Have you ever heard of Shoyna? Well, that’s because it isn’t typically marked on maps. Shoyna is a quaint village in northern Russia, situated along the coast of the White Sea. The land is covered in mounds of sand, so much so that the village even has its own bulldozer for digging out homes. Due to their location, the locals have to endure not only the large amounts of sand but also the cold. Originally a fishing village — more below on why this trade is now defunct — Shoyna’s 300 or so inhabitants now rely on unemployment, pensions, and hunting geese for survival. If you are interested in visiting, you can get there by aircraft or by ship as there are no roads or railroads connected to the curious area. There aren’t any hotels either, but there’s reportedly some empty barracks open to guests (don’t expect any amenities), and the locals are said to be very hospitable. See photos and more details below.It’s a small village along the coast of the White Sea in Northern Russia, specifically Arkhangelsk Oblast.
The area was secured in the 1930s because of its supply of fish and other sea life, and villagers were on their way to transforming it into a beautiful fishing port. At its peak, there were about 1,500 residents.
This northern “desert’ is located about 230 miles from Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Naryan-Mar. The dunes go for miles.
Residents leave their doors open at night. If they don’t, they might not be able to open them come morning.
Around the time of its peak, Shoyna was over fished, so the trade was no longer sustainable. Soon after, dunes took over the land.
The former fishermen now rely on unemployment benefits and pensions, and those who do work hunt geese.
These are not hunted as often but ornithologists, or those who study birds, visit the area for research.
Go by plane and you’ll land on the dirt runway of the village’s civilian airport.
You’ll wonder how the locals can leave in such conditions, and we’re just as curious. However, we don’t judge how others choose to live their lives. Those who have visited noted that the locals are hospitable and offer visitors fish delicacies and seagull eggs.
Researchers are still trying to find a definitive answer, but some believe that the over fishing completely destroyed the benthic vegetation, which resulted in a massive amount of sand. The wind then moved the sands onto the village.
Here is an excerpt from the project ‘Shoyna Dissected-Chests of Sand’ by Jan Gunnar Skjeldsøy, a Norwegian architect interested in looking at “the edges, the untold and the loss of Nature” when conducting research for his work: “A tide was coming ashore, but this time it was not water. It was sand. And if you want to indulge in a sense of drama, it was the sand of retribution. Years of misalignment between local fishing practices and the marine ecosystem they harvested, had scraped the ocean floors clean of their marine lifeforms and their intricate systems of checks and balances that had held these submerged sandy steppes in equilibrium through untold seasonal cycles. Now the ocean floor began coming ashore. It began piling up against homes. Shoyna began sinking. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1990s, though, that this ominous trickle transformed into a flood. In the 90s the sand began to come in waves that could literally submerge a house in the span of a single night. The arrival of these devastating waves coincided with the advent of Perestroika and Shoyna’s subsequent loss of the political and organizational systems that had sustained the township so far. To the inhabitants of this remote hamlet, it must have seemed like the end of days.”
Despite their lack of fish and different ways of living, they see to be doing just fine, and that’s what matters!