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Rayakoski, The Nikel

time:2023-11-29 22:36:19 source:Make greed and fool the net author:reading

It is not so easy to get to this small polar village. One cannot come here if one merely wants to do so out of curiosity. The village of Rayakoski is located not only beyond the Arctic Circle, but also literally behind the fence - behind a very well-guarded border perimeter, within walking distance from the Russian state border. Even the name of the village translates as "border threshold" or "border waterfall", which tells a lot about the nature of its location. 

Rayakoski, The Nikel

If one goes to the banks of the Patsojoki River or Pasvik River and looks to the left, one will see Finland. If one looks to the right - he or she will see the border towers of Norway. 

Rayakoski, The Nikel

A bit of history 

Rayakoski, The Nikel

In ancient times, the Finnish Sámi lived in the Patsojoki valley while not far from today's Rayakoski was the Finnish village of Nautsi. Even today, you can still find household items there: ancient nails, horseshoes, coins. 

Over the past 100 years, these lands have passed from state to state several times. Before the revolution, while Finland was considered a Russian province, these lands belonged to the Russian Empire. When Lenin gave freedom to the fins, in 1920, part of the Kola Peninsula and part of Karelia were ceded to sovereign Finland that ceased to be a Russian province. However, in 1944, an armistice agreement was concluded between the USSR and Great Britain on the one hand and Finland on the other, according to which this territory was again ceded to the USSR. 

In the middle of the last century, on the rapids of the Pasvik River, by agreement with the USSR, Norway and Finland built 7 hydroelectric power plants, the so-called Pasvik HPP Cascade. During the construction of the Rayakoski hydroelectric power station in 1955, two villages, Janiskoski and Rayakoski, emerged. Both villages were intended for the people working at these power plants. Over time, the village of Yaniskoski was no longer needed. Now there are only a few residential buildings and a weather station. All life is currently concentrated in Rayakoski. 

Rayakoski village today 

The settlement is conditionally divided into two parts - the upper one and the lower one. The lower part of the village is called the "Finnish" part, as it was built by construction workers from Finland for the workers of the Rayakoski hydroelectric power plant. Later, during the construction of the Hevokos hydroelectric power plant, which was being built by a Norwegian company, it was decided not to build a new settlement, but to complete construction of the existing one. This is how the "Norwegian" part of the present village of Rayakoski appeared. 

All the houses in the village are one-story and wooden. Each house is divided into two to four apartments with separate entrances. Finnish houses have one, two and three-room apartments. In Norwegian houses, there are only two and three-room apartments. The houses in the Finnish part are heated by water while in the Norwegian part they are heated with electricity. 

There are not many people living in the village, only about 250 people. Of these, 5 people are employees of the Pasvik reserve, the rest of the residents work at the hydroelectric power plant. There is a grocery store in the village, although it does not seem to work full time. There is the Russian Post office, which opens once a week on Thursdays for two hours. At the same time, the store and the post office are located at the very edge of the village, far from all residential houses. Such a location is peculiar. Next to the store, the checkpoint of the hydroelectric power plan is located, which used to be the key reason for locating the store. People coming home from work could go straight in and buy whatever they need. 

For guests and visitors, there is a hostel and a hotel for 8 people. Also, there is a library, a club and a bathhouse. However, there is no hospital or even a paramedic center in the village. Rather, there is a building, but the last doctor left in the fall of 2020. Since then, the residents of the village have been able to cope with minor sores themselves, while going to Nikel (90 km) or Murmansk in case of more serious cases. 

A kindergarten has been built for children in the village. There is a school, although there may be only 2-3 students in each class. The school has its own photo studio and even a film studio that has existed for about half a century. 

The village itself somehow reminds of a huge pioneer camp with one-story houses in the forest, a stadium, a sports ground and a river. Yet, the housing prices are not the lowest here - a two-room apartment costs about 3 million rubles. 

The biggest advantage of Rayakoski is its absolute safety. Not only do everyone in the village know each other, but there are almost no strangers here. Moreover, although being part of the town of Nikel, the village lacks Nikel ecological problems due to its size and reclusiveness. Nikel pollution and contamination issues simply do not reach Nikel’s region of Rayakoski. Therefore, it could be presumed that the village adds to the positive statistics related to the Nikel ecology. 

"Friendship Ski Track" 

Since 1994, the 12-kilometer Friendship Ski Track starts every year from Rayakoski. The track runs through three countries - Russia, Finland and Norway. In recent years, there have been so many applications that the organisers even have to refuse some of the applications. 

Pasvik Reserve 

At the entrance to the village, the administrative building of the Pasvik Reserve is located. Previously, it served as the visitor center of the reserve. Now a new large visitor center has been built in Nikel. Nevertheless, the researchers still work in Rayakoski while guests of the reserve periodically visit the old place. The best time to visit Rayakoski is in summer, but winter can share such unforgettable views. 

How to get to Rayakoski 

In order to get from Murmansk to Rayakoski, one needs to go through two border cordons. First, in front of Nikel, the border state servants will simply check the documents and learn in detail where and why the visitor is traveling. If one cannot name a valid reason for the trip, the guest will be turned back. On the way from Nikel to Rayakoski, one will already need to show a pre-issued pass to the border zone, without it a person will not be allowed into the village. One can issue a pass through the website of the State Services (gosuslugi) or through the FSB of Russia in the western Arctic region. In general, Rayakoski is one of the most protected villages in Russia. 

Finally, in these places the car is the only means of transportation because the bus from Nikel runs only once a week. If you do not have your own transport, then any trip outside the village turns into a quest. Mobile operators in the village are Megafon and MTS. The operator must be assigned manually, otherwise the phones will constantly catch the Norwegian or Finnish networks. 

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