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Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Solovetsky Monastery in 1915.
State Party Flag of Russia.svg Russian Federation
Type Cultural
Criteria iv
Reference 632
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1992  (16th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Solovetsky Islands (Russian: Солове́цкие острова́, Соловки́) are located in the Onega Bay of the White Sea, Russia. The islands are administrated from Arkhangelsk as Solovetsky District and are served by the Solovki Airport. Area: 347 km². Population: 968 (2002 Census); 1,317 (1989 Census).

Contents

Geography

This archipelago consists of six islands known collectively as the Solovki:

  • Bolshoy Solovetsky Island - 246 km².
  • Anzersky Island (Anzer) - 47 km².
  • Bolshaya Muksalma - 17 km².
  • Malaya Muksalma - 0,57 km².
  • Bolshoy Zayatsky - 1,25 km².
  • Maly Zayatsky - 1,02 km².

The shores of the islands are very indented. They are formed with granites and gneiss. The relief of the islands is hilly (the highest point is 107 m). Most of the Solovetsky Islands are covered with Scots Pine and Norway Spruce forests, which are partially swampy. There are numerous lakes, which were joined by monks so as to form a network of canals.

Interesting feature of islands is stone labyrinths and other stone settings, especially the Stone labyrinths of Bolshoi Zayatsky Island. Such labyrinths were typical for Northern Europe but most have perished and now Solovetsky Islands have some of the best remaining examples.

Monastery

Historically the islands have been the setting of the famous Russian Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery complex. It was founded in the second quarter of the 15th century by two monks from the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. By the end of the 16th century, the abbey had emerged as one of the wealthiest landowners and most influential religious centres in Russia.

The existing stronghold and its major churches were erected in stone during the early reign of Ivan the Terrible at the behest of St. Philip of Moscow. At the onset of the Schism of the Russian Church, the monks staunchly stuck to the faith of their fathers and expelled the tsar's representatives from the Solovki, precipitating the eight-year-long siege of the islands by the forces of Tsar Alexis.

"Bombardment of the Solovetsky Monastery by the Royal Navy during the Crimean War". A lubok (popular print) from 1868.

Throughout the imperial period of Russian history, the monastery was renowned as a strong fortress which repelled foreign attacks during the Livonian War (16th century), Time of Troubles (17th century), the Crimean War (19th century), and the Russian Civil War (20th century).

Labor camp

After the October Revolution, the islands attained some notoriety as the site of the first Soviet prison camp. The camp was inaugurated as a "detention camp" in 1921, while Lenin was still at the helm of Soviet Russia. It was transformed into a prison in 1929 and was closed ten years later, on the eve of the World War II. The Soviet government realised the islands' strategic importance, and by the beginning of the war there was a naval base of the Soviet Northern Fleet.

In 1974, the Solovetsky Islands were designated a historical and architectural museum and a natural reserve of the USSR. In 1992, they were inscribed on the World Heritage List "as an outstanding example of a monastic settlement in the inhospitable environment of northern Europe which admirably illustrates the faith, tenacity, and enterprise of later medieval religious communities".[1] Today, the Solovki are seen as a major tourist magnet in the orbit of the Russian North. One can get to the islands either by ship from Kem or by plane from Arkhangelsk.

External links

Coordinates: 65°05′N 35°53′E / 65.083°N 35.883°E / 65.083; 35.883

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Solovetsky Islands is a group of islands in the White Sea in Arkhangelsk. It is a true pearl of Russian north.

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