Kontokki and Kostamus
Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi

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The village of Venehjärvi is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in all of Viena. It is the province of the Lesonen family, for with few exceptions every inhabitant of the village is a Lesonen and every Lesonen in Viena can trace his or her roots back to the village. It is commonplace in Viena that one or several families dominate a given village. Latvajärvi, for example, "belonged to" the Perttunen and Karhunen families. The principal families in Vuonninen were the Malinens, the Bogdanovs and the Kieleväinens. The old families in Vuokkiniemi were the Lipkins and the Remsus, or Remsujevs. Kostomuksha, for its part, was the province of the Peksujevs, the Vatanens and the Rugojevs.

Venehjärvi does not lie along any of the trade routes running from Viena to Finland and was overlooked by the earliest poetry collectors. It was thus only the later visitors who recorded what the bards of the village had to offer.

The only collections from Venehjärvi in the first half of the 1800s were those of J.F. Cajan, who made his work available to Lönnrot when the latter was working on the second edition of the Kalevala. The area was covered more thoroughly by the collectors who followed Cajan, such as Borenius, Berner and Genetz, although they were by no means the last to work there.

As most of the poetry collected in Venehjärvi was collected after the 1870s, quite a bit of personal data on the bards is available. Among the bards interviewed by Berner, Borenius, Meriläinen and Karjalainen were Hoto (Sokie-Hoto), Iknatta, Loasari, Oksentei, Ontippa, Onuhrie, Hökkä-Petri and Vihtoora, all of whom were Lesonens. Of these, Iknatta, Ontippa Onuhrie and Hökkä-Petri were famous shamans.

The folk poetry records tell that the men of Venehjärvi were among the best at bear-tales. This claim is lent much credence by the fact that Venehjärvi has had the largest bear populations in Karelia. In fact, the woods lying between Venehjärvi, Latvajärvi and Lapukka are some of the most inaccessible wilderness in the Viena cultural area.

According to tradition, the first inhabitant of Venehjärvi, Hosko, came to the village from Finland through this wilderness in a flat-bottomed boat carved from a single tree. He simply stopped in the most beautiful place he found, and that was how Venehjärvi came into being.

The history of habitation in Venehjärvi goes back to the late 1500s and early 1600s. It would be easy to determine how old the village is through archeological studies, for every generation to live there has been buried in Kalmisniemi, a point of land jutting out into Lake Venehjärvi and dominating the village landscape.

A second essential feature of the village landscape is the pine-shaded tšasouna (Orthodox chapel) that stands high on a hill overlooking Kalmisniemi Point. The chapel is dedicated to the famous Saint Miikkula, and the stand of pine there is the site of the Pohrottša Day sacrificial ceremony held every autumn.

These festivities are Venehjärvi's unique contribution to culture in the Viena region. They can be seen as essentially the equivalent of visiting a monastery. Such visits were a custom in Uhtua, for example, where anyone who had been saved or cured after praying to God in their hour of need or illness would bring a calf or colt to the Solovetsky Monastery.

Since the Monastery was a long way from the villages of Vuokkiniemi, the people in that region developed an equivalent custom of their own. The calf and colt were replaced by a ram, and the sacrificial site was Venehjärvi. Another advantage to having the ceremony in Venehjärvi was that the villagers themselves could eat the meat of the animal sacrificed, which otherwise would have only contributed to the less needy monastery. Pohrottša Day also provided an occasion for young people to gather. Traditionally, every village had its own holiday, or praznika, which was attended by people from surrounding villages as well. In Akonlahti, the praznika was on St. Peter's Day, 12 July; in Kontokki it was St. Ilja's, 2 August. Kostomuksha celebrated on Stroitsa, or Pentecost, and Vuokinsalmi on Spring Miikkula. In Vuokkiniemi the holiday also on St Ilja's Day. Latvajärvi celebrated Marja-Makovei, while the traditional praznika in Uhtua was St. Peter's.

What to see
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