The Communist Chasm

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They followed a dream, a dream of a better life promised to them by agents of North America’s booming industry owners. It was a dream that led many of them into the Upper Midwest’s deep, dangerous mines and into fierce labor strikes and ruinous blacklistings. Years later and deeply disillusioned, they were promised a Workers’ Paradise by communist recruiters who sent them across the Atlantic Ocean to Russia’s Karelia, where their fate was sealed by Joseph Stalin. The Communist Chasm chronicles how thousands of Communist Finns were lured to their deaths. Once read, the story will never be forgotten.

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One late summer day a few years ago, I decided it was time to begin writing The Communist Chasm. My research began, and I soon noticed that a group of American immigrants of Finnish descent kept recurring in the reference books I was reading. Eventually, the activities of those men told The Communist Chasm story. Several of the older men in the group personally knew Vladimir Lenin, and most of them knew and worked with Joseph Stalin. I was stunned that two such well-known historical villains had entwined themselves into our American history.

The radical activists powered The Communist Chasm. They were initially warriors in the Labor Movement and helped influence other Finnish immigrants to become arguably the most radical and well-organized ethnic group in America’s Upper Midwest during the struggles for workers’ rights in the early 1900s. The radical activists then embraced the Communist Movement and were ready to help Joseph Stalin when he needed North American manpower, money, and machinery. That result is known as Karelian Fever.

The Communist Chasm is a chapter in American history that most do not know, and even those who have heard of Karelian Fever will be surprised at its well-coordinated effort in America and Russia. The Communist Chasm begins in America and ends in Russia’s Karelia. It is a story of hope for a better life, pride in making a difference in a new land, and devastating loss. My journey in writing the story took me on surprising twists and turns that only the activities of the eight radical men could have created.


Vivid, bold, and descriptively brutal. Wisherd’s historical account of the rise of the Communist Movement and the tragic divide it caused amongst the Finnish communities in the mining towns and forested hamlets of the northern United States is a must-read for every history buff and passionate lover of literature. Her eloquent journalism stands as a beacon of truth against those who would suppress the past.

John Luthens
Author of Writing Wild and Taconite Creek

Talk about an unknown page from history! Thousands of idealistic Americans and Canadians of Finnish descent turned their backs on their countries in the early 1900s and sailed off to what they believed would be a “Workers’ Paradise” in Russia’s province of Karelia—only to discover a life of hardship, deprivation, and disillusion. Nan Wisherd’s ground-breaking work is a fascinating and detailed look at a forgotten time.

Flint Whitlock
Author of The Beasts of Buchenwald and Turbulence before Take-off

The Communist Chasm relates the fascinating story of how Karelian Fever began and why it ended so tragically. This is a worthy contribution to a vital historical subject of the twentieth century.

Dr. Alexis Pogorelskin
emerita, University of Minnesota-Duluth
and author of numerous Karelian Fever articles

The Communist Chasm is the riveting story of how the Communist Movement began and evolved both in Europe and the United States. How it impacted northern Wisconsin is an important, but previously neglected, part of our history.

Duane Lahti
President, Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center

Beginning in hope and ending in tragedy, The Communist Chasm is a sad story but one of importance that all should know and understand.”

Steven Fortney
Author of The Cabin and Kraby: The Dark Secrets behind a True-Crime Murder

Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented piece of informed and informative history that rescues an horrific episode in the American communist experience for uncounted numbers of Finnish emigrants and their families whose high expectations and idealistic hopes were to be cruelly abused by a disillusioning and hostile reality that would lead to their deaths, “The Communist Chasm: How the Dreams of a Better Life became a Terrible Nightmare” is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, college, and university library American Communist History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that “The Communist Chasm: How the Dreams of a Better Life became a Terrible Nightmare” is also available in a digital book format.

Midwest Book Review
Reviewer’s Choice
November 2022

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Nan Wisherd


Soft Cover


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