houses in the villages of Akonlahti are bigger and grander than those
in Viena generally. The village was a wealthy one. Conditions were
favorable for farming, fishing and hunting, and the proximity of the
border made trade fruitful as well. Before the border was closed,
the villagers of Akonlahti dealt with the people in the Finnish village
of Rimpi on an everyday basis. Even after the border was officially
closed in the 1920s, contact between the villages continued for some
During the Continuation War (1941-44), the villages of Akonlahti
were occupied by the Finns, and not all of the people succeeded
in leaving the village before it was occupied. Life continued -
as normally as possible under the circumstances - but when the war
ended, many of the villagers moved to Finland, fearing that they
would be accused of collaboration with the Finnish enemy if they
stayed in Russia.
After the War, life in the villages continued around the collective
farm that had been established in the area. The post-War population
comprised former permanent residents of the village, returning evacuees,
and people from villages whose houses had been destroyed in the
conflict. Efforts were made to concentrate habitation in the village
of Akonlahti proper.
the Soviet Union began the process of destroying small villages
in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Akonlahti came to be considered
a village "without perspective". Vis-à-vis the district center it
was on the periphery; it was difficult to maintain the roads leading
to the village and to arrange the transport of food and other goods
there. The main reason, however, for the village falling into disfavor
was its proximity to Finland: it was a stone's throw from the border
at the height of the Cold War.
The destruction of the village was extraordinarily violent, although
various explanations have since been advanced to tone down the harshness
of the event. In 1958, the authorities responsible for liquidating
the village sent in airplanes, which landed on the ice of Lake Kiitehenjärvi.
The villagers were given a few hours to gather their belongings.
And then it was time to leave. Children, the elderly and calves
were taken by plane to Uhtua; everyone else had to walk there with
the livestock. Yet virtually every family had to slaughter their
animals, because there was no hay or other fodder for them where
they were going. To seal the village's fate, all of the houses were
then burnt to the ground, so that no one would have the remotest
chance of returning.
Fortunately, Väinö Kaukonen and Vilho Uomala had photographed Akonlahti
and its surroundings during the War. Future generations will at
least have these images to help them appreciate the village that
played the most significant role in the Karelian building tradition.
Finland and the Soviet Union established a "Park of Friendship"
in 1991, the Akonlahti area became part of a nature preservation
area. When the Park was first founded, only researchers were allowed
to go to the shores of Lake Kiitehenjärvi. Later, however, Park
administrators and the Folklore Villages Project, set up to preserve
and revitalize the culture of the song-lands of the Kalevala, reached
an understanding whereby buildings can once again be built in the
Karelian style in Akonlahti and the village will be opened up to
travellers interested in culture and nature.
Ugly fate of Akonlahti
What to see