|Karelia has been part of Finland since independence in 1917 but previous to this the country was ruled by both Sweden and Russia, with the Karelian border being repeatedly redrawn through the centuries, most recently after World War II.
Lieksa’s Pielinen Museum, the second largest open air museum in the country, traces the development of local building styles over the last 300 years through a collection of about 70 wooden buildings. Well worth a visit for anyone interested in history or architecture.
Paateri, the creation of sculptress Eva Ryynänen (1915-2001), consists of her home, studio and a magnificent chapel in red pine, all displaying a wealth of her carvings in massive wood.
Möhkö Village, lying near the Russian border, is a seemingly idyllic piece of Finnish countryside but has an industrial history displayed by the local ironworks museum standing on the banks of the Koitajoki River. The surrounding area was also the scene of fierce fighting during World War II, signs of which can still be found.
At Parppeinvaara you'll find a collection of historic buildings based on the theme of local tradition. These include Runopirtti, with handicrafts, traditional music, and exhibitions; Rajakenraalin maja, a war-time operational headquarters; Parppeinpirtti Restaurant, with a Karelian menu; and the Tsasouna, a small Orthodox chapel. Runopirtti also includes the permanent collection of the Kalevala Epic in multiple translations.
Bomba House, at Nurmes, is a fine example of Karelian wooden architecture. Standing at the heart of a holiday village of log-built houses decorated in traditional style with carvings and ornamental paintings, Bomba can offer hotel accommodation, restaurant, a spa, souvenirs, an Orthodox chapel, a summer outdoor theatre and a broad range of activities in summer and winter.
The nearby town of Nurmes has a heritage area of attractive wooden houses standing along birchlined avenues.
The House Museum of Murtovaara in Valtimo is protected and valuable part of cultural history. It gives a general view of the development of the peasant house from the 1700s to the present day.
The challenging task of the North Karelia Museum in Joensuu is to study and communicate the history and culture of Karelian on both sides of the present-day border. In late January 2011 the new permanent exhibition will consider ideas as diverse as wars, the Karelian evacuation and the history of sauna. The “On the Road in Karelia” exhibition will convey the region’s centuries-long history and rich culture, everyday life, manors as well as the city of Joensuu. The oldest artifact in the show is a ski once left behind in Tuupovaara.
Throughout Karelia there are numerous Orthodox churches and chapels (called ‘tsasouna’), each having its own festival (‘praasniekka’) on the name day of its patron saint. The biggest of these is the Iljan Praasniekka (dedicated to the Prophet Elias) held at Ilomantsi around July 20th.
The Orthodox Cultural Centre in Joensuu offers all those interested the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the Orthodox culture and faith. The Centre has permanent exhibitions about the Orthodox ecclesiastical year and its sacramental artefacts.