The whole of Varzuga in one photo

See a series of Varzuga photos at The photographer, the famous Varandej, managed to capture the whole village on both sides of the Varzuga river in one shot. My hat off!

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The Apostolic Evangelical Church

This church is a variation on the Pentecostal theme. They came to Russia in 1911, and the core of the Kandalaksha group is said to have formed back in 1982, in the midst of the Brezhnev era. Brave fellows if that’s true. Now they have 70-90 members in Kandalaksha and area.

Are there shamans in Kola? – Sorry to disappoint you, no.

On average I get a couple of questions about shamans per year. The most recent one came yesterday.

Sorry, I know none.

I suspect there are none. Too small to start with, no motivation compared to that in Judaism or Christianity to resist and persist. If a shaman gives up is he damned? Probably not. So what’s the point of lingering to these believes in a hostile environment?

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Lutherans in Lovozero

As I continue exploring the region I’m truly amazed by the diversity of the religious scene. Lutherans, Baptists, and Pentecostals are particularly well represented. But Lutherans appear most prominent even in small communities.

Eg. see Puppet theater studio in the Lutheran parish in Lovozero and Russian Lutheran news.

Solovetsky Islands portal in English

Incredible Pictures from info, getting to Solovki, climate and weather, plans and animals, where to stay, visitor rules, pilgrimage and church feasts of course, which is the main tourist product of Solovsky, a variety of tours etc. etc. nicely presented in very readable English, on

Murmansk religious scene

Seventeen registered denominations is and impressive number for a city of less than half a million. “Registered” means permitted and legal, free to conduct warship (but no preaching of course, Orthodoxy is not into open debate). There are Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and even the Hare Krishna people banned in most other regions.


Varzuga’s claim to fame is in being the religious center if not of the whole region then most definitely of the South edge of the peninsula, and in salmon fishing and poaching.

English speaking fishermen should go to I doubt foreigner are into Eastern Orthodoxy very much but if you happen to be try The Varzuga Foundation that positions itself as the voice of local “spirituality”.

If you need any type of logistical support in visiting Varzuga, talk to me. Driver, translator, gopher, fixer, whatever. I confess that Varzuga is not one of my favourite places but is it popular with travellers and a job is a job.

A tephophile report

21The Old Pomor Cemetery (“Staroye pomorskoye kladbishe”) at the Monastery cape. Most tombstones show birth in 1850-1900 and death in the 1950-1960.

For photos of this and many other cemetaries see Alexandra’s blog >>

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A semi-official list of touristy sites and attractions around Kandalaksha

Found in my 2011 notes and am sharing this list of “official” tourist attractions around Kandalaksha:

  • Island Mikkov. Located where the Kovda River flows into the Kandalaksha Bay. Granitites formed 2.3-2.4 million years ago are exposed here. Gneiss and amphibolite boulders, which are at least 2.9 million years old, are scattered around. Of interest to those who are amused by this planet’s history. Geology students flock there.
  • Curative dirt of Palkina Guba. They are used locally to treat nervous system and joint ailments. Dirt by the Luvenga is said to be no worse.
  • The Cape of Verkhny Navolok of the Tolskik Peninsula of the Kandalaksha Bay. A range of minerals caught in transition and exposed for us to observe to see earth in the making. Minerals of the epidotic group, amphiboles, pyroxenes, and granites. A mecca for geology students.
  • Ringing stones. If you strike one of these stones  it will or is supposed to produce prolonged metallic sound. Sami tribes treated these stones as cult objects. A few of these stones are found at the Volosyanaya Hill.
  • Oket’yeva (Akat’yeva) mountain and the “Iron Gate”. In Sami “akka” means not only “old woman” but Great Goddess. The gorge between Okat’yeva and Domashnyaya hills is a stone corridor about 500 feet long. Ancient Samies thought of the gorge as the residence of Great Goddess. The gorge is within walking distance from Luvenga.
  • The labyrinth. Walking distance east from Kandalaksha. Possibly a cult object used by the Sami or Celtic tribes.
  • Holy stones that housed the spirits of departed Sami shamans. No loud talking and certainly no profanities within hearing range of these stones! Sacrifices encouraged. Objects that are connected to hunting (eg. bullets) are especially appropriate.
  • Silver Mines on the Medvezhi (Bear) Island. These are now flooded, and access to the island is highly restricted. But I’m toying with the idea…
  • Wooden church in Kovda. Built in the 17th century and presently being restored. e.
  • Military cemeteries
    • Russian: Kandalaksha, Beloye More village, Train Station Yyamozero, Kayraly village, Alakurrti village (two cemeteries), Train Station Voyta, Staryye Prolivy, Nivsky, Kayraly, Kuolayarvi, the 50th, 63rd, 74th, and 88th kilometer of the old Kandalaksha to Alakurtti road, Kovdozero, Zarechensk, Train Station Kovda, Nivsky, Fedoseyevska.
    • German: Near Staraya Salla and near the crossing of roads to Murmansk, Saint-Petersburg, and Lupche Savino.
    • Finnish: Staraya Salla
    • Pomor: All over but especially near Kandalaksha, in Kolvitsa, and in Kuzomen.