What a second day in Petrozavodsk! While we did sleep in a little (granted, sunrise here is around 10ish), we were off to wandering the streets and lakeshore of Petrozavodsk, looking for museums and anything that would aide us in our research and media project.
The town itself, although small (a mere 260,000 compared to the behemoth Moscow and it’s 15 million inhabitants), bustles with life in a city where the season can be pretty depressing. Part of that may be because of the holidays—it’s Christmas Eve today (as Orthodox traditions operate on a different calendar than our own), and most Russians have been enjoying some time off since New Years and won’t be resuming their normal work schedule until the 11th of January. Despite the frigid cold (days here have been hovering around 0-10 F, but it’s usually colder than that around this time) and the scarcity of sunlight, Petrozavodsk seems like a vibrant, cheery town.
Our job here while visiting Petrozavodsk is to learn more about the native Karelians who live here. Most research we have scoured shows us that there are around 130,000 native Karelians living in the Republic of Karelia—about 10% of the total population. And that number has been on a steady decline for over 50 years. Most Karelians it seems have assimilated with Russian culture, while a small number who live in the villages outside of town still live as they have been for the last hundred years.
We will stay in Petrozavodsk until the 10th, so we still have much planned. Marc is going to the island of Кижи (Kizhi) tomorrow (by helicopter!), where many beautiful wooden churches are located. I’ll be in town getting photos and information from anywhere I can find.
Tonight at 11 we are going to head to an Orthodox service here in the city. It’s not the Christmas Eve/Christmas that you probably imagine. During Communism the government secularized the holiday as much as possible, making the larger celebration on New Years. Although many acknowledge and celebrate Christmas, there is little fanfare. It seems that New Years and Christmas here are a split of our secular and Christian aspects of Christmas -- New Years is the more secular (celebrating with Santa Claus-esque figure Father Frost who delivers presents, etc.), with the Christian and almost entirely religious holiday of Christmas.
Anyways-- here we go.