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Business news, 10.08.2004 11:36

Legends Help Sell Real Estate in Karelia

real_estate_karelia ST PETERSBURG TIMES

By Sophia Kornienko


Photo by Alexander Belenky / SPT

In the attempts to win the hearts (and money) of potential customers, out-of-town real estate agencies in Karelia often appeal to the public affection for tragic legends.

Finland's first president and national hero, general Karl Gustav Mannerheim had his troops positioned in Karelia - a former Finnish territory and a forefront of heavy fights between the Soviets and the Finns during the Winter War. Many cottages remaining in the area from that time are thus claimed to have a connection to the famed general.

"This cottage Mannerheim built especially for his daughter, and she really lived here. And several years ago, a 90-year-old man came here and sat on the doorstep for a long time, crying. We don't know why he was crying - he spoke only in Finnish," a local resident told Delovoi Peterburg Monday, referring to a deserted white mansion at the picturesque lake of Glubokoye in Karelia.

However, historians say, it is unlikely that any of the local cottages have a connection to Mannerheim. He never owned real estate in Karelia, but lived at the general headquarters in Mikkeli during the war and in a house the Finnish government rented for him in Helsinki the rest of the time, official reports say.

Many cottages sold as "Mannerheim's summer cottages" are in fact the former houses of the Russian aristocrats, Delovoi Peterburg said.

The myth about the numerous Mannerheim's cottages originated from the propaganda spread among Soviet soldiers after they occupied Karelia. Most of the soldiers saw Western Europe for the first time and it was not considered politically correct to tell them the houses they occupied belonged to common Finns and Russian intelligentsia. Instead, the soldiers were led to believe they were taking over the houses of the rich, primarily baron Mannerheim, historical reports say.

"I know eight 'Mannerheim summer cottages'. Houses connected with such legends are easy to sell," Yuri Vorontsov, director of the Northern branch of the Bekar Out-of-Town Real Estate agency, told Delovoi Peterburg. "Many people have some sort of nostalgia towards the region's history. That's why they often choose real estate with some story about it," Vorontsov said.

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