Second World War brought devastation to the Viena villages and the
majority of the inhabitants were evacuated. Everyone who could returned,
but rarely could entire families return to their home village. After
the wars, schools provided pupils with Finnish instruction so that
the children whose language skills had suffered during the period
of evacuation would regain their linguistic competence. As of 1956,
however, school instruction was given in Russian. This meant that
even in the 1960s, the majority of the pupils beginning their studies
failed to understand their lessons. After all, Karelian remained
a home language in the homes where both parents spoke the language.
In the 1970s, however, the impact of the language law forbidding
the use of any other language than Russian in kindergarten began
to have an impact. At this time, Karelian began to lose its status
as a home dialect among young children.
In the 1980s, and even today, many Viena families use two languages
at home. The most typical practice is that the parents speak Karelian
together; and even though they speak Karelian to their children,
the children respond in Russian. In other words, the mother tongue
has become a language of which Viena children have only a passive
knowledge.This would hardly have occurred had the inhabitants of
these small villages been allowed to continue their lives as they
had done for centuries.
After the wars, the small villages that had come back to life were
purposely deserted in the 1960s and 1970s. The village collective
farms were terminated and in their place was established - in the
folklore villages area - the Uhtua sovkhoz, or state farm.
Its centre was in Uhtua and the brigades were located in Vuokkiniemi
and Vuonninen. The other villages were destroyed. Villagers had
no choice but to leave their homes. To ensure that no one would
remain the authorities discontinued all public services, that is,
schools, stores, post offices, libraries, bakeries were all closed.
In addition, people were paid to move their houses out of the villages
were two purposes behind the liquidation of the villages. The first
purpose was to establish efficient agricultural units to ensure
that the Soviet Union would catch up with the United States in agricultural
production. The second was to shrink the gap between the living
standards of the rural and urban dwellers by concentrating the populations
near services. The shadow of the Cold War was also behind this practice.
Having the inhabitants of the border district villages in concentrated
areas facilitated easier supervision. The entire Kalevala Region
was thus a frontier zone - and therefore inaccessible. State supervision
was far-reaching. In fact, after the Winter War, no one was allowed
to move to Tsena Village because of rumours of espionage. Furthermore,
Akonlahti Village was ruthlessly destroyed even before the so-called
official liquidation policy was implemented.
Among others, Latvajärvi, Kivijärvi, Venehjärvi,
Ponkalahti, Pirttilahti, Tollonjoki, Alajärvi, Enonsuu, Jyvöälahti
and Haikola lost their status as villages during the 1960s and 1970s.
Even right after the war, villages such as Kostamus, Kontokki, Luusalmi,
Sompajärvi, Vuokinsalmi, Niskajärvi, Saarijärvi,
and Lonkka were deserted. In a matter of a few decades, villages
that once had had valuable cultural and historical pasts were wiped
off the map. The villages were not completely left to revert to
forest, however, because in the summers the hayfields were cut for
the livestock at the state farm and parts of the villages were used
for pasture lands. This explains why some houses were spared in
The administrative changes did little to increase food production
in the northwest corner of the Soviet Union. In fact, the Kalevala
Region soon began to slide into a state of underdevelopment. In
the past, the village collective farms had managed to provide their
livestock - and even the livestock of their labourers - with winter
feed. After the reforms, they were forced to transport hay to Uhtua
all the way from the Ukraine.
Initially, even the Viena population was convinced that the decision
to turn Kostomuksha into a mining town would solve the economic
problems of the Kalevala Region. Unfortunately, the town hailed
as the new Sampo in official speeches soon turned out to be a disappointment.
While Moscow prospered, the Kalevala Region suffered. Instead of
bringing wealth to region, the results were pollution and an overwhelming
number of migrants. In fact, the newcomers soon outnumbered locals
by two to one. Not only were the newcomers indifferent to local
traditions, they showed little respect for them.
Soon after the construction work began, Kostomuksha was separated
from the Kalevala Region to form an independent administrative area
and then it absorbed Vuokkiniemi and its nearby villages into its
principal food production area. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian management
was dissatisfied with the level of production at the Vuokkiniemi
state farm. Thus, plans were made to tear down the entire village,
and, replace it with a Baltic-style dairy farm complete with production
buildings and dwellings built of bricks and a geometrical plan.
The workers for this top production unit would also be brought from
elsewhere and Vuokkiniemi inhabitants would have been relocated
to live in cities.
this stage, in 1989, the Revitalising Project of the Viena Karelian
Folklore Villages was initiated. The project's original purpose
was to preserve Vuokkiniemi, but was soon expanded to include other
deserted and significant folklore villages by returning their former
inhabitants and descendants to live there. The first plans were
made with Santeri Lesonen, who was then chairman of the Vuokkiniemi
village council and Markku Nieminen, a Finnish writer. Initially,
support for the plan was acquired from the Karelian cultural sphere
and later higher officials also got involved. Reintroducing private
farming, finding commercial uses for surviving handicraft traditions
and organising international cultural tourism were all regarded
as effective ways to revitalise the villages.
When the plans were being formulated, private ownership was unheard
of in the Soviet Union, which was then still politically intact.
There was no official border station between Finland and the Soviet
Union and no tourists had ever visited Viena. Moreover, the folklore
villages were situated in the so-called closed zone, a place restricted
even to Soviet citizens unless granted a special permit.
Nevertheless, the plans were set in motion. Accordingly, the Kajaani
Agricultural Institute began to provide agricultural training for
those people in Vuokkiniemi with families to support and a desire
to return to their home villages; in the province of Oulu a collection
of agricultural machinery was organised, which yielded a tractor
for every future farmer in the programme; land transfers were granted
to private farmers - for the first time in the history of the Soviet
Union; and, since 1991, cultural tours of the folklore villages
have been given regularly.
To support the revitalisation efforts, the Revitalising Project
of the Viena Karelian Folklore Villages was established as an
international project involving The Arhippa Perttunen Foundation
and the Juminkeko Foundation. Initially, a large-scale investigation
was undertaken to assess what had to be done and then detailed plans
were made. The plans covered language preservation, protection of
the cultural milieu by the restoration and construction of historical
buildings, electrification of the villages and road construction.
In the year 1993, the Revitalising Project of the Karelian Folklore
Villages was recognised by UNESCO as an activity of World Decade
for Cultural Development. In 1996, one of the folklore villages,
Paanajärvi, which was bound for destruction because of the power
plant, was, thanks to the application made by the Juminkeko recognised
on the list of 100 endangered cultural sites by the World Monuments
Watch during 1996 to 1997 and again during 1998 to 2001.