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2004 — Historical and cultural expedition “Rusich”


Date: June 18 — July 15, 2004
Route: N. Ladoga (Rus) — St.-Petersburg (Rus) — Vyborg (Rus) — Hamina (Fin) — Kotka (Fin) — Loviisa (Fin) — Helsinki (Fin) — Hamina (Fin) — Vyborg (Rus) — St.-Petersburg (Rus) — N. Ladoga (Rus)

In the middle of June 2004 a historical-cultural expedition “Rusich” started along the northern part of the ancient route “from Varangians to Greeks”. The participants of the voyage sailed 690 miles by sailing-motor boat Bylina through Ladoga Lake, Neva-river and Finnish Gulf from the beginnings of the Russian State, from its first capital Staraya Ladoga to the capital of Finland, to Helsinki.

Participants of the Rusich expedition:

The members of the Viking-Nevo club (Smolensk, Russia) and the pupils and teachers of the Center of the Youth Tourism and Sailing Sports (Novaya Ladoga, Russia).

The crew of the ship:

The organizers of the Rusich expedition:

Great support in invitation and expedition realization was provided by the Finnish social organization “Sommelo” (www.sommelo.hai.fi) and its leader Dirk Schneider

The Rusich expedition had the following cultural, sport and ecological goals:

  1. Passing the northern part of the route “from Varangians to Greeks” by the Russian crew. The crew-members brought to Finland the soil handful from the first capital of Russia, Staraya Ladoga and from Smolensk — the town which played an important part in its history.
  2. Development of the international contacts and co-operation between Russian and Scandinavian organizations concerned with the Vikings ships building, recovering the Vikings history, crafts and life.
  3. Studying of the ecological conditions of the Volkhov river, the Neva river, the Ladoga Lake, Finnish Gulf and the northern part of the Baltic Sea.
  4. Celebration of the 300-anniversary of Novaya Ladoga and 1140-anniversary of Smolensk with the new sports achievements.

This expedition had a principal meaning for the Russian researchers and populists of the ancient route “from Varangians to Greeks”! That was the first voyage by the historical Russian boat to the westward abroad since the year 1986 when the ancient route research work had started in Russia. At the same time the Russian part of the ancient route was passed by representatives of every Scandinavian country by the year 2004.

The Bylina boat was build by shipwrights from Novaya Ladoga in traditions of boats for fishing and sea-trade, which were practicing since ancient times in southside of Ladoga. The length of the boat is 12,5 meters, the width is 2,7 meters, the height is 1,5 meters, the rig is gaffal ketch, sails area is 40 square meters. The boat equips with two pairs of oars and a diesel engine for maneuvering in ports and coastal buildings bounds.

After having got ready with brief preparations and blessing the expedition by the local priest the crew-members drew up on board of Bylina. With the farewell from the administration of Novaya Ladoga the captain was delivered a birchen box with the soil from the first Russian capital as a gift to representatives of Helsinki.

It took one week for the crew to get from Ladoga to Vyborg. During the sailing the travelers made breaks in the yacht-clubs of St.-Petersburg Ship-Building University and in Kronshtadt. The crew got valuable information about the sailing in foreign waters from experienced yachtsmen who were more than once sailed abroad. For example it is allowed to sail to the private islands only if a national flag, an obligatory attribute in every Finnish house, is raised.

Passing the Gulf of Vyborg refreshed the skills of orientation and sailing in skerries. The wind which calmed down behind the islands almost ripped the sails at the open area. That is why during the stay in Vyborg the crew checked up the boat rigging completely and strengthened all the shrouds and halyards. The last thing was getting the permission from the border and custom officials. And the first trouble came here. During the document check the photos in passports of the youngest crew-members were peeled off caused of repeated flexion of the first pages. The continuation of the whole expedition was much questioned. But two tins of stew and condensed milk, the compulsory attributes of official meetings of the Smolensk crew since 1988, pleased the bordermen and the boat was let out abroad.

Thanks to steady fair wind the sailing from Vyborg to the Finnish border took seven hours. The foreign welcome did not detain much. Right after crossing the Finish territorial waters a light patrol-boat came to Bylina and like a pilot showed the way to the bay of the Santio island. It took less than ten minutes for the custom and border officials to check the Russian boat and the crew. But Finns refused the tins of stew and milk politely.

The crew looked forward to reach Lapuri island where the ancient Viking ship was found in 1976. The hull of the ship kept safe so it was possible to make a plan and a constructive description of the ship as a result of underwater archaeological researches. In 1995-1996 the replica of Lapuri ship was build. It was named Heimlosa Rus and launched in the summer of the year 1996. After that the ship sailed through such lands as Finland, Sweden, England, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. In 1999 the Smolensk Vikings joined the crew of Heimlosa Rus. They crossed the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov (Ukraine and Russia). In summer 2000 this brave voyage continued in Russia along the rivers Don and Volga to Astrakhan. From Astrakhan the ship was transported to Vyborg and in summer 2001 Heimlosa Rus came back to Finland. The crew of Bylina looked around the island with interest and even tried to dive in the coastal waters. There is certainly another ancient legend somewhere close by.

After the long and difficult sailing the first day of the foreign journey was decided to finish on the first convenient island near by Hamina. The island was chosen, the flag was raising and it was possible to sail to. Bylina was met by two families from Helsinki who had come to their summer cottage to celebrate the Midsummer holiday. After short discussion with the households the heads of the families invited the Russian crew to the ceremonial supper. The travelers put on the Old Russian clothes and went to the Finnish friends with the first visit. The evening party had success. One interesting moment of the holiday which celebrates in every place in Finland was the scarecrow incineration and fireworks by the sea. Some families have tradition to burn down with the scarecrow all the unnecessary clothes and things gathered during the year. Next morning as a gratitude for the wonderful evening all children got a chance to sail by Bylina.

Coming to Hamina did not bring any expected bright impressions. The town seemed to be died down. During three-hour excursion across the town only 10 people and some cars were met. In contrast to Russia all the shops and other places are closed on holidays. One of the sights in Hamina is an old fortress which surrounds the center of the town in form of star. Big parking zone is also a part of the fortress’ ensemble which is full of romance and antiquity. It is noteworthy that Russian general Alexander Suvorov charged of building the fortress of Hamina. He reorganized the temporary sand hills remained from Swedes into the high stone walls. The next night was spent at the beautiful bay on Lehmäsaari Island. There is a wonderful place for rest under the open air.

Next day afternoon Bylina sailed to Kotka. The whole bay was full of yachts and motor-launches of different sizes. The crew walked with big pleasure in a wonderful park Sapokka along gardens with lime-trees, herb and sculptures. The inimitable imitation waterfall which gives so much freshness during the hot summertime was visited also. It is possible not only just walk in the park but study the flora of the Baltic Sea coast at the same time. Most of the plants have plates with the name and annotation.

After three-hour walk in Kotka the crew put to the sea again because Bylina was awaited in the marine museum on Kaunissaari island. It was quite difficult to approach the island and during sailing the boat was about to be stranded on the rocks. That is why the crew had to put down the sails and go to the berth by motor. The Kaunissaari marine museum is a unique private museum of Finnish coastal culture. Its expositions placed in two little fisherman’s houses and include trade boats, fishing things, clothes, ware and other implements which helped fishermen in their hard everyday life. This museum was founded by mister Rekonen, the inhabitant of the island, yet in 1940’s. After his death his life-work was continued by his son who is now about 80 years old. His daughter helps him much in keeping the museum which is the family’s pride. In case of need she will move from Helsinki to the island and continue to care about everything. The museum is mostly visited during the summertime when the tourists come from the mainland by boats. The museum owner, mister Rekonen, presented every crew-member of Bylina a souvenir in form of a vodka-glass on the rope and the postcards with the island-views which were sent home to Russia instantly.

It was raining and nobody wanted to go out. So the crew of Bylina was invited to stay for a night at the museum’s territory. During some hours all the sights of the island were seen and the time before going to sleep was spent with fishing from the berth. It was great surprise and delight when the big perch was fished up with the fishing-line help only. After improving the rod the crew began to fish by turns. The biting was so strong that just in some hours five kilograms of fish appeared in the bucket.

On the next day the travelers’ way laid to Loviisa — a small coastal town. After long rainy sailing Bylina came into the guest harbor of this lovely place. The rain stopped towards evening and the walk around the town lead to race track where the serious things were flare up. During four rounds hundreds of Finns had tried to enlarge their budgets with the stakes help excitedly. The spirit of the easy money got into the Russian crew also. After staked on number 7 the leader of the expedition looked forward to win pretty penny. But the spurt of one ordinary grey horse with number 12 prevented him from this pleasure. As a result the more economical life-style was accepted and visits to the cafes were forgotten for some time.

In spite of the hard approaching into the narrow and meandering bay of the town Porvoo the travelers decided to have a closer look at this nice place. All the typical Scandinavian slipways, boulders, pine-trees, small restaurants, cafes, galleries, museums and handicraft-shops were examined and taken pictures of.

During sailing towards Helsinki a storm burst out and the only way to escape was to stay for a night somewhere on the island. The wind blew harder from every minute and did not give the right to choose. Bylina found shelter behind nearest island and sailed to the berth with great effort. In spite of the raised flag the territory owners showed the way to other place politely. But all the attempts to sail against the wind and waves were unavailing so the crew had to pull up to the same island but from the other side. The island inhabitants watched the maneuvers of Bylina with growing suspicion and called the police.

Late night, hard wind and high waves did not prevent the Finnish policemen to arrive by speed-boat in fifteen minutes. Their severe appearance showed that they are on duty twenty four hours a day and that they are able to put a place in order in every part of the land, even on a small island in the Finnish Gulf. Strangely enough but unstuck photos in the passports did not embarrass the Finnish guards. After checking the documents the crew was allowed to spend the night on the berth and to step on the island only in need to go to the toilet. Upset captain of Bylina refused from that kind of service and demonstrated his own compact bio-toilet. The police-officer estimated this ecologically clean device true worth and rewarded the captain with an approving smile and a shoulder clap. The night was spent right on the berths planks with the sounds of the waves and the sea-gull screams.

In the morning the crew-members were waked up by a good-humoured Finn who still had not come to himself after the party the day before. He apologized for the inconveniences and told that this island has a boundary regime so no one is allowed to come here without a special permission. Russians did not get hurt by Finns and just put up the sails and set course towards Helsinki. But some difficulties were waited the crew there also. Large liners, ferries, barges and motor-boats were going along the fairway in front of Bylina every minute. Snatching a moment the travelers went into the free space between two ferries and were about to be paid for light-mindedness. Bylina had escaped from the ferries but their waves nearly drowned the boat.

In Helsinki the travelers were warm welcomed by the trees rustle and fire smoke of the Pukkisaari Island. It is placed close to the center, has about 500 meters in diameter and is connected with the city by a small bridge.

Seven years ago a historical and cultural association “Sommelo” was founded in Finland. Its members proposed an initiative about organizing a museum-reconstruction “The Iron-Age Trading Place” on the Pukkisaari Island. This beginning was supported by Helsinki municipality which assigned means for the instruments and materials. During the year two houses were reconstructed and several events were organized. One of them is the International Winter Viking Games. Those are exactly the games the Viking-Nevo club was invited for the first time in 2000 to. It was the friendship beginning between Viking-Nevo club and Sommelo association and its leaders. Next years the efforts and investments were growing up. And now the city pays for the seven administrative rates of serving and developing of the Iron-Age Trading Place. The association members built the ancient ship Sotka which is the replica of Lapuri find. And now Sotka visits the Pukkisaari Island very often.

Breakfast which was cooked on fire by Dirk Schneider, the leader of Sommelo, was just in time after a hard journey. During the breakfast the information exchange and co-ordination of Russians stay in Helsinki took place. The group got a guide and a translator. Those who had never been in Helsinki went in a tour of the city. Others decided to visit an aquatic center. There are a lot of different water oases in Finland. Over 15 of them are located in Helsinki. Many of them are places for relaxation and entertainment and have the possibility to combine the rest with the training. For a small fee it is possible to swim, to jump into the water, to play volleyball and tennis and even to steam in a sauna during the whole day.

After satisfying their wishes both sightseers and swimmers got well together near the fire on the island. Next day the crew had an official meeting with representatives of Finnish National Museum, the leaders of Sommelo and the journalists. At that meeting the National Museum was solemnly presented the soil from the first capital of Russia, Staraya Ladoga. In this way one of the main goals of the Rusich expedition was realized successfully.

Days in Helsinki were full of different events and meetings. During that time all the six foreign members of the Viking-Nevo club contacted with the crew and offered many interesting arrangements. There were museums visits, sightseeing, swimming-pools, concerts, sea-journeys and just spending time around the fire. In one of the days the crew-members met with Mira Salo — Miss Suomi 2004 who had arrived to the Iron-Age Trading Place for the photo session.

But everything goes to its end some day. And the crew put up the sails again with the feelings of well done duties and realized tasks. Follow to one famous Russian saying the sails flew home faster and the back sailing to Russia took only one day in contrast to the way to Finland which had taken whole six days. But in spite of hurry to get home the travelers could not resist visiting their good friend and Russian team sponsor on Winter Vikings Games Arvo Reijonen at his summer cottage. The summer cottage is located near Hamina, in Mäntlahti, in 30 km from the Russian border. The crew got a hearty welcome they had ever had. Arvo’s mother and sister treated everyone with such delishes food as they had been preparing for guests visit during a week. Taina Mannila and Seppo Suhonen, the club-members of the Viking-Nevo club, came to the cottage also. They organized a seminar about fishing with spinning in the Finnish waters. The catch was more than enough for the supper which lasted long after midnight. 79-year old Arvo’s mother, Aino Larsson, was affiliated to the honorable members of the Viking-Nevo club. Next early morning the travelers woke up and ate breakfast made by the new Viking. And at 5.30 after the hearty farewell with the friends Bylina sailed away from the hospitable Finnish land and set course to Russia.

After one more week of sailing through the Finnish Gulf, the Neva river and the Ladoga Lake the month of the exciting voyage was over and Novaya Ladoga, the home town of Bylina, was straightaway. The brave travelers were met at mouth of the Volhov river by a cortege of the cruiser yachts — the participants of the Ladoga Cup. The mayor of the city, officials, families and friends of Novaya Ladoga crew-members were awaiting them on the river-bank. After having a festive dinner, discussing the expedition results and making plans for the future the crew-members left for home. The foreign voyage of the Russian Vikings turned out well!

Blessing the ship
Blessing the ship
in Novaya Ladoga
Suho lighthouse
Suho lighthouse
on Ladoga Lake
Fortress Oreshek
Fortress Oreshek
Mood of the rain
Mood of the rain
Sergey Suhoruchenkov
Sergey Suhoruchenkov,
the leader of the expedition
Vladimir Andryushkin, Sergey Suhoruchenkov and Vladimir Golubkov
Bylina in Vyborg
Bylina in Vyborg
Viking ship in Vyborg
Viking ship in Vyborg
Camp place near Hamina
Camp place near Hamina
Sailing by Bylina
Sailing by Bylina with the local children
Police boat
Finnish police boat, documents check
Lehmasaari bay
Camp in the Lehmasaari bay
Waterfall in Kotka
Waterfall in Sapokka park in Kotka
Kaunissaari marine museum
Kaunissaari marine museum
Kaunissaari marine museum
Kaunissaari marine museum
Vladimir Andryushkin
Vladimir Andryushkin cooks the fish-soup
Arriving to Pukkisaari island
Arriving to the Viking Village on Pukkisaari island
Arriving to Pukkisaari island
Arriving to the Viking Village on Pukkisaari island
Official meeting
Official meeting with representatives of Finnish National Museum
Gifts from the Finnish National Museum
Brooms for sauna
Sauna broom for Dirk and Pena
Crew of Bylina
Crew of Bylina on Pukkisaari island in Helsinki
Bylina in Helsinki
Bylina in Helsinki
Bylina in Helsinki
Bylina in Helsinki
Olympic fire
Sergey Suhoruchenkov and the Olympic fire from Athens
Mira Salo
Mira Salo —
Miss Suomi 2004
Night check
Night check by Finnish police
White swan
White swan
Taking leave
Taking leave with Finnish friends

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