The Spiritual Memory of Russia's North: the Solovetsky Islands (Video)

An exploration of the complex history of this place that reflects Russia's variously pagan, Orthodox and communist heritage

The Solovetsky Islands, or Solovki, are one of the most energy-charged places on the Russian map. The archipelago, lost in the midst of the freezing White Sea, has witnessed the country’s history in all its manifestations. The fates of hundreds of thousands of people are intertwined in the mysterious stone labyrinths, the ancient monastery and the Gulag camp.

The paradox of Solovki lies in the harmonious contradictions of the place. In ancient times the Sami people held religious ceremonies on the islands. Then they sheltered monks who put their heart and soul into creating a life for themselves, despite the conditions. Later, the islands became the last refuge for thousands of prisoners from the Solovki prison camp. Now it’s a huge open-air museum.

Time cannot erase these pictures of history, which continue to live and be felt on Solovki. The juxtaposition of pagan monuments, monastic sanctity and the unimaginable brutality of camp life, in union with diametrically opposed phenomena, is what creates the unique appeal of Solovki," stated director Pavel Inzhelevsky, sharing his impressions.

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