Domes of the Transfiguration Church on Kizhi island
Territory of Zaonezhsky peninsula totals about 12 thousand square kilometers, a part of Medvezhiegorsk region. The peninsula is located in the northeast part of Lake Onego, in the northeast it is washed by Povenets bay, from the south - by waters of Small and Central Onego, from the west it is washed by the Big Onego and Lizhemsky bays. Zaonezhye includes Klimenetsky, Bolshoi Lelikovsky, Oleny and other islands of Kizhi archipelago adjoining the peninsula.
Zaonezhye is of interest as a natural and cultural area of the Russian North due to high concentration of monuments of national architecture, its special geographical position and unique geomorphology. Territory of Zaonezhye also has climatic and landscape features differing it from adjoining territories. One of the main features of Zaonezhye is its soils formed with carbonate, schungite and schungite-containing strata. The latter are bothe natural adsorbent for the lake water, and represent the basic component of the 'chernozem of Zaonezhye' containing a high proportion of kali and many microelements.
Since long ago, from the beginning of the second millennium raised fertility of soils of Zaonezhye involved farmers here. Since then and up to the first third of the XX century population size of Zaonezhye was growing steadily, and population density and the level of land cultivation were traditionally the highest in Karelia. Due to steadying influence of Lake Onego and, consequently, softer climate the flora of Zaonezhye remains exclusively rich and various, and many species of it are red-listed. For example, in the continental part and on islands there are such relicts, as small-leaved linden (Tilia cordata), elm, and juniper.
Numerous waves of Zaonezhye settlement were observed in history of the region. One of them is presented by the late Mesolithic monument - a burial ground on the Southern Oleny island. In the X-XIII centuries primitive hunting family-patrimonial groups of Laplanders were replaced by the Baltic-and-Finnish and Slavic tribes.
The first Russian advanced posts of Orthodoxy in development of Zaonezhye were monasteries: Paleostrovsky (beginning of the XV century) and Klimetsky (beginning of the XVI century). One of the founding fathers of the monastery of Solovki in the XV century was the Elder Zosimas from the village of Tolvuya, and Vygoretsky Old Believers' Community was created under direction of Daniel Vikulin, native of the village of Shunga. This village was very important in the economic life of Zaonezhye and the Northwest areas. It was located on the crossing of the major trading ways and prior to the beginning of the XX century it was famous for its fairs where Russian and overseas merchants came.
Zaonezhye was also famous as the center of industry development in the area. There in the XV-XVI centuries local smiths forged special kind of steel used to make Kizhi-style knifes and axes that were in good demand at the fairs. Authentic in Zaonezhye Kizhanka-boats (boats of Kizhi Island) were famous for their high seaworthiness and durability. In the end of 17 centuries near the village of Foimoguba and the village of Lambasruchei foreign businessmen have founded copper-founding and cast-iron Olonets mining works that processed local raw material. Factories delivered artillery, ammunition, ship ballast, field fortification entrenching tools, etc., for Russian army and fleet.
At Russification of Karelians, on the western suburb of Zaonezhye by the beginning of the XIX century there was formed a local group of Russians that in many respects has preserved language, folklore and household way, characteristic for people from the Novgorod republic. In the XIX century collectors P.Rybnikov and A.Gilferding have recorded there the most complete variants of fairy tales and bylinas from storytellers Irina Fedosova, Trofim Ryabinin and his son Ivan. As a result of centuries-old development, in Zaonezhye there emerged unique material culture: traditional buildings, agricultural, hunting and fishing instruments, subjects of life.
Of the greatest interest are numerous monuments of national wooden architecture of Zaonezhye. The most outstanding from them is the ensemble of Kizhi pogost that was included in the list of the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. The most outstanding researchers of the XVIII-XIX centuries and the turn of the XX century participated in describing the rich architectural heritage of Zaonezhye: N.Ozeretskovsky, V.Dal, V.Suslov, M.Krukovsky, I.Bilibin, K.Romanov, Finnish researcher Lars Petterssen and others. Nowadays in territory of Zaonezhye, except for Kizhi open-air muzeum, there has been established the Kizhsky state wildlife preserve. In the region there are mineral deposits, schungite mining operations are conducted, deposits of complex vanadic ores have been revealed.
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