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Cultural Landscape Dynamics of Transboundary Areas: A Case Study of the Karelian Isthmus

Tatiana Isachenko


Transboundary landscapes are the territories most prone to change. Their dominant cultural landscape is determined not only by natural processes, ethnic features, internal state politics, and foreign politics but also by the human memory and existing mental space. The goal of the research presented in this article was to demonstrate how the change in political borders influenced the Karelian landscape. Ethnic changes, and the corresponding changes in how the landscape was viewed, led to an altered pattern of land use, which sometimes resulted in the creation of an almost new type of cultural landscape. The ways in which the landscape existed in the minds of the people and in the attitudes of local authorities could also bring about a change in the landscape.

The Karelian Isthmus (the territory of Russia adjoining the state border with Finland), which has belonged to different states and has repeatedly changed its ethnic structure, was studied as a transboundary cultural landscape. The study focused most specifically on the local cultural landscape at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, when the Karelian Isthmus became a sort of bridge connecting Russia and the countries of the European Community.

Dominant and subdominant cultural landscapes were examined, based on the author's field research and interviews. During the last one hundred years, there have been three main stages in the development of cultural landscapes in the Karelian Isthmus - Finnish, Soviet, and Russian (post-Soviet) - as well as two transition periods when restructuring of the settlement system and land use took place. The three dominant landscape types (agricultural; rural-agricultural; and collective-garden and recreational) that correspond to the three main stages are considered in this article, as are the three subdominant cultural landscape types (military, estate, and countryside). These transboundary territories are unstable, most of them belonging to relict landscapes, the traditional features of which would need to be maintained. The preservation and development of transboundary landscapes are a concern of all neighboring countries.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
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