Day 96. 5th of June. No paddling. Waiting on weather in Rybreka.
We had found a good campsite yesterday and had decided to wait out the forecast 10 m/s winds.
At 0700 this morning we were more in doubt, conditions were OK. We decided to err on the cautious side, and by 12 o’clock it was clear that it was a minor error if any. Had we paddled out it would have been a short day. 10 m/s winds aren’t worth the effort to paddle against.
So we spent the day mostly waiting, and walking the part of Rybreka main Street we did not walk yesterday.
As far as we understand, Rybreka is probably the closest thing to a “capital” for the about 12 000 Vepser that exist today.
The Vepser is a people in the same linguistic group as Finns and Estlanders, but much less numerous.
They were mentioned by several travelers/chroniclers in the early middle ages. For example as part Aleksander Nevsky’s adversaries at the battle of Neva.
Then they more or less disappear out of sight until the late 19th century.
Their brief heyday with a tragic ending came after the Russian revolution. The early soviet regime promoted the national minorities of the Soviet Union, and for the first time the Vepser got their own written language (Latin alphabet), school books and schools.
In the late 1930ies the policy was reversed and forced assimilation into the Russian majority became the objective. The newly educated Vesp teachers were persecuted.
The tragedy didn’t end there. The river Svir and the western shore of Lake Onega were the frontline between Finnish/German troops and the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War.
We have paddled past numerous remains of German/Finnish defensive constructions along Svir and Onega.
Some of those may have been manned by Vepser, because a battalion of volunteers were formed among the Vepsers and joined to the Finnish army. Fighting alongside German and Finnish occupiers was punished without mercy after the war, and the forced assimilation policy continued.
Still today as one enters Rybreka from the south the name “Kalag'” is also signposted. That is the Vesp name of the village.
To us Norwegians out there, here’s one reflection we have made a couple of times as we have paddled through areas with a “rich” history : Next time we are abroad and say we are from Norway and someone makes a wild guess that Norway is the capital of Sweden ; let’s not be offended, but rather count our blessings. Being from somewhere uninteresting at the northernmost fringe of civilization has probably spared Norway a lot of suffering.
Tomorrow we will start on the last 90 km to Petrozavodsk, which we hope to finish in two legs. Weather Permitting.
We have gotten the unfortunate news from our friend Anya in Mandrogi that she and many of the other staff have catched a cold. They call it “Norwegian running nose”. Sorry for that friends, we wish you quick recovery!