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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Soviet Karelia 1965: Land of Forests and Lakes

The Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was originally created in 1923 and comprised the lands of the Karelian people that lie to the north of what was Leningrad and that border Finland. Some of it lay within the Artic Circle and it was a seen as a "land of forests and lakes".

( In an earlier post we looked at art of the Soviet north much of which was of Karelia: Landscapes of the North -- a folder of 12 Soviet paintings 1966 )

Between 1940 and 1956 the Karelian ASSR was incorporated into the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic. It became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian SFSR again after that and remained that until the counter-revolution of 1989-91.

Here we are looking at images of the Karelian ASSR in the 1960s as well as at an English language Soviet article about it from April 1965.

The article is written by Pavel Prokkonen (1909-1979) who was the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic at the time. Prokkonen fought during the war against the Nazis and was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War for his service.

The overview looks development, industry, the preservation of natural resources, agriculture and advances in social welfare.

These advances are all the more remarkable for the devastation that was wrought on the Republic and its capital city Petrozavodsk during the war as was true over so much of the Soviet Union.

In the 60s the Republic had a population of between 500,000 and 600,000 with much if it in the capital which had a population of approximately 200,000.

Postcards (1965):

Lenin Monument, Petrozavodsk

Sailing on Lake Onega

Lake Uksh

Lake Konch

Railway Station, Petrozavodsk

Dzerzhinsky Street, Petrozavodsk

Lake Onega -- The boat is likely a Meteor hydrofoil that used to do passenger runs on the lake. For a look at Soviet hydrofoils see: Sputniks of the Soviet riverways (

Lumber Float on the Suna River


To appreciate the achievements of Karelia today it is not enough to compare our economy with the pre-war level. It should be remembered that during the Nazi occupation 200 industrial enterprises were destroyed, the entire agriculture ruined and 64 towns and villages, including biggest cities, wiped off the face of the earth. In the capital of the Republic, Petrozavodsk, over 60 per cent of the dwellings and public buildings were burnt down or exploded.

After the war, our national economy had to start from scratch. But in 1960 already, where we were marking the 40th anniversary of Soviet Karelia, the total volume of industrial production was almost four times greater than before World War II.

A Land of Forests and Lakes.

The territory of the Republic is almost wholly covered with forests. We have many lakes. The wood and fishing industries have therefore always been traditional in our country. The importance of the Karelian forests is especially great because they are located in the

European part of the USSR, where forests are now rather scarce and also close to industrial centres and ports. We can say that for the development of the wood and wood-working industries our Republic occupies one of the leading places.

In 1953 the Republic produced 10.4 million cubic metres of timber and in the past year about 20 million. This fully meets the requirements in timber of the pulp-and-paper and woodworking enterprises of Karelia itself and of the three biggest combined works of the Leningrad Region. We also export over a million cubic metres of props and about a million and a half cubic metres of sawn timber. In the future the growth of wood cutting cannot proceed at the same rate because of the necessity to protect wood reserves. The working people of our Republic are now following the rule: “If you cut a tree, plant two.’’ Much attention is paid to the restoration of forests in the felling areas, to their preservation and improvement.

But this does not mean that our wood industry will cease developing. In the past decade more than 1,000 million roubles have been invested in the national economy of our Republic with the help of other peoples of the Soviet Union (In 1917-1952 the sum was 607 million). A considerable part of the money is being spent to mechanize the work of the wood-cutters. Since 1953 the output of wood per one worker has grown from 270 to 434 cubic metres. The Republic has built the Onega plant to produce powerful skidding tractors and other machines for the wood industry.

The fishing industry of the Karelian ASSR will continue to develop and produce greater quantities of fish for sale. It is planned to set up by 1970 10 fish-breeding enterprises producing up to 60,000 centners of fish each.

A Progressing Industry

Wood chemical industry has become an important sphere of capital investments in our Republic. While previously the Republic exported almost half of its wood in the form of timber, it has now reconstructed its old and built new pulp-and-paper factories, saw-mills, and furniture factories. The production of paper, wood pulp and board has grown more than twofold in the past ten years. The Republic has started and is considerably increasing the output of ethanol, of nutrient yeast, turpentine, colophony and other products of wood chemistry.

To Use All Natural Resources

Karelia has many riches which in the past were little used. For instance, the production of electricity in 1958 was equal to a little more than 16 per cent of the potentialities of our rivers. In recent years seven big hydro-electric power stations have been put in operation and two more are now under construction. Since 1958 the production of electricity in the Republic has increased fourfold. A single electric power grid is being created for the needs of the industry.

Connected with the growth of electric power supply is the development of Karelia of its own iron and steel industry on the basis of our Kostomuksha and Pudozhgorsk iron ore deposits. The richest reserves of iron pyrites will be used.


The rigorous climate of our Republic, a considerable part of which is situated within the polar circle, and the unproductive soils create great difficulties for agriculture. And yet Karelia provides itself with potato and vegetables and soon hopes to supply itself with milk.

Fur farming is a new branch of our rural economy. Our Republic is ever more prominently represented at fur auctions. Last year it sold 306,000 pelts of polar fox and mink produced by Karelian fur farms.


The government of the Republic is taking incessant care of the growth of the welfare of its people. In the past 11 years the national income per capita of the population has grown 130 per cent. As much as 77 per cent of the budget of the Republic is spent on social and cultural measures and on the expansion of the public funds of consumption. This makes possible for us to carry on extensive housing construction: about 100,000 flats have been built in Karelia in the past ten years. During the same period 138 new schools and tens of hospitals have been constructed. Before the Revolution there were only 62 doctors on the territory of Karelia. Today there are more than 1,200 of them and they are assisted by about 35,000 medical personnel with a specialized secondary education.

The Republic issues its own literary and art magazines and 19 papers. It has 467 houses of culture and clubs, 586 cinema theatres and 506 libraries. Our Republic has also a university, a pedagogical institute, many secondary technical schools, a museum of history and regional studies and an art museum, three professional theatres, a state philharmonic society, a symphony orchestra, and ‘‘Kantele’’, a national song and dance ensemble. As many as 45 people’s universities of culture have been established in recent years. Thus in the multinational family of the USSR general progress extends equally to all, big and small peoples.

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