Petrozavodsk, The Republic of Karelia, Russia: An Introduction (Петрозаводск, Республика Карелии, Россия: Введение) – The North Star Reports – by Marin Ekstrom. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal.
A Special Series from our Assistant Editor Marin Ekstrom
[IMG_0362: The Republic of Karelia Music and Drama Theatre (notice the cheering golden statues from up high)]
Despite Russia’s vast geographic expanse, outsiders tend to think about the country in terms of just two cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yet if one goes off the beaten track, he or she will discover that Russia has a plethora of intriguing, dynamic cities and communities with their own rich histories and cultures.
[IMG_0369:Apartment complexes in the Kukkovka district (this picture coincides with the beginning of the White Nights)]
Petrozavodsk is one such example. It is located in the northwestern portion of Russia (north of St. Petersburg and close to the Finnish border) and is the de facto capital of the Republic of Karelia, a federal subject of Russia. Karelia is a stunningly beautiful area with dense pine and birch forests and thousands of lakes (including Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, the two largest lakes in Europe), and also has heavy concentrations of mineral deposits. In fact, Petrozavodsk (or “Peter’s factory” in Russian) was established by Peter the Great in home 1703 to utilize these natural resources—and what began as a settlement at an iron and canon works plant has now evolved into the modern-day city of Petrozavodsk.
[IMG_0409: A neoclassical KFC (that also used to be a movie theater and a dance club)]
Today, over 250,000 people call Petrozavodsk their home. The city is situated on the shores of Lake Onega forms a spellbinding blend of sophisticated neoclassical buildings, Soviet and modern architectural structures, and forest and greenery. Its industrial and economic performance continues to do well, as during the time of its foundation. However, Petrozavodsk has branched out in other ways to diversify its identity. The city’s many prestigious universities gives it a reputation as a vibrant university town, and its vast array of museums, theaters, festivals, and other institutions and events imbues it with a rich cultural life. It has a long history of cultural interaction with Finno-Ugric peoples (Finns, as well as indigenous Karelian and Vepsian groups), making the city an intriguing blend of dual Russo-Finnish cultural influence. For these reasons and countless more, Petrozavodsk is a unique and fascinating community that deserves much respect and recognition both in and outside of Russia.
[IMG_0415: A giant granite monument to Lenin in downtown Petrozavodsk]
[IMG_0337: The stunning wooden churches on the nearby Kizhi Island]
As stated earlier, Russia is an incredibly vast place, yet little is relatively known about it beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yet once someone decides to venture outside of these two major hubs, he or she realizes that Russia is a much deeper and fascinating place than he or she could have ever imagined. Petrozavodsk is just one such standout community and not only a marvelous place to visit, but also a wonderful starting point to fully explore the dynamics and spirit of the Motherland (Родина).
For more information, see other links (i.e. maps):
Petrozavodsk in comparsion to the rest of Russia: http://www.worldatlas.com/img/locator/city/029/17329-petrozavodsk-locator-map.jpg
Petrozavodsk with Scandinavian/ former Karelia focus: https://www.awesomestories.com/images/user/6f56d2fd02.jpg
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
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