This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication is the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
The Suojarvi District (Republic of Karelia) and Municipality of Tuupovaara (Finland) have been cooperating actively since 1990. The background for the cooperation is the neighboring position, long-standing historical and cultural links, location in the immediate vicinity of the "Vartsila" cross-border checkpoint, common problems and interests. One of the most topical areas of cooperation is development of history-, culture- and nature-based tourism with a stewardship approach to the heritage of the area.
Today, there are 7 protected areas (PAs) in the Suojarvi District. A special position among those belongs to the "Tolvajarvi" landscape reserve and adjacent area of the Koitajoki river valley, owing to a peculiar combination of historical, cultural and natural monuments. The area features scenic landscapes, esker ridges, lakes and mires on the one hand, and quite a number of historical and cultural sites (including the operating World War II memorial complex "Kollasjarvi"), rich rune singing traditions, on the other.
The "North Karelia" biosphere reserve, included in the international PA network of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme, is situated on the Finnish side, right beside Russian PAs. Organization of the international (Russian-Finnish) biosphere reserve under UNESCO aegis with these areas would considerably expand the fund-raising opportunities for nature conservation and tourist activities, as well as create the pre-requisites for the development of Russian-Finnish cross-border cooperation.
The following major principles are behind the project:
cross-border nature of the cooperation and project outputs;
establishment of an active network of entrepreneurs involved in tourism development on both sides of the border;
combining training with practical activities for maintenance and facilitation of the territory;
wide local involvement in the project activities;
close collaboration between Russian and Finnish authorities, businesses and science;
raising awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the area.
The Project relies on the results of the previous TACIS-funded project "Development of Suojarvi District as a Model Area for Sustainable Development with the Example of the International Biosphere Reserve in Finnish and Russian Karelia" (IMSEDIGIS TSP/RK/9803/094).
The Project has:
gathered comprehensive information for substantiating the biosphere reserve designation;
developed the GIS system;
built the small infrastructure for nature tourism development in Tolvajarvi (road repair, overnight shelters, construction of hiking traits);
prepared feasibility studies for potential tourist routes;
published promotion materials, as well as materials for environmental education and awareness raising.