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by Nikolai VEKHOV, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), Russian Scientific-Research Institute of Cultural and Natural Legacy named after D. Likhachev, the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications (Moscow)
Of great interest for studies of people's past, apart from the generally recognized monuments of architecture and art, are literary works, especially of historic, and ethnographic nature, like diaries and travelogues which often contain information not found in the archives. One such literary source is a book God na Severe (A Year in the North) which describes the culture, traditional crafts and folklore of the Pomorye region of the middle of the 19th century when the region reached its summit. The author of the book is Acad. Sergei Maximov, a writer and ethnographer, and an Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1900. His 175th birthday is marked this year.
There were two hostile naval attacks in the 19th century on Russia's northern regions. During the Napoleonic wars in 1809 - 1810 the British staged a blockade of the Murman (northern coast of the Kola Peninsula) where they plundered and burned down settlements of the Pomor hunters and fishermen and shelled the town of Kola. During the Crimean War (1853 - 1856) the British, together with the French, blockaded navigation on the Barents Sea from the Russian-Norwegian border to the Kola Peninsula and carried out raids on the White Sea. The main hostilities took place far in the south, but the enemy delivered strikes at the local weakest spots of our defences-in 1854 there were pitiless shellings of the Kola, Kandalaksha, the Solovetsky Monastery, etc.
In the face of this course of events the Russian government decided to rebuild its navy. In 1855 its commander, Grand Prince Konstantin Nikolayevich, sent a request to the Commissariat Department of the Naval Ministry asking them to try and find some gifted writers and send them to Arkhangelsk, Astrakhan, Orenburg, to the Volga, etc. "for studies of the way of life of the local folk engaged in naval business and fishing and write articles about them..." Attracted to this project were beginning authors who were little known to the public. The youngest of them was Sergei Maximov who was recommended by the prominent journalist and writer Ivan Panayev (1812 - 1862).
Having received letters of recommendation addressed to the local authorities and a monetary allowance for six months in advance, Prof. Sergei Maximov left St. Petersburg in February of 1856 and traveled to Arkhangelsk. It took him only 5 days to reach his destination which was very quick bearing in mind the conditions of the local roads
Town of Onega. Cathedral.
and the fact that he was traveling on board a small mail wagon. Reaching his destination three months before the arrival of summer weather and the beginning of navigation on the White Sea, he began studying local archives, old manuscripts and files of the weekly newspaper Arkhangelskiye Gubemskiye Novosti (Arkhangelsk Regional News). Published since 1838, it contained lots of data from students of local lore such as teachers, officials etc.
In early June of that year, as soon as the Severnaya Dvina was opened for navigation, Maximov set out on his voyage along the southern and western coasts of the White Sea- to regions which included the Letny, Kemsky and Karelsky costs and then on along the Kola Peninsula to the local administrative center - the town of Kola. The first populated center on his way was the village of Solza, "where only salmon comes in the autumn and whose residents are very poor: tillage, or arable farming, was on a very low level due to lean soils and severe climate. Land tillage was just as poor in the next Pomorye village of Nenoks, but it was much wealthier and populous than Solza". The village was since ancient times a center of the salt industry which supplied all the local villages for many decades.
The next stop of the mail wagon is the village of Pertominsk on the bank of the Onega Lake. In 1599 this spot was chosen for a chapel built over the bodies of two drowned Solovki monks, and 5 years later it was replaced with the Church of the Transfiguration. That was the beginning of the Pertominsky Monastery which received good fame: in the hunger of 1837 the cloister helped the locals who begged for bread. Sergei Maximov learned a lot about the local trades, the way of life of the locals and their lore.
Next along his path was the town of Onega (port on the White Sea). 80 years before the described events it was called Ust-Yanskaya Volost (the smallest administrative division in tsarist Russia). Around 1613 it was devastated by the Lithuanians, but by 1621 the residents built a church and some 20 houses. The writer points out that by the middle of the 19th century the old "sloboda" settlements still retained their original names. By an order of the Empress Yekaterina II "all of them were included within the confines of the new capital of the Arkhangelsk province". From the 18th century the main occupation of the residents were timber-sawing.
In Onega the explorer abandoned the mail-wan in favor of a marine transport: "On July 2 the schooner Nikolai, loaded with wooden boards and timber, left on a voyage across Kern to Norway..." That was how Prof. Maximov reached the Pomorye shore - the very heart of the ages-old Russian northern culture. During the voyage he experienced all perfidies of the White Sea: "It was so cold on deck as can be on a cold Christmas day...", although the air temperature on shore was more than 20o C. But then he managed to fulfil one of his main objectives-visit the Solovetsky Islands, although that was done in a hurry as requested by the captain of the boat. Prof. Maximov visited three of them and acquainted himself with the life of the Solovetsky Monastery - a major religious center founded in the 20s-30s of the 15th century.
The researcher then traveled to the Karelian shore of the White Sea - the next historical region of the Pomorye. "A small village scattered on both banks of the noisy river, full of rapids... There are numerous pennants flying on tall masts attached to barns located on the edge of the
water". The researcher was told that the residents of the Letny village applied for jobs to their wealthy compatriots who engaged in cod fishing from March to September and some went for fishing of navaga or seal hunting even in winter.
From all other places visited by the explorer one can single out two. He wrote: "The village of Keret is probably the best on the Karelian shore. The Keret River itself is a festive sight: with not one, but five fishing lodiya* boats rocking on the waves near its banks. Between these big and ugly vessels one can see two beautiful schooners, cut in accordance with accurate drawings." 70 versts later one could see Kovda located in the mouth of the river of the same name. The traveler wrote: "I saw in front of almost every house piles of small barrels consisting of roughly fitted thin boards. They are called seidyanky and are known practically across all Russia". In fact Kovda was one of the centers of the famous White Sea flishing of herring. From there barrels offish went across the whole of this country and even abroad.
The schooner sailed to Kandalaksha and then to Kola across the Barents Sea. Having completed his studies, the explorer sailed back on a passing schooner in order to go on shore in Kem - a kind of "industrial capital" of Pomorye which he wanted to study in a consistent way. There he made the following notes: "The rich men of that city are building more and better marine vessels and send them to fish for cod off the Murmansk coast and then towards Novaya Zemlya and the Kolguyev. They were also the first to sail to the remote Spitsbergen; and they are also conducting active and annually growing trade with Norway."
When the people of Novgorod were mastering (taking control) of the territory of Belomorye (10th-12th centuries), the territory of present-day Kem was populated by the Karelians. This is proved by the names of some of its regions which had been preserved by the time of the scholar's arrival. In the first half of the 15th century it was a possession (volost) of the distinguished Novgorodian aristo-crat-boyar Marfa Boretskaya**. In 1450 she donated it together with some other possessions to the Solovetsky Monastery. After the fall in 1478 of the Novgorodian \feche (popular assembly in medieval Russian towns), Kem became federal property and retained this status to the beginning of the reign of Tsar Fyodor loannovich (1584 - 1598) who gave it back to the monastery.
* Lodiya pomorskaya-wooden sailing transport and fishing boat of 25 - 30 m in length - a modification of the Novgorodian "lodiya". - Ed.
** Marfa Boretskaya (Posadnitsa) and her son stood in 1471 at the head of a party of Novgorodian boyars who were alien to Moscow and who were conducting talks about submission to Grand Prince Kazimir IV of Lithuania. - Ed.
Village of Gavrilovskoye. "Dvuzhirnaya" izba.
In the past it was an ostrog - a military and administrative center used for defense from foreign aggressors-"German folk". In the absence of any such attacks Empress Yekaterina II liquidated that base. By her order of 1764 Kem was handed over to the "state economics collegium" and in 1781 it became part of the Olonetsky Province. The famous Russian poet Gavriil Derzhavin (1743 - 1816), who was appointed its governor, "discovered a new city". Approved at that lime was the new city emblem decorated with river pearls found in large amounts in all rivers flowing into the White Sea. Prospectors stopped at nothing digging for shells from which they obtained pearls used for the making of very expensive decorations for women.
In the 19th century Kem looked very similar to other White Sea populated centers. "Clinging to the ledged of the granite mountains, -wrote the explorer, -are the asymmetrical rows of... green, yellow and gray huts and houses of that city. A small part of them seems to be arranged in a semicircle. Located there is a 'home-bred' city shipyard which, they say, although small, is very convenient." In fact Kem has been for years one of the main shipbuilding centers of the Pomorye region. They produced, for example, the famous lodiyas "on which the Pomors transport bread bought in Arkhangelsk to Norway or to industrialists on the Murmansk shore. These boats are also used for fishing salmon near the Tersk shores, for fishing herring near Karelia, for hunting walruses off the Novaya Zemlya, for gathering birds down and feathers near Kolguev and for wooden boards used for building commercial vessels". Later on the locals began building ships of other types in keeping with the traditions and technologies maintained from generation to generation, often without blueprints and without observing the strict proportions. It was the customer who suggested the dimensions and the shipbuilder then drew an outline on sand or snow in front of them. And they were also building vessels in keeping with international standards - "the laws of science and technology". Another major occupation of the Kemlians, and also residents of the neighboring Shuya, Soroka and Sum, was trade with Norway to which they supplied mostly bread in exchange for fish.
The Kemsky Krai (territory) is a land of rivers which are full of rapids and almost impassable. People who managed to settle there lived in an isolated world of their own.
Pomorki peasant women in festive dresses.
By the time of the Maximov expedition there remained villages of Old Believers* with their ancient customs and traditions. During his expedition Sergei Maximov visited one such village and described it: "Your see on this island blossoming pastures, crossed with coppices, but no people... One bitter frost is enough to ruin all hopes of grain-merchants. But there are kitchen-gardens where they successfully cultivate carrots, turnips, swede and potato... From behind the tall log fences, built so that the place would really look like a small monastery, one can see three domes of a chapel looking like a church. Located near it is a tall belfry surrounded in a complete disorder by cells of the brethren. The wooden gates are locked but the window shutters are open. Contrary to the local customs the shutters are not decorated... There are also toy pigeons made of wooden chips and attached to the floor, the floors with chess-board decor and tables covered with oil-cloth, and icons in rich and large settings..."
From Kern the writer traveled "on the same karbas (type of a Pomorye sailing boat. - Auth.), sailed along the coast the first village to the village of Shuya - the first settlement after Kcm. Dwelling there are not just one rich man for the whole village, but several, wealthy monopolists who. they said, probably possessed half of the capitals of the rich men of Kern. There was the same striving for wealth demonstrated by porcelain cups and teapots, a countless numbers of paintings on the walls and all kinds of clocks and watches with and without chimes. Rich people demonstrated self-confidence in their merits by being the first to shake hands and taking a seat without an invitation... This 'proud' kind of behavior could also be seen in the less wealthy residents of Shuya. Their wives and daughters were wearing colorful satin dresses which they changed every day. Even my own women servants (in the summer women tried to get jobs on all boats, including the boat of our explorer. -Auth.). And they were wearing warm armlets, or oversleeves".
From Shuya the explorer sailed over a distance of 35 versts (one versta = 1.06 km) to the next coastal village called Soroka (now the city of Belomorsk). He saw it "densely populated, scattered over a considerable area, with a church and beautiful houses with painted wooden roofs which would do honor even to the town of Keni".
* Old Believers-members of religious opposition to the Orthodox Church and the Russian state who refused to accept the Church Reform of the 17th century. - Ed.
Kushereka village. Church of the Ascension, 1668.
The local landscape was very picturesque "with a broad coastal stretch being in front of the village behind which there are barely visible houses of the nearby village of Shizin with a silver cross of its wooden church shining in the moonlight. The numbers of herrings entering this bay is such that water becomes as dark as sand or mud". That was one of the 3 centers of herring catching on the White Sea (the other two were the Solovctsky Monastery and I he village of Pongoma on the Karelian shore). As for the village of Soroka, it was famous all over the Northern region by its "beauties such as were hard to find in any other Russian provinces".
The researcher continued his voyage to Sukhoy Navolok and then on to Sumy, or Sumsky Posad-one of the oldest settlements on the Pomorsky coast which used to be even more important than the Kem Ostrog. The destinies of them both had much in common: both belonged to Princess Marfa Borelskaya, then became the property of the Solovetsky Monastery and later state property. Sumy, like Kem, was originally populated by the Karelians.
During the visit of Sergei Maximov Sumy belonged to the Orthodox tradition despite the fact that the nearest big villages (including Soroka) and the town of Kem as well as villages on the Karelian coast were controlled by Old Believers. From the second half of June to the last days of August the life in Sumy went on at a quiet and measured pace. "The women were making fabrics and bleaching them. Then comes the crop of morozhka berries which are gathered by all the residents of the posad, and then comes the busy time of hay-mowing when the Karelians come from their remote villages and women are busy only with hay storage". As for men, they have been busy for centuries with fishing and trade with Norway. According to Acad. Maximov's notes "the residents were busy with simple occupations: they are either fishing for navaga or transport logs on horses, carry merchants selling fish and offer transport services to visitors coming for commercial or service needs".
The route of our explorer then continued on dry land-along the shore of the Onega Gulf to the town of Onega. Maximov hired a saddle-horse and traveled to Kushereka-one of the biggest and most beautiful villages of the Pomorye where "they build ships and engage in fishing of herring and navagas". Near it there were salt-works and in the center - a rather new church. From
Maloshuyka village. ChurchofSt. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. 1700.
there the explorer traveled in a coach along a good road to the village of Maloshuyka where he again hired a riding horse. Shortly after he arrived in the village of Vozgory whose residents were famed as the best shipbuilders. From there stony mountain roads led to Onega. "Along the road there were barley crops half of which had already been harvested by that time (August 23). Descending from a mountain, the road entered a real forest with tall, and not always rotten, trees - a real wall of trees which seemed impassable... Running across the forest was a road paved with boards of the Pongomsky Plant of the Onega Timber Company". That was the end of the summer-time expedition of Sergei Maximov. Lying ahead was his return to Arkhangelsk.
Right after the completion of his "literary expedition" he started processing his notes which were summed up into a book God па Severe (A Year in the North). It brought him national recognition and the Russian Geographical Society awarded him with its Small Gold Medal. In 1857 - 1859 some chapters of the book were published in the journals Morskoi Sbornik, Biblioteka dlya Chteniya and lllustratsiya (Naval Collection, Reading Library, Illustration). As a separate publication it appeared in two volumes in 1859 in St. Petersburg and received positive assessments in the journals Otechestvennye ZapiskL Russkoye Slovo and Notes of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society.
Today there are no more of the traditional local handicrafts or monuments of civil architecture which made Pomorye so famous. Its formerly rich and beautiful villages have lost most of their residents. But the former beauty of this Northern country will be remembered by the Russians thanks to the book of Sergei Maximov- a king of a cultural-historical of not only of regional, but general national importance.
Illustrations from the books: V. Suslov, "Travelling Notes From the North of Russia and Norway", 1888; K. Sluchevsky, "Travels of Their Imperial Majesties: Grand Prince Vladimir Alexandrovich and Grand Princess Maria Pavlovna in 1884 and 1885", 1886.
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