Table of contents:
- History of Creation
- We built and built and finally built…
- Channel value
- Lake Saimaa in pre-revolutionary Russian guidebooks
- Country life on the canal
- Anti-tank barrier
- Restoration of shipping
- Cruise - Saimaa Canal
- Travel through the eyes of a tourist
- Lake Saimaa
- Saimaa Canal: fishing
2023 Author: Harold Hamphrey | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 19:35
The Saimaa Canal (the map below will help the reader figure out its location) is a shipping channel between the Vyborg Bay (Russia) and Lake Saimaa (Finland). This building was opened in 1856. The total length was 57.3 km, of which Russia owns 34 km, and Finland - 23.3 km.
History of Creation
The first attempts to connect the Gulf of Finland and Lake Saimaa were made back in 1500 and 1511 by the governor of Vyborg, Eric Tureson Bjelke. The next attempt was made in 1600, at which time two excavations were made, but that was all. Already in the reign of Catherine the Great, a new plan was proposed - since the Vuoksa River connects Lake Saimaa with Lake Ladoga, it was supposed to build a canal bypassing Imatra. However, the too high costs that had to be spent on this project became the reason for the refusal to bring this plan into execution. In 1826, at a meeting of the city courts of Karelia and Savolaks, it was decided to send a deputation of peasants to St. Petersburg to the emperor so that he would connect the lake region with the seasidecities. Having received and listened to the deputies, Nicholas I ordered the necessary research to be carried out. However, no real funds were found, in connection with this, the laying of the canal was not started. The next time this issue was raised by the governor of Vyborg, August Ramsay, was in 1834. Senator L. F. Hartman (head of the financial expedition) and Prince Menshikov set the course for this matter. In the city of Vyborg, a committee was established to draw up an estimate and plan for this project. A well-known Swedish engineer was invited for initial research. As a result of his work, it turned out that the waters of the lake are 256 feet above sea level, and the cost of this structure will be three million rubles. The required amount was allocated in installments over fifteen years.
And so, in 1845, construction work began. In their process, Swedish engineer Nils Erikson made some improvements to the canal plan. Initially, the head of this construction company was Baron Karl Rosenkampf, who received the nickname "Canal Baron". However, in 1846 he died, and Major General Shernval was appointed in his place. All construction work was carried out at the expense of the Finnish treasury. The total cost was 12.4 million Finnish marks. The total length of the structure is 54.5 versts, twenty-eight granite locks were erected on this segment.
We built and built and finally built…
August 26, 1856 was the grand opening of this building. It was timed to coincide with the coronation of Emperor Alexander II. Finland was proud of the Saimaa Canal, whichhelped to penetrate into the desert regions of the country. The primordial beauty of nature gave it a special charm. On the banks of the canal, commemorative signs with an inscription in Swedish and Russian were installed, in which all the figures involved in the creation of this structure were listed. The entire construction was done in a very original and bold way, given that the difference in the levels of the connected waters made the current in the canal extremely swift.
The opening took place four years ahead of schedule. Another feature of this project was the cheapness of such a gigantic amount of work. The following factors played a role here: the honesty and diligence of Finnish managers, as well as the cheapness of labor, because prisoners were mainly involved here.
The Saimaa Canal was of great importance for the development of this region. The population of Karelia and Savolax has finally freed itself from the exclusive economic dependence of the remote harbors of Ladoga and the Gulf of Bothnia (its northern part). The benefits of operating this facility could be even greater if the project leaders could eliminate the mercenary interference of the merchant lobby. Thus, for fear of losing their monopoly in trade, they, through intrigues and other methods, ensured that the throughput of the locks was limited. As a result, all ships going this way had to have a hull width of no more than seven meters. Otherwise, all goods had to be reloaded in Vyborg on ships suitable for these requirements. In this way, several merchant firms ensured a monopoly on exports. And, as a result, the Saimaa Canal from Vyborg lost most of its significance for the development of this region. However, later, during the reconstruction of this structure, the width of the locks was significantly increased.
Lake Saimaa in pre-revolutionary Russian guidebooks
In 1870, a through passenger railway service was opened between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. This event made the most beautiful places in southern Finland accessible to the public. Railway communication gave a new impetus to the development of the Karelian Isthmus and the entire surrounding area. Villages began to appear here, resorts and sanatoriums were built, dirt roads were laid connecting various settlements and the railway. The Saimaa Canal played a huge role in the new development of this region. Now he performed functions not only for the development of trade relations. Cruises to Finland, to Lake Saimaa and the Imatra waterfall, have become popular. So, these places began to fall into Russian literature, which describes the cultural monuments of this region. At the same time, literature appeared aimed at popularizing information about this region and promoting its attractions, as well as creating a new image. Special guidebooks were published describing the Saimaa Canal and its environs. Most of them contained information about traffic routes, post stations, timetables for ships and trains, information about hotels, how and where to hire horses, resorts and sanatoriums, and much more. All of the aboveindicates that before the revolution, information about this object as a significant attraction in Finland was very well known. Traveling along the Saimaa Canal was common for outdoor enthusiasts.
Country life on the canal
The first dachas began to appear here during construction. Sections of the canal that were in official use were decorated with plantings, this served as an incentive to rent out land or build cottages. In addition to the beautiful nature, the popularity of recreation in this area was facilitated by good communication provided by motor ships that carry out river cruises and pass through this waterway. And soon, we althy residents of Vyborg and St. Petersburg built up the canal coast to Lake Nuyamaa. In Rättijärvi, there was the most luxurious dacha, owned by Russian Foreign Minister Von Giers. It was built by one of the engineers who participated in the construction of the canal. Most of the dachas stood out for their architecture, they were decorated with towers, balconies, carvings, they were surrounded by well-groomed extensive gardens with piers and pavilions. The names of the houses are as romantic as their appearance: "Runolinna", "Rauhantaranta", "Onnela", "Iloranta"… The demand for real estate in this region was so high that it became profitable to build it for rent. The Saimaa Canal of that time is known not only for dachas, but also for large estates. The most famous of them is the Lavola estate, it belonged to the Cheseff family and was located at the mouth ofobject. Estates together with dachas formed a very colorful ensemble, the atmosphere here was cheerful, international. River cruises, concerts, visits and walks enlivened the social life, it offered vacationers many experiences and earning opportunities for locals. However, after the revolution, dacha life fell into decay, and with it the Saimaa Canal. Tours on it were no longer interested in Russian bohemia.
In the plans of the General Staff of the Finnish Armed Forces in the thirties of the last century, this water body was considered as a possible way to organize the supply of the army. According to the plans developed, it was supposed to concentrate military operations on the Karelian Isthmus. And so, in 1939, during the period of extra urgent fees, it was noted that the canal could be in the war zone. It was a serious obstacle due to the deep channel. Therefore, it was decided to use it in anti-tank defense. As a result, rather extensive areas were flooded in the area of the Kärstila Lyukulya and Ventel lakes. The total area of flooded areas was thirty-five square kilometers. In the period 1941-1944, the channel did not take part in hostilities.
Restoration of shipping
Due to the fact that the peace treaty established between the Soviet Union and Finland left the Vyborg Bay on the territory of the USSR, and the border divided the canal into two parts, it eventuallystopped functioning. In the post-war period, the resumption of navigation required not only the reconstruction of structures and dilapidated equipment, but also the achievement of a bilateral agreement on the use of this water body. This issue was first raised in 1948, but official interstate negotiations began only in 1954. According to the agreement reached, a group of Finnish engineers left for the Soviet Union to study the condition of this waterway. Experts came to the conclusion that the river channels on Soviet territory are quite suitable for the restoration of navigation through them. However, work in this direction began thirteen years later, after both sides finally came to a common decision on lease issues. In 1968 the reconstruction was completed. In the course of it, the throughput capabilities of the lock chambers were significantly expanded.
Cruise - Saimaa Canal
Lappeenrante is a resort town in Finland. Attractiveness is given to it by Lake Seima, on the shore of which it is located, and the Saimaa Canal. A boat trip to these water bodies is the only thing that attracts tourists from Russia here. By the way, this is the only inland waterway in the Russian Federation, which can be used by ships of foreign companies. Passenger ships making river cruises carry tourists from the Russian Federation and Finland. Previously, according to an agreement from 1963, passengers arriving from Finland to our country had the right to visa-free entry. However, with the additionrepublics to the Schengen agreement, this agreement was canceled. Passengers are now required to obtain visas. However, they are needed only if the ship lands on the shores of Russia, for example, disembarks them for an excursion in Vyborg. If ferry cruises from Finland do not include calls to Russian ports, a visa is not required. For example, the ship "Kristina Brahe" passes through the territory of our country, making trips between Lappeenranta and Helsinki, and the ship "Karelia" - between Vyborg and Lappeenranta.
Travel through the eyes of a tourist
It's hard to guess how many more years cruise voyages like this will last. After all, there are not too many Finns who would like to see the sights of the Saimaa Canal, and even fewer of our tourists. And this despite the fact that a one-way ticket is about thirty euros. The trip is worth the money spent.
The route is forty-three kilometers long, but there are eight locks. When the ship crosses the first of them along the Saimaa Canal, it's interesting. However, already at the third gateway, irritation begins to grow, and by the eighth you can’t wait until it’s over, but it’s still interesting. When the steamer reaches the Nuiyamaa border post, the identity check begins. An interesting fact is that this post is combined - automobile and water. If you find yourself on a ship in the same company with Finnish tourists, then be prepared for the fact that they often behave like most Russians: they start drinking strong drinks even beforewhen the ship leaves the berth. Many tourists specifically buy a ticket for such a cruise, explaining this by the fact that there is a duty-free shop on the ship. If we take into account the fact that in Finland there is a tension with alcohol, this behavior becomes quite understandable. During the period of general drinking, guides try in vain to draw the attention of the public to stories about the canal, locks and other attractions. And there is still something to see - the channel is very beautiful. For example, near Vyborg it is crossed by rather high bridges - railway and automobile. All navigation systems are built on granite pillars or displayed on islands. Part of the canal is carved into the rock mass, the other part has sloping sandy shores with boulders. A dense forest grows along the canal, which, combined with the rocks, forms a very beautiful landscape. The Russian part is completely uninhabited, there are still lonely houses near Vyborg, and then there is pristine nature. The only busy place is in the border area, where the highway to Lappeenranta passes. The picture is completely opposite in the Finnish part: here the settlements meet immediately after the checkpoint. In the Lappeenranta area, not reaching the last lock, the main port on this waterway is located - the Saimaa terminal. This is where cargo ships are loaded/unloaded. Cargo comes mainly from the Russian side - up to two million tons per year.
When the ship crosses the last lock, it enters Lake Saimaa. The first thing forthe view opens - this is a very large pulp and paper mill. The guide proudly tells that more than two and a half thousand people work here. This “miracle” of civilization spoils the whole impression of the trip, it also prevents the city of Lappeenranta from gaining full tourist status. After all, the enterprise, even if modern treatment facilities are installed on it, still dumps tons of waste into the waters of the lake, which makes it unsuitable for swimming within a radius of up to several tens of kilometers. And what is most interesting, the tourist booklets do not say anything about the presence of the plant here. However, this is not all: there is a confectionery factory opposite the plant, which also discharges waste into the lake, because it is not in vain that it is completely covered with grass in the area of this enterprise. And here, oddly enough, the main tourist complex - "Khuhtiniemi" - and the summer hotel "Karelia Park" are located. At the very "fence" with a confectionery factory there is another complex - "Saima". True, he looks somehow dull, abandoned, like those of Soviet-era hotels that are barely afloat in small towns. There is also a beach here, however, in order to get to the water, you will have to overcome grassy thickets or try to go through special bridges, which, by the way, are broken in their middle part, but someone helpfully put a board through the gap. What a resort!
The main attraction of Lappeenranta is the Memorial Cemetery, which is located in the city center. Here you can see the graves of the deadsoldiers in the periods 1939-1940 and 1941-1944. And what is very curious, all the burials are individual, there are no fraternal ones. Adjacent to the cemetery is a monument to soldiers called up from the territory of the Karelian Isthmus (today it is the territory of the Russian Federation). It consists of two parts - sculptures and plates with the names of settlements and the names of soldiers, by the way, among them there are also Russians. There are especially many of them among the natives of Teriyok (Zelenogorsk). Actually, there are no more attractions here. The city has a modern look, very well maintained and constantly reconstructed. There is nothing special to do there. At night, Lappeenranta falls asleep, all shops are closed, you can only find kiosks selling hamburgers and other similar food. Here, even the station building is closed until seven in the morning. Wandering through the empty night streets, it becomes clear why the Finns are so "off" in our country.
This city is completely different from Lappeenranta, its history is much shorter. It was founded in 1948 and is located so close to the border with Russia that domestic cellular networks are caught here. Imatra is located at the source of the Vuoksa River. The main enterprises of this city are a metallurgical plant and a hydroelectric power station. However, unlike Lappeenranta, there are no industrial facilities on the coast of the lake. There are two original monuments here - the first is dedicated to the turbine, and the second - to the power transmission tower. The main tourist attraction is the artificial Imatrakoski waterfall. Before the construction of the hydroelectric power station, it was natural, in pre-revolutionary times, Russian bohemia loved to come here andadmire the waterfall. Now here the water starts up according to the schedule, this descent is the main "tourist attraction" of Imatra. The second attraction is the Crown Park, which is located on the island that separates the old channel of Vuoksa and the reservoir. The park was founded by decree of Emperor Nicholas I, who ordered that the waterfall and its surroundings remain unchanged. The city of Imatra is much more attractive for tourists than Lappeenranta, there are quite modern hotels, places for recreation, and fishing enthusiasts will have a wonderful opportunity to spend an unforgettable time on the shores of Lake Saimaa.
Saimaa Canal: fishing
Fishing on the lake is excellent all year round. The main fish species are pike, perch, lake salmon, and trout. The locals are not fond of fishing, despite the fact that the roach here almost jumps ashore on its own, the Finns for some reason do not use it for food. It is mainly caught by tourists from Russia. At the end of spring, salmon and trout bite the best for trolling. Pike are caught all year round. In addition, there is a lot of burbot here, it is often fished for lure and balance. Due to the large size of the reservoir, it is not so easy to determine where the fish hid. However, a skilled fisherman will always return from Saimaa with a good catch. Nature here is clean and unhurried, promotes peace, disposes to reflection and contemplation. You will have a wonderful holiday!
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