The Svir unites the two biggest lakes in Europe, Onega and Ladoga. It issues from the former and empties into the latter. The river, which is 224 km long, is a part of the White Sea-Baltic and Volga-Baltic Canal system. Two hydroelectric stations are active on it, one upstream and the other downstream. The Svir banks are marvelous in their diversity: sheer and covered with woods or crowned with red vertical rocks alternating with green velvet marshes. For a long time these lands were wild and thinly populated. During the Mongol invasion people fled to towns, not to dense woods. In 1487 the monk Alexander from the Valaam Monastery (canonized by the Russian Church) came to these parts and founded a cloister that is known now as St. Alexander Svirsky’s Monastery. It was destroyed by the Swedes in 1561, the Poles and Lithuanians in 1613, and the Soviets after 1917. The cloister is being restored now. The holy relics of its founder have recently been found in a museum and transferred to the monastery.
The Svir provides the country with good timber floated downstream by local inhabitants and stored there. The river is abundant in fish, especially salmon and trout. It is not, however, very good for navigation as it is not deep (up to 5 m in autumn) but meanders, has rapids and is often fogbound. All these factors, however, don’t hinder courageous and experienced captains safely steering their ships up and downstream.
A small town of SVIRSTROY with a population of 1,500 (on the left bank) and the Nizhnesvirskaya hydroelectric power station were built simultaneously. The Svir was canalized and the most dangerous of its rapids inundated, making the river navigable. The station is located on a small island in the middle of the dam that is 30 m high and 1.5 km long.