Kargopol (Каргополь) is a town in and the administrative center of Kargopolsky District of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It is situated on both sides of the Onega River several miles north of Lake Lacha. Population:
It is not clear when Kargopol was founded, but, when first chronicled in 1146, it was a trade station of the Republic of Novgorod
and one of the most northerly permanent Slavic settlements. Although documentation for its early history is scarce, it is believed that Kargopol was the most significant trade centre of Bjarmaland
throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1447, it was the place where Dmitry Shemyaka
found refuge from Vasily II
Situated on the ancient route between Moscow and Arkhangelsk (then the only Russian seaport), Kargopol became one of the most prosperous cities of Russia, especially after the Muscovy Company started to operate in the mid-16th century. During the Time of Troubles it withstood a siege by Polish and Lithuanian brigands. The peasant rebel Ivan Bolotnikov was executed in Kargopol in 1608.
After Russia regained access to the Baltic Sea and St. Petersburg was founded, Kargopol gradually faded to obscurity. The people of Kargopol were still active in the exploration of Asian Russia, however. Alexandr Baranov, the first governor of Russian America (Alaska), was born in this town.
Today, Kargopol is a sleepy historical town adjoining the Kenoozero National Park. It is best known in Russia for Kargopol toys (Kargopolskiye igrushki
), which are small, simple clay figures painted in traditional style.
During its golden age in the 17th century, Kargopol became home to a highly localised brand of medieval Russian architecture. Quite a few wooden and white stone churches survive in the town and its vicinity. The earliest of these buildings is the black-domed Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, built of dolomite by Novgorodians and consecrated in 1562. The interior features a curious iron hand sticking from the drum. A hallmark of Kargopol churches is delicate stone carving.
Kargopol is also known throughout the Russian northwest for its numerous sasquatch
sightings. The best known legend is reported to have happened in the early 1990s, and was documented by authors Maya Bykova
and Vadim Makarov (in his book Atlas of the Snowman
). According to the legend, about six kilometres from the town of Kargopol, two hairy creatures, one a large "mother", the other its "child", made their way towards a military barracks. A young soldier on guard duty noticed the creatures and hurried back to the barracks for help. The sasquatch, carrying its young, entered behind the soldier. Although making non-threatening gestures and sounds, the creature was attacked by a soldier (who promptly passed out due to the overwhelming stench coming from the creature). Frightened, the creature ran away into the forest. As many as a dozen soldiers are reported to have witnessed these strange creatures on this night.