Republic of Karelia lies in the north-west of the Russian Federation. It is not so big in area, but comparable in this respect to some European states such as Greece or Bulgaria, several times bigger than Switzerland, Denmark or the Netherlands. The republic borders Murmansk Region in the north, Arkhangelsk Region in the east, Finland in the west, Leningrad and Vologda Regions in the south and south-west. Petrozavodsk is the capital of Karelia. It attracts tourists from all over the world.
It is for good reason that Karelia is often called the "lungs of Europe" - over a half of its territory is under pine and spruce forests. Its natural values are conserved in nature reserves, nature monuments, national parks Paanajärvi and Vodlozersky, Kivach strict nature reserve, and so forth. A valuable birch variety - Karelian (curly) birch, grows in the republic. It is rather unsightly on the outside, but is famed for beautiful and intricate wood figure. Scattered in the midst of forests are 63 000 lakes (including Europe's largest ones - Ladoga and Onego). Big and small, deep- and shallow-water lakes are tied together by rivers into a whimsical network. Many rivers in Karelia are fast-flowing, with lots of rapids emerging due to broken terrain. This combination of calm, peaceful lakes and short rapid rivers renders Karelia exclusively beautiful.
Karelia holds over 4000 monuments of history and culture: Europe's biggest cluster of rock art, Europe's southernmost Sámi sanctuary, etc. Important pieces of global and national heritage are the Kizhi Pogost - the largest monument of wooden architecture in Russia, situated on Kizhi Island in Lake Onego; Valaam Monastery - a gem of the Russian North, a major religious centre in Russia, situated on Valaam Archipelago islands in Lake Ladoga.
The history of Petrozavodsk is originally connected with the name of Peter the Great. In 1703, the year St. Petersburg was also born, Petrovsky plant was founded on bleak banks of Lososinka River. Petrozavodsk today is a city with a population of about 280 000 people occupying 113 sq. km. The city has 2 universities and a number of branches of Moscow-based higher educational institutions, a conservatoire, 16 professional training high schools, 52 high schools (one of them a national school). There operate Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Science, 5 theatres, Philharmonic Society, National Library and National Archives, museums and art galleries. Numerous cafes, bars, restaurants and night clubs offer leisure and entertainment.