Shadow Lines: 5 Incredible Tales About the KGB-CIA Battle in Finland

Finland joined NATO in April 2023 - a historic shift that led to Russia threatening 'counter-measures'. It's certainly not the first time Finland has stared down the Russian bear.

The hottest spot of the Cold War in the 1950s wasn’t D.C. or Moscow. It was Helsinki where the KGB and the CIA fought for control of Finland - at least that’s how Shadow Lines portrays the thrilling espionage battle.

The Finnish, English, and Russian-language series revolves around Helena (Emmi Parviainen), a student who returns home from America where she is recruited by her Godfather to help stop the US and Russia meddling in the 1956 Finnish presidential election.


The tension really was boiling over between East and West in the run-up to the January 1956 ballot with Finland precariously positioned on the western side of the Iron Curtain. The country’s secret service was struggling to keep the homeland independent from their dominant USSR neighbor. Did they succeed?

SPYSCAPE looked into the stormy history of espionage in the land of saunas, reindeer, and the Finnish tango of KGB & CIA Cold War spies.

Shadow Lines: 5 Incredible Tales About the KGB-CIA Battle in Finland

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Finland joined NATO in April 2023 - a historic shift that led to Russia threatening 'counter-measures'. It's certainly not the first time Finland has stared down the Russian bear.

The hottest spot of the Cold War in the 1950s wasn’t D.C. or Moscow. It was Helsinki where the KGB and the CIA fought for control of Finland - at least that’s how Shadow Lines portrays the thrilling espionage battle.

The Finnish, English, and Russian-language series revolves around Helena (Emmi Parviainen), a student who returns home from America where she is recruited by her Godfather to help stop the US and Russia meddling in the 1956 Finnish presidential election.


The tension really was boiling over between East and West in the run-up to the January 1956 ballot with Finland precariously positioned on the western side of the Iron Curtain. The country’s secret service was struggling to keep the homeland independent from their dominant USSR neighbor. Did they succeed?

SPYSCAPE looked into the stormy history of espionage in the land of saunas, reindeer, and the Finnish tango of KGB & CIA Cold War spies.

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Shadow Lines
Shadow Lines follows a Finnish intelligence team defending the country’s independence

1. The East-West tightrope

Shadow Lines portrays Finland as a country walking a tightrope between East and West, careful not to offend its Soviet neighbors while trying to maintain its independence. The back story doesn’t stray too far from history.

The northern nation shares a border with the Russian superpower and it has always been a difficult balancing act. Finland actually fought on both sides during World War II. The country initially waged a defensive war against the Soviet Union, acting with Nazi Germany to win back territories lost to the USSR, then caved in to pressure from the US. In March 1945, Finland formally declared war against Germany.

Shadow Lines
Tabe Slioor (Jessica Grabowsky) is a Finnish intelligent agent 


2. Fist, a secret reconnaissance force

Finnish intelligence agent Tabe Slioor (Jessica Grabowsky) is as glamorous as she is devious but is her portrayal realistic?

Shadow Lines follows ‘Fist’, a secret reconnaissance force controlled by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service Suojelupoliisi, known as Supo. The service exists in real life, established in 1948 under the Ministry of the Interior.

In 2009, Supo declassified its Cold War files from 1949-1959, revealing its intense monitoring of Soviet intelligence operations in Finland and the activities of the Communist Party of Finland. Supo files from the early 1960s were “lost” while being “re-arranged“, however, including the so-called X-reports believed to detail sensitive counterintelligence operations.

Shadow Lines
Actor Hannu-Pekka Björkman plays the deputy chief of the Finnish security police


3. The Stasi link

Finland had Cold War ties to the East German Stasi secret police both in fiction and in reality.

Supo’s now-infamous Cold War Stasi list remains sealed. The list contains the names of 18 Finns named as contacts by East German intelligence and it has caused an uproar in Finland. Finnish diplomat Alpo Rusi (once suspected and later cleared of being a spy) claims the late former Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa is one of the 18 names on the so-called Tiitinen list. Finland’s government denies the claim. The list is believed to be in Supo’s safe.


Shadow Lines about the KGB-CIA interference in the elections
Finland leased Porkkala to the Soviets for 50 years


4. The spooky USSR naval base

Shadow Lines' Season One questions what will happen to Porkkala Naval Base and whether the Soviet Union should return it to Finland.

As WWII drew to a close, the USSR secured a 50-year lease on a Finnish naval base at Porkkala under the Moscow armistice agreement that ended the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviets. The lease gave Moscow a foothold 20 miles west of Helsinki, the Finnish capital. While under Soviet control, Finnish train passengers had to shutter their windows while passing. Photos were prohibited.

The USSR returned Porkkala to Finland earlier than expected in 1956, however, and it is now the main base used by the Finnish Navy.

Shadow Lands
Actor Janne Reinikainen portrays Finnish President Urho Kekkonen


5. Finland's massive General Strike

Season Two of Shadow Lines picks up the story five months later with the General Strike and President Urho Kekkonen's inauguration but what’s the real story?

In 1955, the cost of living in Finland rose 7 percent in two months and the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions demanded a wage increase. The 1956 presidential election coincided with the uprising and on March 1, 1956 - the day newly elected Finnish President Urho Kekkonen assumed office - 500,000 Finns joined the Great General Strike. The uprising ended after almost three weeks with an agreement of a nationwide wage increase of 6-10 percent.

President Kekkonen - who’d won the election by the slimmest of majorities - then remained in office for eight terms until 1982. His unusually long hold on power has led to much speculation since the end of the Cold War about his relations with the Soviet Union and, in particular, with the KGB and Soviet foreign intelligence.

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