Posted 12 октября 2020,, 11:22

Published 12 октября 2020,, 11:22

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

Solovki: life between a terrible past and an incomprehensible future

Solovki: life between a terrible past and an incomprehensible future

12 октября 2020, 11:22
Neither the state, nor civil society have come to a consensus on what Solovki is. Orthodox shrine? The Gulag Museum? A unique tourist and natural complex?.. Lack of an understandable concept of development and conservation of Solovki threatens to lose the originality of this unique place.

Lyudmila Butuzova

The Solovetsky archipelago is the largest on the White Sea. It includes six large islands and more than a hundred small islands, with a total area of about 350 sq. km .. Three and a half hundred square kilometers, covered with northern taiga, swamps and forest tundra. The village of Solovetsky occupies 306 hectares, (1% of the territory). The permanent population is 900 people. Who lives there and how?


The entire Solovetsky archipelago is part of the Solovetsky rural settlement of the Arkhangelsk region. Most of the island inhabitants were born on Solovki. Environmentalist Galina, who sent us an SOS signal to our editorial office, is one of them. The granddaughter of a political prisoner, daughter of the oldest Solovetsky tour guide. 35 years. I have been to the mainland several times in my entire life. “I defended my diploma, was in St. Petersburg at environmental forums,” she lists the most memorable events in her conversation with NI. - Oh, I also treated a tooth in Arkhangelsk. But don't think, we have a dental office, we just don't have a doctor. Not everyone can afford to go to the doctor - expensive long and expensive. For example, I waited for the plane for 7 days, the return ticket was 14 thousand, the tooth was restored for 3 thousand, well, all kinds of overhead costs - for a hotel, for food ... So it is better not to get sick and be treated with herbs. We all do that".

It is best to give birth, hurt or break legs during the season: only one doctor works at the local hospital, there are no narrow specialists, no tests are possible, there is an X-ray machine, but there is no radiologist. Several times a year, doctors from the mainland come to the island and receive Solovki residents. Aboriginal people go to solve serious health issues, for example, to Kem: they sail 50 km by sea and go 10 more to the city.

They have one school for the entire archipelago, one district school and seven months of minimal communication with the mainland. It is believed that she is not particularly needed here.

- We learn the news in the old fashioned way - on the bulletin board - either joking or seriously speaking Nadezhda, who manages tourism projects. - Local people are very patient, although I would not say that there is any special Solovetsky character, because there is no indigenous population here. But I think that the locals really love their land: you can only be here for great love.

Some of the inhabitants are monks. About 60 people permanently live in the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Solovetsky Monastery. They run their own economy, separate from the laity. Near the refectory they sell fresh pastries and monastery kvass. And they go to prayers to local shrines on foot for many kilometers. The workers remain on the farm. These are people who come to monastic farmsteads to work for the glory of God, and in return receive housing, food and spiritual guidance. To become a worker, you need a passport, a policy, the blessing of the monastery and discipline. Workers must not smoke and drink alcohol; they must observe the regime and attend services. Among the workers, there are often people with a complex history, and just as often there are stories about how faith, useful work and a simple way of life helped people change for the better, find new friends and even a life partner. Life is in full swing inside the monastery: volunteers scrape stone from red lichen, mow grass, builders put up scaffolding, workers carry construction materials: the restoration of the world cultural monument is going on permanently. According to the state program "Development of Culture and Tourism", the reconstruction of the monastery had to be completed by 2020, for which 6 billion rubles were allocated. Some of the money did not reach, and the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor's Office have been doing this since 2015. The locals do not like to discuss the "case of restorers".

The town-forming enterprises are the Solovetsky Monastery and the Museum-Reserve, and the whole life and source of income of the Solovites are concentrated around them. Archimandrite Porfiry is in charge of these various organizations. (“The Tsar, God and the military commander in Solovki,” our interlocutor described him, partly explaining why the inhabitants of the archipelago are afraid to speak openly about problems.) It is scary to quarrel and wash dirty linen in public - people have nowhere to leave, you can make money only in five months of the tourist season ... At this time, about 1 thousand more people arrive from the mainland to the island every year to work with tourists.

There are no paved roads on Solovki, the average vehicle speed does not exceed 10 km / h. There are no supermarkets, boutiques, fitness clubs, lounge cafes and barber shops, but there is a music school and a library. Cows are kept there and vegetable gardens are plowed. Grocery and souvenir shops are located in the central part of the village in the former barracks for prisoners of STON and ELEPHANT. Due to expensive transportation, prices for everything are much higher than in St. Petersburg and even Moscow. There are no cigarettes from the word at all. If the smoker has not made the necessary supply on the mainland, then there are two ways out - either look for a huckster and buy a pack of Belomor for 500 rubles, or smoke moss with dried seaweed. Cosmetics are also made from algae, which tourists are happy to buy and take home. No organic matter, all natural! For tourists, marmalade is also made from sea plants. They say it's delicious...

One of the main problems on the island is the lack of fuel. There are years when gasoline was sold for three hours a day, once a week, but no more than 26 liters per hand. This hinders the development of the tourism business, on which everything rests. “Oh, it’s better for you not to know how many legal and illegal actions we need to take to bring gasoline here,” said the driver of the tourist groove, whose name, he decided, we better not know either.

According to the unscientific observation of the locals, a normal working man is kept here for 55 days. Then he either starts drinking or leaves - and the latter are the majority.

- This is not a resort. Everyone who could not live has already left, - ecologist Galina says without emotion. - There are the most Solovki people left in spirit - who simply cannot live without this place, where time itself flows differently. And you will not understand it somehow slowly, or completely parallel streams. You see in the pictures - barracks, wooden terrible uncomfortable barracks, which in your world are a relic and a shameful fragment of the past... And on Solovki it is normal human habitation. Some barracks even have commemorative plaques - "women's barracks", "children's barracks", "barracks..." ...A harsh legacy of the never-ending past. Life in the Solovetsky settlement is extremely ascetic. And we take it for granted, which cannot be changed, cannot be “improved” for the sake of civilization. I have an apartment in such a barrack, recently the water supply was installed. The water in the tap is the color of weak tea, but in principle you can even drink it: it is clean, just colored with peat bogs. Heating is mainly stove, electricity is from a small diesel power plant. Nothing, we live - we don't complain. We also kindly remember those who built these barracks...

The administration of the Solovetsky district, the existing district office, the hospital and the pharmacy are located in the building of the former hospital. It was built in 1939 at the monastery cemetery. Gravestones were used for the foundation of this house, as well as the kindergarten and school.

“Everything here is on the bones, on ashes and decay”, - the historian and writer Yuri Kolodezny told Novye Izvestia. - 500 years of the archipelago - what do you want? So many historical layers. All my life I have been dealing with one bloody period, when for ten years the ELEPHANT contained from 3 to 72 thousand prisoners. It is known about 7.5 thousand killed and shot. People have learned not to think about it ... I understand everything ... There are magical places and absolutely fabulous taiga. Especially near the church on Sekirnaya Gora, the view is amazing and the selfies are first class. People came here for weddings ... So Sekirka is a punishment cell, from which almost no one returned. Opposite the altar of the church, in front of the observation deck, there is a place where prisoners were shot, this place is soaked in blood many meters down. And people go simply because they don't know. This is not indicated in any way, unless you specifically study history.

The past is closer than it seems, and closer than you want. It's hard to be here...


It has always been that way. This is what Yury Chebaniuk, a former Solovetsky guide, told the Vek magazine 20 years ago: “I remember the arrival of the USSR Supreme Soviet deputy, writer Leonid Leonov. In order to deliver him to Solovki, the steamer Lermontov was removed from regular flights. the connection of the islands with the Karelian coast: as a result, hundreds of tourists who came to us through Kem had to sweat in anticipation.For Leonov, a lunch was arranged on the ship, which is remembered as something incredible at that time: high-grade cognac, salmon, rich ear, crying with its own fat Solovetsky herring. "The singer of the Russian forest" drank, ate and praised. And since it fell to me to acquaint the writer with the past and present of the islands, in the end I asked him to speak out in defense of Solovki. "Well, what can I do, what? ! he answered with a tear in his voice. - I wrote an article in Pravda about the attitude to cultural heritage, they don't print like that! "So he left".

For 20 years, so many celebrities and so many defenders of cultural heritage have visited Solovki that even if you hang out the memorial, things in the archipelago are getting worse and worse, desperate residents write to NI. According to them, the village of Solovetsky has turned into a large-scale construction site devouring historical monuments and unique nature. The threat of exclusion of the archipelago from the World Heritage List, which hung over it in 2009-2010 in connection with insane construction plans, has reappeared today and, as the public fears, this time it will be realized. Officials and developers are successfully fulfilling their plans.

Let us remind you that Solovki received a high status in 1992 as “an outstanding monument, which is the apogee of Russian Orthodox fortitude and courage; an outstanding example of a monastery settlement in the harsh conditions of Northern Europe, which is an excellent example of the faith, determination and courage of the religious communities of the late Middle Ages".

Today the attitude towards the monument should be viewed through the prism of the Criminal Code. In any case, the Solovetsky airport deserves this in terms of the method of modernization, methods of construction work and complete disregard for the requirements of legislation on the protection of cultural heritage sites. At the same time, there is virtually no state control by the Ministry of Culture of Russia. The most valuable hydraulic and engineering structures are under the threat of destruction. The adopted design decisions without taking into account the opinion of qualified specialists threaten to subsequently flood the entire territory of the Solovetsky fortress, the historical road in the vicinity of the Solovetsky village turned out to be unrecognizable "plowed up" by construction equipment.

A section of the forest belt, which until recently was part of the protected landscape zone, was destroyed, but for the reconstruction of the airport it was deliberately reduced. Also at the end of last year, the government of the Arkhangelsk region canceled the protective zone of the Solovetsky monastery with an area of 130 hectares, established in 1973.

At present, the consequences of the concentration camp staying on Solovki quite recently are obvious, when the quality of the natural environment has significantly deteriorated, and the monastery economy has come to complete desolation. Many decades passed before the areas of extensive felling were overgrown with new forest, wetlands were partially restored, disturbed as a result of excessive drainage reclamation and peat extraction. Today the construction of an oil pipeline and a fuel receiving station is on the agenda! A state historical and cultural expertise has been prepared, the expert who signed it declares that there is no impact of engineering surveys on objects of the natural, cultural and archaeological heritage of the Solovetsky archipelago, despite the fact that the forests within the boundaries of the Solovetsky village are classified as valuable protective forests of historical significance with separate areas which are up to 400 years old. The pipeline route itself passes through residential buildings, crosses the Drinking Stream - a strategic facility, a source of drinking water supply. To the water intake - 50 meters, a strip of felling 50 meters will bare the village and destroy the landscape, destroy the perennial sites of the museum-reserve with red-book plants and an archaeological cultural layer.

According to a specialist of the local administration, the existing tanks with 3 thousand tons of fuel are still an unfinished facility, are operated in violation of the law near residential buildings, and with the construction of the oil pipeline, the volume of tanks is planned to be increased! In recent years, the issue of a more environmentally friendly solution to the energy problems of the Solovetsky Archipelago has been considered at various levels. Well, how was it viewed? From bottom to top and top to bottom they broadcast to each other that “something needs to be done”. Nothing has been done - it is expensive and sometimes troublesome. Man-made disasters like those that recently occurred in Norilsk and then in Kamchatka show how much more expensive and troublesome it will be to eliminate the consequences...


Solovki is one of the most attractive and visited tourist and pilgrimage routes. However, the unorganized flow and high recreational load pose a threat to the preservation of the natural environment, numerous monuments of history and culture, and the privacy necessary for conducting traditional monastic life is disturbed. Planing boats with a deafening roar rush between the islands when birds nest, groups of tourists land in places of nesting colonies, and picnics are arranged there; boats crash into clusters of beluga whales when their calves are born; poaching is expanding, all-terrain vehicles plow not only the soft soil of forest roads, but even drive through swamps and tundra. And no one cares that a lot of red-book plants grow here, and the flora of only higher plants has the largest collection on the island - more than 570 species...

In November 2015, an amendment to the general plan of the Rural Settlement Solovetskoye municipal district was presented at a public hearing, in which it was decided to increase the area of the village by 5.57 times - to 1701.4 hectares. A week before the start of the hearings in 2015, the Solovki administration received 9 negative reviews from specialists about this general plan and not a single positive one. At the meeting of residents, these reviews were not read, except for excerpts from the shortest. Despite this, out of 180 people present, 73 people voted against, 9 abstained, and mostly the inhabitants of the monastery and representatives of the administration voted for.

On November 7, 2017, it was supposed to accept the third adjustment of the general plan. It was not possible to find out whether these hearings took place on Solovki, nothing was announced in the newspapers, and there is no information in the publications of the local and regional administration. However, changes were made to the General Plan .. It turned out that the area occupied by the forest fund was reduced due to the territory occupied by a modern landfill, since construction is prohibited in this and the adjacent 500-meter zone, according to the principle: “We don’t need a landfill, but Let's take a clean forest”.

The main and most harmful thing in this regard is that the village of Solovetsky will consist not of one, as it is now, but of 16 (!) Plots scattered over the area of three islands. If in the 80s, protective and protected zones were drawn on the map of Solovki, now instead of them, certain sections of a ragged village are plotted.

- We tried to figure out who needs these barbaric "bites" from a single natural landscape complex of the Solovetsky archipelago, - local ecologists told "NI". - There is only one conclusion: all this is done in commercial interests, but not for the revival of monastic life. During the season, about 20 thousand tourists and about 10 thousand pilgrims visit Solovki. The general plan plans to reduce the population by 2023-2035 to 800 people, but at the same time (!) - an increase in the area of the village by almost 5 times. In total, about ten to fifteen monks and novices now live in all areas remote from the central village in the summer. The development of the activities of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Solovetsky Monastery according to the general plan is envisaged in places where there were deserts, hermitages, fishing grounds, fishing and hunting dunes of the historical monastery that existed until 1920. A few monks and novices worked or prayed there, sometimes laborers (ie volunteers) - 2-10 people, moreover, only in summer. Pilgrims of the pre-revolutionary monastery very rarely got there, the sketes were sometimes shown to honored guests, and no one outside went to the desert. These were places of solitude and extensive monastic nature management on small cultivated plots of 3-15 acres, surrounded by natural nature adapted to the minimum human presence. The general plan proposed to "revive" these former cultivated areas on areas from 7 to 80 hectares each (!), Cutting off forest areas that are dozens of times larger than historical areas. Note that the central ensemble of the monastery in the village. Solovetsky can receive hundreds of inhabitants, but there are many fewer of them even in summer. There is no such reality that monastic life would be “revived” in all 17 huge areas. Small towns with a population of 5-6 thousand people are located on such an area in Russia. Is such a "landing" expected of those wishing to be tonsured as monks, or, at the wave of someone's pointing finger, monastic life will come to the requested area of land? Unlike the current state form of land ownership, it will be possible to sell them, because lands of settlements can be in different forms of ownership. We think that not only the monastery can occupy them.

And now the imagination of Solovetsky residents draws pictures that until recently could only be imagined in a terrible dream - unique natural spaces will cross numerous roads to hotels, and the islands will meet ships not with a fabulous monastery emerging from the depths of the sea, but with boxes of new residential buildings. Quiet hermitages and deserts will have to be supplied with electric generators, antennas, new discharges will flow into the sea. The endless design of local waste disposal facilities, plans and concepts will begin. It is doubtful that the pilgrims of holy places are interested in this. It is obvious that the general layout of the archipelago is a purely commercial project.


“Perhaps the situation with the complete absence of protection of the Solovetsky archipelago will seem incredible to you”, - says Olga Krechetova, an environmentalist from Arkhangelsk, - Almost all guests who come to Solovki (tourists, pilgrims, business travelers, relatives and acquaintances of local residents) see maps of the archipelago, where at the top is written “Solovetsky Historical, Architectural and Natural Museum-Reserve” (SGIAPMZ) and note with satisfaction: “Well , here is a reserve, there is order on the territory. " Alas, they often have to be disappointed. On the maps, this is a museum-reserve - a protected area. It was created in 1974 as a new form of specially protected territory by a resolution of the Council of Ministers and the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions with a subsequent decision of the Arkhangelsk Council of Working People's Deputies. It included the entire territory of the archipelago and the adjacent 5-kilometer sea area. Four zones were envisaged in terms of the degree of protection: strict conservation, recreational, economic, and a zone of a protected marine area. Each zone has its own regime Now this huge work done is simply forgotten".

Nevertheless, the conservation status of the Solovetsky Archipelago has been supported by various, sometimes temporary, decisions over the past 55 years, and its necessity is discussed almost constantly, since the optimal form of management for this most valuable territory has not yet been found. In 2018, the former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev gave a direct order to classify the Solovetsky Archipelago as a significant religious and historical site, to provide a comprehensive protection status, to establish requirements for conducting economic activities and regulate construction. A highly professional team of scientists and specialists from various fields was involved in the work on the project - culturologists, ecologists, archaeologists, dendrologists and hydrologists, art historians and architects, priests and specialists in marine heritage, many of whom devoted most of their lives to the study and preservation of Solovki. The result of two years of work was a comprehensive project to preserve the entire diversity of the Solovetsky Archipelago. As a result, the project, completely ready for approval, "hung". The state customer for unknown reasons refused to accept and approve the project documentation developed for budgetary funds. This situation has been going on for more than half a year, and all this time the Solovki, as before, remain defenseless.

One can once again complain about the inaction of the authorities, remind them that the indifference of officials leads to an irreplaceable loss of the unique integrity of the Solovki, damaging the authority of Russia at the world level. But now it is already obvious that it is not a matter of indifference of individual officials. This is a state policy of indifference to its cultural and historical heritage. The intention to give the Solovki the status of a landmark was nothing more than a camouflage shield for the Russian and international scientific community. At the same time, over the course of several years, the foundation was being prepared for the implementation of large construction projects in the Solovetsky Archipelago. For this, changes were consistently made to the Forestry Regulations of the Solovetsky forestry of the Arkhangelsk region, the general plan of the rural settlement of Solovetskoye was redrawn, the protection zones of the monastery were reduced and historical landscapes were destroyed.

Whose evil will "presses" over Solovki? What will be the outcome of another attempt to preserve everything that has been created here by nature and man for millennia? Questions remain open; threats to the preservation of the unique heritage of the Solovetsky Archipelago are increasing.

“If we leave everything as it is and do not take immediate measures to prevent the tragedy, there will be no stone unturned from the national heritage of our country. Everything will go from hand to hand and into the pockets of the current organizers of the archipelago”, - a distress signal is breaking through from Solovki.

Here's what is strange. Simple inhabitants of the island ask for help, on whom little depends. Mikult, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment are silent, the departments of Patriarch Kirill and the presidential administration are imperturbable, as if we are talking about redistribution, felling and development of an ordinary village, and not about a unique complex of historical, cultural, natural and spiritual heritage, which has no analogues not only in Russia, but also in the world! The SOS signal must be heard. It must not be allowed that in life Another tragic page appeared in the Solovetsky archipelago.