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Karelian Isthmus

Map of the Karelian Isthmus. Shown are some important towns, the current Finnish-Russian border in the North-West and the pre-Winter War border further South.

The Karelian Isthmus (Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast to the north of the Neva, the isthmus' area covers about 15,000 km2.

The smaller part of the isthmus to the southeast of the old Russia-Finland border is considered historically as Northern Leningrad Oblast.

According to the 2002 census, the population of the Kurortny District of Saint Petersburg and the parts of Leningrad Oblast situated on the Karelian Isthmus amounts to 539,000. Many Saint Petersburg residents also decamp to the Isthmus during their vacations.


  • Geography and wildlife 1
    • Geological history 1.1
    • Cities, towns and urban-type settlements 1.2
  • History 2
    • Archaeology 2.1
    • Prehistory and Medieval 2.2
    • 17th–20th centuries 2.3
    • World War II 2.4
    • After the war 2.5
  • Transport 3
  • Industry 4
  • Military 5
  • Notable people from the isthmus 6
  • References 7
  • Cultural references 8
  • External links 9
  • Further reading 10

Geography and wildlife

Near Leipäsuo
Forest of Pinus sylvestris with an understory of Calluna vulgaris on the Karelian Isthmus
There are about 700 lakes on the isthmus
Bog near Komarovo

The isthmus' terrain has been influenced dramatically by the Weichsel glaciation. Its highest point lies on the Lembolovo Heights moraine at about 205 m (670 ft). There are no mountains on the isthmus, but steep hills occur in some places.

The Bay of Vyborg.

The Karelian Isthmus lies within the ecoregion of Scandinavian and Russian taiga. Geobotanically, it lies at the juncture of the Central European, Eastern European and Northern European floristic provinces of the Circumboreal Region of the Holarctic Kingdom.

The isthmus is mostly covered by coniferous forests formed by Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Norway spruce (Picea abies), with numerous lakes (e.g. Lake Sukhodolskoye and Lake Glubokoye) as well as small grass, fen and Sphagnum raised bogs. Forests cover approximately 11.700 km of the isthmus, more than three-fourths of its total square. Swampy areas occupy on average 5.5 percent of the territory. In the large contiguous area along the shore of Lake Ladoga in Vsevolozhsky District, in the southeastern part of the isthmus, bogs occur much more frequently than in other parts. The same was once true of the lowland along the Neva River, which has been drained.[1] The soil is predominantly podsol, which contains massive boulders, especially in the north and northwest, where large granite rocky outcrops occur.

Pine forests (with Pinus sylvestris) are the most widespread and occupy 51% of the forested area of the Karelian Isthmus, followed by spruce forests (with Picea abies, 29%) and birch forests (with Betula pendula and B. pubescens, 16%). Stands on more fertile soils and in more favorable locations are occasionally dominated by Norway maple, black alder, grey alder, common aspen, English oak, grey willow, dark-leaved willow, tea-leaved willow, small-leaved lime or European white elm. Common vegetation of various types of pine forests includes heather, crowberry, common juniper, eared willow, lingonberry, water horsetail, bracken, graminoids (i.e. grasses in the wider sense) Avenella flexuosa and Carex globularis, mosses Pleurozium schreberi, Sphagnum angustifolium and S. russowii, and lichens Cladonia spp. Prominent in various spruce forests are wood horsetail, common wood sorrel, bilberry, lingonberry, graminoids Avenella flexuosa, Calamagrostis arundinacea, Carex globularis, and mosses Polytrichum commune and Sphagnum girgensohnii. Prominent vegetation of various birch forests include meadowsweet, common wood sorrel, bilberry and graminoids Calamagrostis arundinacea and C. canescens.[2]

1184 species of wild vascular plants are recorded in the isthmus.[3] See also the List of the vascular plants of the Karelian Isthmus. Red squirrel, moose, red fox, mountain hare and boar (reintroduced) are typical inhabitants of the forests.

The climate of the isthmus is moderately continental, with 650–800 mm (25–32 in) average precipitation per year, long snowy winters lasting from November through mid-April and occasionally reaching about -40 °C (-40 F), moderately cool summers and short frost-free period. Compared to other parts of the Leningrad Oblast, the winter here is usually milder due to the moderating influence of the Gulf of Finland, but longer.

The town of Priozersk are situated on the northwestern part of the isthmus.

The Karelian Isthmus is a popular place for Saint Petersburg–Priozersk railroads, hosts numerous dachas.

A 20–35 km wide stretch of land in zone of the border control, reaching the shore of Lake Ladoga at Hiitola. In 1993–2006 the zone was formally 5 km wide, although in fact it has always been much wider.[4] Visiting it is forbidden without a permit issued by the FSB (by KGB during the time of the Soviet Union).

Geological history

Rapids on the Burnaya River

Geologically the Karelian Isthmus lies on the southern edge of the Baltic Shield's crystalline bedrock. During the final part of the last Weichsel glaciation, deglaciation in the central parts of the Isthmus started as early as 14000 BP, when it formed the bottom of a large lake dammed by the surrounding ice sheet. During further deglaciation, at the time of the Baltic Ice Lake, an early high water stage of the Baltic Sea, when the ice sheet retreated to Salpausselkä, the upland area of the Isthmus remained a large island and many upland lakes emerged.[5]

Prior to 12650 BP, the land was characterized by harsh Arctic conditions with permafrost and sparse vegetation. Steppe-tundra complexes developed after this point. Around 11000 BP climate began to warm and became humid, first pine and birch forests were established.[6]

Around 9000 BP

  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Юго-западный сектор, часть 1: Кивеннапа – Териоки (Первомайское – Зеленогорск). СПб.: Новое время, 1998. ISBN 5-93045-016-1.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Юго-западный сектор, часть 2: Уусикиркко (Поляны). СПб.: Новое время, 2000. ISBN 5-87517-022-0.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Юго-западный сектор, часть 3: Каннельярви – Куолемаярви (Победа – Пионерское). СПб.: Новое время, 1998. ISBN 593045017Х.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 2–3. Юго-западный сектор: Уусикиркко – Куолемаярви – Каннельярви (Поляны – Красная Долина – Победа). 2-е изд., перераб. и доп. СПб.: Нива, 2002. ISBN 586456124Х.
  • Шитов Д.И. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 4. Восточный сектор: Рауту – Саккола (Сосново – Громово). СПб.: Нордмед-Издат, 2000. ISBN 5-93114-040-9.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 5. Западный сектор: Койвисто (Приморск). СПб.: КультИнформПресс, 2002. ISBN 5-8392-0216-9.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 5 – 6. Западный сектор: Койвисто – Йоханнес (Приморск – Советский). 2-е изд., испр. и доп. СПб.: Нива, 2003. ISBN 5-86456-102-9.
  • Орехов Д.И., Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 7. Центральный сектор: Муолаа – Яюряпяя (Красносельское – Барышево). СПб.: Нива, 2004. ISBN 5-86456-078-2.
  • Орехов Д.И., Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 8. Восточный сектор: Метсяпиртти (Запорожское). СПб.: Нива, 2005. ISBN 5-86456-116-9.
  • Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 9. Центральный сектор: Валкъярви – Вуоксела (Мичуринское – Ромашки). СПб.: Нива, 2005. ISBN 5-86456-065-0.
  • Шитов Д.И. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. Часть 10. Северо-восточный сектор: Ряйсяля (Мельниково). СПб., 2006. ISBN 5-86456-118-5.
  • Иллюстрированный определитель растений Карельского перешейка / Под ред. А. Л. Буданцева, Г. П. Яковлева. – СПб: СпецЛит, 2000.

Further reading

  • Detailed and historical maps (site navigation in Russian)
  • Site of the local history association "Karelia" (in Russian).
  • (in Russian)

External links

Cultural references

  1. ^ Karelian Isthmus
  2. ^ Доронина А. Ю. Сосудистые растения Карельского перешейка (Ленинградская область). [Doronina A. Vascular plants of the Karelian Isthmus (Leningrad Region)] Moscow: КМК, 2007. ISBN 978-5-87317-384-6.
  3. ^ Доронина, Анна. Флористическиe исследования на Карельском перешейке
  4. ^ See maps: [2] (in Russian)
  5. ^ a b Davydova, Natalia N. et al. (1996). Late- and postglacial history of lakes of the Karelian Isthmus. Hydrobiologia 322.1-3, 199–204.
  6. ^ Subetto, Dmitry A. et al. (2002). Climate and environment on the Karelian Isthmus, northwestern Russia, 13000–9000 cal. yrs BP. Boreas 31.1, 1–19.
  7. ^ Saarnisto, Matti & Tuulikki Grönlund (1996). Shoreline displacement of Lake Ladoga – new data from Kilpolansaari. Hydrobiologia 322.1-3, 205–215.
  8. ^ Timofeev, V. I. et al. (2005). Evolution of the Waterways and Early Human Migrations in the North-Eastern Baltic Area. Geochronometria 24, 81–85.
  9. ^ Лапшин В. А. Археологическая карта Ленинградской области. Часть 2. Санкт-Петербург: Изд. СПбГУ, 1995. ISBN 5-87403-052-2
  10. ^ Лебедев Г. С. Археологические памятники Ленинградской области. Ленинград: Лениздат, 1977.
  11. ^ Saksa, A. I. (2006). The Karelian Isthmus: Origins of the natural and human environment. Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 26.2, 35–44.
  12. ^ Kurs, Ott (1994). Ingria: The broken landbridge between Estonia and Finland. GeoJournal 33.1, 107–113.
  13. ^ Vehviläinen, Olli. Finland in the Second World War: Between Germany and Russia.New York: Palgrave, 2002. ISBN 0-333-80149-0
  14. ^ Van Dyke, Carl. The Soviet Invasion of Finland 1939–1940. London: Frank Cass, 1997. ISBN 0-7146-4314-9.
  15. ^ Protocol appended to the treaty of peace concluded between Finland and The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on March 12, 1940
  16. ^ a b Степаков, Виктор, Евгений Балашов. В «Новых районах»: Из истории освоения Карельского перешейка, 1940–1941, 1944–1950. Saint Petersburg: Нордмедиздат, 2001.
  17. ^ Малков, Виктор (2006). Потенциал недр. Промышленно-строительное обозрение 93.


Notable people from the isthmus

The Karelian Isthmus is included within Kamenka, and in the 56th District Training Centre in Sertolovo.


In Vsevolozhsky District state-owned Morozov Plant is located, which is an important producer of paints, adhesives, abrasives and other substances. In Kuzmolovsky, Vsevolozhsky District, near the station Kapitolovo of the Saint Petersburg–Hiitola railroad, a facility of the Saint Petersburg nuclear enterprise Izotop is located, which specializes in transportation of nuclear materials and radioactive waste. Bogs of Vsevolozhsky District along the shores of Lake Ladoga and the Neva River were major sources of peat for fuel. Now it is extracted in smaller quantities, mostly for agricultural purposes. The district is also an important supplier of sand. A plant of Ford Motor Company producing Ford Focus cars was opened in Vsevolozhsk in 2002.

Vyborg Shipyard is one of the largest shipbuilding companies in Northwestern Russia. Roskar Battery Farm in Pervomayskoye is a leading producer of chicken and eggs.

[17] The


The Karelian Isthmus is served by a number of railways; the trains arrive from Finlyandsky Rail Terminal and Ladozhsky Rail Terminal of Saint Petersburg:

Saimaa Canal (opened in 1856) is an important link connecting inland waterways of Finland with the Gulf of Finland.

The only Vaalimaa.

The western part of the Karelian Isthmus is an important transport corridor linking Scandinavia and Central Russia. Primorsk, terminus of the Baltic Pipeline System, which has recently become one of the most efficient Russian sea ports, is also located here.

Toksovo railway station before renovation in 2008


As a result of the war, the population of the Karelian Isthmus has been almost completely replaced. After the war the isthmus was included into the Leningrad Oblast and people from other parts of the Soviet Union, mostly Russian, were settled here. The vast majority of the old Finnish toponyms in the conquered territories were renamed to invented Russian ones by the government around 1948.[16] The Finnish toponyms of the territories included within Karelo-Finnish SSR and of the southern part of the isthmus (albeit assimilated) mostly remained. A lot of youth summer camps were built all over the isthmus during the time of the Soviet Union. Some of them still exist.


After the war

On 9 June 1944, strong Soviet forces opened the Leningrad Oblast (unlike Ladoga Karelia, which remained within the Karelo-Finnish SSR). The border of the Moscow Peace Treaty (1940) was recognized by Finland again in the Peace of Paris, 1947.

In 1941, during World War II, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. Few days later Continuation War as it is known in Finland (it is considered to be a front of the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union and Russia) started. Finland initially regained the lost territory, reaching the Russian side of the border of 1939 and seen by the Russians as indirectly contributing to the Siege of Leningrad (see Finnish reconquest of the Karelian Isthmus (1941)). Some 260,000 Karelian evacuees returned home.

Finnish defensive lines of the Continuation War

In November 1939, the Kanneljärvi, Koivisto and Rautu as well as the town of Terijoki were, however, included into Leningrad Oblast.[16]

A number of defensive lines crossed the isthmus during the Soviet-Finnish hostilities in World War II, such as Mannerheim Line, VKT-line, VT-line, Main line (Finnish) and KaUR (Soviet), and fronts moved back and forth over it.[13]

December 1939. Karelian evacuees from Muolaa municipality on their way to West-Finland
December 1939. Soviet tanks advancing
Mannerheim Line of the Winter War

World War II

When Finland declared its independence in 1917, the isthmus (except for the territory roughly corresponding to present-day Vsevolozhsky District and some districts of Saint Petersburg) remained Finnish, part of the Viipuri province with its center in Viipuri, the second largest Finnish city. A considerable part of the remaining area populated by Ingrian Finns seceded from Bolshevist Russia as the Finland-backed Republic of North Ingria, but was reintegrated with Russia in the end of 1920 according to the conditions of the Treaty of Tartu. In 1928–1939 parts of the isthmus which belonged to Russia constituted the Kuivaisi National District with its center in Toksova, with Finnish as the official language, according to the policy of national delimitation in the Soviet Union. However, in 1936 the entire Finnish population of the parishes of Valkeasaari, Lempaala, Vuole and Miikkulainen along the Finnish border was deported by the Soviet government.[12]

Ingrian flag

Due to its size, favorable climate, rich fishing waters and proximity to Saint Petersburg–Kexholm–Hiitola (1917) crossed the isthmus, contributing to its economic development. By the end of the 19th century the nearby areas along the Saint Petersburg–Vyborg section had become popular place of summer resort for wealthy Saint Petersburgers.

From 1721–1812 the isthmus belonged to the Russian Empire, won in the Great Northern War that started with the Russian conquest of Ingria where the new imperial capital, Saint Petersburg, was founded (1703) in the southern end of the isthmus, in place of old Swedish town Nyenskans. Then in 1812, the northwestern half was transferred, as a part of Old Finland, to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, created in 1809 and in a personal union with Russia.

During 17th century Sweden gained the whole isthmus and also Ingria. In this time many Karelians escaped to Tver's Karelia.

Rajajoki, Finnish-Soviet border in the 1920s

17th–20th centuries

In the 11th century, Sestra and the Volchya

Ancestors of Finnic people wandered to the Karelian Isthmus possibly around 8500BC.

Prehistory and Medieval

Apart from the old towns of Bay of Vyborg).

Vyborg Castle



Cities, towns and urban-type settlements

In 1818 a canal, which was dug to drain spring flood waters from Lake Suvanto (now Lake Sukhodolskoye, a 40-km long narrow lake in the eastern part of the Isthmus) into Lake Ladoga, unexpectedly eroded and turned into the Taipaleenjoki (now Burnaya River). The Taipaleenjoki started draining Suvanto and decreased its level by 7 m. Originally waters of Lake Suvanto flowed into the Vuoksi River through a waterway at Kiviniemi (now Losevo), but as a result of the change, the waterway dried out. In 1857 the canal was dug there, but the stream reversed direction, revealed rapids and rendered navigation at Kiviniemi impossible. Since 1857 Suvanto and the Taipaleenjoki have constituted the southern armlet of the Vuoksi River, which has decreased the level of the original northern armlet emptying into Ladoga near Kexholm (now Priozersk) by 4 m, isolating it as a separate river basin.

The connection disappeared due to ongoing land uplift in the 2nd millennium AD. [8][5]

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