To the north-west of the Leningrad region, to the Finnish border, people usually travel along the dangerous, but conditionally fast "Scandinavia" highway. Few will decide without any particular reason, having overcome Sestroretsk and Zelenogorsk, which make up the Kurortny district of St. Petersburg, to go along the winding Primorskoe highway. This curved and narrow road is fully consistent with its name: like the Dzhubga - Sochi highway, it does not move away from the sea for more than a couple of kilometers, and sometimes comes close to it. It leads to the south-west of the Vyborg region - a protected part of the Karelian Isthmus, where the Gulf of Finland is most similar to the sea. And if the Kurortny district of St. Petersburg is difficult to perceive as a resort, rather as an elite suburb, then this is probably the best place in the Leningrad region to organize a semblance of a seaside vacation. In the covid summer of the 20th when uncertainty and limitations balanced the thirst for travel, we tried it. Of course, after seeing a couple of local cities, which I would like to talk about. The first of them is called Primorsk. And since it is more than modest in size, but has at the same time picturesque natural surroundings, then part of the report will be devoted to them too.
1. Primorsk is a city of one attraction. If not the church of St. Mary Magdalene, tourists would probably hardly have been brought here. Nevertheless, thanks to this building, unusual for our country, guests come here.
2. It was built in 1903 in the style of Finnish romanticism by the architect Josef Stenbeck. We have already met another church of his work on the Karelian Isthmus - in Zelenogorsk. This one is larger and is considered one of the most striking buildings of Finnish origin in the Leningrad Region. Before the war, the large windows of the church were decorated with biblical stained glass windows. Tsar Nicholas II donated a lot of money for its construction.
3. Like almost all settlements of the Karelian Isthmus, Primorsk has a Finnish name - Koivisto. The history of Primorsk as a whole is similar to the history of this entire unusual microregion. In posts about Vyborg, I have already crucified on this topic: once upon a time - the lands of the Karelians and Novgorodians, then - the seizure of the Orthodox by Sweden and the expulsion of the Orthodox, the forcible catholicization and settlement by the Finns, who later formed a separate subethnos of the Ingrian people. Attempts of Novgorodians to regain the isthmus, which only Peter the Great could crown with success.
4. Two hundred years of tranquility in the empire and a "gift" of the isthmus of Finland, which at the time the latter was part of Russia was similar to the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine. Then the revolution, a couple of decades as part of independent Suomi and the final return only after the Winter War. Often, sources, including Russian-language ones, cut off the entire part of history until 1939, which makes it look as if Stalin had bluntly chopped off a piece of Finland. Primorsk, however, in this whole story, unlike Vyborg or Priozersk, plays a rather modest role. Until the 20th century, there was only a small village here.
5. In view of this "circumcision" of history, as a rule, only the modern (read - Soviet) and Finnish name of the city is heard. And besides, many settlements of the Karelian Isthmus also have old Russian and Swedish names. Primorsk also has these - Berezovskoe and Bjorkyo.
6. After the restructuring by the Finns, a sculpture "Sail and Cross" was installed near the church, which should symbolize friendship between the Russian and Finnish peoples, and also remind of all those who died in the Winter War:
7. At the end of 2019, another memorial was opened here to please the neighboring country - at the burial site of Finnish soldiers. The slab reads "the fallen heroes of Koivisto." These are the "heroes", let me remind you, who fought on the side of Hitler against the USSR and actively participated in the blockade of Leningrad. The public's reaction was not long in coming - in six months this monument had already been at least doused with paint. I usually maintain a neutral position, but here the zeal of those who have approved the installation of this memorial here, to please "Western partners" is puzzling. There is only one monument and it is already there ("sail and cross"). And he keeps the memory not of our soldiers, but of their enemies, what kind of politeness do not breed. Then they would stop constantly groaning on TV that our military memorials in the west are being demolished, otherwise some kind of dissonance turns out ...
8. Another "Finnish" attraction of Primorsk - a pier, built of huge cobblestones. Located a hundred meters from the church:
9. The pier is good both in itself and as a place from where picturesque views of the city and the bay open:
10. A couple of kilometers from the city limits is one of the largest commercial ports in Russia. The main specialization is oil loading. He is the main employer for this small town and its environs, thanks to which Primorsk lives and looks better than most of the similar in size cities of the Leningrad region and Russia. The port itself is located in a secluded bay, and it is not particularly visible. Only large ships in the roadstead give out the proximity of the port:
11. Primorsk is located on the shores of the narrow and deep Björkösund Strait, which has retained its name, as you can see, from Swedish times. On the one hand, it is protected from the winds and enemies from the open Gulf of Finland by a large archipelago of the Birch Islands (Björkö and Berezovoe, as you remember, are the same thing, in Swedish and in Russian, respectively). On the other hand, the Björkösund Strait is one of the deepest places in the Gulf of Finland, which is very convenient for the approach and mooring of large ships.
12. Another famous attraction of Primorsk is connected with the depth of the strait - the berth "Glass" (or "bank"), where the world's first nuclear icebreaker "Lenin" was tested at one time. Here was one of the few places near Leningrad where a unique ship, produced at the Admiralty shipyards, could come ashore. Then it was tied with a chain to that very massive "bank" and was given full speed in order to check the power. The bank is still in place, and tourists love to drive up to it and be impressed by the man-made structure. On our trip in July 2020, however, it was one of two serious losses incurred due to coronavirus restrictions. The fact is that formally it is located on the territory of the recreation center, and usually no one interferes with the passage to the "Bank". But this time it was closed due to covid.
13. On the territory of the recreation center, however, we accidentally climbed. Despite the serious fence and gate from the side of the road, it is not closed from the shore. In search of a view of the "bank" we found ourselves among the panel houses. We could, of course, have already reached the end, but I, as a rule, am not inclined to such adventures, and we hastened to leave the closed territory.
14. Apart from the church, the mall and the bank, there are no bright sights in Primorsk. And the city itself is tiny. The center consists of two and a half streets, built up with silicate high-rise buildings, and not too extensive private sector:
15. Primorsk is moderately well-equipped, especially considering that the city is of regional subordination, subordinate (the regional center here is Vyborg). You won't see broken roads and much devastation here. The streets are lined with neat sidewalks, lawns and tiled footpaths. The presence of a large operating enterprise (port) affects:
16. Apples hang directly above the footpath in the very center:
17. Monument to the Hero of the USSR N.M. Lebedev. During the landing operation to liberate the city and the strait in 1944, he commanded one of the boats that accompanied the landing. When his boat caught fire, he died, covering the departure of the team:
18. A small square along the main thoroughfare of the city, Lebedev Embankment, was turned into Victory Park. In the center of the composition are anti-aircraft guns from an armored boat recently raised from the bottom of the bay, which sank in the same 1944:
19. Flowerbeds with military symbols:
20. Monument to the military sailors of the Baltic Fleet:
21. Memorial at the mass grave of Soviet soldiers and sailors:
22. Fountain with a sculpture of a frog:
24. A five-story building with an unusual design for a Muscovite. Another 30 years, and local history studies will be carried out in shades and details of Khrushchev:
25. In addition to the church and the pier, in theory, mostly unremarkable wooden houses should have remained from the Finnish period.
26. Most of them from our barracks and huts without
27. Some of this is Finnish, something of ours.
28. And something, for example, was built by the Finns, but still in the imperial period.
29. Also, apparently, a Finnish building:
31. A working Lutheran church - in a wooden house, near the old stone church, where the local history museum is located:
32. The Orthodox Church of the New Martyrs, built in 2010, is no longer in the center. On the main street, but closer to the entrance from St. Petersburg:
33. There is a railway station on the outskirts. This is a fairly deaf, non-electrified, with a few exceptions, the Zelenogorsk - Vyborg line, built at the end of the Russian Empire. It duplicates the Helsinki-Vyborg highway and, due to its low traffic capacity, is at risk of being completely forgotten. The views even from the platform are so far from civilization that one might think that we are in some taiga:
34. It is all the more surprising that for such a line, passenger traffic is more or less vigorous. Two (and three on weekends) pairs of commuters a day, including direct to St. Petersburg, which part of the way runs along electrified lines. Even the Moscow region does not allow itself this. In order to get, say, from Moscow to Lakes or Ryazanovka, you have to change seats. The station here was destroyed during the war and was never rebuilt. The sign, schedule and ticket office were placed in a nearby residential building. Also, by the way, Finnish, one of the few Finnish stone buildings in Primorsk.
35. At the very edge of the city, you can find another curious little church. At first glance, everything is simple here - the church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the mid-90s at the cemetery. But if you dig deeper, we find out that this is a rebuilt Lutheran cemetery chapel:
36. The city of Primorsk is extremely small and compact, and, it would seem, there is nothing special to see here. But since we dealt with it so quickly, the rest of the time can be devoted to its surroundings. No wonder he is Primorsk - there is really the sea around. Not that the ocean is straight, but not the "Marquis puddle" either:
37. The old Primorskoe highway leads from St. Petersburg to Vyborg is extremely long and inconvenient. It winds and jumps, going around, it seems, every pine tree that gets in its way. Few people will go on it in order to get there faster. But here for enjoying the views, stopping in mushroom and berry places, turning to bays and beaches, or to drive up to a few villages near the bay, this is the most:
38. We passed a small part of this highway, within the formal boundaries of St. Petersburg, in January 2018. Then we examined Zelenogorsk and Sestroretsk - sort of resort towns that are part of the northern capital. But almost immediately after the sign "Leningrad Oblast" the character of the road and its surroundings changed. If in the Kurortny district of St. Petersburg near the Gulf of Finland there are quite densely stuck all sorts of recreation centers and sanatoriums, which, however, officially cannot be bathed in for decades, then the places here are poorly developed. Along the road there is a wilderness of a wilderness, like the Tver region, although from the former imperial capital some tens of kilometers. Among the less and less common recreation centers, there are many abandoned ones.
39. But the beaches here are larger, cleaner and wider. Not all are as overgrown as a couple of frames above. Swimming here in the sea is not accepted, the water is considered dirty and dangerous. They swim near St. Petersburg more often in numerous small lakes. But we, Muscovites, who have served three months in isolation and have access only to all sorts of Vodniki and Serebryanye Bory, which look much dirtier and more vicious, do not care. Sea means sea. Cool, uncrowded, with clear water, soft sand and black stains on it, as if from fuel oil; no gobies, broken glass and used hygiene and contraceptive products. They didn't dare to swim here, but just walking in the water (fortunately, you can go for a kilometer to the waist) is a pleasure.
40. A panel on the wall of a house of culture in the large village of Ermilovo, where Primorskoye highway is divided into a long detour through Primorsk and a short road towards Vyborg. We were pleased to note that right in the summer of the 20th recreation center, they were in full reconstruction, although it would seem that it was a rather remote rural place:
41. A picturesque modern chapel on the territory of one of the recreation centers:
The Karelian Isthmus is an incredibly beautiful, interesting place with a rich and ambiguous history, and partly strange. The coastal part of the Vyborg district is doubly special. Not many people, frankly speaking, in our country live on the sea coast. And here there are only two modest towns on the shore, and Primorsk is also the largest of them. The surrounding forests abound in mushrooms and berries, which, despite the proximity of St. Petersburg, do not have time to collect. And even in the city center there are purely sea views, sounds and smells. The second town, Vysotsk, has the same set of qualities, but a somewhat richer history and modest size. Both cities are slowly examined in half a day, which we took advantage of. About Vysotsk - next time.