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Reference on historical and cultural features of Byelomorsk region

Territory of Byelomorsk metropolitan region includes three natural zones: water area of the White Sea; quite boggy Pribelomorskaya lowland to which share there falls more than half of land of the region; territory of Onezhsko-Belomorskiy watershed abounding lakes and rivers full of rapids, running into the White Sea. Each of these zones possesses natural sights of significant interest for tourists. On the sea there are two landscape preserves - Shuiostrovsky (10 thousand hectares) and Soroksky (73.9 thousand hectares) - created for protection of numerous sea animals, especially birds. They represent perfect objects for scientific, cognitive and hunting tourism. In time, as scientists consider, Soroksky preserve should receive the status of natural sea park (the second in Russia), that points to its recreational and nature protecting value. During the autumn and spring periods of flight hundreds of thousands of waterfowl stop here for rest and feeding. On extensive Pribelomorskaya lowland vicinities of the village of Niukhcha (about 20 thousand hectares) have won special renown, as territories with perfectly expressed postglacial terraces reflecting stages of the White Sea regress, and bogs of different age and shape: from raised bogs with pools and ridges to seaside grassy bogs and salty meadows. The territory is included in the list of valuable bogs of Russia with the status of national wetland, being of interest for scientific and ecological tourism.

Significant natural, cultural and historical potential of the region is supplemented with benefits of its geographical position and transport availability. Located in the mid-eastern part of Karelia adjoining coast of Onego bay of the White Sea, the region is easily accessible from any direction for almost all types of transport. In the meridian direction it is crossed by railway and federal highway. In parallel the region is crossed by the White Sea - Baltic channel, connecting three pearls of tourism of the North of Russia - Valaam, Kizhi and Solovki in a uniform waterway. From the southeast railway from Arkhangelsk area leads to the region, and from the east the region is open for all sea boats due to the large seaport located in Byelomorsk. Of a special value is accessibility of the region from the Scandinavian countries, connection to which is provided through Lyttä сheckpoint for motor transport down the Kostomuksha-Ledmozero-Kochkoma road, and in the near future and down the railway going in parallel.

Historical and Cultural Potential

History of the region is rich with events and outstanding monuments. The most ancient population of the land were Laplanders. Memory of them remained in national legends and toponyms - local place names: Niukhcha, Suma, Kolezhma, Virma, etc. At the close of the Ist - the turn of the IInd millenium of the new era there came ancient Karelians, and the Novgorod Slavs in the XIth and the XIIth centuries. One of the basic ways of Novgorodians' penetration into the White Sea ran down the Vyg river which has further played an important role in history of the Russian state: the famous Sovereign's Road passed here in 1702, and the White Sea - Baltic channel in modern times. Gradually on the coast of the White Sea there formed a unique "ethnos" of the White Sea coast-dwellers who generated their bright and original culture. Karelian coast of the White Sea from Onego lake to Kem is considered the Pomor coast. This is historical Pomorye is often mentioned in old Russian letters. Inhabitants of Pomor villages fished, went on hunting to Murman, Novaya Zemlya and even to Grumant (the island of Spitsbergen). In historical documents it is mentioned that coast-dwellers from the White Sea coast brought salt for sale in Vyborg. Later salt from the White Sea was on sale across Russia and was called 'Pomorka'.

Byelomorsk opens northern Karelia of the White Sea coast which had been colonized earlier than the main territory of the republic. Illustration of this are archeological monuments of the IIIrd-Ist millenia B.C. - sites of ancient Lappish settlements, seidas, labyrinthes, petroglyphs. They are found all over the White Sea coast. Six thousand years ago ancient fishermen and hunters have created rock drawings - petroglyphs - on islands of the Vyg river. They are located in the vicinities of Byelomorsk, 9 km from the mouth of the Vyg river near villages of Vygostrov and Zolotets. The White Sea petroglyphs include over 2000 separate figures and stages of elk, bear, sea animals hunting, ritual processions and wars. There are the most ancient in Europe pictures of skiing men. It is one of unique monuments of primitive art of Northern Europe and the largest congestion of ancient people's drawings in the European part of Russia. Near the White Sea petroglyphs archeologists have found 56 ancient settlements.

In the Middle Ages on the coast of the White Sea there came natives of the feudal republic - Lord Novgorod the Great - merchants, soldiers and monks. Their descendants have built their villages in mouths of rivers rich with salmon. The name of local population - "the Pomorians" testifies to sea features of traditional Pomor culture preserved in numerous villages, like Shueretskoye, Virma, Sumsky Posad, Niukhcha.

In Sumsky Posad, famous for its folklore traditions, a sea boat as monument to shipbuilding of the XIX century is established on the river rapids. Sea trades of coast-dwellers are also reminded by names of local churches, devoted to patrons of fishermen and seafarers. These are architectural monuments of the all-Russian value - Peter and Paul's church in the village of Virma (XVII century), church of St.Nicolas the Miracle-Worker (XVII century) on the island of Troitsk in Muezero.

In the XV century to Soroka in the mouth of the river Vyg there had come the Elder Savvaty having escaped from Valaam, who met with the Elder Herman who used to travel to Solovetsky islands. There was a prayer temple on the coast of the river. From here in 1429 the way of the Elder Herman and the Elder Savvaty to Solovki has begun. A little later Zosima has transferred the relics from the village of Soroka to the monastery. Soon on this place in Soroka Solovetsky monastery has built the church in the name of the Blessed Trinity, the first church known in Pomorie. Today in a picturesque place of the town of Byelomorsk on the coast of the river Vyg, opposite to the famous Coal Rapids, the church in the name of Saint Zosima, Savvaty and Herman of Solovki is being constructed, and that place whence they left to master the northern monastery is denoted with a memorable cross.

The village of Soroka itself has appeared near the place where one of the channels of the Lower Vyg runs into the sea and in Russian was called Soroka (from mutilated Karelian 'saari' + 'joki' - the island river). Byelomorsk was started with this village. In olden time the village belonged to Solovetsky monastery, however it had not become the center serving communications between the island monastery and the continent, contrary to convenient position in the western 'corner' of Onego bay, having conceded it to Kem located farther to the north, but closer to Solovki.

Solovetsky historical, architectural and natural complex is located seventy kilometeres from Byelomorsk. Remains of the Solovetsky monastery's saltworks of XVI-XVII centuries are in villages of Jukovo and Virma (since then inhabitants of Virma have inherited the nickname of "stokers"), and near the river of Piala there is an "Iron hermitage" - a memorable place of the first in Karelia ironworks and armory of the XVI-XVII centuries that also belonged to the monastery. Seamen for military fleet were recruited from among coast-dwellers during Peter's times. Peter I has visited the region in 1702 - his famous Sovereign's Road to Onego began in the village of Niukhcha. The sovereign's way passed through villages of Vorenzha and Sumozero, villages which now comprise the Sumozero historical and cultural territory. Traditional rural settlements, buildings of rural architecture, mainly cemeteries and chapels, houses, baths, barns are well-preserved here. On the way of the Sovereign's Road today there goes the White Sea - Baltic channel. The memorial to victim builders of the Channel is located in Byelomorsk .

The village of Soroka developed without jumps, more in an evolutional way - gradually from a fishing settlement it has grown into the center of building and repair of karbasses and larger boats; by the XIXth century it has become one of the lumbering centers.

Modern history of the future Byelomorsk has begun in 1916 with construction of the Murmansk railway: Sorokskaya station became the first one with the outlet to the White Sea. Since then the shape of modern Byelomorsk has started to develop gradually, and the former looks of the coast-dwellers' village has become more difficult to be seen. In the 1920s there was founded the oldest in Karelia woodworking plant (Byelomorsk WWP). The White Sea - Baltic channel has come there in the 1930s. The last 19th lock of the White Sea - Baltic channel was constructed here before running into the White Sea. The line of the White Sea - Baltic waterway ends here. This 227 km long artificial navigable path between Onego lake and the White Sea has recovered centuries dozing Karelian-Murmansk land. The channel has given the town the title of the port of five seas (White, Barents, Baltic, Black, and Azov).

The town of Byelomorsk has been founded in 1938. It has included four settlements, each of which was a special feature in biography of the settlement - the coast-dwellers' village of Soroka, the lumberers' settlement named after Solunin, the settlement of Sorokskaya railway station and the settlement of water-transport workers. During the Great Patriotic War Byelomorsk for more than two years was a temporary capital of Karelia, being located on the very coast of the White Sea, and the Byelomorsk - Vologda railway which has become our Road of Life was constructed on this coast in the depths of the Great Patriotic War. It was supposed to connect Murmansk region and Karelia to the rest of the country. All military transportations of the Karelian front were made through this piece of line. Headquarters of the Karelian front, Headquarters of the partisan movement, Government of the Karelian-Finnish ASSR were located there, too. It was during the war when the shape of Byelomorsk was finally formed also as a transport unit - the branch line from Obozerskaya station of Northern railway, having connected Arkhangelsk region with Karelia and given Murmansk the second access to the Central Russia has been brought there urgently. During the war years hundreds of citizens of Byelomorsk have glorified their names fighting heroically for freedom and independence of their native land, hundreds have remained in the battle-fields. On June 21, 2004 a memorial was opened in the central park of the town named after the Hero of the Soviet Union A.N.Pashkov.

Many cultural and historical objects reflecting different centuries and events were preserved in the region. On the government records there are over 200 monuments of archeology, architecture, history and art, two historical and cultural complexes, nine historical occupied places and a historical and cultural territory. It is approximately as much, as in other two regions of Karelia located on the coast of the White Sea (Kem and Louhi) together. Among the most outstanding monuments of the all-Russian value there are the White Sea petroglyphs archeological complex, Peter and Paul's church (1696) in the village of Virma, church of St.Nicolas the Miracle-Worker (1602) and chapel of the Vernicle (1672) on the island of Troitsky on Muezero lake. In territory of the region there remained the ruins of two stockaded town - Troitsky that had played an outstanding part in repulsing the Swedish invasion in 1580, and Sumsky which had held out in struggle against the Polish-Lithuanian troops during the Time of Trouble in the beginning of the XVII century.

Research, preservation and revival of cultural heritage of the White-Sea coast-dwellers is carried out in the Center of Pomor Culture and the local history museum possessing over 3 thousand of units of basic museum funds. In the settlement of Shizhnya there works the Pomor Sea Culture seasonal exhibition. In many villages under the aegis of the Center of Pomor Culture there are national folklore ensembles. The oldest of them is Pomor National Chorus.

Pomor National Chorus directed by the Honoured worker of culture of Karelia V.A.Vasilev as a concert troupe was founded in 1937 of group of Pomor ladies from the village of Soroka, nowadays Byelomorsk. In the repertoire of the chorus there are only national songs of the White Sea settlements: singing and dancing in a ring songs, chants, game songs, quadrilles; wedding and recruiting ceremonies. Feature of Pomor chorus that it aspires to reproduce ancient songs, having kept all distinctive attributes of local style, riches and improvisations of song singing. Uniqueness of repertoire and high performing level bring the chorus deserved success and recognition. During its history the chorus has always been one of the most popular national choruses of Karelia, having repeatedly won prizes of festivals and competitions of all levels, which professional juries noted that as a carrier of authentic song-singing traditions of Karelian Pomorie the chorus may be related to the best folklore ensembles of Russia.

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Created: November 19, 2002. Last updated: December 23, 2008.
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