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Petrozavodsk as seen by the travelers and tourists at the end of the 19 beginning of the 20 centuries

General view of city of Petrozavodsk
General view of city of Petrozavodsk
From the photograph by Ya.Pekarsky, engraving by M.Rashevskaya
"For acquaintance with features of any country or district educational travel and excursions are most fruitful" with these words A.I.Yashnov, who has published the impressions in the book named: "Over Russian North. Impressions of a tourist", issued in Nizhni Novgorod in 1913, begins the story about his travel over Russian north. Further the author writes: "Favorite routes for Russia are, ordinarily, trips to Crimea or to Caucasus. The magnificent nature of the south is attractive: the sea makes bewitching impression on everybody, and mountains delighting the flatlander's eyes. But our Russian north with its infinite woods, with its almost untouched mineral riches, with its old-fashioned original way of life that seems to be carrying us in other epoch so far from everything we have got used to relate to our idea of the 20-th century also makes a deep impression, and no lack of the remains of antiques and architectural ancient Russian motives involuntarily attracts everyone's attention and gives highly artistic pleasure".

Thus, the author calls to travel not south, but north. And he addresses with this appeal not only to the scientists and researchers, who visit Olonets province rather frequently. Yashnov writes that "the aspiration to get acquainted with the native land by general educational excursions starts to penetrate individual families, and the usual for the city dweller summer departure to the summer residence is sometimes replaced depending on prosperity of the family, by either close, or more remote educational trip"

At the same time in the book "Afoot to Karelian waterfalls" by Nickolai Berezin (issued in 1903 in Saint Petersburg) one can read the following:
" Guess what, Ivan Grigorievich? I am going to hike to Kivatch. Join me.
To Kivatch? What is that? A place or a city?
The well-known falls in Olonets province on the river Suna Shall we go?"

As you can see, despite the fact that Olonets province was several hundreds kilometers far from St.Petersburg for a long time it remained unknown for Russian people and they had rather vague notion of our territory.

But, nevertheless, at the end of 19-th and the beginning of 20-th centuries Karelia was visited on not only scientific purposes, but also with desire simply to make a walk and to have a first-hand impression, as N.Berezin writes.

To this the steamship communication between St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk contributed in many respects. In the notes of that time it was quite often informed: "The fast steamship communication of St. Petersburg with Petrozavodsk, fine views seen quite often during our short summer differing in nonflickering nights, which make the remarkable phenomenon for inhabitants the south, make the trips here convenient and pleasant". And here's another message: "Travel to Olonets province due to development of shipping company on internal northern waters, have become the constant purpose of scientific researchers, travelers and tourists, the fancy of picturesque views of the wild and majestic northern nature".

As a rule, the purpose of travel to Olonets province was visiting the falls Kivatch, Girvas, and Por Porog (Por the Threshold). But if you allow I shall tell about it next time.

Today it would be desirable to talk about the impression made by city of Petrozavodsk on tourists at the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20-th centuries, which was the main basic point for the beginning expeditions on Karelia. We can judge these impressions on traveling notes, articles in newspapers which, as a rule, were published upon returning by many of those who visited in Karelia.

Certainly, much there depended on the point of view of the author, of his attitude to the seen, and, at last, simply on his mood. Therefore, frequently the same phenomenon was described in completely different ways, and it should be taken into account.

So, as travelers describe the first impression at the entrance to the city: "From afar the shape of picturesque Ivanovo islands start to reveal on the horizon, Vladimir Nikolaevich Mainov writes (the full member of the Russian geographical society who has visited Karelia in 1873 and has written the book "Trip in Obonezhie and Korela") and then from behind the wood the dome of constructed Petrozavodsk cathedral and the belfry of the cathedral of Peter and Paul built by Peter the Great is shownthe steamship enters the narrow place between the left coast of Onega and Ivanovo islandsand approaches the quay where it is met by almost all PetrozavodskApproaching the quay, the steamship gets decked with flags and pendants and the captain for some reason considers necessary to clothe in a brand new jacket".

Cathedral of Resurrection
Cathedral of Resurrection
M.A.Krukovsky visited Olonets province in 1904 and had described what he has seen from the deck of the steam-ship: "Petrozavodsk, provincial city, stands on the high coast of the Onega gulf. From the lake the bell tower of the ancient cathedral slightly lop-sided, the city garden and houses on the nearest plan are seen. This city does not possess the especial beauty."

I shall bring one more opposite statement from 1910: "By 7 to o'clock in the morning, passing by the Ivanovo islands, from the southeast part of the lake, the steamship enters the Petrozavodsk gulf, whence Petrozavodsk located on the slopes of hills, crossed by two mountain rivers Lososinka and Neglinka is already seen. The general view of the city is wonderfully beautiful and picturesque, as well as all bay of the huge Petrozavodsk gulf."

And one more impression from seen. N.Berezin in 1904 writes: "In the morning when we have come out on the deck, "Kivatch" (this is the name of the steam-ship) has already approached Petrozavodsk. In the distance heaps of old houses alternately with gardens were moulded on the high coast. Here and there between them low stone houses grew white, above which roofs the white cathedral with usual onion-shaped domes put out its bulky weight. Some other church and quayes, near which a few boats stood sadly was seen as well. Empty and grey this was the first impression from this provincial city, and without the bright sun suffusing the sky and lake cheerful beams, and rocky coast with the Ivanovo islands closing the Petrozavodsk bay on the right it would have been even dull."

So, as you may see, travelers are admired with nature and magnificent sights of lake, instead of the country town of the Russian empire, which Petrozavodsk was.

But let us look what adventures waited for travelers further: "the police officer (V.N.Majnov writes) stops you at the steamship with a question: "Who are you?" and first you a little go mad at such question as on the part of the peace officer it sounds something like: "Aha! Got you, my dear!", but, nevertheless, you answer and get quite satisfied at last when you get the explanation that it was done for your personal calmness and convenience that the police then could help you as to newly arrived, and, hence, unfamiliar with the district. Then carriers pull out you luggage and ask: "What can I do for you?" You tell that you know what it means, they smile and state the rather moderate price and carry on uphill Sobornaya street."

Further visitors were interested in hotels and stopped (under the certificate of one traveler) in the hotel "Palermo", which was given out for the best. And, as it appears, it was valid so. Moreover, "it would not have disgraced even St.Petersburg (the traveler admires) everything was tiny there, but cleanest, decent and it lovely; the prices were rather moderate, spring mattresses with full absence of the tiresome population, washing-set machines, fans, an organ, a pool, skittles, a small garden, and also an excellent sight of the Petrozavodsk bay, the Ivanovo islands and Solominsky country churchyard with church, built on one huge boulder protruding from the lake, the newspapers alltogether it rather pleases the visitor, who expects to find (excuse the author for writing so) an ordinary provincial inn full of housebugs and gets in the paradise, in particular regarding the presence of bugs".

Many travelers admired with cleanliness of the city though the streets and were not paved.

But, coming out in the city for survey the traveler found out, that "it was not rather difficult to observe it, since, as a matter of fact, it consisted of one street and a semblance of an ugly precipice, which as though was paved by slags and in which the well-known Alexandrovsky factory of guns and ammunition was hidden from curious looks."

A market place (Gostiny dvor) and the Cathedral
The view of the market place (Gostiny dvor) and the Cathedral
from Mariinskaya str. before 1917
Here's one more entertaining description of Petrozavodsk: "To the right, in the middle of the small square surrounded by small stores there was a small quadrangular pool, in which there were some boats with fish; the smell of it was spread on all the square. The random bond roadway and weak hints on the sidewalk lead upwards by low houses with various signboards: photo, rooming house etc., and when we have climbed it we have beheld the enormous, clumsy cathedral, and behind it across the river of Lososinka low red buildings and high pipes of the gun and ammunition Alexandrovsky factory, from which the city has begun. The city with wide, deserted and dusty streets, with low state stone and private wooden houses was developed to the right. We have found the market place (Gostiny dvor), which empty galleries differed presenting a line of closed stores, above which doors pigeons, seeming to be unique inhabitants of this day-dreaming building, pottered and cooed. Of ten stored hardly one was trading."

The Cathedral
The view of the Cathedral
and Peter and Paul's church
What else was evident to the traveler in the city? He marked that Petrozavodsk rather differed from other Russian cities with the fact that first of all it did not possess" that abundance of churches, which may be observed even in the small cities of sacred Russia. Here are only seven churches (the tourist is surprised) two of them are at the cemeteries, and one in Cathedral constructed at Peter I. And, besides the new cathedral towers on the square constructed recently under the same plan with the Moscow temple of the Christ of the Savior, just much smaller in size ".

But, nevertheless, despite of cheerless enough description of Petrozavodsk it had some places of interest.

The already mentioned author of the book "About the Russian north. From impressions of the tourist" published in 1913 informs that one day is enough to devote for the observing of the city. He also offers the list of sights of Petrozavodsk consisting of 6 items. They are:

  1. Aleksandrovsky factory
  2. The Cathedral
  3. The Cathedral built by Peter the Great
  4. Monuments to the Emperors Peter the Great and Alexander II
  5. Naturalistic museum
  6. Diocesan museum

And, really, all above mentioned sights were worthy tourists.

Let us visit some items of this list.


Maria Neyolova,
the manageress of the scientific reference library of the National archive of the RK

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Created: April 17, 2000. Last updated: May 13, 2002.
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