The Republic of Karelia shares a border with Finland and Russia’s Leningrad, Astrakhan, Vologda and Murmansk Regions. The republic has a unique culture developed by the native Finno-Ugric people of Karelians, Finns and Vepsians who have all been living here alongside Russians for centuries. Karelia was briefly a full republic of the USSR until it was demoted to an autonomous republic of Soviet Russia. The capital of the republic is Petrozavodsk which was founded by Peter the Great. The city has good railroad links to both Moscow and St Petersburg.
Karelia is a popular tourist destination all year round for foreigners and Russians alike who are mainly drawn by its nature and opportunities for outdoor adventures. In summer it attracts tourists who come for camping, hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing; whereas in winter people come for dog-sledding and snowmobile trips. Over 80% of the territory is covered with forests and there are over 60,000 lakes here taking up around a quarter of the territory. Just outside the capital is the island of Kizhi where the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Kizhi Pogost is located which includes the spectacular wooden Transfiguration of the Lord Church.