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Kamchatka

History

Kutkh, the great raven-god of the Koryak, dropped a feather as he flew over the earth, thus was created Kamchatka. At first the land was only populated by men, then Kutkh created a woman. She was very beautiful and all the men fell in love with her and desired her. As the men died they became mountains whose hearts still burnt with a fiery love - thus were created the volcanoes of Kamchatka.

The indigenous peoples of Kamchatka were the Ittelmen in the south and the Koryaks who occupied the northern regions and based their livelihood on reindeer herding. Explorers such as the Russian Simon Dezhnev explored the peninsula in the middle of the 17th century. Early Russian settlers followed and some exploited the local peoples, their population dropped as a result of their brutal treatment and by diseases brought in by the Russians and previously unknown in the area.

The Danish navigator, Vitus Bering, was commissioned in 1724 by Tsar Peter the Great to explore the seas of north-eastern Russia. He set out on his first expedition in 1725. Due to bad weather he was never able to accomplish his mission. He returned and in 1728 his ships, St. Peter and St. Paul, sailed into the sheltered Avacha Bay. He continued on to discovere the straits, named after him, separating Asia from North America. Petropavlovsk the capital of Kamchatka was named after his two ships.

During World War II, Petropavlovsk was developed as one of the prime Pacific Military Russian bases on the Pacific. For half a century Kamchatka was closed to foreigners. Only in the 1990's were travel restrictions gradually lifted and yet again the natural wonders gradually of Kamchatka become more accessible to both Russian and foreign visitors.


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© Andrew Wielochowski 2/9/2014.