Around 13 700 Soviet POWs died in Norway. The high mortality count makes these POWs the largest group of war losses on Norwegian soil.
Exact mortality figures are still uncertain as the source material was destroyed when the Germans capitulated, and also because the Nazis had little respect for human life. POWs were thrown into common graves or never properly buried.
Today about half of the victims have been identified by name.
In part because of the Cold War, the history of the Soviet POWs was for a long time nothing more than a footnote in the history of the war in Norway.
Events surrounding the so-called «Operation Asphalt» in 1951 were closely connected to the politics of the Cold War. During that year, remnants of deceased Soviet POWs were moved from burial sites in northern Norway to the Tjøtta war cemetery on the Helgeland coast.
Many monuments were ruined during the removal of the war graves. A construction worker witnessed in the autumn of 1950 that a memorial stone close to Bjørnelva was blown up. When he asked why, the answer was that «It is so unpleasant for the tourists to see these Russian grave memorials standing around like this».