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Russian history lacks reliable data when Kargopol was founded, and origin of its name remains a mystery too. Up to the end of the 14th century chronicles do not have written information about this city, however, archeological findings suggest the town already existed in 12 century, and its population rendered tribute to Veliky Novgorod. Several historians tend to think that towns name has Greek roots, since the word kargopolis means boat wharf, others suggest Kargopol to origin from Finnish words, meaning bear territory. Nevertheless, the town has a local legend about its name a great battle happened in ancient times, and many people died. Great flock of crows gathered at the battlefield. The word kargo meant crow in local dialect, and pole is equivalent to field. Thus, Kargopol means field of crows.

Kargopol is first time mentioned in the Russian chronicles in 1380, when prince of Kargopol brought his warriors to help famous Dmitry Donskoy to fight Tatars. Then for 70 years the town disappears from ancient pages and reappears in 1447, when runaway princes Ivan Mozhaisky and Dmitry Shemyaka find shelter in Kargopol. Up to the end of 15th century the town actively participates in the battle against Moscows ascendancy in the North.

In 16th century Kargopol frequents ancient documents. In 1506 the town goes to the son of Ivan the Third, and 1539 its self-government rights are extended. During reign of Ivan the Terrible Kargopol becomes important strategic and trade centre, since it is located at trade ways from Central Russia to the Pomor territories (the Pomors are Russian settlers and traders on the coasts of the White Sea and the Barents Sea). The Onega River is the artery, which transports various goods, salt among them. Kargopol merchants make significant money on duty free salt. Apart from salt, locals float wood, buy furs and trade iron, since town suburbs are rich in ores. In 17th century new fortress is built in the town. Its wall is 850 m long with 7 m high log walls, reinforced with pillars. The fortress also has 9 towers reaching 24 meters in height with additional deep water ditch, connected with the Onega River. Mighty fortress protects Russian northern territories from enemy assaults.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the town becomes the place, where victims of tsars disgrace are sent for exile. Polish and Lithuanian invaders siege the town in 1612, and following two years Kargopol protects Motherland from foreign aggressors. The 18th century brings changes to Russia and to Kargopol as well. The town changes administrative status several times and finally becomes chief town of the district.

When the Baltic trade way emerges, and Russian borders change, Kargopol starts losing its trade and strategic significance and in 19th century becomes a small northern town, dragging out boring provincial life. Only fairs bring life to the town, and local people love trading buying and selling vegetables, fish and furs. Kargopol dwellers are skilful blacksmiths, copper-smiths, silver-smiths and icon painters.

Kargopol enters the 20th century with 2700 dwellers, half of which are bourgeois. Main industry of the town is dressing squirrel furs and selling them at the Nizhniy Novgorod fair. However, there are several plants in Kargopol, Public bank, several shops and a hospital. Children are educated in several schools.

Today Kargopol is a small quiet town, hosting 11.7 thousand people, located in the south-west corner of the Arkhangelsk region near its borders with Karelia and Vologda region. The town occupies left plain shore of the Oka River. The town is a great place for sightseeing ancient churches and monasteries fascinate occasional visitors and definitely deserve much more attention.




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  (Arkhangelsk Region)

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