Karelia – a forested land of breathtaking views

RT presents Russia’s Republic of Karelia. While it offers many tourist attractions, RT takes a close look at the most prosperous and growing business in the region – the timber industry.

Six million cubic meters of wood is cut down in Karelia's forests every year, which are then used to make everything from farmhouses to firewood.

Chief financial officer at Solomensky Timber Mill Ramil Fatykhov recalls building the Karelia mill.

“When building this facility, we wanted to use advanced technology that would increase efficiency and allow us not to use manual labor. Also, this provides for better-quality goods. As a result, we were able to conquer Western markets. The demand for Karelian birch wood is high. Since our production line is quite efficient, we are able to offer high wages to our employees,” Fatykhov says.

Karelia's wood exports are large, but not all of it goes abroad.

Meanwhile, on the museum island of Kizhy, traditional methods are used to build and maintain churches and dwellings dating back hundreds of years.

“What is challenging is that wood is a nondurable material, and while replacing some wooden parts, we want to preserve it as much as we can. We have to follow restoration rules and do our best to keep the balance between the old and new materials, as well as preserving the structure’s strength after the restoration. It is hard to choose which parts are to be replaced, and which should be preserved,” restorer Andrey Kovatchuk says.

As a result Kizhy Island is one of Karelia's prime tourist attractions.

Karelia’s wood usage doesn’t just involve timber and museums. At the Varyag (“Viking”) boat-makers, Karelian wood is fashioned into vessels new and old. They range from small private boats to replicas used in the historical TV series “Hornblower”.

“My boats are all special. They are like children to me. We have to design them and build them from scratch. It is always sad when we have to part ways, every time they sail away while we remain at the dock,” Varyag boat-maker’s director Pavel Martiukov says.

Pavel gets much of his timber from Karelia, saying customers pine for its high quality wood.

Whatever the reason for felling tress in Karelia, due to its proximity to Europe and the Baltic, the republic’s big forests mean big business.

Local wood marketer Anastasia Goncharova sees the main advantage of Karelia in its location.

“As you know, Karelia is located very conveniently, in the geographical sense. We have Finland at our border; Scandinavia and Europe are at hand. It is very convenient to deliver goods to any country our customers wish,” Goncharova told RT.

Watch the interview with Goncharova

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