White Sea Canal

The White Sea-Baltic Canal is a grand Soviet construction built in 1931-1933 where prison labor of the Gulag was used for the first time. The Canal should have been connected Onega Lake and the White Sea, and 37 km were dug through the ground and cliffs for this purpose. Prisoners were just a tool of State machinery in struggle against nature. According to some estimates, around one quarter of the total amount of builders perished. Prisoners were constructing the Canal during 20 months almost manually, even in winter in harsh frost.


When you come for the first time to the White Sea Canal, it is hard to understand that a lot of people died here. Villages where people live now are built on the sites where POW camps used to be. Life goes on along the Canal, but the Canal itself has been unclaimed for a long time. It is loaded for 15% only, and merchant and military ships walk through rather seldom. The only people for whom the Canal really matters are a few workers who still live in small villages at locks. But gradually these villages are dying out. Most houses are already abandoned, in winter it is dark and empty here. In my photo project I try to capture the atmosphere of these places.


The report with text of Andrey Yakovlev was published in February 2018 by Meduza.io