Beauty of Russian North

Russian North is the country of water and woods. Of course if you go too far up north, the woods would disappear replaced by endless marshes and low meadows of Arctic tundra. But let us stay south of the Arctic Circle this time... And enjoy a short slide show. If you click on a small in-line image, you will get a larger picture for an off-line viewer.

We will not be visiting areas vandalized by mining, drilling, or oil spills. Let Greenpeace activists yell about it. The nature of the North is fragile, industrial invasion is almost always fatal and the results look horrible. True. Still there are so many places where you can relax and enjoy quiet beauty of nightless summers, music of running streams, clear mirrors of forest lakes. We are on vacation now.


The pictures of this slide show were mostly taken in Karelija, the western part of Russian North, a few hundred miles east of the border with Finland. A few pictures show places farther east. This show is not very much precise from a geographical viewpoint, it mostly deals with the spirit of the land.


Taking a waterway is just the right way to visit the North. For centuries, rivers, lakes and sometimes man-made channels were the main roads here. Villages were built on the high banks, in the clearings of thick forests.


And almost everything in the villages was built of wood. The houses, the churches and chapels, the boats and street pavements. These are the places where wooden constructions became a part of a landscape, almost as natural as old boulders once brought here by the glacier - long, long time ago.


The boulders and polished smooth curves of the rocks remind us about the old power of the Earth. It takes a while to polish granite with ice. But it also takes some time to make a good boat out of a whole tree trunk. They still keep making the boats this way in the North. The one in the picture is not from a museum, it is an everyday transportation in 1992.


The churches and small forest chapels are often abandoned. People have moved from here... Or have been kicked out of here... Or have been killed right here. The history of the North is no less bloody than the rest of our history. On a small and empty island in the middle of a large lake you go through a forest and all of a sudden see a bell-tower. Here used to be a village once upon a time. Now only this chapel still hides among the pine-trees. A small sign says it is an architectural monument of 18 century...


The forests are full of berries and mushrooms. The summer here is short, but it brings many useful things to gather and save for the winter. The lakes are a paradise for a fisherman, and a skillful hunter will never die of starvation too...


The land of gentle low hills and countless lakes looks like a blue-green tapestry if you are lucky to find a place to look at it from above. It is enchanting, and after spending a summer here it is almost impossible not to come to the North again. And again...


Speaking of "North again"... This story was written after our trips in 1992 and 1993. In 1995, we went again to Karelia, and you may read our travelogue in another section of "Friends and Partners" server.
Andrey Sebrant -

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