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Olonetsians and their works

In the region of Lake Onega the Russians, in spite of some part of Finnish blood, represent one of the most pure-blooded group of the Russian population. Typical representatives still live in three Northern gubernias, though in lots of the Russian territory residents have already lost their distinctive features. Actually, a flat face, wide cheek-bones, a flattened or pug nose, a sparse beard of our man aren’t characteristic for the Russian type. In slowly developed northern areas, an endemic Russian population assimilated with Finnish representatives and the Russian type gradually disappeared. Partially in Novgorod, Tver, Vologda and Volga regions touch of Finnish blood changed and even distorted the Russian type. However, in the region of river Ob a Slavonian as the earliest pathfinder there kept the purity of the type. There the Russian element did not mix with the natives and were well preserved.

The light-eyed chuddy completely assimilated with the Russians and removed into more deep-laid regions. A real Olonetsian with ancient peculiarities, with enterprise of Novgorod residents, love for travelling and eagerness for any business is an exact antithesis to its compatriot that has mixed with foreigners. A solid and stocky Onega resident of medium height with his beautiful Russian face is completely unlike a russianized Karelian that always has some of Finnish features.

The same conditions of life and nature did not develop the same characters and temperaments. The Russian is open, sensitive and often enterprising and the Finn is often self-contemplating.

Nature in the Olonets gubernia is the same as in Finland with large territories of lakes, peat bogs, forests and granitic foothill. But it did not affect the Russian’s attitude to the environment. The Russian people left its bylins created in the South unchanged. Whereas old Karelians songs appeared on the Finnish lands, the bylins of the Olonetsians came from Novgorod colonists and had the Southern colouring.

The Olonetsians don’t live from arable fields only, but also from forests and waters. They have invented lots of aids and appliances for fishing and hunting, but still don’t have a reasonable approach to using natural resources, though the Karelians adopting foreign experience have succeeded in it.

Being Old Believers the Olonetsians keep their household according to old customs, so their dwellings are neater and cosier than those of russianized Karelians and even of Finns.


Alexander V. Eliseev
The European part of Russia – geographical publications, 1906.

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