Karelian-Finnish diary
The Northern shore of the Ladoga lake

In the Karelian-Finnish Republic industry is closely combined with agriculture. …But most remarkable it shown on the northern shore of the Ladoga Lake, the most picturesque place in the Republic. But you can`t notice it at the first glance. Because at first one sees only beautiful surroundings. Just a look to the left and you can not take off your eyes. The lake's shore is cut by gulfs, capes, bays and promontories so that at every step one sees a different view…

The look to the right also attracts your sight. The architecture has changed. It is no more Karelian, but Finnish. Karelian, same as the one of Russian Pomors, it favours rectangular solid buildings of thick logs that fit nicely to the mighty and austere taiga-and-lakes nature of the northern part of the Republic. Here on the west the nature is intricate, trim and diverse and favours small forms – miniature forests, small meadows, creeks, woods, mountains and rocks. And the local architecture fits to it. The buildings are elegant, light, sharp-cornered and trim as the surrounding nature and also gravitate towards miniature shapes.

High in the mountains there is one of the finest buildings on the coast – the rest house of the Union of Composers. We stop our car, climb the stairs and meet the guests. They show us the nice finish of the interior – wood, wood and only wood, but what a diversity in the finish of the walls, cornices, floors and ceiling, in the heavy but elegant furniture, in the stairs and balconies…

We are coming to the sites of the "Pitkäranta" cellulose mill and "Läskelä" paper mill and here the combination of industry with the countryside is opened in its full. And the dark tracts of the thick Karelian forests act as the connecting-links between them.

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The mill stays near the water, which is necessary for it and is surrounded by the forest, which also needs water and marvelous meadow and pastures, that needs the forests. But the places where the two mills, "Pitkäranta" and "Läskelä", are quite different and the architecture of the plans also differs.

"Läskelä" is placed in the narrow ravine and the buildings here are narrow and high, placed close to one another and remind the castle over the ditch. "Pitkäranta" is spread wider, the buildings stays over the lake with the beauty and seamlessness. The well thought-out minutiae, made in the common style – subsidiary and utility buildings, booths, road, pathways, small bridges, apartment houses – all these is light and elegant, connected to the lines of hills and copses and harmonically run out (or run to) the plant together with the wavy graphics of the landscape, never disputing with the nature. That was the way our architects build the plant settlement.

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But there is one circumstance that is no good for "Pitkäranta" and the Republic government should think about it.

The mills are the biggest industrial center on the northern coast. And the settlement is not a small one – the people are attracted by the industry. Many of them are young families. But this big settlement is not a community center, though seem that should be the one. The community center is Impilahti village, about twenty-seven kilometers from the mills.

…And a big industrial center sometimes seems quite helpless.

It also makes life more difficult: the stores are far away and there is no a forage shop, which is quite bad for those workers who breed a cow or two.

…The car runs towards the city lights, as if feeling the rest and repose, same as we, slumber from the excess of impressions…

But the sleepiness goes away. We are on the streets of the clean nice town with the boxes of smart buildings – the town of Sortavala (or Serdobol).

A pedestrian can pass through Sortavala in an hour. But it is very nicely placed. Climb up to the high mountain in the center of the park and from the stone parapet you can see a panorama of the uncommon charm with different sites on each side.

The wavy line of the soft green hills, the dark velvet of the woods and forests, frog-light green patches of meadows, the slopes covered with red and blue colors of the blossom of the rose-bays and bellflowers, the scattered toy-like houses, strict yellow curves of the roads, the columns of the chimney-stalks and the wide Ladoga Lake…

…But neither from the mountain, nor from the pier can one see the pride of the Ladoga Lake – the famous Vaalam Islands. People go on excursions there, there is a farm of "Pitkäranta", supplying the settlement with vegetables. There is local administration there and even a post office. But for several months, when the lake is already frozen, but the ice is too thin, it is cut off from the mainland.

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Lake panorama slowly makes a majestic full circle in front of your eyes. The toy-like toy town with its pretty houses and clean streets is going away. One by one sail off the wood-covered islands, the beautiful coast moves to the right…

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Further to the north-west, almost to the border with Leningrad oblast there go the main milk and cattle-breeding regions of the Republic. We visited two of them – Lahdenpohja and Kurkijoki

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…In the same way move and do their work the people in the yard of the lonely cottage, that opened up at the forest edge… So lonely a place! Who lives here?

We found, that there live our collective farmers, that have to use the houses of the former Finnish small farmers, that used to settle several kilometers apart from each other. It is one more very important task for the Republic government – to move those lonely hoses to our usual villages. Our peasants are not used to settle so far from one another and the beauty of these wideness does not help them in their loneliness. And even the teacher has to live alone in the apart-set building of the school. Our Soviet peasants are used to live in communities, so necessary for the full personal life, when one can easily go to the library, or people's house, where one can see a film or a play or meet with a lecturer. They are used to have canteens, nursery schools and kindergartens, to often meeting with each either, to all that, that makes village life more like the city one. And the collective farmers of the western regions of Karelian-Finnish Republic at their meetings tell: "It's high time to bring together the hamlets. We are the Soviet people and are not used to live in the dens. We want to live in the village, with other people". It was not me who said "the den", it were our peasants who called so the old lonely farms.

…Back to Petrozavodsk we returned by the other, northern road through the big region center Vedlozero.

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Marietta Shaginyan
Petrozavodsk, June 1948