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Karelia

The Republic of Karelia (or more affectionately known as "Karelia"), is located in north-western Russia. Karelia is a wonderful landscape made up of sapphire blue lakes, waterfalls, hillocks and barren rock. It is a region where many nationalities live together harmoniously: Karelians, Russians, Vepsians, Finns, Ukranians, Belorussian and dozens of others. The most distinguished place in Karelia is Kizhi. The Kizhi Islands, in Lake Onega, were an asylum and also where Karelians suffered persecution many years ago. These islands were also the place for celebrating happiness, and theses ceremonies (kisat), have given the islands their name.

The island of Kizhi is a unique open-air museum of Russian wooden architecture. Churches, chapels, traditional Karelian houses and ancient articles have been collected from Karelian villages for this museum. The Transfiguration Church of the 17th century - "The Eighth Wonder of the World" - was built of wood without a single nail! The structure astounds with its height and 22 flamboyant domes. Kizhi is a puzzling and unique entity, perhaps explaining the Karelian Cultural Ministry's decision to limit the annual number of visitors to 130,000.

The old wooden houses dating back to the 14th century century are also visually arresting. Kizhi is one of UNESCO's 300 classified heritage sites.

Lake Onega is the second largest lake in Europe. The shores of Onega have been populated for thousands of years, which numerous petroglyphs and dwellings attest to. The major focus for settlement and industry in the Repablic of Karelia has centered around the west shore of Onega. The areas beyond Onega are for the most part densely forested, hovering on the edge of the taiga, where nature remains pretty much untouched.

There is also the Kivach National Park in Karelia, where relict trees and the famous Karelian birch grow.

The capital of Karelia is Petrozavodsk. There are more thatn 278,000 inhabitants. At the command of Peter the Great, the great iron foundry and cannon factory were built on the western shores of Onega. Around the factory, the Petrozavodskaya sloboda (village) developed, which refers to the built up area of St. Petersburg. The factory became famous for art casting. Graftings of the Tsarskoe Selo Alexander Palace (near St.Petersburg), as well as cast handrails of the Neva, Moika and Catherine rivers and canals made in 1777, at the command of Catherine the Great, the village was named Petrozavodsk.

Also, near Petrzavodsk is the home of Russia's first spa in Russia, Martsialnyye vody, where people suffering from heart disease are treated.

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