Koivisto Church

Here is more information about the old Finnish church in Primorsk (in Finnish Koivisto) I visited a few days ago. I got it from a very interesting site that has info about many Finnish Karelian churches. Thanks to Andrey for giving me the link! (anyone, feel free to correct me if I’ve missed anything)

The church, the sixth in that area, was built in 1904. During the Soviet era it was used as a cinema and a disco, now there is a small museum in the church.

The first pastor of the parish is mentioned in 1575. There was most likely another church in that immediate area going back perhaps even to the 14th century.

The third church, with a bell tower, was located on an island in the gulf, near the current mainland location. In 1706 it was burned during a raid by bandits and the church bells fell into the sea. Later the bells were found and installed in the new church, built on the mainland that same year in the location of the current church building. This fourth church, made of wood, served from 1706 to 1763.

The fifth church building, in the shape of a cross, was consecrated in 1763. In 1775, a bell tower (at left, but with the current building) was built near the church.  This bell tower was destroyed in WWII.

The sixth, and present, church was consecrated in December 1904. It was designed by Joseph Stenbeck (1854? – 1929).

It’s a granite church with a cross-shaped length of 110 feet (of 37 meters) and a width of 85 feet (28 meters).

It held 1,800 seats. Inside was a large mural “The Last Supper” painted by the architect’s wife Anna Stenbeck.

The church organ (right) sounded for the first time on Christmas Eve 1906.

In 1940, after the conquest by Soviet troops the organ disappeared and its fate is not known.

Here is a good time to explain briefly the wars between Finland and Russia. The first war, called the Winter War, was fought for four months during the winter of 1939-40. Russia invaded Karelia and took most of the peninsula, including Koivisto. Surprisingly (to the Russians and many others), Finland kept Russia from completely over-running the entire country. The Continuation War began in the summer of 1941, as the Germans invaded Russia from the south; Finland retook its old ground early in the war but then lost it again in 1944.

Here is a picture of the church grounds, after Finnish troops re-took the town in 1941.

And here is the sanctuary after the Soviets took the church in 1944. Notice the new ‘gods’:

The scale of this picture is difficult to comprehend. The window is fully 40 feet tall (13 meters), so the picture of Lenin is quite large. Here is an earlier image for scale (notice how the Soviets blacked out the image of Jesus in the picture above):

The Road to Primorsk

Yesterday Zhenya Koltakoff and I drove from St. Petersburg north and west to the small town of Primorsk. It’s a pretty drive up the coast of the Gulf of Finland, into Karelia.

This area was a part of Finland until WWII; Koivisto is the Finnish name for the town. We visited a church, built by Finns in 1904, which is now a city meeting hall and has a small museum in one section. The church is a classic Finnish Lutheran church of the era; I really like the architecture.

First, a video of the road we drove (you’ll see the frozen Gulf of Finland at one point), then just a few pics.