The Vuokkiniemi Society
The Vuokkiniemi Society aims at connecting people interested in Vuokkiniemi’s culture, history and people all over the world. Vuokkiniemi County is located in Viena, which is in the northern part of the Republic of Karelia in eastern Russia. In the present day Russian Republic of Karelia, about 10 percent of the population are ethnic Karelians. Vuokkiniemi village is the most Karelian of all the villages in Karelia as 80 percent of its population still speaks the Karelian language.
The Society’s purpose is to guard and maintain our Karelian cultural heritage inspired by the National epic “Kalevala”. Its maintenance cannot be taken for granted.
Vuokkiniemi village has a particular significance in the birth of the Kalevala epic by Elias Lönnrot, as well as in preserving the Karelian culture. Lönnrot gathered most of the Kalevala rune material from Viena and particularly from Vuokkiniemi county, where the great rune singers Arhippa Perttunen, Miihkali Perttunen and Vaassila Kieleväinen, among others, were living. For this reason, Lönnrot considered Vuokkiniemi the most significant county in Karelia.
The official history of The Vuokkiniemi Society began on the 1st of July 1990 at a meeting in the Vuokkiniemi Cultural Center. The Society was founded on the first trip to Vuokkiniemi after the Second World War. Sixty-four people, half of whom were born in Vuokkiniemi, participated in the meeting. Earlier unofficial annual gatherings by people whose roots are in Vuokkiniemi had started already in 1983.
The first society chairman was Heikki Kyyrönen from Lapua. Heikki (Kyyrö-Matin Onterein Huoti) had organized earlier informal annual gatherings, and acted as chairman from 1990 to 2001. Ville Lahelma acted as secretary from 1990 to 2000. During this period, a new church was erected in Vuokkiniemi in 1997 according to original architect’s drawings at the site of the old church, burnt before the Second World War. A new home for elderly people was also constructed in Vuokkiniemi in 2001 with the help of the Society. The Society, led by Kai Paajaste (now Peksujeff), also compiled the book “Tupenkolahuttajien mailla, Vuokkiniemi from the prehistoric period to the Second World War” in 2006.
The Society publishes a membership newsletter (in Finnish) three to four times annually. It provides information about upcoming events and other matters of interest. An annual trip to Vuokkiniemi is organized in the beginning of August when the village has its traditional festival (“Iljan Praasniekka”).
Members gather once or twice yearly to listen to lectures about different aspects of past or present day Karelia and to meet old and new friends and relatives.
Many members of our Society are interested in their roots. The society website contains genealogical information of the families from Vuokkiniemi. Many members have ordered archive material from Karelia and Finland or tested their DNA for genealogical purposes.
The Vuokkiniemi Society has close links to the Karelian Cultural Society, founded in 1906 in Vaasa by descendants of Karelian pack peddlers. The Society is active in preserving the Karelian language and culture. The Society publishes the “Karjalan Heimo” magazine four times a year.
About Vuokkiniemi village
The geographic and administrative area of the Vuokkiniemi village and it’s rune singing villages in the neighbourhoods are: Vuonninen (Voinnitsa), Latvajärvi (Ladvozero), Venehjärvi (Cudnozero), Kivijärvi (Kamenoe ozero), Ponkalahti (Ponga guba), Tsena (Cena), Pirttilahti (Pirtti guba), Mölkkö (Melkaya guba) , Tollonjoki (Tolloreka) and Kostamus (Kostamuksha, in the place of earlier village Kontokki) as well as potentially Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi on the Finnish side of the boarder as they organically belong to the same Finno-Ugric Viena Karelia area and thus the same rune singing area.
Year 2015 will mark 180 years of the first edition of the Kalevala, as the Old Kalevala came out in 1835. Elias Lönnrot compiled the epic from folk poetry recorded into notebooks during his collection trips among poetry singers in 1828–1834, mainly in the area of the Viena Region of Karelia. There he visited Uhtua and Vuokkiniemi, though also travelled to distant Kola, Archangelsk and Olonets Karelia. Largest part of the verses of the poetry was collected in the area of Vuokkiniemi.
Vuokkiniemi is still today a very vivid village, with people with mainly Karelian and other Finno-Ugric origins, covering roughly 85 percent of the entire population. The population of Vuokkiniemi is in the large sense direct descendants of the old rune singers who used to sing for Lönnrot’s Kalevala, and are also descendant of old desolated villages populations.