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Reference on historical and cultural features of Medvezhiegorsk region

The region possesses a number of features which from the point of view of tourism favourably mark it out among other regions of Karelia. The area located across the Onego lake from Petrozavodsk (Zaonezhie) is characteristic for frequent alternation of extended bays, gulfs, lakes and long narrow rocky ridges with strict orientation from the Northwest to the Southeast. Orographical structure of Zaonezhie peninsula does not repeat neither in Russia, nor in Europe, which only may be of great interest for tourists. This interest may grow at acquaintance with southern part of Zaonezhie with many skerries representing a congestion of gulfs, capes and many hundreds of large, small and tiny islands. Zaonezhie may be called 'Karelian Hellas' according to the enthusiastic statement of one of the travelling scientists.

Zaonezhie peninsula is rich with mineral water outcrops. Three springs became well-known:

  • The Tsarina's Spring which curative properties were used by local (and not only local) peasants 100 years prior to opening Marcial ferruterous waters (1714);
  • The Three Ivans, venerated as a baptismal fount to which pilgrims were coming from almost all over the country, and its healing properties are confirmed today clinically;
  • The Salt Pit, which unusual name is explained by extremely high mineralization - up to 4 gpl. According to the legends, including written, peasants used to obtain salt by evaporation of this water.

Highly mineralized groundwater of miscellaneous chemistry are hidden by a number of drogeological wells. Three types of mineral waters were discovered: ferruterous, radonic, sodium chloride brine. In recent years water-clearing properties of schungites widely spread over Zaonezhie and found nowhere else were proved scientifically. Groundwaters moving in fractured reservoirs of schungite rocks obtain specific healing properties and can be a source of high-quality potable water. In total in Zaonezhie there are about 40 springs discovered, more than one half of them is located between bays of Unitsky and Svyatukha.

Historical and Cultural Potential

The most ancient population of area were Laplanders. Memory of them remained in national legends and local place names. In the end of the I - beginning of II the millenium of the new era there appeared ancient Veppsians and Karelians, and in the XIII - XIV centuries there came Slavs and Baltic Finns. Colonization of the land passed peacefully, that conducted to joint residing of representatives of different nationalities and their gradual assimilation. By now there have generated two basic local groups of the population - Russian Zaonezhie residents and Segozero Karelians.

Medvezhiegorsk region is at the top of other regions of the republic on the number of objects of cultural heritage. In its territory there are objects of different kinds. These are ethnologic monuments related to culture of Russian Zaonezhie residents and Segozero Karelians, objects of military, historical, archeologic, and industrial heritage.

Archeologists trace history of the region down to the X millenium B.C. Among the most famous archeologic objects there is a complex of burial places on Yuzhny Oleny island (Mesolithic) where many household articles of the ancient people are found, and numerous (more than 50) ancient settlement near the village of Pegrema at different stages of development. The most ancient in Europe workshop processing copper, subjects of material and spiritual culture, treasures of quartz and slate tools; the most ancient myth On the World Tree mote than 5 thousand years old were found here.

Of special value are objects of wooden national architecture in Zaonezhie, as well as a also monastic complexes of Paleostrovsky and Klemenetsky monasteries.

Fortunately, almost all monuments of wooden architecture of Zaonezhie have been studied, measured, fixed in photos due to four expeditions: M.Krukovsky's in 1899, K.Romanov's in 1912 and 1926, and also the Finnish researcher Lars Pettersson's in 1942-44. Unfortunately, Most of the monuments of history and culture of Medvezhiegorsk region ae not known to wide layers of the population both in Karelia and Russia, and abroad, therefore, these objects are not used in cultural, educational, and tourist activity. Medvezhiegorsk region is featured for many historical events, many of which are closely interwoven with all Russia's history:

  • through this land there passed trading ways of ancient Novgorodians in their orientation to the North, to the White Sea; later in these places there passed the famous Sovereign's Road, and no less famous White Sea - Baltic channel in modern time;
  • one of the first in the north of Russia monasteries were founded here;
  • mother of the first Russian tsar of the Romanov race was in exile here known as nun Martha;
  • during the time of trouble last Polish-Lithuanian detachments that passed on to serve Swedes suffered repulses here from local peasants;
  • the first in the North copper smelteries and ironworks appeared there and country revolts broke out;
  • the famous Vygoretsky comunity - the center of the Russian schismatic movement occured and existed for two centuries there;
  • large Shunga fairs where gathered merchants from the neighbouring provinces, and also Moscow, Novgorod, and from Olonia neighbourhood were held in Zaonezhie since the XVII century twice a year;
  • at last, on territory of the region there passed "the last" front lines during the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War.

Zaonezhie has played a special role in history of national culture. The best texts of hundreds of old Russian bylinas, historical songs and lamentations have been recorded here. Names of outstanding storytellers of Zaonezhie T.Ryabinin, V.Shchegolenok, I.Kasyanov, I.Fedosovoa became classic examples. The song traditions are preserved in the region until now.

Now the most perspective projects in the sphere of culture of Medvezhiegorsk region are carried out within the scope of activity of the Republican Center on the state protection of objects of cultural heritage. These are:

  • restoration and anti-wreck jobs on the Chapel of Alexander Svirsky in the village of Kosmozero and Church of the Epiphany in the settlement of Chelmuzhi;
  • realization of social and cultural network project Culture and Traditions of Zaonezhie, included carrying out of two project seminars in the settlement of Tolvuya, and the Zaonezhie Communal Horseplay holiday in the village of Zagubie;
  • Development of the international project directed on research and inclusion of objects of military history in Medvezhyegorsk (defenses cut by Finns in rocks around Medvezhiegorsk occupied in 1941) in the sphere of cultural tourism, for the 60th anniversary of liberating Medvezhiegorsk from fascist aggressors there has been held the Karelian Boundaries. Medvezhiegorsk military history festival.

Project of the town local history museum Sandarmoh was supported by the D.S.Likhachev International Charitable Foundation within the scope of the Regional program of humanitarian development of Karelia.

Medvezhiegorsk local history museum actively participates in implementation of the Karelian Vacation TACIS project - creation and equipment of visit-centers at municipal museums, as well as creation of a uniform information museum network for improvement of quality of services in the sphere of cultural tourism. The project resulted in creation of the information tourist center at the museum, teaching two employees tourism management, development of three tourist routes and participation in the Winter War Monument project. From the foreign party the project participants are the Raaten Portti Center in Suomusalmi and the University of Joensuu (Finland).

There are folk and classic ensembles in the region: the A.Antyshev academic chorus, G.Savitsky national chorus of Segozero, Zemelyushka children's classic folklore ensemble, Malki studio of amateur artists, Russian song chorus of Medvezhiegorsk regional center of culture and leisure.

In recent years a number of cultural and mass actions is held in the region with use of various kinds of historical and cultural heritage. In historical villages and villages of Zaonezhie there pass gathering festivals, the tradition of carrying out Shunga fair which throws back to the XVII century is being revived.

The Shunga fair

Since olden times the land of Zaonezhie was one of the leading handicraft areas of Karelia. Three volosts of Zaonezhie (Velikaya Guba, Tolvuya, Shunga) on the number of handicraftsmen was among the first twenty of 80 volosts of Olonets province.

In 1137 the Novgorod prince Svyatoslav has decided to put things in order in tribute gathering from northern lands subject to Novgorod. The document, known to science as Svyatoslav's Authorized Letter in naming settlements (pogosts) where the local population was to bring their tribute. On days appointed for the gathering there arrived merchants, including, of course, slavic to take advantage of celebratory gathering of people, to sell their goods and to buy furs cheap on the spot. Afterwards, the Novgorod visitors did not go home, but moved where other festive gatherings were arranged.

Places where the major local holidays were celebrated, subsequently became those centers where local administration settled down, churches were built in honour of saints. Thus, in Zaonezhie appeared Kizhi, Tolvuya, Shunga. Guests from Novgorod in their boats have blazed those trails by which Russian peasants and farmers started to move to Zaonezhie.

In the beginning of the XVth century in the village of Imichevsky a boy was born who has later become Zosimus, the miracle maker of Solovki. He has shown novgorodians the shortest way to the White Sea. Before this from Novgorod people travelled through Sukhona and Northern Dvina. Having passed the short way, Zosimus and Sabbatius in the middle of the XVth century have founded the Solovetsky [Solovki] Monastery. For Zaonezhie it was determining, for the major trading way to the White sea and further to the Western Europe was now running through it. From a remote place on the outskirts Zaonezhie has turned to a transfer site where at establishment of the sledge track the goods from the North and from the South, from the West and from the East accumulated. For this reason there subsequently appeared Shunga fair, the largest in Olonets province.

Among branches of national crafts the most widespread and characteristic for Zaonezhie were joinering, cooperage, cart-making, boat-making, tar extraction. The specialized joiner's workshop belonged to A.N.Gaidin (village of Reutovskaya) produced high-quality expensive birch furniture incrustated with mahogany and ebony, nutwood, beech, ship birch considered the best among six similar workshops that existed in Karelia. In the region there also were workshops for tanning, shoe-making, spinning and weaving. Zaonezhie was famous for cutting and wood-painting, birch-bark weaving.

In 1900 Avdotya Pavlova for her works was awarded with a silver medal at the international industrial exhibition in Paris. By 1907 there has been created a Shunga industrial center where 300 working women from Zaonezhie worked. The artel of embroideresses formed in Khashezero in 1929, became a base for development of such national craft in the region as embroidery. Skills of embroideresses from Zaonezhie was recognized beyond Russia. Articles with Zaonezhie embroidery were sold to the USA, Paris, England.

Such wide prevalence of domestic industries in Zaonezhie was explained by presence of Shunga fairs there being a large market center which glory exceded the glory of Kizhi. Total turn of three Shunga fairs at times reached more than one half of trade turnover of the other 38 fairs of Olonets province. Merchants from Shunga had their trading institutions and workshops in Petersburg and Petrozavodsk, were merchants of 1 and 2 guilds. During the Epiphany fair in Shunga met Karelians, Samoyeds, Komis, the White sea coast dwellers, Finns, merchants from Moscow, Kargopol, Arkhangelsk, etc. In 1880 the Povenets-Shunga road was constructed and the goods followed straight from Pomorie to Petersburg, that has considerably lowered importance of fairs. In the end of the XIXth century when shops appeared, necessity for fair has fallen away. Crafts died slowly, as industrial goods for the population became more accessible and cheaper.

In recent years interest to applied arts, craft traditions, andsouvenir business development grows. The number of outstanding skilled craftsmen living in Zaonezhie and creating true masterpieces increases. Different articles, different technics, different age of masters, though they are united with enthusiasm, love for their job and work.

Therefore, revival of Shunga fair becomes the precedent which promotes restoration of the most ancient traditions, formation of modern commodity market of products of domestic industries, stimulates interest to arts and crafts development in Zaonezhie. This direction is demanded by inhabitants of the territory: professional and amateur craftsmen, interested population, and it attracts tourists.

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Created: November 4, 2002. Last updated: January 20, 2009.
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