This is the story of a sea perched in the Far North, a sea where Russia forged a polar destiny. It is named the White Sea, because of the ice and fog that cover it most of the year. For years, Cédric Gras has crisscrossed the Russian Federation, fascinated by its geography and mosaic of ethnicities. Today, he heads out in search of what is called the Russian North, the part of the Arctic where the Slavs settled ten centuries ago. It’s a region of pristine taigas populated by izbas made of larch, in the midst of which a pioneering, spiritual, and sometimes tragic story played out.
The White Sea is the historic sea of the Russian people, the Slavic Mare Nostrum, around which a nation was built. It is to this historically rich region, the cradle of Russia, that the travel writer sets off. His trip takes place in winter, the most trying yet representative season of the soul of this land. On these northern shores, he finds traditions, monasteries, forest civilizations, and frozen ports. He has feverishly read the stories of the conquest of the North and is about to travel around the White Sea to better understand where and how the Russians became a people of the cold.
It is this original Russia, a boreal Russia, that he seeks to discover. The journey begins at the entrance of this nearly closed sea, on a shore called the Winter Coast. From there, Cédric Gras will reach the city of Arkhangelsk and its port caught in the ice, before getting to the mythical archipelago of the Solovetsky Islands. He will then follow the White Sea Canal into the hinterland known as Karelia. Finally, he will head to the remote North Coast, the refuge of the last Pomor fishermen.