Export support center

Population
645,200 (in 2020)
Total area
172,400 sq. km
Total trade
USD 1,220.8 million
Export
USD 1020.6 million

General Information

Karelia is located in the northwest of Russia, namely in the North-West Federal District of the Russian Federation.

Karelia borders on the Leningrad and Vologda regions in the south, on the Murmansk region in the north and on the Arkhangelsk region in the east. In the northeast, Karelia is washed by the White Sea. The western border of Karelia stretches for 798 kilometres and is the borderline between Russia and Finland.

The Republic of Karelia has a favourable economic and geographical position (i.e. proximity of the central, developed regions of Russia and Western Europe and access to the developed mobility system) coupled with significant natural reserves.

Karelia is one of the areas in Russia with the largest water resources. It has a wide, developed hydrographic network of the White and Baltic Seas with almost 23,000 rivers and 61,000 lakes, including Ladoga and Onega, the largest freshwater reservoirs in Europe.

More than half of the territory of Karelia is covered with forests. The main species include pine and spruce.

Mineral Resources

The mineral resources of Karelia consist of 494 developed deposits containing 31 kinds of minerals, with the reserves included in the national register. Karelia’s minerals include iron, shungite, titanium, vanadium, molybdenum, precious metals, diamonds, mica, building materials (granites, diabases, marbles), ceramic raw materials (pegmatites, spar), apatite-carbonate ores, and alkaline amphibole asbestos.

The mineral resources of Karelia also include 386 peat deposits, 28 underground water deposits for household and drinking purposes, 3 mineral water deposits and 1 therapeutic mud deposit.

Bioresources

Karelia is a place for foraging lingonberries, cranberries, blueberries, cloudberries and other berries.

Mushroom foraging and processing have great potential. Karelia’s annual biological reserves of edible mushrooms constitute about 70,000 tons according to the Institute of Forestry and the Institute of Biology of the Karelian Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Karelia is home to 150 species of medicinal plants constituting more than 6,000 tons.

Karelia has significant aquatic biological resources too.

The White Sea and Karelia’s large lakes suggest plenty of opportunity for commercial fishing. The main fish species here include Atlantic salmon, salmon, trout, saffron cod, herring, cod and flounder. Mussels, another important bioresource of the White Sea, are being actively developed nowadays.

Karelia is one of the best places in Russia for the commercial cultivation of trout.

Fishery and aquatic biological resources are an important sector for investment and a priority on Karelia’s agenda when it comes to state funding.

Transport Infrastructure

The Republic of Karelia is a transit territory. The development of its transport infrastructure has been primarily triggered by the construction of international transport corridors. The Karelian section of the Russian-Finnish border has 3 international automobile and 2 railway checkpoints and another 2 fast-track automobile checkpoints. Karelia has an international airport, Petrozavodsk (Besovets) Airport.

The Republic of Karelia has an extensive transport network. Its territory is crossed by motor highways, waterways and railways connecting the republic with the center and east of Russia as well as connecting other developed regions of Russia with the ice-free northern port of Murmansk and Europe through Finland. The Baltic and White Seas are connected by the White Sea Canal (Belomorkanal), which is located here, in Karelia.

Economy

Karelia’s economy builds on local natural resources, travel and recreation potential and a favourable economic and geographical border position. These factors have defined the region’s specialization and specifics of its economy.

The Republic of Karelia plays an important role in many economic sectors of Russia. For example, Karelia supplies almost 70% of all trout in the country, almost 30% of iron ore pellets, 20% of paper, and 15% of wood pulp and cellulose from other fibre materials.

Given its border position, Karelia’s economy is export-oriented. More than a third of the total manufactured products are exported. The key foreign trade partner for Karelia is Finland, which accounts for up to 20% of Karelia’s external turnover.

External Trade

According to the North-West Customs Administration and Karelia Statistics Agency, Karelia’s external trade turnover shrank by 17.5% in 2019 vs 2018 amounting to USD 1,220.8 million. Exports fell by 19.6% amounting to USD 1,020.6 million, as did imports by 4.9% amounting to USD 200.2 million. In 2019, the volume of export exceeded imports by 5 times. Exports to the CIS member states increased slightly by 0.8% with the imports dropping by 39%. Exports to non-CIS countries decreased by 20.2% against the imports slightly rising by 0.8%.

Karelian companies and organizations maintain trade and economic relations with 110 countries. The share of non-CIS countries in Karelia’s trade turnover was 95%. The largest trade partners of Karelia include Finland, Turkey, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, with the total share in the turnover amounting to 46%.

According to the Russian Exports Center, Karelia ranked 47th in 2019 in terms of export volume among other Russian regions. The share of Karelia in Russia’s total exports amounted to 0.21%. Non-mineral non-energy export accounts for 60% of the total export of Karelia. The Northwestern Federal District experienced a downward trend in exports in 2019 including the Arkhangelsk region (23.6% decline), Vologda region (7.2% decline), Pskov region (7.1% decline), Leningrad region (7% decline), and Kaliningrad region (25% decline).

Science, Education & Innovations

Karelia has 19 universities (including branches of Russian educational institutions) that educate more than 23,000 students.

For example, Petrozavodsk State University is one of the largest in the northwest of Russia. It embraces 80 departments, 9 faculties and 7 training institutions. Petrozavodsk University includes one of the oldest pedagogical universities in the Northwestern Federal District of Russia — Karelian Pedagogy Academy, which laid the foundation for higher professional education in Karelia.

In addition to their educational activities, teachers and graduate students are engaged in applied scientific research.

Karelia’s research potential also includes academic science represented by the Karelian Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Petrozavodsk. The Center unites 7 academic institutes. Fundamental research accounts for more than 80% of all research undertaken within the Karelian Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Karelia has built the core elements for the innovation infrastructure such as the regional innovation complex and the IT park of the Petrozavodsk University, the Ukko innovation center and the Karelian center for the transfer of technologies and innovations within the Karelian Scientific Center, a business incubator, and more than 30 innovation-oriented startups.

Travel

With its unique landscape, natural and recreational resources and multi-century cultural and historical heritage, Karelia takes a special destination for domestic and international travel.

Karelia’s forests, lakes and rivers offer excellent conditions for a relaxing retreat and active outdoor activities alike, such as hunting, fishing, snowmobile and ATV riding, river rafting, eco-tours and jeep safaris.

More than a million hectares of Karelian land are protected natural areas including national parks Paanajarvi, Vodlozersky and Kalevalsky, Valaam Archipelago natural park, Kivach and Kostomukshsky nature reserves, 46 other reserves, and 108 natural monuments. A hundred kilometres from Petrozavodsk lies one of the largest flat waterfalls in Europe, Kivach Falls. Karelian nature fosters ecological tourism and recreation. The first Russian resort, Marcial Waters springs, founded in 1719 by Emperor Peter I is located fifty kilometres from Petrozavodsk. The springs have unique healing mineral waters with the highest content of iron in the world.

Karelia has thousands of unique history and cultural monuments along with natural monuments of global and national importance. These include the architectural ensemble of Kizhi, Spaso-Preobrazhensky Valaam Monastery, Karelian petroglyphs, Sami stone labyrinths and seids. Karelia has the most convenient and shortest way to the Solovetsky Islands including the Solovetsky Monastery architectural monument.

Culture

Karelia has a unique culture that was influenced by the border position between East and West, Slavic and Germanic backgrounds, Orthodox and Catholic religions.

Traditional crafts in Karelia include weaving from straw and birch bark, sewing with pearls, embroidery, spinning, weaving, wood and bone carving, and ceramics. Such artistic crafts as Zaonezhskaya embroidery and Prionezhskaya ceramics have been practiced until today.

The city of Petrozavodsk is the heart of the cultural and professional art life of Karelia hosting its largest cultural institutions.

Karelia’s main libraries include the National Library of the Republic of Karelia, the Scientific Library of Petrozavodsk University and the Library of the Karelian Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Karelia’s most prominent museums include the oldest National Museum of the Republic of Karelia (the Karelian State Museum of Local Lore first opened in 1873) and the Karelian Museum of Fine Arts.

Locals and travellers often visit Karelia’s Musical Theatre, National Theatre, Puppet Theatre and Drama Theatre (the “Art Studio”).

Karelia also has its symphony orchestra and the orchestra of Russian folk instruments of the Karelian State Philharmonic Society as well as Kantele, Karelia’s choir.

Sports

Karelia supports more than 70 kinds of sports.

Every year, it hosts about 400 international, pan-Russian and local sports events of a different calibre.

One of the priorities of the Karelian government is to promote sports and physical culture among children, juniors and youth. Karelia has 5 specialized children’s and junior sports schools of the Olympic reserve and 24 regular sports schools for children and juniors.

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