Through the North Russia

…It’s said, that on the Lake Konchezero there are as many islands, as how many days in a year. And all of them are situated along the lake and bear the names of the Saints. The God knows, why the only one island went across, and for this it is nicknamed as "The Fool". This is sure to be told everyone who passes through. In ethnographic respect it's curious, that Lake Konchezero separates the Karelian settlements from the Russian ones; and on the both sides the two different languages are spoken.

The Lake Pertozero, which our way was laid along, is surrounded by durites – wonderful vein deposits of copper ore, that were extracted somewhen. The population in these places is mainly Karelian. The Karelians are about of 40,000 people in the whole province; and there are the Karelians in the Novgorod region too. Once had been ousted by the Novgorodians and converted to Christianity 600 years ago, the Karelians moved over to the more remote places of the region, leaving the best areas to the Russians. These people are shy, and they quite patiently endure the nicknames given to them. Their villages are mostly poor, uncrowded, of 2-6 yards; lots of churches, chapels and crosses remind of the hermits. Huts, built 200 years ago, come across. The Karelian huts are mostly two-story and strong, due to the abundance of forest. But it's almost the only thing that shows the welfare: the bread mixed in half with straw and pine bark is not uncommon. Hunting and fishing are an essential bit of a help in peasant life. It is not surprising as the sixth part of the region is the water, and 5/6 is the forest.

Fishing can be very abundant: fish seines, drag nets, hoop nets; sometimes hauls on the bait give up to two pounds per day: ide, whitefish, roach, whitebait, pike, perch, ruff are the main prey.

Unfortunately, the proximity to water conditioned a strong faith in mermans and a number of legends and songs. Of course, here in the North, you can not expect the brightness of the Southern Russian fairytales, where the maiden puts a thread of the sunlight into a needle and embroiders it on the basis made of hair. Here are more similarities with the Finnish gloomy song, where the singer of "Kalevala" says, "he rips his songs off the heathers" and "frost taught him songs and rain brought the word."

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Konstantin K. Sluchevsky
Through the North Russia, Saint Petersburg, 1886.

Translated by Ilya Kuznetsov, 2013