Karelia: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 63°N 32°E / 63°N 32°E / 63; 32

Parts of Karelia, as they are traditionally divided

Karelia (Karelian and Finnish Karjala; Russian: Карелия, Kareliya; Swedish: Karelen), the land of the Karelian peoples, is an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and Sweden. It is currently divided between the Russian Republic of Karelia, the Russian Leningrad Oblast, and Finland (the regions of South Karelia and North Karelia).


Use of name

Various subdivisions may be called Karelia. Finnish Karelia was a historical province of Finland, now divided between Finland and Russia, often called just Karjala in Finnish. The eastern part of this chiefly Lutheran area was ceded to Russia after the Winter War of 1939-40. This area is the "Karelia" of the Karelian question in Finnish politics.

The Republic of Karelia is a Russian federal subject, including the so-called "East Karelia" with a chiefly Russian Orthodox population.

Within present-day Finland, Karjala refers to regions of South and North Karelia.

Many fine examples of wooden architecture survive in Karelia, here on Kizhi island.


Karelia was bitterly fought over by Sweden and the Novgorod Republic since the 13th-century Swedish-Novgorodian Wars. The Treaty of Nöteborg (Finnish: Pähkinäsaaren rauha) in 1323 divided Karelia between the two. Viborg (Finnish: Viipuri) became the capital of the new Swedish province.

The Treaty of Nystad (Finnish: Uudenkaupungin rauha) in 1721 between Imperial Russia and Sweden ceded most of Karelia to Russia. After Finland had been occupied by Russia in the Finnish War, parts of the ceded provinces (Old Finland) were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Finland. In 1917 Finland became independent and the border was confirmed by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920.

During the 1920s, Finns were involved in attempts to overthrow the Bolshevists in Russian Karelia (East Karelia), for instance in the failed Aunus expedition. These mainly private expeditions ended after the peace treaty of Tartu. After the end of the Russian Civil War, and the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, the Russian part of Karelia became the Karelian Autonomous republic of the Soviet Union (ASSR) in 1923.

In 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland starting the Winter War. The Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940 handed most of Finnish Karelia to the Soviet Union. About 400,000 people, virtually the whole population, had to be relocated within Finland. In 1941 Karelia was re-conquered for three years during the Continuation War 1941–1944 when East Karelia was also occupied by the Finns. The Winter War and the resulting Soviet expansion caused considerable bitterness in Finland, which lost its second biggest city, Viipuri, its industrial heartland along the river Vuoksi, the Saimaa canal that connected central Finland to the Gulf of Finland, access to the fishing waters of Lake Ladoga (Finnish: Laatokka), and made an eighth of her citizens refugees without chance of return.

As a consequence of the peace treaty, the Karelian ASSR was incorporated with the Karelo-Finnish SSR 1941–1956, after which it became an ASSR again. Karelia was the only Soviet republic that was "demoted" from an SSR to an ASSR within the Russian SFR. Unlike autonomous republics, Soviet republics (in theory) had the constitutional right to secede. The possible fear of secession, as well as the Russian ethnic majority in Karelia may have resulted in its "demotion." In 1991 the Republic of Karelia was created out of the ASSR.

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought an economic collapse. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the area has experienced massive urban decay. The hastily and poorly constructed buildings from the Soviet era, as well as older houses remaining from the Finnish era, are being abandoned.[1]

Map showing the Republic of Karelia and the two Finnish regions.


Karelia is divided between Finland and Russia. The Republic of Karelia is a federal subject of Russia, which was formed in 1991 from the Karelian ASSR. The Karelian Isthmus belongs to the Leningrad Oblast. The Finnish side consist in parts of the regions (maakunta) of South Karelia and North Karelia.

There are some small but enthusiastic groups of Finns campaigning for closer ties between Finland and Karelia. The political expression of these irredentist hopes is called the Karelian question and is about Finland's re-acquisition of the ceded Finnish Karelia. These hopes live on, for instance, in the Karjalan Liitto and ProKarelia. These ambitions for closer ties with East Karelia do not include territorial demands. However, much of the original Finnish population of the Russian side of Karelia has been either resettled and integrated to inner Finland, Russified or dispersed into Russia as victims of Soviet internal population transfers.


Coats of Arms of Karelia
Finnish Karelia
Russian Karelia

Karelia stretches from the White Sea coast to the Gulf of Finland. It contains the two largest lakes in Europe, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The Karelian Isthmus is located between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga.

The border between Karelia and Ingria, the land of the closely related Ingrian people, has originally been the Neva river itself but later on it was moved northward into Karelian isthmus to follow the Sestra River/Rajajoki (Russian: Сестра/Раяйоки), today in the Saint Petersburg metropolitan area, but in 1812–1940 the Russo-Finnish border.

On the other side of Lake Ladoga, River Svir is usually thought of as the traditional southern border of Karelian territory, as Lake Saimaa marks the Western border while Lake Onega and the White Sea mark the Eastern border. In the North there were the nomadic Samis, but no natural border except for huge woods (taiga) and tundra.

In historical texts Karelia is sometimes divided into East Karelia and West Karelia, which are also called Russian Karelia and Finnish Karelia respectively. The area to the north of Lake Ladoga which belonged to Finland before World War II is called Ladoga Karelia, and the parishes on the old pre-war border are sometimes called Border Karelia. White Karelia is the northern part of East Karelia and Olonets Karelia is the southern part.

Tver Karelia denotes the villages in the Tver Oblast that are inhabited by Karelians.

View of the old town of Kem' in 1916
Kem' harbour of the White Sea

Inhabited localities


The Karelian language is spoken in the Republic of Karelia and also in the Tver Karelian villages. The Veps language is spoken on both sides of the River Svir. The so called Karelian dialects spoken mainly in Finnish South Karelia form the southeastern dialect group of Finnish. Similar dialects are also spoken in Ingria, which is an area between the Estonian border and Lake Ladoga. They appeared there in the 17th century after the Swedish conquest of the area. The older inhabitants of the Ingria, the Ingrians, have their own language which is related to the Karelian language and the south-eastern dialects of Finnish. [1] The dialects in Finnish North Karelia belong to the large group of Savonian dialects in Eastern and Central Finland. [2] Karelians who evacuated from Finnish Karelia resettled all over Finland and today there are approximately one million people in Finland having their roots in the area ceded to the Soviet Union after the World War II. In Finland, about 5,000 people speak Karelian.


See also



  1. ^ (Finnish) ROMAHTANUT YHTEISKUNTA ("Collapsed Society") on Free Karelia website


  • "They Took My Father," by Mayme Sevander and Laurie Hertzel, a history of American Finns who emigrated to Soviet Karelia during the Great Depression.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

 This article is about Russian Karelia. See North Karelia and South Karelia for the Finnish regions on the other side of the border.
A view of Kizhi from Lake Onega
A view of Kizhi from Lake Onega

Karelia is a region in Northwestern Russia, which borders Finland to the west, Murmansk Oblast to the north, the White Sea to the northeast, Arkhangelsk Oblast to the east, Vologda Oblast to the southeast, and Leningrad Oblast to the south.

  • Petrozavodsk — the capital city, the biggest city of Karelia, with a fine collection of neoclassical architecture and a summer hydrofoil service to Kizhi
  • Kem — a small town on the coast not far from Solovki with a spectacular 18th century wooden cathedral
  • Kostomukhsa — a large town that functions as a dacha-style resort mostly for Finns every summer and hosts a yearly summer chamber music festival
  • Olenets — a small historic town near the Alexander-Svirsky Monastery; the only town of size in Karelia where ethnic Karelians constitute a majority
  • Sortavala — the marble canyon of nearby Ruskeala Park is beautiful, otherwise a fairly uninteresting town
  • Kivach waterfall
  • Lake Ladoga — the largest lake of Europe
    • Valaam Archipelago — famous for its monastery
  • Lake Onega — second-largest lake in Europe
    • Kizhi island — famous for beautiful wooden church and other buildings, the whole architectural ensemble of Kizhi island is a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site
    • Besov Nos Cape — famous for ancient drawings, hammered in the rocks
  • Martial waters spa
  • Vodlozersky National Park


Karelia is known as "the country of lakes." One quarter of Karelia's surface is covered by water including about sixty thousand lakes. The second-largest lake of Europe, Lake Onega, is located in Karelia. The largest lake of Europe, Lake Ladoga is partly located in Karelia (together with Leningrad Oblast). Wherever there is land, there are dense forests covering the ground.

Karelia has strong cultural connection with Finland and the Karelians, for whom the republic is named, are a Finno-Ugric group very closely related to the Finns. Karelia is a relatively recent Russian/Soviet conquest from Finland, and a bit of a sore spot for the Finns.


Everybody understands and speaks Russian, although many are bilingual in Karelian, Finnish, and, on smaller scale, Veps. A traveler could get by with only knowledge of Finnish, as many native ethnic Russians understand a good deal of the language.

Basic English is widely understood by young people. Swedish is relatively popular foreign language too.

Get in

There is a daily overnight train from Saint Petersburg, which leaves around 22:00 and arrives in Petrozavodsk around 07:00.

  • Valamo Monastery - the monastery of the Finnish Orthodox Church. Originally Valamo was placed on an island of lake Ladoga in Karelia but was evacuated whilst in war with the Russians in the 1940s. The monks came with their icons and rebuilt Valamo close to Heinävesi a bit west of Joensuu. The monastery is visited by many Finns, orthodox or not, and is featured in most tourist guides as well. Almost all buildings though are post war and one can't suppress the impression that there is a commercial streak somewhere. However most people come to see the ancient icons from the old Valamo monastery. Boats full of tourists leave during the summer months from Sortavala, Lakhdenpokhya, and Pitkyaranta, as well as big river cruise boats from Saint Petersburg and Moscow. It's also possible to travel here by helicopter from Petrozavodsk.

Get out

The Solovetsky Islands and Monastery on the White Sea are another nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site in Arkhangelsk Oblast and can be reached by boat from Karelia.

Trains head north from Petrozavodsk to Murmansk.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:





  1. A region to the north of Saint Petersburg in Russia and Finland.
  2. An autonomous republic of Russia, official name the Republic of Karelia.

Related terms


See also

Simple English

Karelia is area in eastern fennoscandia to the east from where Finnish people lives. There are many opinions about what places exactly belong to Karelia.

Most parts of Karelia belong to Russia today. Small parts of Karelia belongs to Finland. In Russian side Karelia is Republic of Karelia. In Finnish side there are provinces of North Karelia and South Karelia.

Original people of Karelia are Karelians. Karelian people speaks Karelian, that is a Finnic language very close to Finnish. Karelians knew many old poems. Many poems of Finnish book Kalevala are from Karelians. Today in republic of Karelia Karelians are minority and Russians are majority. Some people fear Karelian culture and language die out.

Most parts of Karelia was part of Finland until Second World War. East Karelia was not. While making peace Finland had to give most parts of Karelia to Soviet Union that is now known as Russia. After peace many people from Soviet Union came to live in Karelia.


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