The Republic of Karelia has become one of the popular travel destinations in all of Russia. When one cast eyes upon its beauty, it becomes apparent why.
The following clip taken from a Russian news network with transcript below explores some of the wonders of this majestic place.
And for those who prefer to relax in Russia, it’s worth visiting Ruskeala, a picturesque marble canyon in the Republic of Karelia. According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, in Russia, Ruskeala occupies the first place in the list of the best places for recreation outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. What else does Karelia have? And why do thousands of pilgrims strive to visit Valaam?
Denis Davydov will tell us about the beauty and being away from the bustle of life, and about the beauty and majesty of Karelia.
Valaam is a place of strength and faith. The Holy Island has been speaking with God for more than a 1,000 years. The cloister experienced wars, and desolation in the years of religious persecution. In the 90s monks began to return to Valaam. Now again, as has been for centuries before, the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church.
Monks of Valaam:
“There is no praying on a schedule, when you are baking you are praying, just like a baker bakes bread.”
“Here, there’s no desire to reach a certain level in society, it’s absolutely irrelevant in a monastic life. And there isn’t a single person, who after visiting Valaam, hasn’t been changed in some way.”
There’s only a reference to worldly “courage,” and a variety of cucumbers in the monastery greenhouse. There are more than a hundred monks and they have their own farmstead. Fresh milk, and delicious cheese, made according to old recipes.
There’s also a trout farm in Valaam. Each enclosure has from 3.5 to 6 thousand fish. In the winter they are fed once a day. Each fish weighs 2 kg, and is ready to be cooked and served.
From late autumn until spring, the island is cut off from the outside world, and this is the best time for monks, an opportunity to be alone with yourself, because in the midst of the tourist season there are crowds of pilgrims and tourists. Last summer Valaam received 300,000 visitors. A hotel is now being restored for the visitors.
Brother Efrem, Monastery’s Administrator:
“On the base of the hotel… It won’t be just a hotel, we’re also making a spiritual center there. There are also museums, and painting and icon making schools.”
Karelia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia. Last year 760,000 people visited the republic.
The closer the New Year holidays get, the fewer vacant places remain in the local hotels. People come here from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and abroad. In addition to the European neighbors, there are frequent visitors from Asia, and even Australia. It’s not just the moderate prices that are attracting the visitors.
Viktoria Vokhmina, Hotel Director:
“The untouched Karelian nature. This is a chance to experience it in comfort. We are surrounded by a forest, on a shore of Lake Ladoga.”
Tarulinna, a cozy corner on the Karelian peninsula, translation from Finnish means fairy-tale like. Fluffy fir trees stretch towards Ladoga. The forest seems to invite you to breathe, to wander or you can also race all over the snow.
The UK newspaper, The Guardian, awarded Karelia 1st place in the top ten Russian regions, attractive for tourists. The top of the article is adorned with a Ruskeala canyon photo.
Ruskeala canyon is not only a monument of nature, but also of mining. Marble was mined here since the 17th century. Many buildings in St. Petersburg were built from Karelian stone: the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, St. Isaac’s Cathedral. About 300,000 tons of marble were mined in the canyon during its history. It hasn’t been used for that in a long time, now, amazing photos are being made here.
A man in a boat:
“The tourists come here almost every day. During the summer, you need to sign up a few days in advance, you can’t just walk in.”
The underground lake is 70 meters deep, and it’s man-made. When the marble mining stopped, the mine was flooded. Now it’s one of the favorite diving places in the Russian north-west.
The Sortavala furniture-ski factory has been making hockey sticks and skis for the whole Soviet Union for decades. But in the 90s, the flagship enterprise fell into decline, and the whole city followed.
The youth center opened in the city 2.5 years ago. A modern equivalent of the Palace of Pioneers. And a large number of educational programs that are absolutely free: foreign languages, design, painting, and a cinema club.
“One week I came here right after school, and left when it was closing. Almost all the young people in the city go here.”
Every week 3,000 children go to the “Serdobol” center, as Sortavala was called in tsarist Russia. Now it’s probably the most popular building, with a youth cafe and free Wi-Fi. A fashionable place for the city’s youth.
Nina Vokhmyanina, Director:
“The lads turn from bullies into children who write poetry, for example. And those who came here only for the Wi-Fi, are now starting to paint. This is so wonderful.”
Officially, Serdobol is open for preschool and schoolchildren. But it’s so interesting that even the adults are looking in. The locals as well as invited experts teach children. Moscow mentors, directors, linguists, and coaches come to master classes.
“I finished my homework, and I studied my favorite English language, I’m very happy.”
The center is built and is maintained by private donations, an attempt to save the rural youth. It’s no secret that they leave to big cities for opportunities. In Karelia, it’s Petrozavodsk. The center of the Republic is expanding and being built up.
Boris Zhadonovskiy, Acting CEO:
“The railroad divides the city into two parts, on one side is the center, and on the other side is a large residential district. People who could have gotten home in 5 minutes, had to go a long way around, in traffic.”
By the end of the year an additional bridge will be opened, which will off-load the roads. Micro-districts are growing because the Republic started a program for resettlement from old housing. The problem wasn’t solved for years, the former leader even received a reprimand from the President. The new leader is doing everything to solve the issue by the end of next year.
Artur Parfenchikov, Head of the Republic:
“We found a solution to the problem that was revealed this March: we had 24,000 square meters of emergency housing that didn’t make it into this program at all. We prepared a plan, including a financial one, to build and assign these 24,000 square meters of housing next year.”
Construction on the shores of Lake Onega began in the 18th century, simultaneously with St. Petersburg. The northern capital and Petrozavodsk are the same age.
Petrozavodsk is associated with Peter the Great. At the beginning of the 18th century Russia is at war with Sweden. The army needs guns, and ammunition in huge quantities, but it’s far and expensive to deliver them from the Urals to the Baltic. The Tsar ordered to look for iron ore near St. Petersburg. The valuable material is found in Karelia. An arms factory is built, and around it, the city of Petrozavodsk forms.
These events went down in history as the Northern War. It lasted 21 years and Russian won. We won thanks to the Petrozavodsk cannons.
Alexei Tereshkin, Museum Employee:
“Russia really defeated Sweden, and became an empire, and joined the European powers, and after this nothing was decided without Russia’s involvement.”
To this day Karelia is one of the industrial centers. There are 11 industrial towns. Metallurgical and woodworking enterprises. A pulp and paper mill was Segezha’s city-forming enterprise since 1939. Locals remember well how before, everyone was trying not to open the windows at home.
Olga Sergeeva, Segezhskiy Tsbk:
“I’ve worked in the factory since 1981.”
-In the 80’s, did it stink even from the entrance of the apartment building?
Olga Sergeeva, Segezhskiy Tsbk:
-“Yes, of course it did, now it’s a lot better. We have 13 air filters at the factory that significantly decrease air pollution.”
The factory employs more than 2,000 people. This year the company launched a paper-making machine, the most modern in the world. Their products are top in the market, and are delivered to 60 countries. World-famous brands make bags from Karelian paper.
Kamil Zakirov, President of Segezha Group:
“It comes from the northern forest natural resources, fir and pine, which give the strongest and best quality material.”
An important detail: the company isn’t just doing timber processing, but also reforestation, which is confirmed by international certificates.
The Karelian Father Frost sings about Petrozavodsk, how everyone is going to their northern city. The words from a national song during the New Year holidays are more relevant than ever.
A long weekend is a great reason to discover a region of amazing beauty.
Odyssey Marine Exploration: Spanish court shelves case against US treasure hunters that looted sunken treasure | USA
The history of the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes includes two grievances and one victory. The first of the former was when the British Navy sunk it and its 275 crew members on October 5, 1804, off Portugal’s Algarve coast. The second offense came in May 2007, when the US treasure-hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration scooped up its cargo of 500,000 silver and gold coins from the shipwreck at the bottom of the sea.
Triumph came when the US justice system confirmed that the treasure belonged to Spain, in a ruling released in February 2012. But there was one more affront to come: a Spanish court has just definitively shelved a case into alleged crimes committed by the US treasure hunters as they were removing the coins. After a tortuous 14-year investigation, a courtroom in Cádiz has been left with no option but to let the probe die, albeit admitting its “bafflement” and “anger” over what it considers “unusual proceedings.”
At the same time as the legal process began in Florida to determine who was the rightful owner of the rescued treasure, Odyssey or Spain, a court in La Línea de la Concepción, in the southwestern Spanish province of Cádiz, began investigating whether the then-CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, Greg Stemm, and his team had committed any criminal offenses when they removed the haul from the shipwreck. Among the potential crimes were damaging an archeological site and smuggling.
The fact that the 500,000 pieces of silver and gold were returned to Spain in February 2012 – nearly 17 tons of material, which are now held in the ARQUA underwater archeology museum in Cartagena – is proof that the legal battle in the United States ended well for Spain. But the latest decision in the Spanish case, to which EL PAÍS has had access, leaves no doubt that the investigation into potential crimes has definitively been shipwrecked.
The three judges who were responsible for the case found that the shelving, which cannot be appealed, is based principally on the fact that the potential offenses have now exceeded the statute of limitations in Spain for trial. And the slow process of the probe, according to the judges’ writ, was due to the failure of the US justice system to respond to the letters rogatory sent in 2013, and that were needed if Stemm and the rest of the suspects were to be questioned by investigators.
“In terms of the lawsuit over the coins, the United States was on Spain’s side,” explains Ángel Núñez, a public prosecutor who specializes in cultural heritage and who was in charge of the case until 2009. “But it is true that when it comes to targeting one of their own nationals, they are not so willing to collaborate. And given that these were US citizens who are not at the disposal of the Spanish courts…”
The Spanish court probe into Odyssey had already entered into a tailspin before this latest ruling. In December 2016, another judge in La Línea dismissed the case. The private prosecution, which was brought by the company Nerea Arqueología Subacuática, appealed the decision but it was rejected. In a new attempt to not let the legal process die, archeologist Javier Noriega, one of the heads of this small company based in Málaga, took the case to the High Court of Cádiz province, in La Línea, the one that has definitively shelved the proceedings.
In their ruling, the judges add that they share “with the appellant his surprise, confusion and even anger for the, shall we call it, unusual proceedings with this case, at least since the year 2013.” The magistrates do not go so far as to specify what prompted them to feel this way.
Archeologist Javier Noriega believes that he knows all too well what they are referring to. He and his colleagues decided to take up the case – represented by the attorney José María Lancho – as a “professional and moral obligation.” They have since seen how “all of these years can be summed up by the end: exceeding the statute of limitations.” “They avoided entering into the substance of what happened to Spain’s cultural heritage,” the expert complains.
These unusual proceedings in the investigation which the judges mention and that Noriega suffered first-hand were reported on in the Spanish press. In March 2012, a former legal representative for Odyssey, with no authority, entered the courtroom when the judge was absent and persuaded court workers to photocopy the entire findings of the legal investigation so far, as was reported by the Spanish daily Abc at the time. According to Abc, such an action would have allowed Odyssey to prepare a defense against the findings of Civil Guard investigators and decide whether or not to actually take part in the trial.
The actions of the representative were very serious, taking into account that the probe was counting on a protected witness: a diver who had been threatened for having denounced Odyssey, given that he had knowledge of some of its activities in Spanish waters.
Now Noriega, 46, is gloomy about the end of a process that has occupied a significant part of his career. “As people who love our profession, it’s frustrating,” he explains. “It ends up being a defeat for all of us, for culture and for society. And if as well as that, the person responsible has gone unpunished, because of the statute of limitations, that’s very sad.”
Despite the legal setback, the archeologist argues that the court probe contains “evidence of all kinds, archeological, from witnesses, technical, juridical, and a ton of resounding questions that deal with what supposedly happened with an overwhelming truthfulness.”
The expert believes that an opportunity has been missed by Europe to convey “a clear message to the thieves who have spent years destroying the history of those shipwrecks from the modern era all over the world.”
Odyssey Marine Exploration never had any interest in the Spanish frigate beyond the cargo of silver and gold that it was carrying. That was made clear by the destruction caused by the company in the archeological area where the remains of the 275 people killed in the attack in 1804 lay. “When an archeological site is plundered, it is destroyed forever,” states Noriega.
After the site was looted, ARQUA led a scientific excavation that was carried out in three campaigns – from 2015 to 2017 – in which the remains of the shipwreck were documented and the items that the treasure hunters left behind were removed. These included cannon, cutlery and other everyday objects from life on board. The expedition also achieved the challenge of descending 1,130 meters underwater, the maximum depth achieved until that point during a subaquatic arqueological mission by a European country.
While the damage done to a historical site such as the Mercedes shipwreck will not result in a trial or convictions, Núñez believes that the consequences of the process “were positive, from a legal and global point of view.” Noriega goes even further: “Spain and its coasts are, today, possibly the best protected and safest in the world with regard to the protection of cultural heritage against looting.”
Since the Odyssey case, the classification of offenses against historical heritage in Spain has improved, new archeological maps have been created, there is better coordination between administrations, and there is greater social awareness about this kind of offense. It was precisely these weaknesses that the treasure-hunting company Odyssey made use of to make off with the coins. In fact, the activity has presumably lost its appeal not just in Spain but also elsewhere, given that the American company has since abandoned its treasure-hunting activities and is now focusing on underground mining.
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Diver finds 900-year-old Crusader sword off coast of Israel
Shlomi Katzin attached a GoPro camera to his forehead, slipped on his diving fins and jumped into the waters off the Carmel coast of Israel, eager to go exploring.
On the sandy floor of the Mediterranean Sea, he found a sword. Archaeologists would later determine that it was about 900 years old.
It weighed four pounds, measured about four feet long and originated from the Third Crusade, experts said.
“Oh yes, he was surprised and happy,” said Jacob Sharvit, the director of the marine archaeology unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority. Katzin said he would give the sword to Sharvit’s agency, but he wanted just one thing: a photo with the shell-encrusted weapon.
The recent discovery was welcomed in a country that takes immense pride in its history and has a law requiring that any artifacts found must be returned to the nation. The sword was among several artifacts discovered by Katzin, who declined to be interviewed because he said he did not want the discovery to be about him. He also found stone anchors and pottery fragments that date back hundreds of years. But nothing was more impressive than the sword, which Sharvit described as “extremely rare.”
All of the items were found in the same 1,000-square-foot site. The authority has been aware of the location since June, after a storm shifted the sand. Still, finding artifacts remains elusive because of the movement of the sand.
“It’s normal to find swords in bad condition, but this one was found under the water – and under the water, it was preserved in very good condition,” Sharvit said Monday. “It’s the first time that we found a beautiful sword like this.”
The water off the Carmel coast remains the same temperature year-round, which helped preserve the iron in the sword. Because the iron was oxidizsed, shells and other marine organisms stuck onto it like glue, Sharvit said. The discovery of ancient artifacts has increased as diving has grown in popularity in Israel, he said.
In the Second Crusade, the Muslim forces defeated Western crusaders at Damascus, said Jonathan Phillips, a professor of the history of the Crusades at Royal Holloway, University of London. The sword would have been expensive to make at the time and viewed as a status symbol, Holloway said. It makes sense that it was found in the sea, he said, because many battles were waged near beaches, where Christian soldiers landed and were sometimes attacked by Muslim forces.
“It could have been from a knight who fell in the sea or lost it in a fight at sea,” he said. When Katzin found it, he said he was afraid it would be stolen or buried beneath shifting sand, according to a statement from the authority. The general director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Eli Escosido, praised Katzin because “every ancient artifact that is found helps us piece together the historical puzzle of the Land of Israel.” Katzin was given a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship.
During the Third Crusade, King Philip Augustus of France, King Richard I (also known as Richard the Lionheart of England), and the holy Roman emperor, Frederick I (also known as Frederick Barbarossa), set out to retake Jerusalem. Saladin, the ruler of an area covering modern Egypt, Syria and Iraq, had conquered it in 1187, said John Cotts, a professor of medieval history at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
At the time, Pope Gregory VIII tried to inspire Western Christians through “great emotional language” to retake Jerusalem from Muslims, but ultimately the Muslim army maintained control of the city, Cotts said. “Traditionally, the definition of a knight is someone on horseback who engaged in mounted warfare,” Cotts said. It is possible that the sword belonged to one of them, and has survived for nine centuries, Sharvit said. After the sword is studied and cleaned, it will be placed in one of the country’s museums, Sharvit said. He would not disclose how much it could sell for, he said, because in his opinion, it was “priceless.” “Every artifact we find is always a really great feeling,” he said. But this one “is very, very special.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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