnish Winter War in 1939-1940. Getting it under heritage protection in Russia is of primary importance, so that this important war historical monument would not be eradicated for instance by the modern landuse, but would be preserved for the future generations. Archaeology of the Mannerheim Line project aims at mapping the current state of the Mannerheim Line fortifications and recognizing sites with good archaeological research and cultural heritage preservation potential. Also the project aims at mapping the extent of looting by “black diggers” along the line, and marketing the cultural heritage value, historical significance and cultural tourism potential of the Second World War sites especially for the Russian collaborators and cultural heritage authorities.