The White Sea-Baltic Canal connects Lake Onega and the White Sea. Description, photos and construction history.
For a long time, people thought about constructing a waterway between the White Sea and Lake Onega. This would significantly reduce the travel time and the cost of transporting goods, since it would not be necessary to bypass Scandinavia through the Barentsevo, Norwegian, Northern and Baltic Seas.
The first projects of such a canal appeared in the 19th century but were not fulfilled, probably due to economic reasons. Indeed, this region was (and still is) sparsely populated and Murman railroad built in 1916 could facilitate cargo traffic.
It was 1931 when by the decision of the Council of Labor and Defense of the USSR and personally by Joseph Stalin the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal began. Despite the absence of any significant mechanization of labor, the canal was built in one year and nine months, which is fast for a system of complex hydraulic structures, including 19 locks. The Canal was opened on August 2, 1933.
The total length of the canal is 227 km, of which 48 km are manmade, the rest of the path goes along rivers and lakes, the largest of which is Lake Vygozero.
At the construction site, labor of prisoners was widely used, including those sentenced for political “crimes”. The exact number of people who died during the construction of the canal is still unknown.
According to some researchers, the quality of work was low, and the canal itself turned out to be quite shallow. This did not allow using it by heavy vessels. There is a theory that the main purpose of the construction was the transportation of military ships, in particular submarines, from the Baltic Sea to the White and Barents Seas.
During the WWII, many canal structures were destroyed. After the war, the canal was modernized several times, which allowed it to increase its transport capacity.
In the area of Povenets you can see the first canal locks. Photographing, however, is prohibited.
An unusual church of St. Nicholas is located near the 2nd lock. It is built of concrete in the style of traditional northern wooden churches.
Not far from Povenets town there is a place in the forest named “Sandermokh”. In the midst of the Stalin’s repressions in 1930s, thousands of prisoners were executed and buried there. Now “Sandarmokh” is a memorial cemetery.
The exhibition of the regional museum of the town of Medvezhyegorsk contains exhibits dedicated to the history of the canal.
In the area of the city of Belomorsk, you can see the last, 18th and 19th locks of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. At the 19th lock there is a bow cross. The exhibition of Belomorsk Museum of Local Lore has documents on the history of the canal.
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