Proposal for traffic signs in Russian sparks anger in Lappeenranta
Russian-speakers increasingly taken into consideration in Eastern Finland
Plans for traffic signs in the Russian language has sparked controversy in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta.
A proposal for helping visitors from Russia with Russian-language signs in key areas, came from Tom Hultin, CEO of Lappeenrannan kaupunkiyhtiöt, a company owned by the City of Lappeenranta, dedicated to promoting business in the city.
The proposal prompted immediate protests in the local media and online message boards from people who thought that names of streets would also be in Russian
Hultin notes that the initiative to the Lappeenranta City Council was for some multilingual traffic signs to help drivers navigate in the area.
“We have not said anything about street names”, he reiterated.
The signs would guide drivers to the city’s historic fortress, the centre, and the harbour. He said that he hoped that the signs would be up already this summer.
About 700,000 Russian visitors come to Lappeenranta each year.
“It is in our common interest that people know in what direction they should go.”
The city’s Technical Services department is preparing a proposal for new signs.
Jussi Salo, the Director of Technical Services, says that there is already a decision to put up Russian-language signs in the city’s old fortress, but that in other respects, the matter remains undecided.
The city of Kotka on the south coast, has Russian-language signs in the harbour. Joutseno, on Highway 6, which leads to the border, has a sign in Russian forbidding parking on the shoulder because queues of Russian lorries were seen as a threat to a ground water area.
Russian-speaking visitors are being better taken into consideration in many parts of the east and southeast of Finland. Many travel companies and travel destinations have Russian-language websites, and owners of cottages for rent often have instructions in Russian for their Russian clients.
Pia Kokki, managing director of Savonlinna Travel Ltd. says that her organisation has made special efforts to teach companies how to serve Russian-speaking customers. Companies have increasingly been hiring Russian immigrants, and other staff who speak Russian.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Immigration and tourism from Russia boost economy and population of Eastern Finland (15.3.2005)
Finland again attracts record numbers of Russian tourists (2.1.2008)
Russian tourist spending reaches record levels (20.12.2006)