In Russia’s far north, bordered by Finland and the White Sea, Karelia is frontier country. It encompasses vast tracts of wilderness – dense forests and idyllic lakes ringed by hills and steppes. Yet Karelia is a living museum of human history. Inhabited by Scandinavian peoples for 6000 years, it has been bitterly contested by the Finnish, Swedish and Russian forces over the centuries. After the Winter War of 1939, most of Karelia was ceded to the Soviet Union. Today, while Russian is the official language, Karelia retains a strong cultural connection with Finland. Distinctly Karelian culture lives on in the peasant traditions of poetry, music and folk ceremonies that reinforce the people’s bond with the land and sea.
Karelia’s Lake Onega attracts a steady stream of local and international visitors. It’s the home to the World Heritage Kizhi Pogost on Khizi Island, an elaborate collection of 17th century religious buildings crafted entirely out of wood. Yet what makes Karelia truly remarkable is its untouched nature, including the primordial forests of Kivach Nature Reserve.