Tapio Hämynen: The Karelian Clondyke.  How Lumbering Practices Changed Life in "Border Karelia" During the 1920s and 1930s

This is a short presentation of one of the participating projects in the nordic project Cultural Processes in Nordic Woodland Communities

Railway construction and the subsequent forest development transformed the life of the Border Karelians in the forest region north of Lake Ladoga during the 1920s and 1930s. The area included six Finnish municipalities which were ceded to the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Before the Suojärvi railway line was completed (1922), this area was dominated by Orthodox Karelian culture which distinguished itself from the rest of Finland by language and religion.  Until the frontier between Finland and  Russia was closed in 1918 (Finland became independent in 1917), the Border Karelians bought their necessary foodstuffs from Russia, increasing their contact with the East.
   After the railway was completed, a heavy migration movement was directed toward Border Karelia from all over Finland. Jobs in the wood processing industry and forestry caused the so-called 'Suojärvi fever.' Because of that, a rapid cultural change took place in Border Karelia. The settlers were mostly Finnish and represented Lutheran culture. Mixed marriages became common and the customs related to the indigenous Orthodox culture gradually fell out of fashion. Even the Karelian language spoken by the Border Karelians gave way to the Finnish language. The Border Karelians gave up their old Karelian way of living together in a large family. As the nuclear family became common, large Karelian houses were abaondoned.
As a replacement, people adopted new building traditions from other parts of Finland. New ways were also adopted in forest work, and old Karelian forest workers' tools were replaced by tools brought from other parts of Finland.

Tapio Hämynen
E-mail: hamynen@joyl.joensuu.fi
Telefon: +358 73 15 11 Fax: +358 73 15 14 557/14 382
Adresse: Joensuu Ylipisto, Historian Laitos, Pl 111, FIN-80101 Joensuu 
This page was updated on July 11, 2000