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Iron Curtain Remains in Place Above Arctic Circle

July 31, 1990

KIRKENES, Norway (AP) _ The Iron Curtain that bisected Europe has been lifted, but it remains in place above the Arctic Circle.

An electrified fence runs along the Soviet side of the 120-mile frontier, said Hugo Overgaard, the Norwegian border commissioner.

Norwegian and Soviet scouts exchange salutes, still without speaking, but the Norwegians say they no longer crouch into firing position when they see each other.

Soviet officials require at least two weeks notice of a visit from Norway. Soviet civilians are allowed within 18 miles of the frontier only if they live in the area, Overgaard told reporters.

The border joins Norway with the Kola Peninsula, home of the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet. The Gulf Stream keeps the Barents Sea free of ice, allowing the Soviets to operate naval bases and the port of Murmansk through the winter.

To the north is a vast sea area without defined national boundaries. Spokesmen for Statoil, Norway’s national oil company, say its petroleum reserves may surpass those of the North Sea.

″Central Europe is being disarmed, while in the north there is continued strong dynamics with naval forces,″ said Sverre Lodgaard of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. ″The Nordic area does not get its share of the detente in other regions.″

Soviet border guards held a Norwegian man briefly in July and said he was captured on their side of Grens Jakobselv, a stream marking the border.

A week before, Soviet guards chased and shot at a Norwegian fisherman, who denied violating the frontier. Norway protested the shooting, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Vegard Ellefsen said the Soviets did not provide an explanation.

There are signs of change. Border guards from the two countries plan a soccer match this month at Kirkenes, on the Norwegian side, and the possibility of providing visas in two days is being discussed.

Norway’s territory on the frontier is bleak - low hills, forests and rocks - and relatively unfortified.

Juri Kosereff, son of Soviet refugees, lives on the Norwegian side of the Grens Jakobselv, which runs through a sandy beach into the sea.

″In the old days there was no border here,″ he said. ″We went over the river, back and forth as we wanted. On the other side were a store and an inn.″ He and an old woman are the only remaining inhabitants of what once was a village straddling the border.

When Kosereff was young, the other side of the river and part of the village was in Finland. The Soviet Union claimed the territory after World War II and sealed the border.

Fewer than 30 people a year crossed the line in the late 1940s. Norwegian officials said the traffic gradually increased, to 3,000 last year.

Soviet officials require two weeks to process applications by visitors planning day trips by sea ferry or airplane from Kirkenes to Murmansk. A travel agent said those taking organized bus tours must apply three weeks ahead and visas for private land trips take four to five weeks.

All land travelers pass through a Norwegian border post at Storskog, 7 miles south of Kirkenes.

Frontier conditions ″have been affected very little by variations in East- West relations,″ said Overgaard, the border commissioner.

Yellow signs and border poles along the Grens Jakobselv make clear that off-limits Soviet territory starts about 11 yards away.

Kosereff plans to visit the Soviet Union for the first time, on a bus trip to see an aunt in Murmansk. The straight-line distance is about 110 miles, but his bus will have to go hundreds of miles out of its way through Finland to avoid Soviet military areas.

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