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Bringing Russias Rural Past to Life

Published: January 16, 2013 (Issue # 1742)



  • The wooden houses in Verkhniye Mandrogi are built in a traditional style and include a number of guesthouses that can accommodate about 150 people in total.
    Photo: FOR SPT

  • Nelya, a weaver, gives a demonstration of her ancient craft on a working loom.
    Photo: YELENA MINENKO / SPT

  • Guests to the village can enjoy traditional homemade food and drink.
    Photo: FOR SPT

Verkhniye Mandrogi, a cozy, peaceful village surrounded by water and woods, is connected to the rest of the world by just one bumpy earth road. The empty muddy streets of the village, its exclusively wooden houses and characteristic smell of woodsmoke recreate the leisurely rural atmosphere and peaceful way of life of an old village in Russias north.

The village, located on the banks of the Svir River some 300 kilometers northeast of St. Petersburg, was founded 16 years ago as an eco-stop (a stop in natural surroundings) for tourist cruise ships traveling between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, northern Russias two largest lakes. The name Verkhniye Mandrogi was taken from an old village that was located on the site until the 1940s, when it was burned down during World War II.

Sergei Gutsait, the initiator of the project, was once on a cruise along the Svir River and found the conditions of the existing eco-stops rather poor. He then came up with an idea that would be advantageous both for tourists and for him as an entrepreneur.

The village initially was planned as a Russian Disneyland, an entertainment center based on the fairy tales and operas of the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, said Vitaly Vasilyev, director of the St. Petersburg Center for Humanitarian Programs, who was involved with the project in its early phase.

But with time the idea transformed into something more global not an artificial reconstruction, but a real modern village populated with real people, he added.

Artisans and craftsmen from all over Russia were invited to live and work here, including one of the main creators of the villages original style, woodcarver Yury Gusev. It is Gusev to whom Verkhniye Mandrogi owes its colorful, fiendish images of dragons and other unidentifiable fearsome creatures, which dont really stem from traditional Russian art themes.

The atmosphere of a real Russian village from a bygone age was brought to Mandrogi a little later, when authentic wooden houses from the cities of Vologda and Arkhangelsk were delivered in sections and then reassembled. Nowadays this part of the settlement, called the Old Village, is the most interesting, since the interiors have been recreated with the addition of original Russian peasant paraphernalia.

The only stone building in the village is a mansion created in the style of a 19th-century landowners house a residence for VIP guests.

Now were also working on one of the most long-awaited projects the transportation of an old village church to Verkhniye Mandrogi, said reception manager Galina, who introduced herself only by her first name, saying that in their rural, democratic way of life they dont use surnames.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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