Lake District

Nowadays the Lake District is inhabited by Russians and Korels. In the early years of Korelian history Korels were nomads: they went fishing, hunting; but under Russian influence and as a consequence of new invaders, Korels were forced to start farming, commerce and other trades that Russian settlers were occupied with. In you'd like to get an image of the Korels of that time, you may judge them by the saying that can be translated into English in the following way: "They live in forests and bow to stumps"; though this saying is still used by Russians from the Olonets Gubernia with the reference to themselves.

Great number of Korels live in the Olonets Gubernia; ages ago there were much more of them here, so the whole region was called Karelia.

The appearance of Korels can be described the following way: physique is not proportionate, arms are too long, legs are short in comparison with the length of the body, face with prominent cheek-bones, thin straight hair, light grey eyes which were the reason of their nickname "white-eyed creatures" given to them by Russians. Korels still have some feature typical for Finnish tribes: they are very stubborn, they are people of principle; these features are so obvious in Korels that Russians have a saying about them: "Korela, Korela, has been burning for three years and hasn't burnt down" (it's worth explaining here that the Russian word for 'burn' is 'goret// past tense – gorela', which is pronounced very like word 'Korela' meaning 'Korel').

As for Korelian character, they are more silent and reserved than Russians; they are honest, trusting, hard-working; in spring, summer and autumn, they work in the forest, on the lake and the river, in winter they usually work in towns; they are seldom with their families, they work hard and don't become richer but sometimes even don't have enough food to eat.

Korels are moral and sober, in remote villages there are no fights, no drinking-bouts, though the only reason of it is just that the city culture hasn't penetrated there yet. The closer villages to towns, the lower morals are there, the faster vices spread. Korels aren't very intelligent, especially in remote places where contacts with neighbours are difficult due to the lack of roads. They've got so used to living separately from other people, that if some traveler happens to come to their village, he/she will have to make o lot of efforts to get a word from adult villagers, let alone children who run away as they see an unfamiliar face. One of the reasons of such a behaviour is their illiteracy. In places situated not far from towns there are well-established schools; however local administration of modest means cannot spend much money on schools.

Korels have settled in better places that Russians: they have chosen dry hilly territories, they avoid lakes and rivers because mists and evaporations have a bad influence on people's health and provoke the spread of diseases. The life of Korels in hilly places is better than the life of Russians at the banks of rivers and lakes; the Korelian death rate is lower than the Russian one. The cattle of Korels is better, they care about their livestock very much, keep them in warm places. Korels are hardheads in everything, which can't be said about Russians, who are envious of the Korelian life and luck and say: "where the Russian has failed, there the Korel has got advantage", and exclaims that Korels are like fire-flies. Nowadays Korels are assimilated with Russians and aren't very much different from their Russian neighbours from the Olonets Gubernia.

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…In the first room of a house, in the front corner, there are usually icons and pictures of religious content, in a Russian house here is a table. Korels usually put it in the middle of the room, between two windows. …Russians usually sleep on the floor, on mattresses, on sheepskin; Korels always sleep in beds.

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…Russians usually have a yard, Korel never have it. Near any Korelian house one may see meat drying on poles installed on the roof.

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They drink tea and coffee; love to this drink they have inherited from Finns.

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…Korels are very superstitious; they still preserve pagan rites and beliefs. There still exist holly groves where in ancient times pagans living in this region before the Russian invasion made a sacrifice to their gods…

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Korels believe that after burial the soul of a dead person lives on earth for 40 days, visits its house and even gives order concerning housekeeping. They believe that on the 40th day the soul accompanied by the priest comes to its wake and that it must be met with ceremonies and taken on a cushion to the stove where table settings and dishes are put. At the table the special place and plate should be left for the diseased.

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N.A.Cheryomina, (Korsh)
Lake District, Moscow, 1909.

Translated by Maria, 2006