Sharing a common past through preservation of cultural sites

Published: 12 August 2016
Last edited: 04 November 2016
The aim of this activity was preservation of cultural sites and promotion of cultural tourism through reconstruction of buildings and production of information in order to improve knowledge of the past in Paanajärvi National Park in Russia. The border area was ravaged in past wars and the border shifted leaving parts of what is now Paanajärvi NP that belonged to Finland on the Russian side. Through understanding of the past we can learn from it and promote peace and cooperation in our time. Two buildings were constructed using an old building technique for log houses after models from the 1930s in the old Finnish settlement of Arola in Paanajärvi NP (now part of Russia) and one in the old Russian Karelian village of Vartiolampi. Information panels about the history of these sites were placed in the vicinity of the buildings and an exhibition of historical objects was set up in the building in Vartiolampi. Also history books were produced in order to highlight that the NPs share common roots and want to share a common future as well.


Education, training and other capacity development activities
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Alliance and partnership development
Cultural heritage awareness
Scale of implementation

Enabling factors

It was crucial that there were craftsmen that could build with an old building technique. They gave capacity building to younger craftsmen and skills were also exchanged across the border. It was essential that the management of both Oulanka and Paanajärvi NPs were interested in promotion of cultural tourism and preservation of cultural sites in areas that are more known for their wilderness character.

Lessons learned

It is important to collect stories from people when cultural heritage sites are to be interpreted as they make the sites alive. We took former inhabitants of the old Finnish settlements (now in Russia) to visit the reconstructed Finnish site and that was an emotional journey for them. Also it was a great learning experience for us. It is good to involve people that have ties to the cultural heritage sites in the heritage interpretation of the site. When reconstructing buildings it is important to have them as historically accurate as possible and using appropriate old techniques. It is also important to tell the visitor that the buildings are reconstructions, not historical ones. Even if it might be painful to dig into past that is not always peaceful and harmonious, it is good to tell about this to the visitors in order to make them realize that we can learn from the past. Work in transboundary NPs teaches us that we can work together with a common goal even with a shared darker past.