Karelia is a historical province, which belonged at various times
to Sweden, Finland, Russia. It is believed that the patron saint
of this land is St. Apostle Andrew the First Called. According to
the old Valaam monastery tradition in the 1 century St. Andrew preaching
the gospel visited the archipelago and having destroyed the pagan
cult sites set up a stone cross on its rocks.
The land of Karelians is first mentioned in Scandinavian sagas as
Kirjalaland and Kirjalabottnar. The strong and energetic Karelian
people transformed their territory into a highly civilized area
which stretched from the Baltic to the White Sea. The sagas contain
information on Lake Ladoga and marvelous landscapes of the territory,
they tell of audacity and astonishing strength of its inhabitants
and of surprising animals.
the vicinity of Sortavala, the central town of Ladoga Karelia, are
located spectacular thousand-year cultural landscapes and hills
with ruins of medieval fortresses or remains of their stone walls.
One of them is a fortress hill Paaso, the historical centre of Sortavala,
its pride and its fame. It is highly probable that in 1187 just
from an ancient harbor at the foot of Paaso the Karelians set out
for their legendary and victorious seaborne raid to Sigtuna, the
main stronghold of the Scandinavian warriors... The descendants
of that strong Kirjala tribe are still living in the Tver region
though mainly assimilated into the Russian population.
At the time of establishing cultural and other links between Novgorod
the Great and Karelia there has been founded an orthodox monastery
on the Valaam Islands, also known in the Christian world as a “monastic
republic” and the "Northern Athos". Monks of Valaam later
founded new monasteries in Russia penetrating as far as Alaska.
Among the Valaam monks glorified by the Church was Saint Herman
of Alaska, canonized in 1970 by the Orthodox Church in America as
the first Orthodox saint of America.
the 17 century Ladoga Karelia was part of the Swedish Kingdom and
received a strong influence of Scandinavian culture. In 1812 Russian
Emperor Alexandre 1 joined the province to the Grand Duchy of Finland
and its towns and villages began to acquire Finnish features.
In 1920-30 under the independent Finland there used to function
in Sortavala an efficient system of "landscape tourism",
its pivot being the most valuable landscape components around the
town and of the whole Ladoga Karelia. After the cession of the territory
to Soviet Russia Sortavala has lost much of its value. However historic
monuments and sites of Old Finland, popular with the tourists in
the 1930-s now are again placed in the spotlight. Besides, cultural
landscapes of Ladoga Karelia are considered as memorable places
of an ancient and recent history of the Karelians and the Finns.
Heritage areas of the territory include medieval fortress hills,
archeological sites, abandoned settlements, old travel itineraries,
picturesque scenery, all this being an important resource of the
territory and its tourist wealth.
Valaam Islands with now active Transfiguration Monastery is one
of the most popular tourist destinations of Republic of Karelia.
The spiritual significance of the famous Orthodox center and natural
beauty of the place have long attracted pilgrims and visitors from
all over the world. Boat cruises to Valaam are typically arranged
from Saint-Petersburg, the other way of reaching the islands is
via Ladoga Karelia with Sortavala as your starting point. It is
the nearest town in the mainland, located 43 km from the archipelago.
Travelers are transported to Valaam by hydrofoil or by motor ship.
The trip will give you an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery
of coastal hills and groups of numerous rocky islands, so called
the “skerries” zone.