Korels of the Olonets Gubernia

The Finns giving up their territory to the Slavs went far to the North and North-West, and called their newly-formed country – Finland. However, some Finns stayed at their places and mingled with the Russian tribes such as Ves', Muroma and the others. It is only their name that can be met in the old chronicles and in toponyms. Some Finns absolutely assimilated and became Russian, but preserved their name and language. That is why in the North of Russia it is still possible to find the descendants of the Finn population, which differ only in names. In one province they are called Zyryan, in another – Chuvash, etc. In the Olonets Gubernia they are known as Korel. Thus, the western part of the Gubernia, from Ladoga Lake almost up to the White Sea, along the Finnish border, is called Korelia.

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The population of the Olonets Gubernia consists of three peoples – Russian, Korelian and Chud'. And even in spite of the popularity of Korelia, it is rather difficult to draw the exact borders of it because of merging of Korels with Russians and Chuds who had lived together on this territory for many centuries, especially in the South-West part of the gubernia. If somebody does not know this area very well, they may come across only Russian population in a village where they were supposed to see Korels, and vice versa. Especially, it concerns the Chud people who are usually taken for Korels. So one may conclude that there are no Chud people in this gubernia.

Korelia, where indigenous Korels live, lies in the western part of the Olonets Gubernia and stretches from the South to the North. First, it goes to the North, where is the northest frontier of the Korelian settlement; starting from Archangelsk Gubernia, it stretches long the eastern border of Finland up to Ladoga Lake; then it directs to the South from Olonets (several versts to the west from Olonets); not reaching the Svir, it turns back to the North; from Petrozavodsk it runs along the western shore of Onego Lake; then to the South from Povents it goes to the eastern shore of Onego Lake, crosses the eastern part of the Povenets Uyezd and ends at the border of the Archangelsk Gubernia. In the Olonets Gubernia not-Russian population also live along the Oyat river and the western shore of Onego Lake, their settlement stretches from the Svir up to Petrozavodsk, but this population is the decendants of the Chud people. In the narrow sense, Korelia is the area lying in the western part of the territory to the north from Petrozavodsk.

Thus, it is seen that the Russian population takes the best part of the gubernia and that reaching the Svir banks, Onego Lake and dense Povenets forests, they stopped moving further as it was clear to them the westerner the went, the poorer and less suitable for agriculture the nature was. It is worth mentioning here that agriculture was the essential part of their living. If one looks at the position of Korelia on the map, one will see that the Russian population was moving west very fast and then suddenly stopped, leaving a narrow piece of land for Korels to live. Everybody who is familiar with the Olonets Gubernia knows how different soils are on the southern and westerns shores of Onego Lake. On the southern shore – in the Lodeynopolsky, Vytegorsky, Pudozhsky and Kargopolsky Uezds – the landscape is flat, the soil is dry and suitable for agriculture; on the western shore, there are mostly mountains, marshlands and lakes. Onego Lake and the Svir draw the line between these parts of the gubernia and give each one their own look. The western part, which has very little in common with the southern one, incredulously resembles Finland. Everything known about the soil, nature and climate of Finland exists in Korelia. In the eloquent description of Finland written by poet Batyushkov one sees Korelia and involuntarily citing the lines of another great poet: Wild is Korelia, wild! The western part of the Olonets Gubernia is absolutely Russian. The style of life, traditions, rites are the same as in the Central Russia, the only difference is the Korelian language. Despite all these Russian traditions and life style, if you live in this part of the gubernia, unconciously you feel that you are not in Russia itself but somewhere near it and that the original Rus (Rusland) is as essential for Russian people as mother for her children.

The Olonets collection: Materials for history, geography,
statistics and ethnography of Olonets area
issue 3. Petrozavodsk, 1894.

Translated by Maria, 2006