The two old White Carelian villages, Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi, are located in the Southeast part of the Suomussalmi municipality, just next to the Russian boarder, 75 km from the Suomussalmi Center. The boarder runs across the Lake Hietajärvi, dividing the lake between two countries. The distance between the villages is only about 3 km. Due to the closeness of the boarder and the certain restrictions that come along with it, some special exemptions have been given to the villagers.
The origin of the Hietajärvi and Kuivajärvi Villages
There is quite a lot of information available on the origin of Hietajärvi and Kuivajärvi settlements. However, the exact time of establishment of the villages is not known since the information from different sources are in contradiction.
The ancestor of the Huovinen family line in Hietajärvi and Kuivajärvi is believed to be a man called Lari Huovinen. In the late 18th century, he fled from the Russian Carelia to Finland to avoid recruition to the army and joining the wars. His original name was Tament Sikov. In Finland, Tament worked as a farmhand for the peasants. The peasants called him Lauri and mockingly as “Huovinen” which comes from the word huovi meaning soldier. Thus he gained the name of Lauri Huovinen. When working in one of the houses, he met a girl called Daria and married her. Lauri and Daria moved to the shore of Lake Kuivajärvi and became settlers in Kuivajärvi.
The language that was spoken in these villages, Carelian (karjala), is not a dialect but its own language. It differs from the Finnish language so much that those unable to speak Carelian have great difficulties in understanding the language. The language has had influences from the Finnish as well as the Russian language. Now with the genuine Carelian slowly disappearing, the influence can be seen more clearly. The future of the Carelian language does not look bright, with one of the crucial reasons being the mocking of the Carelian refugees and their language earlier on by the Finnish. The Carelian language has been ashamed of to this day and the elderly Carelians do not understand why their language is suddenly valued.
Carelians are considered to be a cheerful and lively people. Also immoderate hospitality is a distinct feature as well as sincerity, politeness and uncompromising cleanliness.
Religion and the Orthodox faith have been traditionally a very important part of the Carelians’ lives. Religion is a way of life, the norms and the highest authority. There are many aspects to the Orthodox faith with the colorful icons in the churches, music, incense and fasting. It was even believed that illness or other hardship were punishments by God.
One of the main attractions in Kuivajärvi is the small and beautiful Orthodox chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. The present chapel is the third one in the village. The first one, build in 19th century, was ruined when hit by lightning. Another chapel was built in the 1930’s but was destroyed on the last days of the Winter War. The present chapel was build in 1958.
The White Carelians were quite musical. Instruments such as the Finnish zither, violin and even combs were played. Special mourning chants were performed in weddings, funerals, cemeteries and when meeting friends or when going away. The chanting and playing reflected all the feelings and situations in life. When the boarder closed between Finland and Russia, the Carelian mourning chanters communicated with each other across the boarder by chanting. The boarder guards assumed that the chanters were calling for their cows and did not understand it was an boarder offense.
The villages of Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi are known for their rich cuisine which differs from the traditional food culture. The Carelian women were very skilled in making various different traditional pies and other foods.
Relationship with the Nature
White Carelians have always had a tight bond with the nature and have respected it as such. Hunting and fishing have been the main livelyhoods along with farming. Especially fishing has had a great significance due to the nearby lakes. Both men and women went fishing and especially fishing with a seine was popular but also hooks and nets were used. A few houses together formed a seine collective.
Praasniekka, a White Carelian festival, is a significant summer event in Kuivajärvi. In the past, in every Carelian village had a “Praasniekka” festival dedicated to some saint. St. Nicholas is the saint of the Kuivajärvi festival. The festival is a combination of a religious festival and a folk festival. Nowadays the festival program consists of a evening service at the eve of the festival, a memorial service in the cemetery island or in the Kuikkaniemi cemetery. A liturgy and a cross procession with the sanctification of water are also part of the festival. Furthermore the festival is composed of folk dance and music, folklore, speaches, presentations etc. In the evening of the festival there is also a dance stage, where everyone can join in.
The villages today
Today there are about 20 inhabitants, mostly elderly people, in the villages of Hietajärvi and Kuivajärvi. Hired jobs are available only in Domna House (Domnan Pirtti) and in the Boarder Guards station in where the work force is from outside of the villages. Approximately 5000-10000 tourists visit these villages annually.
In the Kuivajärvi – Hietajärvi area is established the first cultural landscape area in Finland.
Domnan Pirtti (Domna House)
Domnan Pirtti represents the old Carelian architecture. The impressive house is built as built in 1963 as a memorial to the rune singers of Russian Karelia, especially Domna Huovinen, is a tribute to a nation that drew spiritual strength from nature and the Orthodox faith.
An 8 km long Saarisuo Nature Path, part of the Eastern Boarder Hiking Trail, is also located in Kuivajärvi.
Guided tours to Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi are organized at request.