Murmansk Oblast

Walking around Kandalaksha: a northern city with a rich history

What to see in the city founded in 1526

05.05.2023 // Kandalaksha was granted city status in 1938, but its history goes back a thousand years: as a temporary anchorage for fishermen, Kandalaksha existed already in the 9th century, and as a permanent settlement in the 11th century. Kandalaksha was first mentioned in chronicles in 1517.

During its long history, Kandalaksha has experienced many difficult moments. In the 15th century, the Kola North joined the Moscow State as part of the land of Novgorod. In 1526, the Church of St. John the Baptist was already functioning in Kandalaksha, which is mentioned in chronicles—it was the first place where the Sami living in those places were christened. In 1548, a monastery was founded at the church, and six years later, Ivan the Terrible granted the monastery a charter for the surrounding land. It was a turbulent time: there were internecine strife, the violence of oprichniks and external threats.

In 1589, Swedish troops almost completely destroyed Kandalaksha. The attacks by the Finns and Swedes continued for at least another decade. From 1785, the settlement was a part of Kandalaksha Volost of Kemsky District of Olonets Vicegerency, and from 1796, it was part of Arkhangelsk Gubernia.

During its history, Kandalaksha has changed its administrative subordination several times.

From 1920 to 1938, it was part of the Karelian ASSR. In 1938, there were two significant events: on 20 April, Kandalaksha was transformed into a town and on 28 May, the district of Kandalaksha became part of the Murmansk Region. In Soviet times, industrial enterprises were built in Kandalaksha and the region one after another: in 1939, the construction of an aluminium smelter began, and in 1948, the Kandalakshstroy Construction and Installation Department was formed. In 1950, Niva HPP-3 reached full capacity, two years later, Niva HPP-1 gave commercial power, and then another year later, the cascade of Niva HPPs was established.

Today, in addition to the above-mentioned enterprises, there is a commercial seaport and units of Russian Railways in Kandalaksha. Kandalaksha is a powerful railway hub, connecting the mining and metallurgical plants of the Murmansk Region with other Russian regions. At the Museum of the History of Kandalaksha, you can find out all the details of the formation and development of the southernmost city in the Murmansk Region. It was opened in 1971. At first, it was a people's museum—all the exhibits were collected from local people. In 1974, the museum became a part of the Murmansk Regional Museum of Local Lore and was given a new status: the Department of History of Kandalaksha. In January 2000, the Regional Museum of Local Lore handed over the Department of History of Kandalaksha to the city administration. One of the areas, military-patriotic, is represented by information about monuments and war graves on the territory of the Kandalaksha district, memories of veterans of the Great Patriotic War, the defenders of the Polar region. The museum often hosts exhibitions of photographers and craftsmen.

The second museum worth visiting in the city is the Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve. It was opened in 1957. Since 1982, it has been located on the ground floor of the modern building of the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve administration. The museum's collection includes around 200 exhibits, introducing visitors to the inhabitants of the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve and the Kola Peninsula.

In the exhibition hall, there are information stands about the location of specially protected areas in the Murmansk Region, the territory of the reserve, the main landscapes, topography and vegetation types, rare species listed in the Red Book of the region, etc.

The artistically designed biogroups feature forest birds and birds of prey, moose, deer, wolf, bear and other animals. The dioramas 'Seabed,' 'Birds of the White Sea,' 'Birds of the Barents Sea' introduce sea creatures and bird rookeries. The museum does a lot of educational work. Its visitor centre hosts photo exhibitions and films about the nature of the Polar region.

Not far from the Kandalaksha Museum is the Church of St. John the Baptist, which marks the start of the city's history. The foundations for the new building were laid in 2000. In 2005, the church was consecrated in memory of the Nativity of John the Baptist by His Eminence Simon, Archbishop of Murmansk and Monchegorsk.

At the mouth of the Niva River on the left bank is Monastyrsky Navolok, which is a promontory of the White Sea. Cape is one meaning of the word 'navolok,' and the other is 'low bank of the river.' Ancient man sites have been found there, but the cape got its name from the monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin, founded in the 16th century. The novices were engaged in fishing, hunting, saltworks and logging. The monastery existed from 1548 to 1742. In 1589, it was burnt to the ground by Swedish troops. The monastery was rebuilt, but 10 years later, Swedish and Finnish troops destroyed it again. Although the Kandalaksha monastery has been restored this time, it has been 'squeezed out' (also in an economic sense) by the thriving Solovetsky monastery nearby. In 1742, the monastery in Kandalaksha was abolished. By now, all that is left is the foundations. In 2003, a wooden memorial cross was erected at the site to commemorate the monastery. There is also a memorial to the victims of the 1918–1920 intervention, a monument to the warriors of Zarechnaya Street and one of the first Pomor cemeteries on Navolok. The eco-trail leading to the legendary Kandalaksha Labyrinth (Babylon labyrinth), built of stone more than a thousand years ago, also starts here.

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