The High North Tour 2021: “The Salvation Army is in Every Place with Human Needs, Including Russia”

Karstein M. Kristiansen is just waiting for the border to Russia to re-open, so that he can continue the work in particular for youth at risk in Murmansk. (Video: Arne O. Holm)

Kirkenes: He has a vision about building up a social center in Russia and cooperates closely with the Salvation Army in the eastern neighboring country. Though so far, Moscow has set its foot down. Now, Karstein M. Kristiansen hopes for re-opening of the border, so that he once again can go to Russia.

Karstein M. Kristiansen is project manager of the [Norwegian] Salvation Army’s international division. Based in Kirkenes, he has worked for years and years to improve conditions for both what the Russians refer to as “invalids” as well as for inmates in Russian prisons. In addition, he has helped build up a Russian branch of FreTex, in Russian SpaTex, in the Russian cities of Murmansk and St. Petersburg.

“We have had five groups of five youth respectively, of different ages, who learned a little Norwegian in Murmansk. Then they came here and worked 2 x three months with Norwegian companies. 6 percent of these go either a job or went into further education after the program. These were people who had not previously thought they would have a future.”

Russian inmates

Karstein M. Kristiansen also works closely with the Correction Care Office on both the Norwegian and the Russian side of the border.

The High North Tour 2021 kart Kirkenes.
The High North Tour 2021 is here: Kirkenes. (Illustration: Iris Ørnhaug/Nord university)

“We wanted to be able to offer young inmates in Russian prisons work training and potentially follow-up assistance for instance with housing once they are released. There was a huge interest in this project from Murmansk, however, Moscow said not to this cooperation due to the Salvation Army being considered an international organization”, Kristiansen says.

Russia also has a lot of homeless people who are in need of assistance.

“Just like in any other society. And the Salvation Army works anywhere in the world where there is a need for it.”

Watch the whole interview with Karstein M. Kristiansen on top of this page. (Subtitles available in English.)

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.