Why Some Norwegians Want to Give Finland One of Their Mountains
That’s pretty generous.
Some people can be especially hard to shop for during the holiday season. What do you get your picky grandpa who has everything? That guy you’ve only been seeing for a few weeks? The cousin you’ve barely talked to in years, but whose name you drew in Secret Santa?
Or that country with whom you’ve shared a border for hundreds of years?
A group of Norwegians has taken gift-giving to a new level this year by proposing to give one of its mountain peaks to Finland. At 1,324 meters (4,344 feet), Halti is the highest mountain range in Finland. But its 1,331-meter-tall (4,367 feet) summit, Hálditšohkka, is actually located right across the border, in Norway.
The group’s proposal calls for shifting Norway’s border by about 150 meters (492 feet) north and 200 meters (656 feet) east, which would bring Hálditšohkka into Finish territory.
“Let us take Finland to new heights!” a Facebook page for the campaign reads.
The idea comes from Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a retired geodesist and a former chief engineer of the Norwegian Mapping authority, according to Aftenposten, Norway’s biggest newspaper. Harsson, 75, first thought of it in 1972 while surveying the Norway-Finland border in a helicopter.
“We would not have to give away any part of Norway. It would barely be noticeable,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK last week. “And I’m sure the Finns would greatly appreciate getting it.”
When Harsson learned this summer that Finland was preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of its independence in late 2016, he decided a mountain peak would be a fitting gift, according to The Telegraph. He sent a letter to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but hasn’t heard back.
Sondre Lund, 25, who lives in Trondheim, Norway, said he created the Facebook page after seeing a Reddit post about Harsson’s proposal. The user behind the post, Braidedbeard, whom Lund suspects is a relative of Harsson’s, gave Lund the OK to launch the page.
Lund said people find the proposal “amusing” and “generous.”
“Supporters like the idea of doing something nice for Finland, and point out that Norway has got plenty of mountain tops,” Lund wrote in a Facebook message. “Some people have noted how it is a bit sad to walk downwards to Finland’s highest point if you come from the Norwegian side.”
Indeed, Norway boasts nearly 200 peaks towering above 2,000 meters (6,560 feet).
The proposal is a rare gesture in a geopolitical climate better known for taking land away rather than giving it up (cough, Russia). And there’s obviously a host of constitutional, legal, geographical, and mapping considerations. But at least one Norwegian government official seems into it. From The Telegraph:
The proposal has already won the support, if not commitment from Anne Cathrine Frøstrup, the head of the Norwegian Mapping Authority.
“It is a very good idea,” she told Norway’s state broadcaster NRK after receiving an email from Mr Harsson last week. "It is a nice gift to give to a country that lacks a high mountain, where the highest point isn’t even a peak.”
Markku Markkula, from the Land Survey of Finland told Finland’s Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper that there would be few legal obstacles.
“It would be a question of an agreement between the two countries,” he said.
The Finnish embassy in Norway has acknowlegded the proposal on Twitter. The Facebook page has received more than 10,000 likes so far, and commenters are mostly in favor of the gift.
“One guy said he thinks the whole thing is ludicrous, but he seems to either be trolling or a bit weird,” Lund said.