General information about the Kola Peninsula

What is the Kola Peninsula? What is its origin, and what’s so interesting about it?

Polar night and aurora borealis

The Kola Peninsula is above of the Arctic Circle, which explains the polar day and polar night phenomena. Also, because of its proximity to the magnetic pole of the Earth, one can observe true aurora borealis here.

What is the “polar night” in reality? In reality it never turns completely dark but days become real short. It is light from 11am to 3pm, of which true light lasts for only about two hours while the rest is extended dusk. There is never total darkness during the day because the sunlight shines onto clouds and mountains from below the horizon, and these, in turn, reflect light onto the earth surface. The length of the day reaches that of the Russian midland by the middle of February, and then it gets longer and longer. In the summer the sun does not set at all.

Glaciers and mountains

The Kola Peninsula was fully covered by the ice sheet 10-12 thousand years ago, which is very little on the geological scale. After the glacier had melted the earth crust remained depressed for some time because of the weight of the ice, and parts of the peninsula were submerged in the sea. There was a sea strait where the Murmansk to Kandalaksha railway now is. After some time the earth crust has straightened out and sea waters receded.

Nearly all landscape forms of the Kola Peninsula can be traced back to the ice sheet. These are glacier lakes, moraine ridges, and drumlin hills with indigenous rock base. Outer slopes of small mountain systems, such as Lovozero tundras, Khibiny tundras, and Monchetundra have been rounded off by moving ice, and horizontal moraine ridges are quite well visible there. Ice thickness over the Kola Peninsula was up to 1.5km, and ice covered the biggest of the mountains, the Khibiny massif (1200m).

Climate

The Kola Peninsula climate is quite soft. Extreme colds are rare here because of the softening influence on the warm Nordkapp current which keeps the port of Murmansk open in the winter. As one moves eastwards the climate gets dryer and more continental, which means less precipitation, lower temperatures in the winter, and higher in the summer. Stable snow cover forms by the middle of November, and mass melting takes place in May. Snow thickness in the forest reaches 120cm.

Population

The most developed part of the peninsula is along the Kandalaksha-to-Murmansk line. Most settlements are located there. As one moves eastwards, the population density drops sharply, with small northern indigenous peoples, Sami and Komi, who support themselves by reindeer husbandry and hunting, living there. The main centers of traditional land usage are the villages of Lovozero and Krasnoshelye. Here, as in the old days, one can meet a reindeer-pulled sleigh and see people in traditional coats and footwear. One may even hear the Sami or Komi language. Living conditions in remove settlement are harsh and modest, people there have restrained character, but are welcoming and cheerful.

Animal world

The animal world of the Kola Peninsula includes the northern reindeer, moose, polar wolf, wolverine, brown bear, marten, fox, hare, ermine, and squirrel. Of birds, several species of gull, crows, eagles, cuckoo, and many kinds of passerines that include crossbill and bullfinch are common.

Fishing truly makes the Kola Peninsula famous. In its rivers one can catch trout, bulltrout, salmon, humpback salmon, whitefish, and grayling. In the lakes you’ll find burbot, bulltrout, whitefish, grayling, pike, perch, and roach. Unfortunately, a hard social situation – or, simply put, poverty and lack of culture – lead to merciless destruction of whild nature of the Kola Peninsula.