World Heritage could be limited for tourists

Thousands of tourists are visiting Solovki annually. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russian church demands special status for two of the main tourist attractions in Barents Russia, Solovki and Valaam archipelagos.


The official representative of Moscow Patriarchy, Vsevolod Chaplin, announced that the Russian Church and the Federal Ministry of regional development are working together on giving a special historical and religious status to the islands of Solovki in the White Sea and Valaam on the lake Ladoga. 

Both islands are famous for their old monasteries which are among the main tourists attractions in the Northwest Russia. Chaplin says to Interfax that it is necessary to make serious changes in the Russian legislation in order to protect the special way of life and inner atmosphere of such places. 

Mass tourism, construction of amusement establishments or arrangement of noisy political and cultural actions contradict to this lifestyle. Vsevolod Chaplin stressed that in this issue the church finds more and more understanding with the Russian authorities. However these intentions could seem opposite to the intentions of regional authorities to intensify tourists flows to the main destinations in the Russian north and to make tourism a serious part of regional and local development. 

Solovki is situated in the White sea and is a part of Arkhangelsk oblast. It is famous by the monastery established in 15th century and a number of historical and architectural monuments. The complex of Solovki Kremlin was included to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992. Solovki is also well-known for the old ages archaeological monuments like stone labyrinths and pagan sanctuaries and as a place where the fist camp of Soviet GULAG system was established in 1923. 

Annually, some 30 to 40,000 tourists are visiting Solovki, including many foreign cruise vessels. 

Valaam island is situated in the northern part of lake Ladoga in Karelia. The monastery was founded in the end of 14th century, but some experts argue that its early history goes back to 11th century. The number of tourists visiting this place annually is over 100,000.

In addition to Solovki and Valaam, some ten other religious places in Russia are on the Ortodox church’s list of destinations that should get special status for religious protection, according to Izvestia that quotes nun Ksenia (Chernega). She is a lawyer with the Moscow Patriarchate.

“The status of religious and historical place will mean the protection of the spiritual heritage, the preservation and protection of the special way of life in the monasteries. This means that in the area, even tourists, will not be allowed to build and open entertainment or hold noisy arrangements. Access to the sites for tourists must be agreed with the monasteries,” nun Ksenia says.

She points to Mount Athos in Greece as an example of a holy place where a maximum of 110 daily visitors are allowed.