Founded by the Swedes in 1632, sleepy Sortavala became better known as Serdobol during its first Russian phase (1721 to 1812), when its quarries provided much of the stone for St Petersburg’s great palaces. It was part of Finland until WWII, when, after severe bombing, its population evacuated and the area was forced into the USSR. Sortavala is primarily a launching point for reaching Valaam.
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