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Testament of Kenozero Lake

Date of Submission: 11/04/2014
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Archangelskaya oblast, Kenozero National Park
Coordinates: N 62 E38
Ref.: 5922

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The National Reserve of Kenozero takes the territory of a hilly glacifluvial plain with many lakes and other diverse glacial forms of landscape. Due to geological conditions, the plain forms a specific uplift surrounded by vast wetlands and taiga forests. This fact induces a relative isolation and a high patchiness of the landscape.

These mentioned peculiarities justify the exceptional attractiveness of this place for numerous peasant settlements inclined to limnic landscapes, as well as a highly developed communal farming system with its typical harmonious balance of forest industrial lands, pasturable lealands, and campestral agricultural lands. The settling system took shape in the X II-XV I centuries and generally persists unchanged until nowadays. Historical plans and buildings, typical country estate organization and traditional country houses with their painted frontages, carved balconies, fenestral architraves, traditional inner decorations and housing facilities are preserved in settlements. Nearby almost each village are located wooden chapels, most of which are genuine masterpieces of Russian wooden art of building, as well as sacred groves, i.e. local territories of primary forest until now worshipped by indigenous people.

Picturesque lakesides with their fanciful shapes, various creeks and islands, silhouettes of wooden chapels and holy groves, ancient small villages, fluvioglacical hills and boulder fields represent masterpieces of beauty of the European North and, at the same time, vividly bear witness the Ice Age of geological history of this land.

The Kenozero National Park was created over here in 1991. It includes a system of lakes, the biggest of which are Kenozero and Lekshmosero. The security arrangement established for the territory of the national park involves suitable regulations in order to maintain traditional natural resources management and preserve historical and cultural monuments. All this comes under the range of its primary targets. Starting from 2004 the National Park is attributable to biospheric reserves of UNESCO.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Peasant cultural landscape of Kenozero with its monuments of wooden architecture has reasons to be included in the World Heritage list as an outstanding example of the Northern European peasant cultural landscape formed in the XII-XVI centuries which preserved on its territory cultural traditions and archaic or relic forms of folk art and nature management. One can see here harmonious fusion of ancient rural settlements with a traditional for Russian North system of agricultural lands, which reflects the practice of communal farming existing for many centuries and individual characteristics of trade and agricultural household way of life. There are unique

wooden temples (including architectural ensemble of St. George Church built in the XVIII century in Fedorovskaya village and ensemble of a bell tower and two temples of the XVIII century - hip Church of Christ's Precious wood and Church of John the Baptist in Filippovskaya village) as well as 35 chapels built in XV III-X IX centuries, over 30 worship and holy crosses, 49 “sacred” groves, 52 monuments of archeology.

Cult monuments have distinct interior decoration - painted heavens - chapel vaults with ample paintings on biblical topics (17 of them are preserved). Many chapels are situated in “sacred” groves - islets of particularly worshiped woods, which remained since paganism. Many holy crosses are also there. Such high density of “sacred” groves and chapels makes Kenozero a unique region with no analogues on the territory of Russia or other countries. Kenozero is a peculiar cultural area representing an exceptional value as a phenomenon of live culture as well, expressed in traditional know ledge, skills, notions, nature of preservation of cultural monuments, technologies of house-building and home adorning, life organization and features of festive culture. This is one of the main regions where Russian mythopoetics is formed. This form of art preserved ancient legends of Kyivska Rus, which was stated by leading Russian ethnographers as early as in the mid-XIX century and became the legacy of world folklore and profoundly influenced culture of Russian Northern regions.

Criterion (iii): A peasant archaic landscape of outstanding com position and preservation, a place where exists a vivid relic peasant culture with its unique material evidence, namely a very rare assembly of chapels decorated with paintings of «heavens» and «holy groves», unique monuments of national temple architecture, traditions of house building and household.

Criterion (iv): An outstanding example of cultural medieval landscape illustrating one of the most crucial historical periods of the development of Russian North during the colonization of Novgorod, which started in the XVI century and which has determined its definitive landscape.

Criterion (v): An outstanding example of cultural landscape of Russian North which has been formed as a result o f a combination of a traditional land-tenure, as well as an economy based on fishing and agriculture with a traditional system of peasant settlements preserved from the XVI century. This settlement is vulnerable because of modern social and economic process.

Criterion (vi): One of the key centres of Russian epic arts that has enriched the global folkloristics. A place with preserved spiritual practices and means of sacralization of the environment.

Criterion (vii): An outstanding example of a hominized nature of Russian North, where national architectural forms and the mosaic of traditional agricultural lands reinforce lyrical accents of Russian landscape. Fanciful outlines of gulfs and the diversity of big and small water surfaces create a picture, astonishing for its color palette and its pattern picture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of the peasant cultural landscape of Kenozer is confirmed by documents and material evidences of preservation of settlings from the XVI century, but also by evidences of heritage of country structures and landscape, by the authenticity of temples' and chapels' architecture (most of them were built in 18-19 centuries and till today they preserve their historical face), by national traditions of house building and nature management, by wide spreading of traditions of careful attitude toward holy groves, sacral trees and stones. These traditions are preserved from the times of heathenism.

The integrity of cultural landscape of Kenozer is guaranteed by the fact that in the borders of the national park (140 000 hectares) there is a whole set of elements, which let imagine the course and results of evolution of the north Russian peasant landscape, formed in the process of developing and interaction with nature of Kenozer based on harmonious combination of historical system of settling with traditional agricultural, forest and water land.

Comparison with other similar properties

The peasant cultural landscape of Kenozer does not have any analogue in the list of the World Heritage List. Besides Russia, agriculture in taiga zone is possible only in Canada and Scandinavian countries, but on these latitudes neither Canada nor Scandinavian countries do not have any direct analogue. In particular, the landscape Grand Pre in Canada on the coast of the gulf Frandy in Atlantic shows an agricultural form of culture founded by akadites in the XVII century, having fundamentally distinct forms of manifestation. Another example of this is the agricultural landscape of south Eldan in Sweden, created on the island on an elevated limestone plateau, and which has preserved original medieval forms of farmer trade and settling. But it is not a direct analogue of Kenozer. It is a totally different socio-cultural type of organization of the environment in a different climate and natural conditions. The combination of little-changed nature of Northern forest limnic landscapes with Russian traditional agriculture has created a unique and, at the same time, a well preserved till our times cultural and natural landscape complex. It represents a harmonious combination of natural, ethnographical and architectural heritage, which continues to exist in a traditional historical and natural environment with living bearers of traditional culture who determine the development of this territorial complex.