August 01, 1999

Karelia: Where the Northern Rivers Run

In August of 1702, Peter the Great led a detachment of nine thousand troops on a secret mission into the thick Karelian taiga. Disembarking on the southern coast of the White Sea, they undertook a clandestine raid, hacking their way through thick forests and swamps. They covered 270 km in just nine days, reaching the shores of Lake Onega and surprising Swedish soldiers at the fortress in Noteburg (Russian name Oreshek). It was the first major Russian victory in the Northern War and it was a prologue to Russia’s new role in the Baltics. The following year, the cities of St Petersburg and Petrozavodsk were founded. Russia had a new northern window to the West.

Today, 300 years later, Russia has lost many of the achievements gained during Peter’s time. But Karelia, with is advantageous geographic position—it has a 700 km long border with Finland—endures as a vital window to the rest of the world.

The Republic of Karelia, one of the 89 subjects of the Russian Federation also has unique natural wealth. Sometimes called the “Young Lungs of Europe,” Karelia is rich in virgin forests, clean air and pristine lakes and rivers. Karelia stretches for thousands of kilometers, from the shores of Lakes Onega and Ladoga in the South, to the White Sea in the North and East. In between there are thousands of lakes and rivers. And 50% of the republic is forested.

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