Solovetsky Islands, Russia
The Solovetsky Islands, or Solovki, are the largest archipelago of the White Sea with six big islands and around a hundred smaller islands. The first people inhabited these territories 6,000-7,000 years ago, back in the Stone Age. Some remnants of these ancient times have remained here: stone man sites, ancient sanctuaries and stone helical labyrinths up to 25 meters in length. But the Solovetsky Islands are primarily famous for other landmarks.
In the 12th century, the first Russian colonists started to arrive here. In 1429, the first monk settlement was founded, and seven years later, monks Savvaty, Zosima and German founded the Solovetsky Monastery on the same named largest island of the archipelago.
They were eventually venerated as saints and are believed to be the patrons of these lands, while the monastery became famous all over Russia. The tsar not only donated significant amounts of money and in doing so he showed the example for his servants but also issued a permit for a duty-free trade of salt. The monastery had consequently become a large cultural, economic and industrial centre. New temples started to be made of stone, and a canal network with mills was created to connect numerous lakes. And the first arm and ironwork plant in the Karelian district was founded here.
In addition, the monastery served as a political and religious prison. And finally, it was also a significant border fortress with a garrison and artillery. Its pentagonal area was surrounded by the walls of 8-11 meters high, 6 meters thick and having a total length of 1,000 meters. These walls helped to protect the territory from the Swedes in the 16th-17th centuries. Later, in the middle of the 19th century, the fortress managed to resist the British fleet attack.
Nowadays, the monastery buildings are located on 4 islands of the archipelago, but the main architectural complex has found itself on the shores of the Prosperity (Blagopoluchiya) Bay on Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. It has preserved some important monastery constructions: the three-domed Assumption (Uspensky) Cathedral, the five-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration (Preobrazhensky), dated the 16th century, and more recent buildings, such as stone chambers, a water mill, a bell tower, and several temples.
The 20th century was the period of decay for the Solovetsky Islands. During the Soviet fight against religion, the monastery was closed, and in 1920 the prison camp was founded instead. Till 1939, it had held the prisoners mostly for political reasons: priests, White Army officers, Socialists-Revolutionaries and members of the intelligentsia. During the Second World War, a naval cadet school was functioning on the island. With the arrival of peaceful times, the creation of a museum-reserve was initiated. In addition, in 1990, Solovki started functioning again as the monastery.
AirPano panoramas will reveal to you the wonderful monuments of the Solovetsky Islands, reflecting all the stages of the turbulent history of Russia.
AirPano team would like to express gratitude to employees of the Solovetsky Museum-Reserve: Orel Maria Sergeevna, Lugovaya Marina Anatol'evna, Yakovleva Natalia Stepanovna and Mazilova Ekaterina Andreevna for help with organisation of shooting the Solovetsky Islands.
Photos by Stas Sedov, Natalia Sudets
2 January 2019