THE BIGGEST NATIONAL PARK IN EUROPE
The first territory in Russia included in the UNESCO World Heritage List is “Yugyd Va” (“Light Water”). The park is located in the Nether-Polar and Northern Urals. Its area is 18,941.33 km2. Relict taiga ― “Virgin Komi Forests”.
The park was founded in 1995. About 600 plants are under protection, 47 of them are rare, 6 species are protected by the Red Data Book. 43 species of animals and 19 those of birds are listed in the Komi Red Data Book. The unique eco-system of the national park rescues endangered species ― sable and northern pika ― and glacial relics of especially valuable fish species ― Salvelinus and Arctic grayling.
Yugyd Va is a treasury of natural monuments. Manaraga (Bear Paw) is the queen of the Urals. Tourists from all over the world take pictures of these mountains topped with snow. Mount Narodnaya is the highest peak in the Ural mountains. Its height is 1,895 meters above sea level.
Mysterious beauty and mysticism of mountain lakes, alpine meadows, crystal caves is truly fascinating. The writer Sergey Alekseev chose the Urals as the heart of events in his fascinating saga “Treasures of the Valkyries”, a Slavic-inspired fantasy.
The national park is open for research, for sports tourism, for creative people. The pristine nature is especially protected from the aggression of civilization.
THE CLEANEST “LUNGS” OF EUROPE
The Virgin Komi Forests are the largest primary forests in Europe and Asia. The area ― 3.28 million hectares ― has been under UNESCO protection since 1995. It is a virgin land.
The unique forest is recognized as a natural phenomenon throughout the world. A masterpiece of the Holocene not made by human hands. The unique beauty of the relict tundra, the greatness of the northern taiga, and the purest streams create an intricate mosaic of the Virgin Komi Forests.
The eco-system of the natural monument excites scientists, inspires photographers, attracts tourists by a fantastic combination of flora and fauna.
Here you can see the natural processes without human intervention. A hidden corner of our planet. Wildlife just the way it is. Here the flora border between Europe and Siberia passes, making the Komi forests a truly unique creation of nature.
THE CLEANEST NORTHERN RIVER OF EUROPE
1,809 km long, the Pechora is also the longest river in Europe. It has its rise on the slopes of the Northern Urals, at the heart of the Stone Belt ridge. More than 80 rivers and 34,500 streams flow into it. 60,000 lakes are in its basin. The total area of the river with its tributaries is 322,000 km2. The mouth of the river is in the Pechora Bay of the Barents Sea.
The Pechora is a river with an attitude. It abruptly changes its direction. Rising in the Ural Mountains, the Pechora cuts the centuries-old silence of the taiga and continues its journey north along the endless tundra of the Arctic Circle. Toponymy from the Slavic "Cave" ― Pechora.
The Pechora is a snow-fed river. Pure waters of the Pechora River were spawning areas for valuable fish species: Arctic cisco, sardine cisco, salmon, nelma, Arctic char, broad whitefish, grayling, whitefish, peled. Fishing tours are popular with tourists coming to the Komi Republic. The most delicious сherinyan (fish pie) is baked with fish from the Pechora.
The fish fauna balance is constantly monitored, regular fish stocking is conducted by aquatic farmers of the Komi Republic. The Pechora basin has natural and geological reserves. The health of the Pechora River is an important factor in the climatic well-being of the Russian North. In the second half of the 20th century, the Pechora River could fall a victim to human recklessness. The crystal clear water of the northern beauty was planned to be turned south for the agricultural benefits of the planned economy. The story is vividly reflected in “The Turn of Rivers. Stop the Apocalypse” by Vitaly Yakushev.
MIRACLE OF RUSSIA ― ROCK FORMATIONS
The Manpupuner geological monument is located in the Pechora-Ilych Reserve. This is a cult object of the Mansi people. It is shrouded with legends and superstitions. Gigantic stones 30-42 meters high ― a place of attraction for tourists in the Urals.
Man-pupu-ner can be translated from the Mansi dialect as "a small mountain of idols ". A legend has it that giants abducted the daughter of the tribal leader. The shaman turned them into stone by spell power. According to another version, the brother of the abducted girl directed a ray of sunshine reflected in the shield at the shaman-kidnapper. The sun power turned the shaman and his warriors into stone idols.
In the scientific context, these are weathering pillars formed by the natural processes. The Ural Mountains were formed 350 million years ago and consisted of sedimentary and volcanic rocks. Wind and water have created this monument for millions of years. Loose rocks broke, and quartz slates became bizarre pillars.
Nature is a talented sculptor. In the outline of 7 pillars, you can see profiles of people, animals, objects and incomprehensible images. Such a bizarre outline gave impetus to legends, myths, fairy tales and superstitions. Some people believe that stone idols are a work of human or even aliens as stone giants make such a strong impression on them.
There are several ways to get to the Man-Pupu-ner plateau. Since the plateau is in a remote and inaccessible place, hiking requires physical training.
KOMI TRACE ON THE ROOF OF THE WINTER PALACE
Annually, million tourists visit the architectural ensemble of the Winter Palace. But the iron forged by the craftsmen of the Kazhim plant in the Koygorodok Volost is still on the roof of the baroque masterpiece of the Elizabeth time.
These were during the reign of Elizabeth. Following in the footsteps of her father, the Empress paid special attention to the development of industry in the Urals. At the same time, merchants discovered a swamp ore deposit on the Kazhim River in the Koygorodok Volost. The merchant Ivan Kurochkin easily received imperial permission to build a factory. They built the factory where serfs worked.
The craftsmanship of Kazhim casters was noted in St. Petersburg. In 1761, the plant was tasked to produce “350 poods of black roofing iron to cover the Kamennomost casting bed in St. Petersburg, white tinned iron to provide 1,315 army flasks, 263 sheets of tinned iron (arshin-sized -Russian unit of length equal to 28 inches) on both sides to cover the Winter Palace.
The residence of the Romanovs still stands under the roof made by Komi masters.
The Kazhim plant complex with a blast furnace, a management building, a dam and a church is historical and cultural heritage of Russia.
EUROPE'S BIGGEST RESERVE
The Pechora-Ilych Biosphere Reserve covering 721,300 ha was founded in 1930 in the Northern Urals. The Manpupuner, one of the seven wonders of Russia, is located here. Most of the reserve is the “Virgin Komi Forests” ― a UNESCO conservation site.
The reserve was established to preserve the sable population. In the early 20th century, the European North was a unique habitat for the sable. Now the reserve has become a protective zone for 49 rare animals, more than 200 species of birds and 17 species of fish. Many of them were put on the Red List. Here, in Yaksha, the world's first moose farm was opened.
The reserve received biosphere status in 1985, since the reference natural zones were preserved. These zones, as an example of the fine organization of ecosystems of northern forests, are a harmonious balance of flora and fauna of the climatic zone without human intervention. International scientific expeditions under the auspices of UNESCO are regular guests here.
The landscapes of the reserve are striking in their diversity. They are pristine. The Komi relict thick forests, the keepers of groundwater ― swamps, crystal-clear water bodies create a unique natural ecosystem that cannot be artificially created. The Timan Ridge will reveal the cosmic beauty of the mountain tundra: polar meadows, rock overhang, bewitching caves, mountain rivers with a bad temper. Here are the geological monuments: Iordansky Log, Ledyanaya and Kaninskaya Caves, water monument "The Headwaters of the Pechora River".
THE MOST ANCIENT MAN SITE IN THE NORTH
Mamontovaya Kurya, an archaeological site, is 38,000-34,000 years old. The archaeological finds radically changed the theoretical principles of the scientific community concerning human life in the Arctic. The discovery did not answer, but posed even more questions.
Who is an ancient inhabitant of the Arctic: Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon? Artifacts prove: the north of Europe during the Late Stone Age and Upper Paleolithic was inhabited and quite suitable for life.
Sensational findings have changed the fundamental knowledge of science. Previously, archaeologists managed to find evidence of 36,000-34,000 aged Europe.
At the moment, Mamontovaya Kurya is the northernmost archeological monument in the world.
BYZOVAYA AND KRUTAYA GORA SITES
Paleolithic sites at the latitude of 65 ° N in the Pechora valley was discovered in 1961 by geologist E. Timofeev. The unique finds were located only 175 km south of the Arctic Circle.
The Byzovaya Site preserved traces of the dwelling with the mammoth bones used as a building material. Several thousand remains are bones of a deer, a bear, a muskox. And yet 99% of the bones are remains of mammoths. Everyday objects and hunting tools of an ancient man are made of local stone rocks. The inventory is in stark contrast to that in the Urals. It is akin to artifacts from the south of the Russian Plain, namely from the excavations of Kostenki I. According to carbon analysis, it dates from the age of 18-19,000 years.
The Krutaya Gora area was a surprise to scientists. Two sites of Neanderthals of different periods were found there. The first occupation layer bore similarities to the Byzovaya Site. The age of the finds is the same ― the Late Paleolithic ― about 20,000 years.
At a depth of 9.5 meters, another occupation layer of an earlier period was discovered. V. Kanivets, an archaeologist from Syktyvkar, made a description of a primitive tool of the Neanderthal man, whose age is about 50-60,000 years.
LARGEST MAN SITE IN THE NORTH URALS
The Medvezhya Cave area (Bear Cave area) is an archaeological and natural monument of the Pechora-Ilych Reserve. In 1960, B. Guslitser, an archaeologist of the Komi branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, discovered a cave with traces of the Neanderthal.
The site of an ancient man from the Early Paleolithic ― about 20,000 years ago. The arched entrance is in the rock of the starboard side of Iordansky Log. The corridors are 480 meters long, up to 3 meters high.
"Kitchen stuff", an accumulation of animal bones of the Paleolithic, was discovered in the cave. Unlike Byzovaya and Mamontovaya Kurya Sites, where the mammoth bones accounted for 99% of all finds, the ancient man of the Medvezhya Cave was less engaged in the mammoth hunting, the mammoth bones were no more than 10-15% of all the remains.
GARDEN OF STONES ON THE BANK OF THE IZHMA
An ordinary river beach. But... what is this? Stone balls of regular spherical shape. A mysterious landscape near the village of Maloe Galovo in the Izhma District.
This unique creation of nature boggles the imagination. The beauty and harmony of boulders fascinates travelers so much that they believe the traditions and legends of stone balls.
Locals consider them healing. Old-timers often sit or lie on stone balls. Round boulders saturated with sun energy relieve low back and joint pain. Izhma Komi call them "galfedsa izyas". According to a local legend, there was once a considerable cash shortage, worth quite a long term in prison, was revealed in a convenience store. It has brought disgrace on the seller. Deseprate, he wrote a death note on a stone ball telling that he was innocent. He tried to take his own life but the shortage suddenly vanished as though washed away by a river wave. There is also a popular belief that washed clothes put on stones dry faster. They won’t be overdried and absorb the energy of the balls. Illness and trouble recede. People do believe silent round boulders.
The stones are perfectly round, 1-4 meters in diameter. There are cracked stones disclosing a bizarre core pattern covered with a spherical shell. The stones are reddish-brown with a charming miniature inside created by nature over millions of years. They are interspersed with shells, remains of bones, fragments of rocks.
The age of the balls in Maloe Galovo is no more than 2 million years. Scientists call the natural spheres grown by nature ‘concretion’ which is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'. New stone boulders continue to grow in the strata underground until the river exposes them.
THE ONLY OIL FIELD IN RUSSIA
The world's first underground oil production method was employed in 1934. The oil field in Yarega is still operating.
Its history began in 1932 when resin-rich oil with unique properties ― an anomalous high viscosity was discovered near Yarega. Pumping was difficult, expensive, unprofitable. However, the Yarega oil is especially valuable for the production of high quality asphalt.
Engineers of Ukhta found an innovative solution. The development of productive strata made it possible to drill short wells, then collect "heavy oil" and lift it up. Mining engineering has moved forward. In 1968, the thermal method of mining was tested. Since 1972, it has already been used in three mines. Oil recovery has increased by 50-70%.
The oil found in the Zyrian lands was first mentioned in the 16th century. The sovereign servants of Ivan the Terrible reported of black liquid, which the locals used as ointments for medicinal purposes. The Tsar decreed to bring him oil from the Ukhta River in a crystal bowl. In 1692, Nicolaes Witsen, a Dutch businessman and politician, mentioned the Ukha oil in his book “North and East Tartary”.
THE FIRST OIL REFINERY AND THE FIRST NORTH OIL WELL
Fedor Pryadunov, the Archangelgorod merchant and ore producer, obtained permission to produce oil and set up the first oil refinery in the oil field within easy reach of Vodny near the Ukhta River. In 1748, oil from the Ukhta River was brought to Moscow. The Komi black gold left its mark in the history of industry of the Russian Empire.
The Ukhta oil was of strategic importance in Russia’s fate during the Great Patriotic War. In 1941, Hitler's forces cut off oil production and processing for the needs of the Soviet Army in the Caucasus. Ukhta became an alternative to the oil fields in Grozny and Maykop laid in ruins. The jobs of men who went off to war were occupied by women and teenagers so that oil distillation necessary for war efforts did not stop. That is how the victory was forged by the labor heroism of the Soviet people.
Streets of beautiful Ukhta were named after people who left their great marks in the history of the Russian oil industry. The Oil and Gas Museum carefully preserved the history of Russian oil in the European North of Russia.
THE LONGEST AVENUE OF EUROPE
Oktyabrsky Avenue extends for 18 kilometers across Syktyvkar. The city highway is the youngest and longest in Europe. According to the decree of Catherine the Great, the settlement of Ust-Sysola was granted the city status in 1780. In the same year, the city acquired its coat of arms. There were only three streets in the strict sense, but there were many small settlements. It was such a typical provincial town.
In 1921, the Komi Autonomous Republic was established. The city became an industrial and scientific capital. Here is the story behind the avenue. In 1961, Michurin Street was divided into two parts with one facing towards Ezhva named after Gagarin. That year the street was rapidly expanding. In 1977, at the intersection of Kommunisticheskaya and Gagarin Streets, the Labor Glory Monument, an architectural landmark of Syktyvkar, was erected. At that time, Gagarin Street was transformed into Oktyabrsky Avenue reaching Nizhny Chova.
New buildings are springing up all over modern Syktyvkar. In 2010, Oktyabrsky Avenue was significantly expanded with its length reaching 9.4 km. Now the avenue ends exactly on the outskirts of Ezhva.
A small part of Michurin Street is still preserved. It can be easily found on a map on the site of the Syktyvkar Mechanical Plant.
FOOTPRINT STONE OR STONE OF STEPHEN OF PERM
The mysterious boulder of Ezholta keeps a secret trail. Old-timers believe that this is the footprint of Stephen of Perm, who sailed on a stone along the river to baptize the Vym Chudes.
A stone surrounded by an aura of inexplicable secrets lies on the outskirts of the village of Ezholta in the Ust-Vym District. The descendants of the legendary Chudes tell that Stephen of Perm sailed on this stone across the water to convert the Komi people to Christianity. This dates back to the 14th century. Local legend has it that the Holy Spirit and the Power of Faith made the stone lighter than water. But the mystery is just beginning.
No one knows how the whole stone looks like. A large piece of the stone is below ground. Digging it up is not possible. At the dawn of the Soviet regime, the brave Komsomol guys decided to remove the stone in the fight against “opium for the people”. But they couldn’t budge it either using horses or tractors. The only thing they could do was to cut down the cross that stood by the stone.
The footprint stone is considered healing. Pilgrims and locals put a sore spot to the stone, so that an ailment recedes. A hollow in the center of the stone accumulates water. The water is believed to cure eye diseases. For some reason, the stone is considered to be feminine treating gynecological diseases.
In autumn, on Ivan’s Day, a special prayer service with a procession is held. The pilgrims scrape the stone, collecting powder for its healing properties.
Another amazing property of the stone is to keep warm. The temperature of the stone is higher than that of the environment. However, there are no radiation, magnetic, gravitational anomalies.
THE LARGEST FISH PIE IN RUSSIA
Do you know that the Komi fish pie ― ‘cherinyan’ ― is a figurative memory of mammoths? Or why does a horned pike carry mammoths on its back?
Fishing is the main industry on the Pechora, and the village of Byzovaya is no exception. It is here that the vast grave of mammoths is located. The ancient Komi didn’t see mammoths, but they found tusks, bones near the rivers. Tusks were considered horns, by analogy with deer. The northern peoples believed that the other world was connected with water, and since tusks and horns were found near the river, a mysterious creature was in the water kingdom. The mammoth was thought to create water on earth. A stream or a river flows where it steps. A lake is there where it stands. So, the creature was a fish and certainly a pike.
Over the centuries, the ingenuous logic of the northerners linked together the images of a mammoth and a fish. Above all, the Komi do like fishing. Fish pies were sacred. They are everywhere. You can try cherinyan both during wedding and funeral ceremonies. Even during a church wedding, a bride secretly put a fish pie in her bosom, and then ate it with her groom. The fish pie was a symbol of rebirth.
On the first Sunday of July, the Pechora Komi celebrated the the day of fish pie ― Cherinyan Gazh. The holiday has its own logo ― an encrypted myth of the horned pike. Horns shaped as a network of water arteries of the Pechora Nurse River. A mammoth family "tramples" new rivers, lakes, where many fish will be found on the back of a pike. The structure of the fish pie is in the abdomen of the horned pike. Only a good housewife will decipher a recipe for the magic pie.
The largest fish pie was baked during one of these holidays. It was 10.5 meters long, 25 cm wide. The giant pie from Ust-Kozhva is listed in the Russian Book of Records.
THE LARGEST SWAMP IN EUROPE
Swamps both frighten and fascinate locals. Glows from the swamps are shrouded in mystical superstitions. The croaking and champing quagmire is shelter for evil spirits and other evil creatures.
Swamps have gained notoriety. According to fairy tales, legends and traditions, these are the kingdom of evil spirits. People tried to avoid them. Berry pickers frightened by bloodcurdling mysterious sounds are forced to go around in a circle. No one has a good word to say for the swamps.
But swamps are the keepers of pure fresh water. They are natural filters of the water arteries of northern streams, rivers, lakes. Swamps are oxygen producers. Even forests and meadows are inferior to them in this. Swamplands absorbing dust are called ‘natural vacuum cleaners’ by scientists.
Rare species of lichens, orchids, mosses are also about swamps. 7.7% of the Komi territory is under the swamps. 112 swamps are protected, 16 of those are of particular scientific value. The Okean swamp reserve spreads over two districts ― Izhma and Ust-Tsilma. It covers 178,000 ha.
UST-TSILMA INVITES YOU TO TAKE PART IN KRASNAYA GORKA
Ust-Tsilma ― the land of the Old Believers ― the center of ethnographic tourism. Descendants of the Novgorod people who did not recognize the church reform of Nikon live here. Authentic traditions, ceremonies, folklore are preserved. The splendor of medieval Russia is reflected in a kaleidoscope of Krasnaya Gorka festivities held on July 7-12.
Krasnaya Gorka celebrations start on Kupala Night on July 7. The holiday is preceded by a dressing rite. A women's costume is passed from grandmother to granddaughter, while small children wear a replica, a small copy of this clothing. A grandmother hands down a real costume to a girl upon reaching her the age of majority.
Young people hold the first Gorka in the morning. It has its own canons of festive pictures including round dances and ritual songs. In the middle of the day the second Gorka is held by the married Ust-Tsilma women. Bolshaya Gorka takes place in the evening with young and old people participated in the performance of the seven main figures of the ritual.
Participants precisely reproduce all the scenes of the ancestors’ festive ceremony as is customary. Locals have started learning 17 song plots in the Old Russian language since childhood. Everything has been preserved as it was 480 years ago. This festive action attracts ethnographers and folklorists from around the world like a magnet.
Petrovschina is celebrated on the night of July 11-12. Families gather on the site of the first Ust-Tsilma settlement, cook millet porridge and commemorate the dead. This night the boundaries between the ancestors of the other world and the successors is erased. The energy of the tribes protects the living and gives strength to posterity.
YB, A TOURIST MECCA
Yb lies on seven hills along the bank of the Sysola River. The legendary Chudes lived here. The tribal warriors joined Oleg during the siege of Constantinople of 860. They were first mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years in 859.
Yb (Komi for “hill”) includes 13 villages, stretching 15 km along the Sysola River. It was first mentioned in graphic symbols dated back to 7095 AM (1586 N.S.).
The history of the settlement is associated with the Komi baptist Stephen of Perm living in the 14th century. The Yba pagan birch escaped the fate of the one in Ust-Vym and still stands contrary to all laws of biology as the age limit of the birch is 150 years. The wonder-working birch fulfills your wish.
The surrounding area is full of healing powers. The juniper lake, sacred springs have been natural healers for many centuries. Water from three sources both cures and works miracles.
The Sysola bank is also a water park of ancient reptiles. The river washes the fragments of teeth and bones of plesiosaurs up the bank. 165 million years ago, there was a sea here. The Jurassic finds are not uncommon here. The Devil's Finger is particularly popular. These remains of ancient mollusks are used for medicinal purposes, instead of sulfanilamide. The bactericidal, wound healing properties of Gul Chunya have not yet been replaced by any modern medicine. Scrape the devil's finger and sprinkle powder over the wound and the cut or burn will heal faster without leaving keloid scars.
UST-VYM ― COMMANDING TOWN
This is the place where Stephen of Perm baptized the pagan Chudes. The history of the Komi Christianization originates here.
In 1380, Stephen of Perm sailed into the taiga northern region bringing the light of the Word of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit. He had been cutting down the "Mischievous Birch", the pagan temple, for three days, before he set it on fire. This fact survived in the Komi fairy tales and in the legends about Stephen of Perm. The Church of the Archangel Michael was erected on the site of the destroyed pagan sanctuary.
In 1937, the Annunciation and Ascension Church were blown up. The Michael the Archangel Church has survived, since it housed the dining room of the Ust-VymLag distribution center. Marshal Rokossovsky, writers Lev Razgon and Galina Serebryakova, conductor Dmitry Karayanidi were among the camp’s prisoners.
There is a monastery here today. On the site of the destroyed Ascension Church, a chapel with the relics of three saints ― Gerasim, Pitirim and Jonah ― was erected in the 1990s. Miracle relics are known far beyond Russia. The holy water well, which is more than 150 years old, is also famous. The water helps get rid of alcohol and drug addiction.
THE WORLD’S OLDEST SKI
Yirkapa’s ski, an exhibit of the National Museum, is nearly 8,000 years old. It was found on the shore of Lake Sindor.
In the mid-20th century, the expedition of G. Burov discovered 17 ancient settlements. Unique artefacts were found in peat beds at a depth of less than a meter. They include Yirkapa’s ski. It got its name from the legend of the Komi hunter.
The Hermitage specialists have dated the find the 6th century BC. Due to exquisite workmanship of restorers the fragment was returned to the republic in 2010 and has pride of place in the exhibition of the National Museum.
The nose of the ski is decorated with a carved moose head, which served as a brake. The moose is a sacred animal for the Komi people. The ski is made of pine.