The Olonets Gubernia

Population. As of January 1, 1896, there were 376 102 inhabitants in Olonets Gubernia (182 690 male and 193 412 female), whereof 25 882 people lived in towns (there are 7 of them).

In terms of population density (3,2 inhabitants per sq. verst), Olonets is second to last among all Gubernias in European Russia, surpassing only Archangel Gubernia. The Gubernia consists of 7 counties (uyezds): Petrozavodsk – 6,3 inhabitants per sq. verst), Lodeinopolsk – 5,3, Vytegorsk – 5, Olonets – 4,9, Kargopolsk – 4,2, Pudozh – 1,9, Povenets – 0,8 inhabitants per sq. verst.

There were 1 939 hereditary noblemen, 2 408 ranked noblemen, 3 540 of priestly rank, 244 monks, 608 city noblemen, 418 merchants, 15 657 townsmen, 327 201 peasants (including 1 178 estate owners), 14 state peasants, 760 servicemen, 10 284 reservists, 8 888 retired from duty, 2 648 Finns, 34 foreign citizens. There were 365 825 members of the Orthodox Church, 2 373 edinovertsy, 2 871 raskolniks, 349 Roman Catholics, 2 621 Lutherans, 566 Jews, and 46 followers of Islam.

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The average annual population increase was 2 804 (8.7 to 100) during a period of 28 years (1867-1894). Every year more than 100 people immigrate from Finland.

There are 5 022 villages and 53 571 homes. As a rule, the villages of Olonets Gubernia are small: Nearly half of the villages have 10 homes or less. The majority of the villages are located on shores of rivers and lakes, in groups (sometimes comprising several dozen villages); Each village group has a name; In addition, each village has a name of its own. Almost all village groups date back to the 16th century.

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Ethnic characteristics of the population: Great Russians 289 531, Karelians 62 695, Vepsä 19 917, Finns 2 666, Germans 110, Poles 374, Jews 566, Gypsies 78, Tatars 46.

The Great Russians are descendants of Novgorodian colonists who settled in Obonezhie and along the Onega river already in the 1100s. They occupy the largest and the best part of the region: The shores of the Svir and all its tributary rivers except the upstream of the Ojat, also the Onega lake coast with the exception of a small strip on the western shore, as well as the Zaonezhie Peninsula and the mouths of all rivers of any importance which flow in the Onega, and all lands to the east of the lake Onega.

The Karelians live in the north-western part of Olonets Gubernia: Nearly everywhere in Olonets County (except on the shores on the Svir), in the north-western part of the Petrozavodsk county and in the large, north-western part of the Povenets County.

The Vepsä occupy the upstream of the Ojat in the south-eastern part of the Lodeinoe Pole County, there are a few village groups also in Vytegra County; In addition, there remain clusters of Vepsä, close to russification, on the west coast of lake Onega to the south of Petrozavodsk.

Neither the Olonets Karelians, nor the Vepsä, are pure Finns from the anthropological point of view; Having assimilated some Russian elements (as in the environs of Olonets town for example), they speak a language which has adopted a large amount of Russian words to denote cultural concepts. They have common land ownership and almost the same customs as the neighboring Russian peasants, they sing Russian songs and they consider themselves entirely foreign to the Lutheran Karelians of Finland. The Vepsä and nearly all Karelians are Orthodox; Some Karelians belong to the Raskol.

The Russian population speaks the Novgorodian dialect. A lot of medieval and unique words of Slavic origin remain in their language which has also borrowed from the Finnish languages. The accent of Zaonezhie and Pudozh has a distinct rhythm: The stress is as far as possible from the end of the word (influence of the Karelian language).

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The population lives in large two-storey houses which are mostly more prosperous and more neat than the houses in the Middle Russia.

Andrei Voronov
Article from the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron

Translated by Jouni Snellman, 2005