Терский берег

Tatjana Alexeevna Shrader

The article concerns on the history of the Pomor trade in Norway and textology of the Pomor pilot instructions (lotsiyas) of XVIII-XIX centuries. This text is published with the permission of the author.

Shrader T.A. Across the Borders: the Pomor Trade //Russia-Norway: Physical and Symbolic Borders /Ed. T.N. Jackson and J.P. Nielsen. - Moscow, 2005. - P.105-115.

Across the Borders: the Pomor Trade


It is well known that the population living along the coast of the White Sea, especially on the western shore, knew the geography of the northern waters extremely well, including knowledge of the sea route to neighbouring North Norway. Which settlements did they visit along the coast of Norway? How did they navigate at sea without the use of a compass? How did they traverse distances of thousands of kilometers? We can obtain answers to these questions by studying the sea-books (lotsiyas) which were used by the Pomors for many centuries and passed on from generation to generation. These books form a collective work encapsulating the experience of sailing in northern waters, the Barents Sea, the White and Norwegian Seas, as well as the route from Arkhangelsk to Kanin Peninsula in the East. Places of trade and exchanges of goods with the Norwegian population are marked along with other geographical locations.

At the present time nine Pomor lotsiyas are known, seven of which originate from the Karelian coast of the White Sea (Karelskoe Pomorye) (Bernshtam, 1978: 130—131). Five such lotsiyas were used to investigate the question of trading sites for Russians in North Norway, as well as the «Khodovoy zhurnal kemskogo krestyanina Vadaeva» (Sailing diary of Vadaev, a peasant from Kem’) (Schrader-Alimova, 1976). The first two books were published in the journal «Morskoy sbornik» in 1866. The name of the first book is1 «Sie morekhodnoe napisanie sostavleno verneyshim poryadkom po kotoromu moreplavateli nachodyat toes vse opasnye mesta i chrez to sberegayut zhizn svoyu» (Morskoy [106] sbornik, № 3). The title of the second is «Nastavleniye k puteshestviyu po morskomu traktu iz volostey po murmanskomu beregu i dannomu vladeniju v podrobnom opisanii stanovishch i rasstoyaniy» (Morskoy sbornik, № 7). The third one was published in «Zapiski po gidrografii» in 1909, along with the information that this lotsiya had been rewritten partly in 1878 and partly in 1889 from an old, decrepit notebook, written in old Slavonic by an unknown author, and at an unspecified date (Morozov, 1909). The fourth was printed in the Norwegian magazine «Norsk Tidsskrift for Sjoevesen», published in Norwegian by Olaf Broch, the professor in Slavonic languages. However, he did not publish the description of sailing along the North part of the Kola Peninsula. Therefore when we read this lotsiya we can follow only the route for sailing along the coast of Norway up to Tromsoe. Professor Broch observes that he obtained this lotsiya from a Pomor who had settled in Norway at the turn of the twentieth century and that as a young man, the Pomor man had rewritten the text of this lotsiya from old Slavonic to modern Russian, and taken it to Norway (Broch, 1939). The fifth lotsiya was published by Kseniya Petrovna Gemp, a renowned individual in Arkhangelsk, and bore the title «Kniga morekhodnaya s oznacheniem mest skolko ot odnogo do drugogo rasstoyaniya i primety stanovishchom» (Gemp, 1980). This book is kept in the archives of Arkhangelsk Regional Museum, and according to paleographical data, it was written sometime between the late eighteenth and early twentieth century.

All these materials describe an important route used by the Pomors when sailing west, taking them along the coast of North Norway. Despite the fact that the four lotsiyas in Russian, and the fifth in Norwegian, are different in style, purpose and length, the direction of sailing and the trading places in all of them coincide. When carrying out a comparative analysis of the texts of these five sea-books, the author of the current article plotted all the geographical places on a Norwegian map, and as a result we have a map of this district as it might have looked in the eighteenth century (Fig. 1). In all of the sea-books there are many Norwegian geographical places, but on our map we have marked 40 of the largest settlements, seven stopping places (stanovishcha), and the places where the Pomors used to meet Norwegian merchants.

In the list of settlements plotted on the map (Fig. 2) the names used in the lotsiyas have been indicated. Coordination of names of the settlements in the Pomor-books with the geographical names on modern maps has been made with the help of publications in «Morskoy sbornik» and «Norsk Tidsskrift for Sjoevesen».

With the help of information in the documents mentioned, it is possible to understand how the sailing voyage to Norway was made. The picture becomes


Fig. 1


Pomor seabooks
Russian map
Norwegian map
Широкая губаСалтефьордSaltflord
Фомина губаКонгсфьордKongsfjord
Тонкий СеверСлеттнесSlettnes
Гамвик (Данвик)ГамвикGamvik
Гребени (Старовер)ЕсверGjesvaer
Маврусийская салмаМагерёйсундMageroeysund
Гайсин (Гаврусин)ХавёйсюнHavoeysund
Рейновы островаРейнёйReinoey
Аммерфест (Гаммерфест)ХаммерфестHammerfest
Малые ЛудкиВатнхавнVatnhamn

Fig. 2. Names of the places visited by Pomors in North Norway in the 18th—19th centuries


especially clear upon studying the diary written by the peasant from Kem’. In this diary there is a comprehensible description of how they sailed, and what settlements they passed (Kildin, Tsyp-Navolok, Vargaev (Vardoe) and many others). There is information that the distance between Arkhangelsk and Vargaev was 1,060 versts (1 verst = 1.07 km). When they sailed near the settlement of Chleby (Kjolnes) there was stormy weather and the ship was nearly wrecked, The ship came to Gausin (Havoeysund), stopped there for two days, and then sailed to Reinoey where the Pomors traded for 18 days. There is also information that the distance between Vargaev (Vardoe) and Reinoey by sea was 607 versts, and between Arkhangelsk and Reinoey 1,667 versts (Schrader-Alimova, 1976: 390–391).

Thus, the geographical borders between Russia and North Norway were very well known by the Pomors, and their knowledge of the borders had a history dating back many centuries.

Permanent fishing grounds in Murman and trade contacts between Russians and Norwegians appeared in the sixteenth century. The settlement of Kola was established in 1570 as the first trading centre in the north-west of Russia. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fisheries in Russia developed. After 1584, when Arkhangelsk was established as the main trade centre in the White Sea region, the importance of Kola began to wane, but fisheries in this region did not cease. The settlements of Kem and Suma were situated on the west coast of the White Sea, and it was from here that most of the Pomors set out on foot to Murman in the early spring for the fishing. Those who were wealthier used their own sea vessels, engaged a crew of fishermen, and sailed to Murman or to Norwegian waters. The main type of fishing was for cod. Catches of this fish were better near the Norwegian coast than near Murman, so many Pomors preferred not to sail long distances from Murman, because their small ships were not adapted to the open ocean, and fished in Norwegian waters, visiting at the same time different places in North Norway. Pomors used the catches of fish first of all for home use, and sold it to buy grain and essentials for the family. Because the soil in the Kem and Kola districts was not suitable for agriculture, prices for corn and flour were higher than in other districts of Arkhangelsk province, but fish was rather cheaper. For example, at the end of the eighteenth century one pood (16 kg) of cod in Arkhangelsk cost 80 kopecks, while in Kola the price was 40 kopecks2. Cod was very popular in many towns in Russia, for example in Vologda, Vyatka, Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod and other locations. Besides, it was possible to sell fish at the winter Shungskaya fair [110] and Pomors could buy produce there from central districts of Russia. In tin eighteenth century it was possible to travel from the Shungskaya fair along the old winter highway to Murman, Kem, Suma, Kandalaksha and other settlements. Although many Russian merchants were opposed to the participation of peasants from Pomorye in trading activities, seeing them as competitors, the Russian government did not publish any embargo laws to prevent such peasant trade. Trade in North Norway existed de-facto; Pomors brought produce and timber products to North Norway, fishing there at the same time.

No written sources have yet been discovered regarding peasant trade in Norway in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But during the seventeenth century, Pomor trade expanded little by little. Passports belonging to Russian fishermen who sailed to Grumant (Spitzbergen) in 1710, 1711, 1712 indicate that they were permitted to sail along the coast of the Danish Kingdom. In this connection there is an interesting request from a certain Aleksey Elizarov of Suma to Tsar Peter I, in which he asks permission to buy certain goods in Arkhangelsk, including 100 chetverts3 of flour, for trade in Danish land. The request was satisfied4.

It is necessary to note that from 1704 onwards there was a monopoly in Murman, organized by Alexander Menshikov the protege of Peter I, whereby fish was bought at very low prices and many people in northern Russia suffered as a result. Therefore Peter I prohibited this monopoly in 1722 (Ocherki istorii, 147). In 1753 another representative of the Russian nobility, Count Shuvalov, set up a new monopoly, which, similarly to the first one, bought up catches at very low prices. Both monopolies undermined the economic and social status of the population. Furthermore, the catches were extremely low in the 1760s, and the food situation in Pomor districts became critical. In 1768, the Senate of Russia called off the Shuvalov monopoly. From this period onwards, competition arose between wealthy Pomor peasants who began to expand their fishing activities. In this period the Russian government passed laws concerning the fishing of herring, cod, and other types of fish. In reports of the trade situation in Arkhangelsk province in 1803, it was stated that up to 4,000 people were involved in the fishing trade in northern waters in that period (Ushakov, 1972 167-168). The director of Onega customs-house wrote in 1806 that the most fishermen sailed to «Danish waters» to fish there, where they exchanged Russian bread for fish, and later reported that they had been fishing in «Russian waters» and bought different goods in Norway and sold them in Russia5. It is difficult to [111] determine how many Pomor ships at that time sailed to Norway. The majority of Pomor ships visited Norwegian harbors after fishing near Murman. Sometimes it was the case that the local authorities in Arkhangelsk did not permit Pomors to sail to Norwegian water. The governor of Finnmark even requested that Russian vessels not be prevented from sailing to the northern regions of Norway to bring grain products6.

After 1801, when Tsar Alexander I permitted the export of corn and flour, the supply of bread goods to Norway by Pomors became virtually unlimited. In 1801 the Russian government permitted the duty-free export of 2,000 chetverts of flour per year and the import by Pomor ships offish with no excise duties. In the same year free peasant trade was allowed, and thus Pomor trade gained official status. In many archive documents (from 1808, 1809) it is possible to read customs lists belonging to Pomors in which various goods are enumerated, which were brought from Norway, and the prices asked for these goods in Russia7.

The social and economic conditions of people in Norway in the eighteenth century were different in the South from the North. The main export from North Norway was fish, which was actively bought in England, Holland and other countries. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Norwegian fishermen were enslaved by monopolies from South Norway, and no representatives from any other country whatsoever were allowed to enter Norwegian waters. Living conditions of the population in North Norway depended to a large extent on merchants buying up their produce. Trade-houses from Bergen, Trondheim, from Denmark monopolized the supply of provisions to North Norway. Grain products, which were brought illegally by Pomors, were an important form of assistance for the Norwegian population. The local Norwegian authorities identified cases of contacts between Russians and Norwegians which were often illegal, but it was impossible to monitor the situation in its entirety.

Let us briefly enumerate the most important events in the eighteenth century, concerning trade contacts in the northern regions of Norway and Russia8.

— Although there is only record of one Russian ship in North Norway in the 1720s, there is evidence of some household articles of Russian origin in certain houses of rich Norwegians.
— The 1740s marked a difficult period for Norway: years of poor harvests in southern regions, and there are records of 60 Russian ships in Vardoe during this period. Complaints from Norwegian merchants are to be found in the records, protesting against trade contacts with Russians near Tromsoe.
— 1764 — the governor in the province of Nordland obtained an order from the authorities not to prevent Russians from making contact with inhabitants of this province.
— 1765 — Treaty (Agreement) of Eternal Friendship between Russia and Denmark–Norway.
— 1767 — Russian ships granted permission freely to enter harbors in Denmark, not only in larger towns, but even in settlements in North Norway.
— 1770s — many Russian ships to be found in North Norway; thirteen Russian houses (izba) built on the island of Soeroeya.
— 1774 — 335 Russian ships recorded in North Norway, with 1,300 Russian fishermen.
— 1775 — records of 224 ships with 1,000 Russian fishermen; 600 vogs of flour delivered to Tromsoe (1 vog = 18,52 kg).
— 1782 — a treaty of friendship and trade between Russia and Denmark signed in St.-Petersburg.
— 1783 — the Danish government allowed free trade with Russians in Finnmark. Russian flour was half the price of that from South Norway.
— 1785 — special Danish Royal Commission established to investigate the economic situation in Finnmark.
— 1786 — all nationalities, including Russians were invited to trade in all Northern provinces.
— 5 September 1787 — publication of Law of Free Trade in North Norway the monopoly trade was lifted.
— 1789 — the settlements of Vardoe and Hammerfest gained the status of trading towns with customs houses.
— 1794 — Tromsoe likewise granted status of trade town.
— 1796 — Danish-Norwegian government announced a limitation in trade between Norwegian fishermen and Pomors. Trading could take place only in «makketiden» (from 15 June to 15 August). Norwegian merchants had contacts with Pomors in spring and autumn to purchase their goods.
— 1797 — custom tariff was determined in North Norway. Prices of Russian flour were lower than that of Danish flour.

Thus the preconditions appeared in the eighteenth century for the development of Pomor trade in the nineteenth. The Treaty of 1838 between the [113] Russian and Swedish-Norwegian governments secured the agreement that had been reached in the eighteenth century. Certainly it is true that the number of Pomor ships traveling to Norwegian towns and settlements fluctuated according to the size of the catches by Norwegian fishermen, and the prices for fish and grain.

It is necessary to note that at the turn of the nineteenth century, during the Continental blockade, Pomors helped the Norwegian population by means of the food goods they delivered to North Norway. During this period the supply of provisions from South Norway and other countries was closed because of the military actions of the Great Powers.

The same situation occurred during the First World War, in the early twentieth century, when German submarines blockaded northern waters, and it was impossible for American ships to supply Norway with grain and flour. Norway found itself once ensnared in the military actions of the Great Powers. Pomors, the descendants of those who used to sail to North Norway, supplied the region with flour, timber and other necessities, in spite of the veto on export of grain from Russia, although with the acquiescence of the Russian government, but this time they used steamboats and were at great risk of being blown up by German mines.

After 1917, an end was put to Pomor trade.

For scholars who study economic contacts, it is very important to obtain data about prices, quantities of commodities delivered to different countries etc., but il is no less important to find the names of people who made these economic contacts, for instance of the Russians from North Russia who traded in North Norway many years ago. These individuals had personal contacts with Norwegians, they walked along streets in the towns of North Norway, they communicated in the Russo-Norwegian pidgin language.

Many documents from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to be found in Russian archives help us to uncover the names of these Pomors. Here are a few examples:

In Norway and Russia the name of Aleksander Kuchin is well known. But in some documents from 1810 and 1811 we can see that a certain Aleksey Kuchin from the same settlement where Alexander was born, sailed to Norway to trade. We cannot determine exactly the relationship of Aleksey in the nineteenth and Alexander in the twentieth century, but it is evident that they shared common roots (Shrader 1989: 50).

In the 1930s the well-known polar skipper Vladimir Voronin captained through arctic waters such ships as «Sibiryakov», «Sedov», «Chelyuskin». At that time, investigations of the Polar regions were very popular in the Soviet Union.


In 1874, Vladimir Voronin’s uncle, Fyodor Voronin, rescued members of an Austrian expedition from arctic waters and brought them on his own ship to Vardoe. In 1808, Michalko Voronin, another member of the Voronin family, visited Talvik, Alta and Hammerfest, and delivered 2,005 poods of flour and other goods there during the Continental blockade when hundreds of Norwegians died from starvation (Shrader, 1989: 51).

Archival documents enable us likewise to follow the history of the Antufyev family. The Antufyev brothers Ivan, Grigoriy, Pyotr, and Fyodor visited many places in North Norway in the 1820s and 1830s. Brothers from the same family, descendents of the nineteenth century brothers, supplied Norwegians with grain products during the First World War9.

In other documents the names of the following Pomors are likewise to be found — Andrey Dolgoshein from Arkhangelsk, Samson Roskutov from Suma, Ilya Kornilov, Prokopij Shchadrin, Fyodor Kuznetsov from Kem and many, many other Pomor individuals who took part in this unique form of trade (Shrader, 1989: 52).

We have listed here names of Russian individuals available in the Russian archives. It is unfortunate that no names of Norwegian fishermen were to be found in these documents. But the involvement in Pomor trade of representatives from both Norway and Russia over a span of more than two hundred years demonstrates that Pomor trade knew no borders.


ASP II RAN — Arkhiv Sankt-Peterburgskogo instituta istorii RAN.

Bernshtam, T.A. (1978) Pomory. Leningrad.

Broch, O. (1939) Gamle russiske seilopgaver for Nord-Norge. In: Norsk Tidsskiftt for Sjoevesen. Horten.

Gemp, K.P. (1980) Vydayushchiysya pamyatnik istorii pomorskogo plavaniya XVIII stoletiya. Leningrad.

GAAO — Gosudarstvennyy Arkhiv Arkhangelskoy oblasti, fond Kantselyarii Arkhangelskogo voennogo gubernatora.

Johnsen, O.A. (1923) Finmarkens politiske historie, aktmaessig fremstillet (Skrift. utgitt av Det norske videnskapsakad. i Oslo, II, Hist.fil. klasse. 1922). Kristiania.

Kraft, S. (1968) Pomorhandelen pa Nord-Norge under XIX talets foerra haelft. Tromsoe-Oslo.


Morozov, N. (1909) Morekhodnaya kniga i lotsiya Belomorskikh pomorov. In: Zapiski po gidrografii. Vyp. XXX. St Petersburg.

Morskoy sbornik. 1866. St Petersburg.

Norges Historie. Bd.VII. 1977. Oslo.

Ocherki istorii — Ocherki istorii SSSR, XVIII vek, vtoraya polovina. Moscow, 1956.

RGIA — Rossijskiy Gosudarstvennyy istoricheskiy arkhiv.

Schrader-Alimova, T.A. (1976) Dva pamyatnika pismennosti drevnehranilishcha Pushkinskogo doma o russko-skandinavskikh svjazjakh XVII-XIX vv. In: Trudy Otdela drevnerusskoy literatury. T. XXXI. Leningrad.

Shrader, T.A. (1989) Dalyokie i blizkie imena (k voprosu o rodoslovnoy pomorov khodivshikh v Norvegiyu). In: Istoricheskie svyazi Russkogo Severa i Norvegii. K 200-letiyu goroda Vardoe. Arkhangelsk, St Petersburg.

Ushakov, I.T. (1972) Kolskaya zemlya. Murmansk.

Ytreberg, N.A. (1942) Handelsteder i Finnmark. Trondheim.

Tatjana Shrader
Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg



1 Because of difficulties associated with translating old Russian language into appropriate English, we will cite the Russian text using the Latin alphabet.


2 RGIA, F. 13, op. 2, №. 782, l. 25, 26, 31.


3 One chetvert is the same as 210 liters.

4 ASP II RAN, F. 10, op. 4, №. 248, l. 3.

5 ASP II RAN, F. 36, op. 1, №. 562, l. 124 ob.


6 RGIA, F. 13, op. 2, №. 1263, l. 2, 3, 4.

7 GAAO, T. I, d. 73; Ibid, F. 10, op. 1, d. 212, l. 77–82.

8 The following data comes from different printed sources from both the Norwegian and Russian sides: Johnsen, 1923 ; Kraft, 1968; Norges Historie, 1977; Ytreberg, 1942; Ushakov, 1972 and others.


9 RGIA, F. 21, op. 1, №. 297, l. 100.

© текст, Shrader T.A., 2005

© OCR, HTML-версия, Шундалов И., 2008

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