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Entries / Karelian Isthmus

Karelian Isthmus

Categories / City Topography/Geographical Objects

KARELIAN ISTHMUS, a historic and geographical region between the Gulf of Finland and Ladoga Lake, in the south bounded by the Neva River, in the north - by a datum line linking Vyborg Bay of the Baltic Sea and Lekhmalakhti Bay north-westwards from the Ladoga Lake. It received its name from the Karelian tribes which inhabited the territory. The northern boundary of the Karelian Isthmus is the lowest and narrowest part of the isthmus (the lowness is associated with the former junction of the Baltic and Ladoga basins during the holocene ancillary transgression - so called Geynioksky Strait). Almost the entire surface of the Karelian Isthmus is formed by friable glacial, aqueoglacial, lacustrine and marine genesis deposits, overlaying crystalline formations of the Baltic Shield and superincumbent sedimentary beds of the Russian Plateau. An outcrop of rock to the surface is a rear occurrence and is registered only in the north (in the surroundings of Kuznechny, Kamenogorsk, Svetogorsk and Vyborg). The total length of the Karelian Isthmus from north to south is 150-180 kilometres, and from the west to the east 55-110 kilometres. It is considered one of the most picturesque spots in the vicinities of St. Petersburg, long inhabited and intensively cultivated to the present day. As to the relief type it is primarily Vuoksa-Vyborg planation in the north (average height of up to 20 meters), Lembolovo Hills in the west and in the central part (up to 205 meters high) and Neva Lowland in the South (up to 20 meters high) that are frequently distinguished. The Ladoga waterlogged lowland is of a similar type to that of the Neva River, fringing the Lembolovo Hills in the east. The undulating moraine landscapes with abundant lakes and terraces usually consist of three levels: 120-140 meters (Lembolovo), 100-80 meters (Toksovo) and 80-60 meters (Ukki-Koltush) layers forming the central part of the Karelian Isthmus. The southern and northern parts are formed by terrace layers of lacustrineglacial, lacustrine and occasionally marine basins which subsequently became waterlogged and laky. The relief of the Karelian Isthmus reveals oscillatory moraine extended ridges (Michurinks) and meandering esker (Kirillovsky, Krasnoselsky, Zhitkovo, Vasilyevo). Beach ridges are also characteristic of the relief (Lisy Nos, Zelenogorsk and the Ladoga Lake coast), the surroundings of Sestroretsk, Ozerki and the estuaries of the Burnaya River display a variety of sand dunes. The Karelian Isthmus is distinguished by an abundance of lakes, swamps and rivers which emerged as a result of tessellated conditions of disintegration of the Valday glacial sheet and the subsequent water flow activities. Many of the lakes are elongated, corresponding to the tracks of glacial tongues and concurrent waterflows - this is characteristic of Vuoksa, Sukhodolskoe, Komsomolskoe, Balakhanovskoe lakes. Some of them contain considerable amounts of soft water (up to 20-25 cubic kilometers) which are used as water supplies. Yet other lakes have whimsical contours conditioned by residual water in the planes between the moraine hills and eskerine ridges. The climate of the Karelian Isthmus is relatively moderate with average annual temperatures within 3-4 °С and 600-700 millimeters of precipitation (in the central part up to 850 millimeters). The territory is exposed to the influence of relatively humid western air masses and Atlantic cyclones. The ample and partly surplus humidity condition the growth of forest vegetation and the variety of swamps with quite a number of high plants. The forests are predominantly of coniferous type with a lot of pine forests on the elevations and sand deposits, secondary small-leaved forests and shrubs are also sufficiently represented. Due to intensive reclamation a greater part of the primordial forests had been destroyed leading to felled areas and glades being overgrown. The land structure is comprised of nearly 60% forest, approximately 5% swamp, around 15% of lake, not less than 10% agricultural land. The combination of diverse reliefs, numerous water zones and mosaic vegetation form a wide variety of unique landscapes make the Karelian Isthmus a tourist and recreation site. According to archaeological records habitation of the Karelian Isthmus began in the fourth millennium BC. During the first centuries AD it was the Karelian folk who inhabited the area from the 8th-9th centuries came into contact with Slovenes (Ilmen Slavs) and later with the Novgorodians. Until the early 18th century the Karelian isthmus was fought over by Russia and Sweden. As a result of this confrontation in the 12th-13th centuries emerged Vyborg, Korela (today Priozersk), Oreshek (today Shliesselburg) fortresses. In the 14th-16th centuries, additional fortresses were built Tiversk and Volochek on the Vuoksa River. According to the terms of Stolbovsky Treaty of 1617 the entire Karelian Isthmus passed to Sweden. The Great Northern War of 1700-21 eventually returned to Russia the greater part of the Karelian peninsular, including Vyborg province (from 1811 - within Grand Duchy of Finland). Upon granting independence to Finland in 1917, the state boundary was established fixed along the Sestra River and further to the north-west of the Ladoga Lake. In 1939-40 and 1941-44, the Karelian Isthmus was a scene of military confrontation its territory extensively transformed by military installations in particular by the "Mannerheim Lines" with parts surviving until the present. As consequence of the the Russian-Finnish War 1939-40 the entire Karelian Isthmus became part of the USSR. In the course of the Great Patriotic War 1941-45 it was repeatedly occupied by the Finish army before being fully liberated in 1944 by Soviet forces. In 1946, Kurortny District with the centre in Terioki was formed in the the south-western coastal part of the Karelian Isthmus. The Finns left the Karelian Isthmus which was subsequently inhabited by Russians. The decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1 October 1946 altered the Finish names of the settlements (also rivers, lakes, reliefs were subject to name changes). The territory of the Karelian Isthmus is criss-crossed by key highways and railways running from Russia to Finland and Karelia; there are numerous local roading infrastructure as well. From the second half of the 19th century the coastal areas of the Karelian Isthmus grew into a popular summer house residential area with original summer house constructions, resorts and medical treatment zones. Presently the territory of the Karelian Isthmus is part of several regions such as Vsevolozhsk, Vyborg and Priozersk regions of Leningrad Region, in the south-west a large part of the Karelian Isthmus is included into the boundaries of St. Petersburg.

References: Иппо Б. Б., Турчанинов Н. Н., Штин А. Н. Карельский перешеек. Л., 1962; Гоголицын Ю. М., Иванова Т. М. Архитектурная старина: Памятники зодчества Ленингр. обл. 2-е изд., перераб. и доп. Л., 1979; Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. СПб., 1998. Ч. 1; Исаченко Г. А. "Окно в Европу": История и ландшафты. СПб., 1998.

Y. P. Seliverstov.

Балашов Е. А. Карельский перешеек: Земля неизведанная. СПб., 1998
Иппо Б. Б., Турчанинов Н. Н., Штин А. Н. Карельский перешеек. Л., 1962
Гоголицын Ю. М., Иванова Т. М. Архитектурная старина: Памятники зодчества Ленингр. обл. 2-е изд., перераб. и доп. Л., 1979
Исаченко Г. А. "Окно в Европу": История и ландшафты. СПб., 1998

The subject Index
Shlisselburg Fortress.
Great Northern War of 1700-21