Photo: A boundary stone marks the border between Finland and Norway, near the summit of Haltitunturi, which is presently the former's highest peak. Credit: Lothar Sowada, via Wikimedia Commons Last year we reported that a retired Norwegian mapmaker wants his government to roll their eastern border just a bit westward. That would allow Mount Halti to become part of Finland -- a gift for that country's 100th birthday. And now the Prime Minister of Norway has said that she's giving consideration to allow the move.
After more than five centuries under Swedish rule, Finland was invaded by Russia in 1808, and the following year became a Grand Duchy under the Russian Czar. In 1917, following the February and October revolutions that ushered in the Soviet Union, Finland declared independence; last year, as the centenary of that declaration approached, former Norwegian geophysicist and government surveyor Bjørn Geirr Harsson wrote to his country's foreign ministry suggesting that Oslo mark the occasion by offering to move part of its boundary approximately 130 feet to the west.
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The reason? The border, a straight line north to south is, Harsson has said, "geophysically illogical," not least because it bisects the mountain in question. Geophysically speaking, Harsson explained, "Mount Halti has two peaks, one Finnish and one Norwegian." Because of the border, however, both of those peaks are in Norway. Shifting the boundary 130 or so feet up the mountain would move one of them, Hálditšohkka, into Finnish territory; the 4,367-foot fell would become the highest point in the nation.
Harsson points out that the total amount of territory that would be ceded by such a move would be a mere 0.0058 square miles -- about 3.7 acres.
Not everybody responded enthusiastically to the idea. The deputy chair of the parliamentary scrutiny committee, Michael Tetzschner, called the plan "bewildering" and "a joke," and said that the constitution "clearly prohibits the surrender by the state of any part of Norwegian territory to another power."
But, according to The Guardian, there is precedent for such small-scale changes: Norway's borders with both Finland and Russia had moved in recent times "to reflect changes in riverbeds and the shifting position of sandbanks and islets."
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Certainly, the idea has met with some approval in high places. Prime Minister Erna Solberg acknowledged that, "There are some formal challenges and I haven't yet decided my own view on the matter. But we are considering it."
Svein Leiros, the mayor of Kåfjord municipality, where the peak is located, said that "The peak would be a wonderful gift to our sister nation. "We want to reach out a hand to our neighbor that we will be able to shake across the summit."
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