KM 0 - 10 # 1
Leningrad's gift (Lenin's hiding place # 1)
Relationships between Turku and Leningrad during the communist era
On the upper part of the "Aurakaru", one of the main streets of Turku's town center, a few trees seem to hide a statue. It's the bust of the revolutionary and Soviet leader Vladimir Ilitch Lenin. On the plinth can be read – although some letters have been ripped off: "Gift from Leningrad to the town of Turku – 1977". The location of the statue wasn't chosen randomly. Lenin came to take refuge in the house next door in 1907 when he was wanted by (...)
KM 0 - 10 # 2
St Alexandra church
Finnish Orthodoxy, from East to West
The Finnish Orthodox church St Alexandra is located on Turku's main square on a site initially planned for the construction of the town hall at the beginning of the XIXth century. Completed in 1846 following the plans of the architect Carl Ludwig Engel, it was established there at the request of Tsar Nicolas I of Russia who was without a doubt anxious to reinforce signs of Russian presence in the West of Finland. Mostly originating from the fact that Finland belonged to the Russian (...)
KM 0 - 10 # 3
The 1918 stele behind the Tuomiokirkko
Controversial memories of the Finnish civil war # 1
The memorial is located in front of the famous "Tuomiokirkko" church, its aesthetic quality and text dedicated to the Finnish Civil War don't look very neutral; from one side of the engraving to the other is depicted an ancient warrior who has destroyed a ferocious animal with his sword, you can read the inscription in Swedish and in Finnish : "For those who died on the homeland's side during the War for Freedom in 1918". The period between 1917 and 1920 was the (...)
KM 0 - 10 # 4
Liidia Pukki's building
The Ingrians, a people from the Gulf of Finland
Varissuo is an outlying district of Turku built in the 1970's to meet with the growth of towns at that moment in Finland. Today, this district is characterized by the diversity of its inhabitants from all over the world: Finland, Somali, Iraq, Russia, Albania, Vietnam and many other countries. Among the many housing blocks which characterize the district, a building provides a home for elderly people. For some of them, the matter of nationality is more complex than for others : they are (...)
KM 10 - 20 # 1
The interrupted road
A former historical communication axis, nowadays a tourist route
On the way out of an industrial zone in the suburbs of Turku, a small road made of tar is cut by a four-lane highway. It then carries on across a small stone bridge and bumps into two concrete blocks. Beyond, the asphalt seems to vanish gradually under the vegetation. And yet, this small road comes back a few kilometers further on. It's the "Viipurintie", the "Vyborg Road" which linked up for centuries Turku and Vyborg by the South coast of Finland. It was a stretch of (...)
KM 20 - 30 # 1
Johannes organization headquarters
Life after Karelia
After WWII, a proportion of the Finnish territory, Eastern Karelia, was annexed by the Soviet Union. This led to the displacement of about 400 000 Finns – this was some 10% of the population – who took refuge beyond the new Finnish borders. These population movements were more or less organized : the Finnish State had planned a geographic dispersion according to the regions the refugees came from. Considering that most of Johannes' inhabitants – now called Sovietsky (...)
KM 130 - 140 # 1
Ernst Stäuber's legacy
The escape of a Swiss manufacturer within the revolutionary context of 1917
The exterior of the little red wooden house on the small island of Björkö near Tammisaari is the splitting image of a traditional Finnish "cottage". Inside, time has stopped. The furniture and the objects seem to have found their place for ages. The house was built at the beginning of the XXth century by a Swiss business man, Ernst Stäuber who emigrated to Finland in 1905 to produce cheese he sold throughout the country. At that time - Russia was still in the reign of (...)
KM 150 - 160 # 1
The memorial of the “Red” victims
Controversial memories of the Finnish Civil War # 2
Along the road 25 linking Hanko to Helsinki, as you enter the town of Tammissaari, a road-sign indicates the Dragsvik memorial. It is located in the woods, right next to a military barrack, on the site of the biggest ever mass grave in Finland. Thousands of Finnish civilians considered by the "Whites" (victors of the 1918 Civil War) as enemies of the country were buried there. These victims were locked up in a prison camp located close by. Starving and freezing led to their death (...)
KM 170 - 180 # 1
The forest of Hanko
A Finno-Russian front-line within Finnish territory
From one side to the other of the road linking Hanko to Tammisaari, the pine forest abounds in military installations and all kinds of fortifications : trench marks, bunkers buried under vegetation and weird rows of stones serving as an anti-tank line all date from WW2. A breach in the forest indicates the presence of a former border. This dividing line separated the Hanko peninsula - occupied by the Russians from 1940 to 1941 – from the rest of Finland for over two years. In the (...)
KM 190 - 200 # 1
The monument of Liberty
Political issues between German influence and Russian occupation
In the heart of the seaside town of Hanko, a path drives to a stele a few meters away from the beach. The stele's incredible story described on the notice board shows how much Finland – historical ally of Germany and under strong Russian influence – had to be tactful to deal with the memory of its own Civil War. « THE MONUMENT OF LIBERTY In 1921 the Monument of Liberty in Hanko was erected in remembrance of the landing of German forces in Hanko on the 3rd of (...)
KM 190 - 200 # 2
Hanko's casino and villas
Signs of Imperial Russia in Southern Finland
On the beach of Hanko, an imposing building is noticeable with its two tall towers making up its symmetrical frontage. Today, this white wooden construction is used as a restaurant. It used to provide a base for thermal baths and a very popular casino. The Russian nobility made a habit of taking the train linking Hanko to St Pertersburg to come and relax on the Finnish Southern coast. At the time, Finland was only an autonomous region belonging to Imperial Russia (i.e. KM 640.650.1). The (...)
KM 290 - 300 # 1
The entrance of the “Porkkala Tunnel”
The crossing of the secret Soviet area of Porkkala from 1944 to 1956
At first sight, nothing differentiates this yellow wooden house from the hamlet's other houses near Degerby. However, on the frontage, on a metal notice board, you can read the name of the village in Swedish and in Finnish : "Solberg/Paivola". This house which is now inhabited used to be one of the train stations located in the forbidden area of Porkkala. This part of Finland of about 1000 km² belonged to the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1956 following the treaty ratified in (...)
KM 310 - 320 # 1
Cyrillic inscriptions
Physical marks of Soviet presence in the Porkkala peninsula
On a farm's gable near Siuntio, Cyrillic inscriptions can surprise. There is a propaganda text written by the Soviets during the occupation of the Porkkala area by the Red Army (1944-1956). On the white wall, among the texts painted in different colours, you can read: "In model fashion we shall receive science and technology, improve the military and political strength, achieve new successes in the strengthening of the military discipline and the organization. Be greeted, on the (...)
KM 320 - 330 # 1
The Triumphal arch
A piece of history left by the Soviet army in Porkkala
Lost in the middle of a birch forest, a weird metallic arch seems to be coming out of no where. The path that used to lead to it is now covered by vegetation. This arch was in fact the entrance to a sports complex. The army built it there when the region was occupied by the Red Army from 1944 to 1956. When they left the area, the soldiers were ordered to erase every mark of their presence. The red star on the circle on the top of the monument was dismantled but the arch's structure still (...)
KM 320 - 330 # 2
Marina Kalinina's village
The Porkkala's peninsula, homeland to many Russians
When the Russian army came to the Porkkala area in 1944 then evacuated by its Finnish inhabitants, they came over with their family. It was assessed that among the 30 000 people who lived in the area, about 10 000 were civilians. In this area disconnected from the rest of the Soviet Union, wives, children and other workforces tried to bring back some life. Marina Kalinina, was born in Porkkala. She lived in one of the hamlet's houses in Vuohimäki, right next to Kirkkonummi. In (...)
KM 330 - 340 # 1
The Kirkkonummi church
A Finnish church occupied by the Red Army from 1944 to 1956
The old church made of stone of Kirkkonummi differs from the other town center's modern-looking buildings. On the steeple, a notice board reminds us of its unusual history ; during the Soviet occupation of the Porkkala's peninsula from 1944 to 1956, the church was first changed into a club for Russian officers, then into a shop. In the USSR, it was quite common to see the requisitioning of churches being changed into cinemas, museums or even swimming pools. This phenomenon has been (...)
KM 330 - 340 # 2
The Russian graveyard
Porkkala peninsula - a place to live, a place to die
Alongside the road " Upinniementie" on the way out of Kirkkonummi, a panel indicates the number 225. At this place, a path made of encrusted pebbles and lined with shrubs goes up a slight slope which leads to a graveyard. On the gravestones, the names are all alike and engraved in Cyrillic. These are Russian men, women and children, civilians or soldiers who died on the Finnish soil when the Porkkala region belonged to the Soviet Union between 1944 and 1956. The graveyard bears no (...)
KM 330 - 340 # 3
The Russian border markers
A transience border, fragment of the Finno-Russian history

There are markers along the Northern Kirkkonummi roadside. They indicate the 1944-1956 border separating the Porkkala region which belonged to the USSR from the rest of Finland. These markers which aren't the originals, have recently been put back so that people are reminded of the region's history.

KM 380 - 390 # 1
The stele of the Finns who died in Estonia
The Finns' help for the first Estonian independence
In the oldest church's park in Helsinki, the few gravestones and memorials scattered on the grass mix with urbanite's picnic blankets. Amongst them, a pink granite stone distinguishes by its Finnish and Estonian inscriptions and by the cross overhanging it. This cross is the same as the one found on the top of the monument on Liberty square, recently unveiled in the heart of Tallinn. (KM 1950-1960 # 5) This pink granite stone is dedicated to the Finns who died during the Estonian (...)
KM 380 - 390 # 2
The altered orthodox church
Erased traces of Russian influence in Helsinki # 1
Without the notice boards located in front of the edifice, few tourist who come to visit Suomenlinna island would guess that this very refined white church was one day adorned with five domes characterized by orthodox churches. A few years after the Finnish independence in 1917, an architecture competition was organized so that this orthodox church, built in 1854 by Russian soldiers who sat in the fortress, became a Lutheran Evangelical church. This citadel originally edified by the Swedes (...)
KM 390 - 400 # 1
The school of the novel “Where We Once Went”
The Finnish Civil War as seen by a writer
The music school's imposing building is located on the corner of the "Liisankataru" and the "Mariankatu" streets in the center of Helsinki. It has an astonishing story schoolchildren may not suspect. In the midst of the Civil war, "Reds" took office in Helsinki while the "White's" government fled the capital to take refuge in the North. Many members of the White Army were sent to prison. The prisoners were jailed in buildings set-up in prisons. (...)
KM 390 - 400 # 2
The streets' change of name
The erased traces of Russian influence in Helsinki # 2
In 1812, at the expense of Turku, the Tsar chose Helsinki to become the capital of the Grand-Duchy of Finland, an autonomous region attached to the Russian Empire. Turku, the historic capital of Finland had the disadvantage to be located too close to the Swedish enemy. Thus, Helsinki experienced a rapid development during the XIXth and at the start of the XXth century. Until the 1920's, you could feel the Russian influence in the capital : in administrations, through trade or by the (...)
KM 390 - 400 # 3
The staircase of the Finnish parliament
A murder which became the symbol of Finnish resistance confronted with Russification.
In the stair case of the current Finnish parliament, a marble plate is hung up in remembrance of Eugen Schauman. You can read: "Eugen Schauman. June 16th 1904. Se pro patria dedit (devoted to his country)." Around the end of the XIXth century, the Grand Duchy of Finland which was an autonomous region under the Tsar of Russia Nicolas II's control, was ruled by General Bobrikoff, a very unpopular figure. At the request of the Tsar, he wanted to impose Imperial Russia's rules (...)
KM 390 - 400 # 4
The bridge riddled with bullets
Traces of the Finnish Civil War in the centre of Helsinki
The walls of the bridge that separate the Kruununhaka district from the one of Kallio in the town center are riddled with bullets. The walkers don't really pay attention from the top of the bridge. These marks come from the fightings of April 1918 when the German army came to lend a hand to the "Whites" in order to free Helsinki which was in the hands of the Finnish "Reds", supported by the Bolshevik Russia. The storming of the town concluded the victory of the (...)
KM 390 - 400 # 5
The Russian theatre
Helsinki during the Russian era

The pink and white theatre of "Bulevardi" street in the center of Helsinki isn't called "Aleksanteri" for nothing. At the end of the XIXth century, the Russian army was stationed in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland which was then attached to the Russian Empire. The construction of a theatre was requested by the army to Tsar Alexander II. The request was accepted and the construction finished in 1879, but the Tsar never had the opportunity to visit it.

KM 400 - 410 # 1
The 1952 Olympic Games' stadium
Helsinki, a meeting place for two worlds which had lost contact
Helsinki's skyline is dominated by a 72 meters high white tower in the Olympic stadium located in the district of Tölö. The construction was built at the end of the 1930's on the occasion of the 1940 Olympic Games, there is room for 70 000 spectators. However, in the midst of the World War, the event couldn't take place. It was necessary to wait 12 years, until 1952 to see the Games take place here in a very unusual context. Seven years after the end on WW2, relations (...)
KM 400 - 410 # 2
The starting point of the tunnel to Tallinn
A future vision between utopia and reality
During the 1970's, the district of the Pasila train station expanded north up from Helsinki centre. Today, it is a railway connecting-place for regional and international relations in Finland. It's also planned to set a railway line which would start here, sink in the sea, cross the Gulf of Finland and end in Tallinn. At first sight, the project seems fanciful. It would link both capitals which are separated by 70 km of sea. Nevertheless, it is taken very seriously by some economists, (...)
KM 410 - 420 # 1
The Western Olympic village's buildings
Two Olympic villages for a bipolar world
Not far away from the center of Helsinki, the Käpylä district's buildings look just like any other common Finnish accommodations. Originally designed to host the athletes of the 1940 Olympic games, they ended being used in this purpose 12 years later, in 1952, when the Games finally could take place in the Finnish capital. (i.e. KM 400-410 # 1). A few hundred meters away from the first accommodations built before the war came some other similar ones. Yet, every Olympic Games (...)
KM 410 - 420 # 2
The Viipuri male's choir and the Karelia house
The memory transmission of a lost region
"You think we have forgotten how beautiful Karelia is. In our heart, it is ingrained, our nostalgia is endless. We cried, we laughed, we remembered Karelia." Every Monday night, the Karelia house's corridors echo the singing of a - at least – hundred year old choir: "The Singers of Viipuri". Created in 1897 in Vyborg at the time when the town was still called "Viipuri, it is one of the oldest male choirs of Finland. In 1944, the region of Karelia went (...)
KM 490 - 500 # 1
Agricola's place of birth
Roots of the Finnish language's # 1
Pernaja is a village between Helsinki and Kotka. It distinguishes itself by its church and statue to the glory of the priest Mikael Agricola. Further on, in the curve of a small dirt road, a house is located just where the one of the famous priest used to be, he was born there in 1510. This is the date graved on a sign on the roof. Agricola was a clergy man who lived during the XVIth century. He was a linguist and is now considered as the first to have written - on paper - the basis of (...)
KM 620 - 630 # 1
The port of Kotka
An evolving space following Russian trade
Kotka is surrounded by an industrial maritime zone. From South, East and West of the center, hundreds of acres of concrete surface areas are organized according to well-defined areas. They are dedicated to docking, container transshipment or commodity storage. Once you have crossed the gates which define each area, the landscape is made up of railways, warehouses, containers, storage silos, cranes and car parks. All of a sudden, every element, vehicle or light is seen on a disproportional (...)
KM 640 - 650 # 1
The stele of the Hamina treaty
Beginnings of the Finnish nation
In the center of Hamina, a stele commemorates the signature of a treaty, it has an important position in the Finnish nation's history and development. Throughout its history, Finland was for a long time a strategic stake for both Russian and Swedish Empires which fought over the territory possession. After the Swedish defeat, the Hamina treaty was signed in 1809. It meant that from the status of simple Swedish region, Finland became the "Grand Duchy of Finland", an autonomous (...)
KM 660 - 670 # 1
The row of rocks
Relics of the war between Finland and Russia

Here, as one drives along the highway leading to the Valimaa border checkpoint, we come across a relic of the "Salpa linja": a fortification device erected by the Finns during WW2 so that any invasion of the Red Army could be dealt with. This row of antitank rocks looks like the one we observed on the Hanko fortification line (KM 170-180.1) and the one further near Primorsk in Russia (KM 1100-1110.2).

KM 690 - 700 # 1
“Y Antona” fishmonger's
An example of the frontier economy on a small scale
The drivers of the lorries on the car park located a few kilometers away from the Valimaa check point aren't "Eastgate" hotel's customers. This hotel shut down a long time ago, an old sign in Finnish and in Russian indicates the building is for rent. The lorry drivers, mostly Russian, are regulars at the "Y Antona" Fish shop. According to the Russian saleswoman, the fish is cheaper and fresher here than in Russia. Some clients buy large amounts, cross the border (...)
KM 790 - 800 # 1
The Finno-Russian school
Learning the language to reinforce neighbourly relations
For a few years now, Russian and Finnish regions near the frontier have been trying to cooperate in the development of projects meant to revive the ties. Relations were made tough between these two countries because of war traumas and the implement of the Iron Curtain. Lappeenranta's bilingual school is an example among others. In this Finnish school, pupils learn Russian from a very young age and a part of the lessons is in the country-next-door's language. Some pupils joined the (...)
KM 790 - 800 # 2
Lappeenranta's jewellery shops
Influence of untaxed trade on Finnish border towns
Since the relative opening of the frontier and the emergence of middle and wealthy classes in Russia, Finnish town centers bordering the frontier went through significant changes. In the average size town of Lappeenranta for example, jewellery shops are plentiful compared to the number of its inhabitants: 60 000. Lots of tourists come here to shop without having to pay taxes and pedestrian streets abound with shops for Russian speaking customers. Lappeenranta even competes in Helsinki for the (...)
KM 790 - 800 # 3
The Saimaa canal
A rehabilitated itinerary for journeys to a lost homeland
Every morning during Summer time in Lappeenranta harbour, the peace and quiet is disturbed by a kind of excitation coming from a customs office. Tourists are waiting their turn to be controlled and then taken on board the M/S Karelia boat that offers a day-return ticket to Vyborg via the Saimaa Canal. This 43 km long canal was opened in 1856. It linked Lappeenranta to Viipuri which, at the time, both belonged to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. After WW2, this communication axis was cut (...)
KM 820 - 830 # 1
The hotel of Imatra
Renewal of Russian tourism in Imatra
The great hotel, Art Nouveau in style, is located by the Imatra rapid river. It was built after WW2 according to the architect Alvar Aalto's plans, its style differentiates from the other buildings in town. Accomplished in 1903, the hotel was created for international customers at the time mostly from Russia and around St Petersburg. Imatra rapids have always attracted wealthy tourists from the Russian elite. At the beginning of the century, this site was daily linked to the Capital of (...)
KM 820 - 830 # 2
Immola airport
Finno-Russian relations during WW2
Immola airport was built North of Imatra shortly before the start of WW2. In the aftermath of the 1940 winter war, Finland had lost its Eastern territories. Thus, the airport was located right next to the new frontier so it gained a new strategic value. It was used by the Finnish army and by the German air-force which had come to bring a conclusive assistance in the pull-back of the Soviet army. One of the most memorable events in this place's history is Hitler's visit on the 4th of (...)
KM 820 - 830 # 3
The fake frontier
The Finno-Russian frontier, a European issue
In a no-go area under military surveillance North to Imatra, a breach across the forest symbolizes the frontier between Russia and Finland. However, if you have a close look, you can notice a fence. This fence encloses a rail portion a dozen meters long on which Finnish wagons are stationed. These frontier installations are in fact a real scale copy of those met further away. Here, young Finnish soldiers are trained to control the frontier 1200 or so kilometers long that separates the (...)
KM 850 - 860 # 1
Svetogorsk's Town hall or Enso's old bank
A small town at the crossroads between Europe and Russia
Once the border post between Imatra (FI) and Svetogorsk (RU) has been crossed, the atmosphere radically changes. On the right, a big building located near the boundary line is in ruins. The road that leads to the small Russian town bears the marks of car and truck driving through, the surroundings aren't as well looked after as in Finland, street furniture, lamp posts and bus stops are more rudimentary. After following the railway on one side and a few housing blocks on the other, the (...)
KM 850 - 860 # 2
Svetogorsk's paper factory
An international company at the Finno-Russian frontier
The huge paper factory’s chimneys in Svetogorsk are located by the river "Vuoksi" (Byoкca in Russian). They can be seen for kilometres around, even beyond the Russo-Finnish frontier. All around the site, tons of different shaped-wood are piled up and trunks mass on the sawdust mound. Railways, roads, tangled pipes; everything seems to converge towards the factory's large buildings. The region's economy has been relying on wood working for centuries. At the time (...)
KM 850 - 860 # 3
Svetogorsk's Finnish accommodations
A Finnish project in the USSR
In the centre of the Russian town of Svetogorsk, a few housing buildings differ from the others. When you look carefully, you can notice that the prefab concrete panels which make up the front of the building, the window system which includes a large fixed part and a small sideway opening and the outside furniture are elements we come across in many Finnish housing constructions on the other side of the frontier. The Svetogorsk factory project introduced in 1972 was followed by the (...)
KM 850 - 860 # 4
Svetogorsk's swimming pool
Finnish foundations and a Russian roof

The swimming pool is located in the centre of Svetogorsk - it has an unusual story. Built in the middle of the 1980's, it is the fruit of Finnish and Soviet Union cooperation. The Finns built the lower part including the pool and the machines whereas the Russians were in charge of the covering of the building. During the summer of 2010, the swimming pool was closed because of the works. The upper part of the building needed renovation works.

KM 880 - 890 # 1
The destroyed train station of Antrea
A Finnish Civil War place on the Russian territory
On the side of the railway that crosses Kammennogorsk, the underpinnings of a vanished building surround a few shrubs. These are the remains of the village's station when it still had the Finnish name of Antrea before the region went over to the Soviets in 1944.  As a communication way from Finland to St Petersburg and at the heart of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the railway was a strategic element in the fight that opposed the "Whites" and the "Reds" during (...)
KM 920 - 930 # 1
The 1941-1944 memorial
Memory of the Finno-Russian conflict
At the crossroad of the road leading down to Vyborg, a memorial is dedicated to Russian victims of WW2. On the back of the low wall where hundreds of names are engraved, the remains of concrete foundations combined with vegetation strongly remind us of old bunkers. In the area, the battles were particularly bloody, like the one of Tali-Ihantala that took place a few kilometres away. Along Karelia's roads, we often come across memorials such as this one. Soviet human loss in both (...)
KM 980 - 990 # 1
The village of Kondratievo
Origins of the
There isn't much left from the small Finnish village of Säkkijärvi, nowadays called Kondratievo. Almost all the buildings that can be seen have been rebuilt following WW2, after it was handed to the Russians. Few Finns would be able to locate precisely the village on a map. However, the name of Säkkijärvi is known to most of them. In the mid 1920's, an accordionist from Säkkijärvi, Väinö Kähärä emigrated to the USA and recorded a (...)
KM 1010 - 1020 # 1
The bunkers on the way to Vyborg
Physical marks of the Finno-Russian war
We come across fortifications on the verge of the highway that leads to Vyborg, they nearly go unnoticed despite their imposing scale. From one side of the road to the other, a trench network goes into the forest and concrete constructions get lost under vegetation. Two footsteps away from the speeding of trucks, a breach several meters deep leads to a gigantic bunker. In this region, around Vyborg, very violent battles happened between Soviets and Finns during WW2. A few kilometres East, (...)
KM 1030 - 1040 # 1
The Vyborg Museum (Lenin's hiding place # 2)
The “Red” Finns and their support for Lenin
In a popular district East from the town of Vyborg, a few wooden houses differ from the other housing blocks from the Soviet era. Among them, a small construction painted in green, there is a bas-relief with Lenin's face carved in on its facade. Before the 1917 revolution, Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov better known as Lenin was forced to hide for years and to escape from the tsar's power. He took refuge in Finland several times as it was the case in Turku (i.e. KM 0-10.1) or here in (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 1
Vyborg's train station
A Stalinist building on the location of a “twin” of Helsinki's train station
Vyborg's train station is located near the historical Finnish area of the town, it looks exactly like Stalinist architecture: a symmetrical façade, columns, a neo-classic style pediment, bas-reliefs representing stars, hammers and sickles, symbols of the Communist regime. This construction replaced the one destroyed in 1941 during the Continuation War, which opposed Finns and Soviets. The initial train station - a work of art designed by the Finnish architect Saarinen – (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 2
The historical town of Viipuri
A Finnish town now Russian
Little alleys on the upper part of Vyborg centre directly lead to the sea, the damaged façades generate a kind of Mediterranean nature to this Russian North-Western town. In some parts, only ruins remain covered by vegetation, in others, buildings have recently been renovated. By virtue of its size, the town of Vyborg - formerly called Viipuri until 1944 - used to be the second largest town in Finland. It also used to be an important cultural centre, a short-stay and exchanging place. (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 3
The library of Aalto
An inheritance of Finnish modern architecture in Russia
A diffuse and reflecting light is escaping from the large cone-shaped dormer windows, which tend to come out of the concrete ceiling. These wide bright circles provide a natural light in the reading room which echoes the sounds of whispering and the paper browsing; the library of Vyborg keeps on operating normally despite the works on the ground floor. Built in 1935, this work of art is known throughout the whole world by architecture lovers. It is characteristic of the Modern era and its (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 4
The Red Square
A statue of Lenin in the centre of a former Finnish town
Perched on a pedestal of almost six meters high, a huge bronze statue of Lenin dominates one of the main squares of the historical town center of Vyborg. At its feet, a long blue carpet has been unrolled, children are singing and dancing to the music broadcasted by speakers symmetrically located on each side of the monument. Half of the buildings surrounding the square are constructions from the Finnish time, the other half are supermarkets or blocks built during the Soviet era. When the new (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 5
Sts Peter and Paul church, Vyborg
A church “replaces” a cathedral
Located in the town centre park of Vyborg, Sts Peter and Paul's church is currently the only church of the city devoted to Lutheran cult. The great cathedral that was edified when the town belonged to Finland was destroyed during WW2 just like the statue near the entrance edified in 1908 in honour to Mikael Agricola. It was in Vyborg that the famous priest that died in Kuolemajävi (i.e. KM 1110-1120.1) is supposed to be buried. The cathedral that was never re-built was also the place (...)
KM 1040 - 1050 # 6
Vyborg's citadel walls
Traces and memory of the Finnish Civil War in Vyborg
The walls of the stronghold located on the outskirts of the town bear the memory of a little-known event: here, in April 1918, the Finnish "White" army – after having recaptured the town from the "Reds" - executed for no reason more that a hundred innocent Russian people. Vyborg, then known as Viipuri, was a strategic place during the the Finnish Civil War. Close to Russia and St Petersburg where the 1917 Revolution took place,  the town fell into the hands of (...)
KM 1060 - 1070 # 1
Sovietsky and Johannes
Two stories for one town in Karelia

From the fragmented bank near Sovietsky, we can notice two kinds of constructions that sum-up the story of this small town located in the archipelago surrounding Vyborg. The wooden houses that have resisted to time are witnesses of an era when the town was called by the Finnish name of Johannes, before Karelia was definitely given to the Soviet Union after WW2. The tall buildings date from the Communist era when people from all over the URRS came and moved into the area.

KM 1060 - 1070 # 2
Johannes' lost church
Symbolic places from the memory of Karelia
In the center of the small town of Sovietsky, a stretch of grass scattered with birch trees is delineated by stone foundations, which are accessible at one end thanks to a few steps. In the axis, a metal cross and a granite altar laid out by the association of Johannes's old inhabitants – located in Piikkiö (KM 20-30.1) – evoke the memory of the place. That's where the town's church was when it was still called Johannes and was inhabited by Finns. Nowadays, there (...)
KM 1060 - 1070 # 3
Sovietsky’s cemetery
Memory of Karelia’s Finnish inhabitants
At first sight, the cemetery on the edge of Sovietsky has all the signs of an Orthodox cemetery encountered in the region: in the forest gravestones at the bottom of pine and rangy birch trees are encircled by a small metal fence, they often display the portrait of the deceased. Nearby, a few gravestones look abandoned; they have Finnish inscriptions on them. That’s what remains of the Finnish cemetery prior to WW2. Since then, the Orthodox cemetery has replaced it. Some stones had even (...)
KM 1060 - 1070 # 4
The hotel “Seagull”
From business in the Communist era to today’s tourism
Among Sovietsky centre's buildings from the Communist era, specific windows and concrete prefab panels of a few housing blocks remind you of those come across everywhere in Finland. These were also built by the Finns just like the accommodations we observed in the border town of Svetogorsk (KM 850-860.2) and like the building of “The Seagull” hotel. In the mid 1980’s, Finnish investors came to begin the construction of a paper factory on the outskirts of Sovietsky. It (...)
KM 1080 - 1090 # 1
Primorsk’s cultural center
A Finnish church transformed during the communist Russia
Located not far from the town centre's housing blocks, Primorsk’s church seems to come out of a Brother Grimm’s fairy tale. The red stone and the Art Nouveau style give a kind of enchanting aspect to the structure. On top of the main entrance, the inscription “1904” reminds that the church was built when the region belonged to the Grand Duchy of Finland. Primorsk was then called Koivisto. Once the heavy wooden door has been pushed, one can be astonished by the (...)
KM 1100 - 1110 # 1
Primorsk’s port
Consequences of the Estonian independence on the Gulf of Finland’s economy
On the outskirts road of the town that leads to St Petersburg, a sign indicates the presence of Primork’s port. The road is closed a hundred meters or so further on, access is permitted to people with an authorization. During the Soviet era, a main part of the industrial production – in particular Russian oil – was transported to the ports of Tallinn in Estonia, Riga and Ventspils in Leetonia and Klaipeda in Lithuania. They were then exported by boat across the Baltic Sea. (...)
KM 1100 - 1110 # 2
Fortification lines
Relics of the war between Finland and Russia
In the curb of the road that follows the coast from Primork to Pionerskoje, a row of rocks goes into the pine forest from both sides of the road. This weird installation could evoke an ancestral ritual but it is actually the remains of a defence line that was made at the time of the conflict between the Finnish army and the Red Army during WW2. This is the third antitank line of this kind we have observed along the itinerary after the similar ones noticed in Hanko (KM 170-180.1) and Virolahti (...)
KM 1110 - 1120 # 1
Agricola’s place of death
Roots of the Finnish language # 2
Close to the village of Pionerskoje – Kuolemajärvi in Finnish – the seaside rocks seem to break off the shore and burst into the sea. Just a few Fisher men bring some entertainment to this small bay located in the idyllic surroundings of the Baltic Sea. Further away, sheltered by a pine forest, a stele bears Finnish inscriptions – it is circled by a fence like an Orthodox gravestone. One can read : « It was in this very place that Mikael Agricola, father (...)
KM 1170 - 1180 # 1
The “Puppet’s Parliament” house
Vestiges of the Finnish Democratic Republic
In the suburbs of the seaside town of Zelenogorsk – formerly Terijoki – a fence encircles an abandoned garden. In the middle, ruins of an imposing villa neo-classic in style are being overrun by vegetation and that for ages. Moss is climbing up the Doric columns, the few wooden panels nailed up on the doors and windows won’t stop anyone from getting inside and in the roof scattered with holes, crows have found a shelter. These ruins are all that remains from the building (...)
KM 1170 - 1180 # 2
The “Terijoki” yacht club
From Russian nobility to St Petersburg’s nouveau riches
On the fine sand beach in the seaside town of Zelenogorsk, a brand new metal fence encloses the marina and its hotel complex. The small control tower on the far end of the dike keeps a watch over this area intended for rich holidaymakers from the Russian society. The car park is full of luxurious cars; St Petersburg is less than an hour drive away. The complex is located exactly where a little similar port was over a hundred years ago. Even though the town then called Terijoki belonged to (...)
KM 1200 - 1210 # 1
The lost frontier
The movement of the Finno-Russian frontier
On the outskirts of Beloostrov, a railway bridge spans over a watercourse, its name isn’t insignificant: “rajajoki” means “frontier river”. Here, from 1809 to 1917, the river marked the boundary between the Grand Duchy of Finland and the rest of Russia and after the independence of Finland in 1917 it marked the boundary between Finland and the Soviet Union. Since the USSR won these territories in 1944, the “frontier river” naming has lost its meaning. (...)
KM 1200 - 1210 # 2
Levashovo’s cemetery
A former secret place of Stalinist crimes now a memorial
In a residential area around Levashovo near St Petersburg, a several-meters-high gate encloses a very peculiar cemetery. Once the doors have been passed, a little tar path guides the visitor across a rangy pine forest towards groupings of crosses erected directly on the ground. Here and there, portraits of the deceased are hanging from he trunks. Every cross grouping includes a monument on which are engraved inscriptions, each in a different language: “Memorial to the Orthodox from (...)
KM 1240 - 1250 # 1
The house of Lydia Koidula
On the footsteps of Estonian language and identity # 1
Offshore of St Petersburg, the town of Kronstadt is linked to the mainland by a bridge of a dozen or so kilometres long. For centuries, it has been a military base protecting the Tsar capital. In the town center, on a yellow painted house, a plate is fixed in memory of the Estonian poet Lydia Koidula. A flower has been put between the plate and the house’s wall - it is now withered. Koidula, whose real name is Lydia Emilie Florentine Jannsen is an important figure in Estonian (...)
KM 1270 - 1280 # 1
The under glass barn (Lenin’s hiding place #3)
The worship around Lenin’s figure
In this small town in the Western suburbs of St Petersburg, once again we come across a building in which Vladimir Ilitch Lenin took refuge while he was wanted from the Tsar authorities before the 1919 revolution. This is the third kind of example noticed along the itinerary after the house in Turku (KM 0-10.1) and the one in Vyborg (KM 1030-1040.1). Here, the small barn in which the famous Russian revolutionary hid for a few weeks has undergone an amazing change. It has been put under glass (...)
KM 1280 - 1290 # 1
The Siege of Leningrad’s memorial
War traumas and the issue about Finland’s participation
The man who is walking down the memorial’s main alley isn’t an isolated case; as he passes by, he crosses himself at each side-hillock then he kneels down and lays a bunch of pine thorns in front of the bronze statue. Every day, lots of people from St Petersburg come here to pay tribute - in their way - to half-the-million victims who were buried during the Leningrad siege. This site, north to St Petersburg, is unique due to its large number of victims buried. From one side of the (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 1
St Petersburg citadel
Construction of a town, “a window to Europe”
Peter 1st of Russia recovered pieces of land that were in the hands of the enemy after a very long war which opposed his country to Sweden, these pieces of land tally with the ones of present day St Petersburg. He built a fortress at the beginning of the XVIIIth century in order to establish his stranglehold on the region and on the Gulf of Finland. This was the first stage of the construction of the city of St Petersburg, which came out of the swamps in just a few decades. Tens of thousands (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 2
Finland Railway Station
The end of the railway line Finland-Russia
In front of Finland Station, talks of passers-by and news-vendors mingle with the noise of hurried passenger footsteps. As you look up between the eighteen rectangular pillars on the facade, you can see bas-reliefs representing 1917 October Revolution scenes. A large clock with a star on its top crowns the whole building. Further away, at the end of a long fountain row, a statue of Lenin dominates the square. The train station is located north to the centre of St Petersburg, its naming is no (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 3
Juho Latukka’ gravestone
On the footsteps of Finnish communists in Russia # 1
Figures who have marked St Petersburg and the country’s history are buried in the three cemeteries that encircle the prestigious “Alexander Nevsky Lavra” monastery: the famous Russian politician and the town’s first mayor after the Communist era Anaoli Stobtchak, aristocrats from the Tsar period and even international artists such as the composer Tchaïkovski. Slightly isolated, a space is kept for important people considered as heroes of the communist era. All (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 4
The communist university of the western minorities
On the footsteps of Finnish communists in Russia # 2
The building on 17 Italyanskaya has a past very few people, Russian or foreigners are aware of. This large construction nowadays holds shops and offices in the town centre. Just after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, it used to be a communist university for western minority groups. This university had a department for Finns - hundreds of “Reds” studied there -, they had fled Finland after the 1918 “White” victory during the Civil War. Juho Latukka whose gravestone lays (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 5
The Smolny palace and Kekkonen’s gift
St Petersburg, the heart of the Bolshevik Revolution
In front of the building entrance that hosts the town’s government since 1991, the Lenin statue goes almost unnoticed in front of the imposing neo-classic in style facade. Here in this construction, a staggering event took place, not only did it disrupt Russia but it also influenced the XXth century world’s history: the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution led by the famous revolutionary and his allies. Initially built as a school for the emperor’s nobility girls, revolutionaries (...)
KM 1290 - 1300 # 6
The Tauride palace
The place where Estonians from St Petersburg demonstrated
Tarpaulins cover the Tauride palace’s façade where work is in progress, somehow or other they try to recreate the greatness of the building. The palace, one of the biggest among the numerous counted in St Petersburg, has a very rich history and a particular meaning for the town’s Estonian minority. On the 8th of April 1917, a long cortège of Estonian civilians and soldiers went through the town singing patriotic songs to call for the autonomy of their country. This (...)
KM 1300 - 1310 # 1
Estonian Lutheran church lays bare again
The re-establishment of worship in St Petersburg’s churches # 1
At first sight, the Estonian church located 54, Dekabristov Street in St Petersburg looks like any other Lutheran church. Its façade freshly restored betrays nothing about the treatments the building underwent during the communist era, not even the metamorphosis it went through these past few months. Like many other churches that were transformed during the communist era in factories, sports halls, cinemas and even swimming pools, St John church in St Petersburg also lost its function (...)
KM 1300 - 1310 # 2
The Orthodox church and the poster factory
Re-establishment of worship in St Petersburg’s churches #2
Contrarily to the Estonian church observed in Dekabristov street which is dedicated to a Lutheran cult, this church - built by a group of Estonian business men in the beginning of the XXth century – is crowned by five domes, features of Orthodox buildings. Erected in 1903, this was one of the last constructions made before the Revolution. It was unveiled by the emperor Nicolas II personally. This church had the distinguishing feature of having two floors: the biggest was for ceremonies (...)
KM 1300 - 1310 # 3
The religious heart of Ingria or the Finn’s church
Re-establishment of worship in St Petersburg’s churches # 3
One of the greatest Lutheran churches of Russia stands near Nevsky Avenue in the heart of the town. It is usually called the Finnish church and its origins go back more than 400 years when St Petersburg didn’t even exist yet. When the Tsar Peter the Great of Russia founded the town in 1703, many Finnish who lived in the region took part in the works. In 1733, a wooden church stood on the current site, it was replaced in 1805 by the one that can be seen today. As well as the main church, (...)
KM 1320 - 1330 # 1
The Kolpino cemetery’s open-air church
Finnish minorities during the Russian communist era
East of the town, St Petersburg’s last tall buildings suddenly stop. Once the highway has been crossed, it gives way to a quite rural landscape. Among the villages that chain up along the small busy road, the one of Kolpino has a particular story. Here, some of the inhabitants still speak a little Finnish. Before WW2, many Finns used to live in the village. In the end of the 1930’s, most of them were sent to Siberia during the Stalinist Great Purge. Since the beginning of the (...)
KM 1380 - 1390 # 1
The Lutheran church of Gatchina
An Ingrian church on the front-line
In the centre of Gatchina, a town of about 80 000 inhabitants south from St Petersburg, a stone church resembles a Greek temple with its Doric columns and its triangular pediment. It is the center of the town’s Lutheran community, its members are mainly people from Ingria, some still speak a little Finnish. This church was built to the same design as the one of Skuoritsa even if it is clear (KM 1400-1410.1) that today both churches show two different faces. During the Leningrad siege (...)
KM 1400 - 1410 # 1
Skuoritsa’s Lutheran church
A contemporary renovation project
Away from the small hamlet of Skvoritsy (Skuoritsa in Finnish) located about fifty kilometres south-west from St Petersburg, a church has a very similar façade to the one of Gatchina, the closest town (KM 1380-1390.1). This church was burnt down just like its “neighbour” during WW2. Requisitioned by the Red Army to become a community centre and a cinema, it has been told that a Soviet soldier – having seen Hitler on the screen – drew his gun and shot causing the (...)
KM 1440 - 1450 # 1
The lost Estonian settlement
The Estonian exodus to Russia in the XIXth century
In the cemetery at the entrance of the small town of Zimitisy (Simititsa in Estonian) a few old crosses bear Estonian names next to which are Orthodox graves with Cyrillic writings. These are the only traces of the Estonian community that settled in 1884. The cultural center, the initial houses, everything has disappeared. Housing blocks and small wooden constructions dating from the communist era replaced them. In 1944, the settlement was evacuated from its inhabitants by the German army (...)
KM 1480 - 1490 # 1
The Kingissepp statue in Kingisepp
A Russian border-town with the same name of an Estonian revolutionary
A few footsteps away from the town hall of Kingisepp - a small Russian town located about twenty kilometres away from the Estonian frontier – a statue is dedicated to the figure with the same name. Victor Kingissepp, father of the Estonian communist party fought alongside the Bolsheviks in the war that undermined Estonia from 1918 to 1920 – it ended by the “White’s” victory and the country’s independence. At the time, the town still called Iambourg was the (...)
KM 1480 - 1490 # 2
Kingisepp’s Lutheran church
A small lutheran church in the heart of a Russian town
In the center of Kingisepp, a small Lutheran church with a marble façade differs from the tall Soviet housing blocks. Several times a week, Finnish songs echo inside – the lyrics have been translated in Russian. Built in the mid 1990’s, this church is the meeting place for a community of worshippers; many of them were Ingrian Finnish speaking descendants, many of them used to live in the region before Stalin’s Great Purge in the end of the 30’s. Religious (...)
KM 1480 - 1490 # 3
Kingisepp’s Estonian cemetery
Estonia of WW2, between the Red Army and the Werhmacht
On the enormous marble plate in the military cemetery of Kingisepp, new names are engraved every year. Regularly, search teams still find Red Army soldiers’ corpses under the ground. These died during the 2d World War in battles against the Germans that took place in the region. On the other side of the road, in a much smaller compound, are gathered gravestones with Estonian names. Above every name is engraved a communist red star. These are Estonian soldier’s graves; by choice (...)
KM 1500 - 1510 # 1
The forts of Ivangorod and of Narva
A young bordertown between two old fortresses
In Ivangorod and Narva, the two fortresses facing each other offer a unique sight. Placed on both sides of the river, they seem to symbolize the presence of a frontier between Russia and Estonia since the dawn of time. However, the bordering installations located around the bridge in front of both castles have only been there for twenty years or so since Estonian independence in 1991. Beforehand - without including the 1918-1920 period when the river bordered Estonia and Russia for a few (...)
KM 1500 - 1510 # 2
The saved statue of Lenin
Soviet inheritance in an independent Estonia
The Lenin statue standing within Narva castle walls looks completely incongruous in this fortress’s medieval scenery. Initially erected in the town centre during the communist era, it was then transported and put here on this site in the early 1990’s at the instigation of the museum director of the time who wanted to save one of the Soviet occupation’s symbols. In the aftermath of the Estonian independence in 1991, most of this period’s signs like the many Lenin (...)
KM 1500 - 1510 # 3
Narva’s town hall building
The town’s bombardment and Soviet propaganda
Narva’s major roads are bordered by housing blocks from the Soviet era, they barely ever let the older buildings be glimpsed. The baroque building that hosts the town hall appears as an exception. It is one of the town’s unique buildings spared by the WW2 bombardments. In Estonia during the communist era, it was taught to children at school that the destruction of Narva and also the modern town centre of Tallinn were caused by the Nazi air force. However, it transpires that it (...)
KM 1500 - 1510 # 4
Narva’s park and the border river banks
Spatial consequences of the frontier implementation
The fate of the park’s stairway by the Narva river in the town centre is distinctive of spacial problems due to the setting of the frontier between Narva and Ivangorod in the early 1990’s. Built in 1875 to link the upper part of the park to the bridge in the lower part, these stairs come up against an impassable chain link fence. Right behind, there is the frontier device with its portico, barbed wire and surveillance cameras. In the old days, this walkway was much beloved by (...)
KM 1500 - 1510 # 5
The hidden frontier
The complexity of the control device between Narva and Ivangorod
In Narva suburbs, walls on which advertising panels are fixed encircle a large area of asphalt. Inside the walls, lorries and cars are in rows, each one is assigned a number. Passengers are out of their cars and seem to be waiting for a signal. Even though this place is located a few kilometres away from the frontier station, it is part of the control device one has to get past to go to the other side of the Narva river.  Administrative procedures for a car and its passengers to go from (...)
KM 1510 - 1520 # 1
Narva’s German cemetery
Memory of German soldiers in Estonia
North to the town, a military cemetery is dedicated to the German victims who died in Narva and its regions during WW2. It was initially built by the Germans in 1943 when Hitler’s army, at the gateway to Leningrad, had invaded the town and has recently been re-organized. The countless crosses all bear the names of four soldiers. These names are often replaced by the inscription "unknown soldier". The fall of the Soviet system in Estonia gave way to different modes of (...)
KM 1520 - 1530 # 1
A Russian villa in Narva-Jõesuu
A Russian imperial inheritance in Estonian territory
Once the summer ends, the seaside town of Narva-Jõesuu regains the peace and quiet that qualifies this kind of seasonal place. Tourists have left the major roads and the numerous villas in the forest have closed their doors while waiting for the return of the holidays. A few footsteps away from the beach, a wonderful sculpted wooden villa has been empty since ages and may never open again. Most windows have been replaced by plastic tarpaulins, the roof and floorboards have started to (...)
KM 1530 - 1540 # 1
Ruins of the Estonian cultural centre
The first Estonian Republic’s inheritance in a Russian-speaking region
Located a few hundred meters away from the first buildings of the town of Sillamäe, the old cultural centre’s ruins of its neighbouring town can be seen from the main road. What remains of the building that was built exactly a hundred years ago has gradually become a symbolic place of Estonian traditions. Today, these traditions have nearly disappeared in this region mostly inhabited by people who came from all over the USSR following the country’s occupation by the Soviet (...)
KM 1530 - 1540 # 2
The abandoned Estonian cemetery
Signs of re-population in the north-eastern region of Estonia
Outside the village of Sinimäe, a cemetery encircled by a half-a-meter high wall is invaded by vegetation. The graves’ metal crosses with Estonian names hardly stand out among the tall grass. At some places, the battered ground bears marks of WW2. The hill on which the cemetery lays was a strategic place for months where very violent battles took place between the Red Army on one side and the German and Estonian army on the other. Since the war, the cemetery had been uncared-for. (...)
KM 1530 - 1540 # 3
The two memorials of the front-line
The fight of memories of the 2nd World War in Estonia
A few hundred meters away from Sinimäe’s abandoned cemetery, the cross of a memorial dedicated to German soldiers and their allies who died on the battlefront during WW2 overlooks a hill. This site’s laying-out started in 1994 and ended in 2000. Throughout the whole country, memorials and German cemeteries were created – or re-created – in the years following the fall of the Soviet system and the return of Estonian independence. A few years ago, this memorial (...)
KM 1550 - 1560 # 1
A town with a peculiar status, yesterday and today
Near the industrial site, a few uninhabited houses in the “Sotke” Street are the first constructions of the secret town of Sillamäe. Built by prisoners, these houses sheltered the first workers who came to work for the construction of this forbidden town that didn’t appeared on any map until the fall of communism. Hundreds of secret towns were built across the USSR. Among them, Sillamäe had got the highest rating: knowing there was uranium in the region’s (...)
KM 1550 - 1560 # 2
Sillamäe’s radioactive hill
Environmental problems in Estonia
During warm summer days, the beach located at the end of the avenue is a very busy place the town’s inhabitants like to go. From there - among the various factory silos and chimneys of the industrial site – a hill covered in grass encloses thousands of tons of radioactive waste. It is the result of decades of uranium processing the factory was specialized in to make nuclear weapons for the Soviet Union (i.e. KM 1550-1560 # 1). When the town was built in the late 40’s, a (...)
KM 1550 - 1560 # 3
The collection of Sillamäe’s museum
Memory of the Soviet era in Estonia
The small museum of Sillamäe is in one of the town centre’s buildings. No maps or town planning can be found in this museum but on the other hand, lots of objects, paintings and letters that go back to the communist era can be seen. Each element tells – in its own way – the story of the town and of its inhabitants. The objects were collected by members of an artists group then gathered by the museum’s conservator. The group is called “April” and has (...)
KM 1560 - 1570 # 1
Vaivara concentration camp
Estonia and Finland facing the Jewish issue
By the road close to Sillamäe are two steles on which is engraved a Jewish star. On one of them, a text is written: “Between 1941 and 1944, the German occupying powers established twenty labour and concentration camps in Estonia. Thousands of people from a number of countries were killed in this camps because they were Jewish. This is the site of Vaivara concentration camp.” These two steles are the only visible marks of what used to be the biggest and most famous (...)
KM 1560 - 1570 # 2
Viivikonna, the “ghost town”
The desertion of a communist industrial town in Eastern Estonia
In the streets of Viivikonna, a dead-end-town near Sillamäe, deserted buildings chain up one after the other in a surreal way: the hospital, the old shop, the school with communist insignias on its façade have all been unoccupied for ages. Windows are broken or missing, roofs are sagged, vegetation is invading paths and children games are affected with rust. In this ruined setting, a dozen houses are surprisingly still inhabited. A few children are playing in the street, dogs are (...)
KM 1620 - 1630 # 1
Kohtla-Järve’s chemical manufactures and the Orthodox church
An industrial region, twenty years after the Estonian Independence
The landscapes of Kohtla-Järve’s suburbs are moulded by the region’s industrial history. For kilometres, the horizon is defined with artificial hills of rubble that change over the course of years, seasons and mining productions. Manufacture chimneys and extraction structures sometimes active, sometimes not, add a peculiar nature. This inspired many painters who were sent by the government during the communist era in order to illustrate the beauty of the landscape moulded by (...)
KM 1620 - 1630 # 2
The town of Kohtla-Järve
A cosmopolitan industrial town
Kohtla-Järve town centre is made up with various buildings; they are remarkable for their size and their architectural style that characterize communist towns entirely built in Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic after WW2. The general plan of the town includes many public buildings such as the imposing community arts centre or the cinema that has now been transformed into a sopping centre. On the buildings’ pediments and frescos, the hammer and sickle, as well as the communist (...)
KM 1630 - 1640 # 1
Kohtla-Nõmme’s coal mine
From mining to tourism business
Kohtla-Nõmme’s mine has been closed since 2001. During the communist era, it differed from other mines because it employed about as many Estonians as Russian-speakers; this was quite unusual in the region. At the time, in the surrounding mines, it was generally assessed that 20% of workers were Estonian and the other 80% arrived from different places of the Soviet Union in Estonia after WW2. After Estonian independence and the fall of the communist system, mining production (...)
KM 1720 - 1730 # 1
Finnish fishermen’s arrival port
A rehabilitated old trading tradition between Finns and Estonians
The winding road that leads to Mahu’s small hamlet goes as far as the Baltic Sea on a long and narrow pier. On the beach a few small boats are attached to the solid ground by chains. At this place, like in other ports located along the Estonian coast, unusual trading took place until the 2nd World War. They are called « Seprakauppa » in Finnish or « Sõbralaat » in Estonian. For centuries, fishermen from the coast and from the Finnish (...)
KM 1790 - 1800 # 1
Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald’s birthplace
On the footsteps of Estonian language and identity # 2
In Kadrina’s surroundings near Rakvere, a small path crosses a field; it is hardly recognizable among tall grass and leads to a grove encircled by a wooden gate. A stele with the name of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald engraved stands in the centre of this totally isolated creation. The famous Estonian writer was born here in 1803. After living and teaching a while in Tallinn, St Petersburg and Tartu, he lived more than forty years in a small town in South Estonia where he wrote most of (...)
KM 1790 - 1800 # 2
Neeruti’s manor
Destiny of Estonian manors
Alongside Estonian’s roads, it is quite common to pass by manors that were built over the years by rich landlords from different countries especially German. These buildings scattered all over the country used to be major trading places for agricultural and economic development and organization.- Neeruti’s manor, near Rakvere, has been abandoned just like many other manors encountered along the itinerary. The imposing construction built in a an art-nouveau style by a rich family (...)
KM 1890 - 1900 # 1
A Kolkhoz farm
Estonian agriculture during the Soviet era
The Estonian countryside is scattered with warehouses and farming facilities that date back to the Soviet era. These buildings are recognizable by their white façade either made with small bricks, prefab concrete panels or metal sheets. They were built during Soviet occupation according to agricultural collectivization principles. This farm near Kuusula is just an example among many others. In Estonia, from 1945 to 1991, Moscow’s authorities undertook as in the rest of the (...)
KM 1930 - 1940 # 1
Tallinn’s television tower
A monument built during the USSR era, a symbolic place of Estonian resistance
The 314 meter–high television tower in the north of Tallinn is the highest point for hundreds kilometres around. It is said that up in its panoramic restaurant, by sunny weather, one can make out the Finnish coast. During the communist time, the only fact that one could see beyond the Soviet block’s frontiers made this tower particularly attractive for some of the capital’s inhabitants. In 1980, the Olympic games took place in Moscow. These were the only ones ever organized (...)
KM 1940 - 1950 # 1
KUMU Art Museum
One of the first important public buildings built in an Estonia which regained its independence
Located on the outskirts of the town, Tallinn’s art museum is recognizable by its contemporary architecture: a part of it is buried, the building in the heart of Kadriorg’s park fits in the landscape and with the area’s vegetation. Green roofs, glass and chalky volumes come straight out of the ground to build up an entrance. Even if the construction of the building only ended in 2006, the competition for the creation of an art museum was launched long before, just a few (...)
KM 1940 - 1950 # 2
The cemetery statue of Tallinn’s defence army
A memorial that has become the symbol of a memory war in Estonia
Near the centre of Tallinn, in a military cemetery stands a WW2 memorial - these past few years, this is the one the whole of Europe has certainly the most heard of. This bronze statue hasn’t become famous thanks to its size – quite modest compared to other Soviet monuments encountered in Estonia or in the former communist block’s countries – nor thanks to its artistic interest. It was rather thanks to the debate it caused when it was evicted from its initial location (...)
KM 1940 - 1950 # 3
Tallinn's scene festival of singing and dancing
From traditional singing to the Singing Revolution
At the sight of this building in the shape of a shell near Tallinn's centre, a foreign visitor could think this organization was built upside down. The big concrete structure that looks like a tribune was in fact designed to be able to host 15 000 singers whereas the spectators take place on the sloping parcel of land opposite. Every five years, a gigantic traditional singing and dancing festival takes place here, it gathers tens of thousands Estonians from all over the country. The most (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 1
Nõmme’s barracks
“Finno-Russian-Estonian” houses in Tallinn’s suburbs
Around Paul Kerese and Astri Streets, Nõmme’ residential district located south to the centre of Tallinn, it is scattered with similar huts. Some of them have been re-organized and extended by its inhabitants. As curious as it may seem, these huts were made on Finnish soil and travelled around the Gulf of Finland on wagons before arriving here in the 1950’s. When the Finnish peninsula of Porkkala was occupied by the Red Army from 1944 to 1956 (i.e. KM 290-300.1), these (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 2
The parliament’s square on the Toompea hill
A both mythical and historical place of the Estonian nation
The Estonian national epic « Kalevipoeg » written by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (i.e. KM 1790-1800.1) already gave a mythical history to Toompea’s hill in the centre of Tallinn: according to the legend, it would be the work of the hero Kalev’s disconsolate widow who covered her husband’s grave with stones until the hill was shaped. At the very top of it, the Estonian parliament’s building has been built. The various events that took place on (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 3
The Estonian national opera’s fresco
The work of three Estonian artists during the Soviet era
The imposing building on “Estonia” avenue in Tallinn hosts the national opera. It was destroyed with the Soviet bombardments in 1944 but re-opened its doors in 1947 after being re-built and having undertaken important changes. The most symbolic of all is probably the gigantic fresco that covers the big stage’s ceiling. Drawn by three famous artists of the time, it recaptures codes and motifs of the “Soviet realism” movement had currency at the time in the USSR: (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 4
The Museum of Occupations
The heavy inheritance of the XXth century in Estonia
Tallinn's Museum of Occupations is located just ten or so kilometres away from the historic heart of the Estonian capital. This building’s architecture was made with concrete and glass; it opened its doors to visitors in July 2003 twelve years after the return of the country’s independence. For those who don’t know Estonian history, the museum’s name can be surprising. The use of a plural is not insignificant: during the past few centuries, Estonia’s (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 5
Freedom square
The comeback of monuments to the glory of the Estonian War of Independence
Since the end of the 1980’s and the country’s independence, like the rest of Estonian towns Tallinn’s face has been going through many changes. The Freedom square just next to Toompea hill illustrates very well the phenomenon. Just like many other places throughout the country, it first changed name, taking back its former name. During the communist era, it was called “Victory Square” referring to the Red Army and the “liberation” by the Soviet army (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 6
Rotermann’s district
The renewing of the Estonian capital and Tarkovsky’s legacy
In Rotermann’s district’s pedestrian streets located near the port and Tallinn’s historical centre, abandoned old factories are side by side with brand new buildings built from a contemporary architecture. For years after the return of independence in Estonia in 1991, this district went through a radical metamorphosis as in the rest of the lower part of the capital; tall office and housing buildings emerged as well as many shopping centres. At the time of the Russian Empire (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 7
Tallinn's synagogue
A building as a symbol of the renewing of the Jewish community
On the façade of Tallinn’s brand new synagogue in the heart of the town, waves symbolize the various stages of the Jews of Estonia’s very hectic history. Unveiled in 2007, the synagogue is the first to have been built in the country after the war. The one before had been destroyed with the Soviet bombardments in March 1944. Even though Jews have been in the country ever since the Middle ages, the Jewish community of Estonia really grew from the second half of the XIXth (...)
KM 1950 - 1960 # 8
The “Linnahall”
An architectural inheritance from the communist era in the center of Tallinn
Next to gigantic cruise boats that come and go in the Estonian capital’s port, the scale of the “Linnahall”, the community arts centre that dates back from the communist era, seem almost modest. Yet, once on the building’s flat roof, one realizes the huge building’s dimensions. As the visitor walks up the first stairway, a monumental symmetrical alley with a row of concrete benches and lampposts in the middle leads him to a second section of stairs. The view of (...)
All texts translated from French to English by Adèle Huxley