For a long time, people were thinking about a water connection of
the White Sea in the North of Russia to regions in the south. This could help a lot to make
cargo and passenger tranportation easier and much cheaper.
For example, in 1931 it took about 17 days to get from Arkhangelsk to Leningrad by water via
the Barents, Norwegian, Northern and Baltic Seas.
After the Canal was built the same route could be passed in 4 days.
Despite of many talks, the plan of a canal construction between the White Sea and Onego Lake
was not realized until the Stalin times, when it was ordered to build the
facility in a very short time.
In 1931 the construction of Belomorkanal began. The success
of the project, which was finished in 1 year and 9 months (very fast for those
times), was conditioned by the wide use of a cheap labour force of numerous
prisoners, including many political ones.
Advanced technical devices were almost
not in use - the Canal was built with simple hand implements, like spades and
The total length of the White Sea - Baltic Canal is 227 km, of which 37 km are human built,
with the average depth of 5 meters. About 100 complicated hydro engineering facilities,
including 19 water locks, numerous dams and weirs were
erected mostly of local meterials such as wood and stone.
While passing the Canal, a boat firstly rises up to 70 meters in compare with Onego Lake,
and then lowers down by 102 meters to the water level of the White Sea.
First locks #1, #2 and #3 are located in the settlement of Povenets near Onego Lake.
The last lock #19 is located in the town of Belomorsk, right by the White Sea coast.
More than 100,000 prisoners worked on the construction of the Canal. The exact number of people
who died during the construction is not known.
Along the White Sea - Baltic Canal, a lot of memorials and several
museums were set in the modern days to
commemorate the memory of those who lost their lives during the Canal construction.
One of them is Sandermokh memorial near Povenets. Several thousand prisoners were
executed and buried there.
The Canal has been used a lot for its major purpose - transportation of
lumber, apatites, fish, oil, metals, construction materials etc.
Nowadays it has well lost it significance.
Still, population of several settlements gets the job by maintaining the Canal.
Getting to the White Sea - Baltic Canal:
By water: there are several boats that cruise along the Canal in summer.
By land: one can get to Povenets or Belomorsk by car.
You can find a tour to the White Sea - Baltic Canal in our selection of