History of Mandrogi

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The village of Upper Mandrogi, as its geographic location might suggest, has unique historical and natural features. The dawn of this area was in the age of letters written on birch bark and songs played on the gusli (an ancientRussian folk instrument).

The land between the great European lakes of Ladogaand Onega is where our village is situated. Like living organisms, the lakes fill the isthmus between themwith unseen but strong energy, shaping the special, mysterious spirit of these lands. Vepsians or "Veps", who are the natives of this area, are hardworking, talented, hospitable and proud people.Still today they are fishermen, hunters, and shipbuilders. The Vepshave a long history of trading with European and Asian countries, offering fine furs for the international market. TheSvir River, connecting the two great lakes, was part of an ancient trade route between the Norseman and Bukhara in present day Uzbekistan.The river has never been an easy one for traffic. At places the shallows and rapids were so frequent that people had to off-load their freight and forge across land.

The Svir River gave our village its name.Mandrogi, when translated from the Vepsian language, means "rapids". And the name of the nearest village, Laptevshina, marks the spotwhere navigators of the river had to put on bast shoes (lapti) and carry their cargoin order to travel farther. To lead the boats through the six most dangerous rapids of the Svir, as per orders by Peter the Great, masters who understood the river’s secrets were brought in from Novgorod with their families. These were the first settlers of what later became the town of Podporozhye. The birth of the town of Lodeynoe Pole is also associated with Emperor Peter, as well as the origins of many ship-building docks on the banks of theSvir, which became a part of Russia's naval glory. Peter’s choice was not accidental. The economic benefits of this area came before his time, before the discovery of the Baltic Sea route. They used to make iron here, excavate granite, build ships and trade. Owing to thenavigableriver and theslender mast pines found in the area, it was alwayspopular for its carpenters, who were unparalleled in their use of the axe. These traditions have been kept alive until today. The village of UpperMandrogi is wonderful and unusual in many ways, but its main difference is its unique architecture. It is a real open-air museum of modern wooden construction. (Most notably by the master wood carver YuryIllychGusev).

During World War IIMandrogi, which consisted of 29 households, was burnt down and its residents went to other villages. In the 1950s, at the place where the village once stood, a worker’s colony was established to house the builders of Podporozhie HPP. During the reconstruction of Mandrogi, foundations of the destroyed buildings were used to build the Museum of Vodka, the post office and a number of residential houses.

The village of Upper Mandrogi’s rebirth started in 1996. The project had two objectives: first, the revival of some Russian national traditions and second, theorganization of a touristic business. The profits from this business are used to finance the education of talented youngsters at a special school in Pavlovsk, a beautiful suburb of St. Petersburg. GorchakovSchool is modelled after the TsarskoyeSelo Lyceum which was established by Tsar Alexander I in 1811 in the town of Pushkin. Famous people studied their includingDelvig, Pushkin and Gorchakov. At Gorchakov School the children get a world class education largelysubsidised by the profits from the Upper Mandrogi business.

Since its establishment, the new Mandrogi has become an independent geographic and social entity with more than 200 people coming to work here each day. The permanent population is above 100 peopleincluding several natives--children who were born here!The village has its own kindergarten and school; stable and barn; quail and rabbit farms, virtually everything which constituted the livelihood of a Russian village in old times. We even bake bread and pies in the village as per grandmother’s recipes. In the Museum of Vodka you can taste the royal 40% drink made of herbs, as per the ancient recipes of Catherine the Great. At the craftsmen settlement you can buy souvenirs and other items,made by our masters and right in front of your eyes.