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Russian Tourist Destinations: Solovky Isles, The Gates to the Kingdom of the Dead
October 26, 2012 12:53

The Solovky archipelago is situated in the White Sea near the entry into Onežskiy bay. It consists of 6 big isles and plenty of small ones. Big isles Bolshoy Solovetsky, Anzerskiy, Bolshoy Muksalminskiy and Bolshoy Zajatskiy keep the traces human activity starting with Neolithic culture of 2nd – 1st millennium.

Maybe from that time the legend survived, that the isles are sacred gates between the Heaven and Underground Kingdom and between the world where we all live and the Kingdom of the dead. Everybody who has ever visited this place remains greatly impressed by its unique nature and majestic views of ice-cold sea licking huge boulders on the seashore, lakes hidden in coniferous and deciduous forests growing on the snow-white sands. On the Solovki Isles everything looks strange and unusual, especially at summer nights, when the Sun doesn’t set at night. But there is something else confirming that Solovki is sacred frontier space. All the different types of human activity ever taken place on the isles have very unusual character. It was always everything except ordinary settlement.

1. The ancient people leaved mysterious circles composed of stones on the shores. Such labyrinths are known in the north of Europe. These objects have doubtless cult proposes. There are some opinions what they should mean. For example, the labyrinths could be towns for the souls of dead people. There is another opinion, suggesting to see snakes twining the World Mountain in the shape of stone labyrinths of Solovki. Snakes in the north-European mythology are closely tied with death and the beyond. Moreover the analysis of epos Kalevala and geographical circumstances of region lets some scientists to think that Solovky archipelago approximately played the role of epical kingdom of the dead described in the Kalevala. The labyrinths were the doors into it. The people did not actually live there, but were coming for worship, and the unprecedented concentration of sanctuaries only confirms it.

2. In the 12th century the isles became an object of attention for Novgorod republic mainly because of fishing and whaling. In the 15th century the first Russian monks came to the wild isles to devote themselves praying and to die for the profane world. In a hundred years the Solovki-Monastery became the one of the most famous in Russia and one of the most important outposts on the north frontier. The medieval orthodox monastery is the model of paradise, in other words of the beyond (of the positive part of it). The monks succeeded in their model, spending time praying and working. For the complete identity with Garden of Eden (according their conception about it) they have built greenhouses for growing water melons and other exotic fruits which should be in the Paradise.

3. Unfortunately the beyond has one more cite. In the first half of 20th century former Paradise was turned into concentration camp and then into prison. The conditions for prisoners were very hard, especially in winter, not to say infernal hard. Frankly speaking, what is the prison when not the hell on the earth and who are the prisoners when not the dead men independently of their guilt or guiltlessness? The human is really alive only at large. During the Second World War the hell was replaced by the school for military sailors.

4. In 1967 Solovky became a museum. Nowadays we can see there exhibitions devoted to monastery, to prison and even to school for sailors. The first period of history submitted by stone labyrinths is exhibited direct on the seashore. Every museum is also gate to the kingdom of the dead, the modern version of which has neither paradise booths nor infernal torment. In this kingdom lives the Past. With the artefacts of the past museum helps us to see times and cultures which do not exist any more. The showpieces are dead for their original purpose and therefore eternal. Relatively eternal.

The legends can be interpreted in several ways, but there are still no any normal settlements on the Solovki isles even when the conditions were created. The people who nevertheless live and work there are the guardians of the gates to the Kingdom of the Dead independently of the conception of the beyond and its material models 4 of which were described here.

Yulia Buzykina

 


Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Solovki Russian North Russian tourism Arkhangelsk Region  

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