Founded in 1703, Petrozavodsk is an important centre of culture and industry in the North-West of Russia.

Brief history of Petrozavodsk

At the beginning of the 18th century, on the site of the current city there was a flour mill on the banks of the Lososinka River, and there lived a lone miller.

Expeditions of the Сhamber of mines found deposits of iron and copper ore and determined that Lososinka was suitable for constructing a dam on it to power water forges and other water-operating mechanisms. At the beginning of September 1703, the foundry was founded at the mouth of Lososinka, named Petrovsky. The foundry produced cannons, cannon balls, rifles, pistols, swords and other munition and equipment to fight the Northern War with Sweden. Along with the foundry, a small settlement appeared, called Petrovskaya Sloboda. Peter the Great was here in 1719, 1720, 1722 and 1724, on his way to Marcial Waters for treatment.

After the victory in the Northern War in 1721 and the death of the emperor in 1725, weapons production was moved to Sestroretsk and the Urals, and the Petrovsky factories closed.

Half a century later, in connection with the wars between Russia and Turkey and unrest at the Urals, the government of Catherine II decided to resume cannon production.

The first cannons at the new cannon foundry, called Aleksandrovsky, were cast in 1774. Among the first bosses of the foundry was Charles Gascoigne, a prominent British industrialist. Under his supervision Gascoigne the latest technology achievements were introduced and the percentage of defects in the production of guns decreased significantly.

On March 21, 1777, Catherine II ordered to give the settlement the status of a city:

“In the Olonets region, the Petrozavodsk settlement will be renamed a city, calling it Petrozavodsk...”

In 1913, the city's population was 16,200 people. With the construction of the Murmansk Railway in 1916, the number of residents began to grow and in 1939 reached 69,723 people.

From October 2, 1941 to June 28, 1944, the city was occupied by Finland.

Until the 20s of the 20th century, Petrozavodsk was a provincial city in the Olonets Province, then the administrative center of Soviet territorial entities. Now the city is the capital of the Republic of Karelia with a population of about 240,000 people.

Petrozavodsk streets, squares and sights

Let us list some notable places in the historical center of the city.

Lenin Avenue

The main street of the city is Lenin Avenue, until 1918 – Borodinskaya street. The avenue stretches from the railway station to Onega Lake embankment. It contains residential and administrative buildings, restaurants, cafes and shops.
• Train Station. Build in 1955 in the style of late neoclassicism, Petrozavodsk vokzal is decorated with columns of the Corinthian order and a 17-meter spire.
• Former children's clinic, also known as the “Kareldrev” trust building. The two-story wooden building was constructed in 1935 in the Northern Art Nouveau style.
• Pobeda cinema, a Soviet classicism building of 1950.
• Trust "Karelles". A wooden building from the late 20s in the Art Nouveau style.
• Hotel "Severnaya". Built in 1939 in the spirit of constructivism, it was heavily damaged during the Second World War. Restored in 1948 in the traditions of neoclassicism.
• Catholic church (1904).

Lenin (Round) Square

Constructed in 1775 in the tradition of Russian classicism, buildings on the Round Square are the oldest ones in the city:

• “Governor's House”, now the National Museum. At various times, governors and vice-governors of the Olonets province lived and worked there.
• Government building, now the Ministry of Culture. Public offices, the district court, and the apartment of the governor general were located here. The bronze lions at the entrance were cast at the Alexander Factory in 1858 in honour of the arrival of Emperor Alexander II.
• Lenin monument. Erected in 1933 on the site of the monument to Peter I, the granite statue of the Soviet leader is dressed in a winter coat and holds a winter hat in his hand.
• Memorial complex “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the Eternal Flame”. Made of Shoksha red quartzite and gabbro-diabase, opened in 1969.

Karl Marx Avenue and Kirov (Cathedral) Square

Karl Marx Avenue stretches along the Lososinka River and connects Lenin and Kirov squares.

At its intersection of Karl Marx Avenue with Dzerzhinsky Street, there is a small English Square and a monument to Charles Gascoigne, erected in 2021.

The historical name of Kirov Square is Sobornaya (Cathedral), because the Svyatodukhovsky (1872), Resurrection (1800) and Peter and Paul (1711) cathedrals were located there, as well as the monument to Emperor Alexander II the Liberator (1885). The monument and the cathedrals were destroyed under the rule of the bolsheviks in 1920-1930s.
The Cathedral Square of Petrozavodsk in the early XX century
Nowadays you can see the buildings of three theaters, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boys’ gymnasium), the Kantele House (Girls’ gymnasium), the Kizhi Museum office building, the monument to Sergey Kirov and the “City of Military Glory” stela.

• Boys’ gymnasium. Built in 1790 in the classical style, from 1811 to 1918 it housed the Olonets Provincial Boys’ Gymnasium, and since 1960 - the Museum of Fine Arts.
• Girls’ gymnasium (1856). From 1861 to 1918, the building hosted Mariinsky Girls’ Gymnasium. Nowadays the Kantele ensemble has their headquarters in this Renaissance/Neoclassical building.
• Musical Theater. This pompous building was erected in 1955 in the spirit of late neoclassicism, with the columns of the Corinthian order, bas-reliefs, and gilded sculptures of dancing women and children, typical for the late Stalinist architecture.

Onega Lake embankment

Going down from Kirov Square to Lake Onega, one will found the monument to Peter the Great. Dedicated to the bicentenary of the Emperor’s birth, it was erected in 1873 on Round Square, where Lenin now stands.

On the granite embankment of Lake Onega one can find gifts from the sister cities of Petrozavodsk, including unusual sculptural compositions made by modern architects from Duluth (USA), Varkaus (Finland), Umeå (Sweden), Mo and Rana (Norway), Neubrandenburg and Tübingen ( Germany), La Rochelle (France).

Between the building of the Cosmos Petrozavodsk Hotel and the mouth of the Neglinka River a so-called Historical Quarter is located, where one can see several interesting wooden buildings of the 19th-20th centuries.

Ducks and other waterfowl can be spotted at the mouth of the Neglinka River.

Petrozavodsk museums

The city has a number of museums, including:

• National Museum of the Republic of Karelia;
• Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Karelia;
• Exhibition hall of the Kizhi Museum-Reserve;
• Repository of the Kizhi Museum-Reserve;
• Children's Museum Center of the Kizhi Museum-Reserve;
• Art gallery "Doll's House";
• Geology of the Precambrian Museum;
• Gallery of industrial history of Petrozavodsk;
• Maritime Museum "Polar Odyssey";
• Shop/museum "Shungite Center".

National Museum of the Republic of Karelia

The museum is situated in the historical building in the centre of the city. Its exhibitions are devoted to nature, archaeology, history, folklore and ethnography of Karelia.

Address: Lenin Square, 1. Working hours (subject to change): from Tuesday till Sunday 10:00-18:00. Closed – Monday.

Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Karelia

The museum's exhibition includes works of Russian art of the 18th - early 20th centuries, decorative and applied arts, domestic art of the 20th century, ancient Russian art and art of Karelia of the 20th century. Among the exhibits, there are paintings by famous Russian artists, including I. Shishkin, I. Levitan, I. Aivazovsky and V. Polenov. The latter graduated from the Olonets Boys’ Gymnasium in 1863, located in this very building.

There is a special exhibit displaying the art of Kalevala, the famous Karelian-Finnish epos.

The museum hosts an important collection of Russian icons of the XV-XIX centuries. Among its highlights is the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk (early XVI century), taken from the village of Kinerma.

Address: Karl Marx Avenue, 8. Working hours (subject to change): Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 10:00-18:00, Thursday 12:00-20:00. Closed – Monday.

Art gallery “Doll House”

Artist Tatyana Kalinina created this small private museum in 1999. The basis of the exhibition is a collection of designer dolls – mermaids, kikimoras, house spirits and other fairy tales’ characters.

Address: La Rochelle Embankment, 13. Working hours (subject to change): from Monday till Saturday 12:00-17:00. Closed – Sunday.

Questions & Answers

How long does it take to get to Petrozavodsk by car from Finland and St. Petersburg?

Getting by car from Helsinki in Finland to Petrozavodsk in Russia takes about 12-14 hours (distance ~730 km). .

Getting by car from Joensuu in Finland to Petrozavodsk takes about 6-7 hours (distance ~360 km).

Getting by car from St. Petersburg to Petrozavodsk takes about 6 hours (distance ~450 km).

Should you need a private transfer from Finland or St. Petersburg to Petrozavodsk or vice versa, please don't hesitate to contact us.