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The Saimaa Canal connects the Saimaa water area to the Gulf of Finland via Vyborg in Russia. Its total length is 43 km and the average drop between Saimaa Lakeland and the Gulf of Finland is 75,7 m. The canal has 8 locks, 5 of which are located in the Russian territory.

The first attempts to connect Saimaa Lakeland to the sea date back to the 16th century. The first Saimaa Canal was built from 1845 to 1856 and opened for traffic in 1856. The canal was built between the towns of Lappeenranta and Viipuri (now Vyborg, Russia), both of them then in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire.

In the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, the Karelian Isthmus and the city of Vyborg were ceded to the Soviet Union, thus effectively splitting the canal in half and ending all traffic.

Following a treaty agreement in 1963, Russia leased the Russian section of the canal area to Finland for fifty years. Negotiations in 2008 agreed upon an extension of 50 years in 2013. A new deeper canal was constructed by the Finns and opened for traffic in 1968.

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