This is a hard one. Originally I thought I should only search for information on the areas Finns lost in the Second World War. This is what people are interested in, right? After we cycled through these parts and went further east – culturally, and in this case also geographicly – I realised that only there can one find Karelia. The reason for this is simple: the people.
As you might know allready, Finns evacuated practically everyone. People who moved there came from other parts of the Soviet Union, often because they had lost their homes on another front. From what I’ve recently red they were not forcibly located. Of course huge amount of citicens were placed into forced labour camps and other facilities during the Soviet reign. But apparently the people used to replace the previous inhabitants here came willingly.
Pretty much everyone now living in the Karelian Isthmus (Karjalankannas) and Laatokan Karjala (area north from the isthmus) have their roots somewhere else. I’m not saying their story is meaningless to me, quite the opposite. Do talk to locals when you are there and ask where their family came from if you can find a common language. I believe this national ”project” of relocating people is an important part of the Russian narrative.
But in some sense I am drawn to the positive side of nationalism (big nasty word isn’t it) that allows us to see the variety of people – or peoples, wich could be a more accurate term here – inside the same group of languages. Maybe I shouldn’t talk of roots. Mine are mostly in western Finland. What we should talk of instead is layers of history and cultures that are endangered and close enough for us to do something about it. Rather than just get stuck on remenishing the good old times that once were but will never be the same again.
So the focus will be covering the different cultural areas and layers of history, from ancient to modern and precent. Modernisation often meant liquidation of villages with no prospects and building huge factories that contaminated their surroundings (not sure if that’s changed). In the end the Gulag Archipelago became redundant as forced labour costs exeeded the price of industry. I wonder how they’ve managed this with Uyghurs in todays China. I guess they see it as an investment. Some sick shit.
Maybe the ultimate bikepacking route will also emerge itself one day. But it too should be tied to the area with more than just a gps -track that guides you through the wilderness blindfolded.
As smart human beings I believe we sometimes need a little push to the right direction. That is why I plan to atleast hint of the topics one should dig into before an epic journey in northwest Russia. There is allready something written down in an article I renamed Good to Know – Random (but important) INFO. More local history will appear on the route descriptions later. For Finns it’s pretty easy to search for information as most of the published material seems to be in Finnish. Others might have to rely on sources like Wikipedia and books written about the Soviet Union.