Solovetsky Islands (Соловецкие острова)

Solovetsky Islands is the largest archipelago of total area 347 km2 in the White Sea, which is consists of six large islands and approximately 100 small ones. The Islands located 40 km from the Archangelsk Region, and the other side is 60 km from the Republic of Karelia.

The main point of interest is the Solovetsky Monastery, which was founded in the XV century on the Bolshoi Solovetsky Island by monks German, Savvaty, and Zosima.

In 1584-1594 heavyweight walls appeared instead of old wooden walls. The new walls were made of rough stones of several tons in weight each, the height of the walls is up to 11 meters, and the wall thicknesses is up to 6 meters! The defensive towers of 15 meters height placed along the walls.

Through the half of the XIX century, the walls and towers of the Monastery could endure the fire of each cannon gunnery. It was widely known the incident in 1854 during the Crimean War when a detachment of Britain’s warships came into the White Sea. Two frigates were firing the Solovetsky Monastery for several hours, but neither Monastery wasn’t damaged, nor the brethren weren’t wounded.

In the middle of the XVII century, the Monastery became the focus place of the Great Schism of the Russian Church. Almost ten years, the Monastery bid for the old religion. Guardsmen sent to put down a revolt could get in and punish the mutineers only due to betrayal.

From 1553 to 1883 years, the Solovetsky Monastery was used as a place of exile and imprisonment. The first inmate became hegumen Artemy, who argued against the church elite and their landed property. One of the towers of monastery fortress was converted into prison cells. In the XIX century, there was made a special building for prison and barracks for the prison guards.

Besides the fortress, the different monastery’s buildings are diffused in four islands of the archipelago. One of the interesting places is the church with sea-light on the Sekirnaya Mountain.

After the Revolution, in 1918, the Red Guard detachment confiscated the Monastery properties and provision. To 1920 the Solovetsky Monastery as a religious institution was put out of existence. The religious activity was recovered in the Solovetsky Islands only in 1990.

1923-1933 were the black times for the islands. This time the archipelago was occupied by the corrective labor camp, as well as all the monastery area. The prisoners employed in forest harvesting, peat harvesting, fish processing, agriculture, production of commodities, canal laying.

After the disestablishment of the labor camp in 1939, the archipelago passed under the control of the Northern Fleet of the Soviet Union. In 1942-1945 years, there was the Solovetsky Sea Cadet School. The school was formed out of boys aged 14-16 years old; the training time went on one year. After education, the course leavers were allocated on an active military fleet. In October of 1945, the Sea Cadet School was transferred to Kronshtadt, the island near Saint-Petersburg (that time the city had name Leningrad).

In 1960th the Solovetsky Island became the historical and natural museum-reserve. Since 1992 the Solovetsky Islands included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The museum provides permanent exhibitions:

•            Solovetsky Corrective Labor Camp in 1920-1939

•            Solovetsky Sea Cadet School

•            Archaeology in Solovetsky Islands

•            Solovetsky Fortress

•            Monastery Prison

Open hours and price

For visiting all main attractions in the Solovetsky Islands, it will be required 3-4 days. Keep in mind the potential of a storm, strong winds, and fogs; therefore, it can be impossible to reach the mainland.

How to get to the Solovetsky Islands

Archangelsk Region, Solovetsky Poselok

By maritime transport from the Kem-Solovetskiye Ostrova Pier

Location 64.989867, 34.792293

Shipping season June,1st – September,20th

Transportation provides different operators, for example:

Ticket for M/V “Vassily Kosyakov” and “Metel-4”

Also, you can visit Solovetsky Islands as part of cruises from Moscow or St. Petersburg. Cruises operators provide tours of different duration and directions.


Solovetsky State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve website in the Russian language


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