New Valamo

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New Valaam was also the name of a hermitage on Spruce Island, Alaska.
New Valamo monastery today.
Inside the main church at New Valamo.

New Valamo or New Valaam (Finnish: Valamon luostari, or more informally, esp. in the postal address: Uusi-Valamo) is an Orthodox monastery in Heinävesi, Finland. The monastery was established in its present location in 1940.

The relocation of the monastery[edit]

In 1939, during the Winter War, some 190 monks from the Valamo Monastery in Karelia were evacuated from their old abode on a group of islands in Lake Ladoga in the Viipuri Province to present Eastern Finland. The old Valamo Monastery was occupied by the armed forces of the Soviet Union quite soon after the outbreak of the Winter War.

After a temporary dwelling place the monks decided to settle down in Heinävesi in Eastern Finland. The choice fell on a mansion in Papinniemi, Heinävesi, after the monks had found there, quite surprisingly, an icon of St. Sergius and St. Herman of Valaam, the founders of the monastery in the 12th century. The monks considered this to be a sign from God.[1][2] Having received evacuees from the Konevsky (Konevitsa) and Pechenga (Petsamo) monasteries, it is now the only monastery for men of the Finnish Orthodox Church.[3]

Recent developments[edit]

Economic difficulties[edit]

The Great Recession which began in 2008 has resulted in economic difficulties in the monastery. This has led to a series of co-determination procedures and to the discharging and re-instating of the head of the monastery. However, the economic difficulties have a longer history than this. During the years 2003–2013 the financial report of the monastery has shown a surplus only in two years, and this surplus has not been the result of successful business ventures. In 2012 there was a surplus, because the monastery received insurance money for a fire in its main building.[4] A typical deficit during the decade in question has been ca. 300 000 Euros per annum, but this figure is worse than the actual situation, because the balance sheet contains the effect of the aging buildings of the monastery.[4]

In 2013, the monastery had debts up to ca. one million Euros, and it was not deemed impossible to pay them back, since the annual turnover of the monastery was ca. 2,5 million Euros. However, one has to take into account the fact that at the time the monastery had sold the financial assets it had received as donations, and also a large part of the 300 hectares of its forests had been harvested. Also income from tourists was down since 2011. The only operation of the monastery that showed profit was Valamon Viiniherman, but in 2012 not more than 60,000 Euros.[4]

In 2013 it was reported that money had been spent on e.g. a new iconostasis (300,000 Euros) and on renovating the guest house called Sillankorva (nearly 1 million Euros). However, these expenses had been covered mainly from donations.[4]

Co-determination processes[edit]

Co-determination process negotiations have been held with the monastery staff in the autumn of 2011 and 2012 as well as late summer of 2013, and in July 2014 it was reported that such negotiations will take place yet again.[4][5]

In the 2013 negotiations the monastery aimed at reducing its labour force of 33 persons down by 9 or to achieve similar savings. The negotiations concluded with the intended savings having been achieved through changes in the hours the employees worked and through pension schemes. The net effect was the equivalent of 5,5 persons work per annum.[4][6]

In July 2014 it was reported again that Valamo will begin yet another round of co-determination negotiations. This time the monastery wants to terminate the employment of all its 34 employees and then re-hire them for wages based on hours they will work. The employees appear to be represented by PAM, which is the workers’ trade union in the private service sector.[5]

Archimandrite Sergei is discharged and reinstated as head of the monastery[edit]

Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland discharged Igumen Sergei from the position of the leader of the monastery in November 2011. The background of this action was the long-standing disagreements of Fr. Sergei and the financial director of the monastery, Mr. Veikko Halonen. These two men had been said to have been in a “collision course.” At the time of these events, the monastery was 800,000 Euros in debt, and the economy had shown losses for the past several years.[7]

Archbishop Leo had told the igumen that the monastery should continue in dual leadership, but Fr. Sergei did not agree to this and fired Mr. Halonen. After this the archbishop made his own decision and fired Fr. Sergei and reinstated Mr. Halonen. Bishop Arseni of Joensuu was appointed as temporary head of the monastery.[7][8]

According to Arseni, this arrangement was to be a temporary one, and in time there would have been a vote of the leader within the brotherhood. However, it would have taken months or even years before this would have happen.[7]

There are various opinions about these developments, and especially in the internet. Soon after Igumen Sergei was discharged, four members of the brethren announced in the monastery website that they back the decisions of Archbishop Leo. A dissenting voice was made public by a certain member of the board of Friends of Valamo, who founded an internet address in support of the reinstating of Fr. Sergei. With the instructions of the board of the monastery, Bishop Arseni let this person know that she is not welcome to the monastery for the next three years.[7][9] It is said that even within the monastery there are dissenting views about these events.[8]

In late November 2012 Archbishop Leo reinstated Archimandrite Sergei as the head of the monastery. This happened because the Finnish Assistant Chancellor of Justice had cautioned the Archbishop, saying that the latter had committed a misconduct in his office when he discharged Archimandrite Sergei from his position. According to the law on the Orthodox Church in Finland and according to the administrative orders of the church it is not possible to discharge the head of a monastery. According to the Archbishop, the church will now take action in order to resolve the inconsistencies between the law on the Orthodox Church and the administrative principles of the monasteries.[10][11] The synod of the church is contemplating a change in the law, which would allow for a head of a monastery to be discharged. The synod is now waiting for comments on all parties that would be affected by the new law.[12]

In late February, 2013, the board of directors of the monastery unanimously decided to terminate the employment contract of the financial director of the monastery, Mr. Veikko Halonen. The grounds they gave was that the economic restructuring programme of the monastery had failed. The programme has started in the autumn of 2010, and since then the losses of the monastery had amounted to 300,000 Euros per year. The restructuring will be continued by a working group, which consists of the head of the monastery, the new financial director and the principal of the Valamo Institute.[13]

Production of whisky to become the cornerstone of economy[edit]

In 2014 it was reported that the monastery will begin to produce whisky. Investments of ca. 1 million Euros will be made to this effect. The investor will be Viiniherman, which produces wines and liqueurs in Valamo and in Ilomantsi. The annual capacity of the Valamo distillery will be 120,000 litres, and it will be the biggest distillery in Finland. The product development had been going on for four years already, and the first batch to be sold was to be released in 2018. The intention is to have the product sold by Alko, and the plan is to make whisky the cornerstone of the economy of the monastery. The raw material will be barley.[14][15]

2012 Fire[edit]

Deanery after the fire

In March 2012, there was a fire in the old main building of Papinniemi estate, which also served as the first main building of the monastery. The building had been built in 1840. The attic of the building was destroyed in the fire. It had been used as a storage space, and there were no valuables in it. All the valuable artefacts from the lower floors had been successfully removed during the fire, with the exception of the furniture.[16] The furnaces of the building has been in poor condition, and their use had been prohibited for several years. However, one of the furnaces had been used for heating, and in a police investigation it was found that the fire had started from the cracks of the chimney. A couple of foreign extraction, who had been living in the building, were prosecuted in the Southern Savo Local Court. The court did not find sufficient evidence to back the claim that the furnace had been used for heating. The case was tried in December 2012.

The damages of the monastery amounted up to 1,6 million Euros. The State of Finland was ordered to pay some of the expenses of the man who had been accused of causing the fire.[17][18]

Igumens (father superiors) of the monastery[edit]

Location of Valamon Monastery in the Heinävesi municipality

The following persons have served as igumens of the monastery: [19]

Other Orthodox monastic communities in Finland[edit]

The Finnish Orthodox Church has also a monastery for women, Lintula Holy Trinity Convent, which is situated 18 kilometres (11 mi) from New Valamo, in Palokki, Heinävesi.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ortodoksinen kirkko Suomessa"( The Orthodox Church in Finland) (ed. by Fr. Ambrosius and Markku Haapio) (1979) p. 287
  2. ^ "Orthodoxy in Finland, Past and present (ed. by V. Purmonen)(1984) p.41
  3. ^ "Orthodoxy in Finland, Past and present" (ed. V. Purmonen) (1984) pp. 41–42
  4. ^ a b c d e f Saarinen, Juhani (17 Aug 2013). "Valamo elää yli varojensa" [Valamo lives beyond its means]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish) (Helsinki: Sanoma). pp. B 6–7. 
  5. ^ a b "Valamon luostarissa työsuhteet tuntipalkkaisiksi" [Valamo Monastery to change employment contracts into employment by the hours]. Karjalainen (Joensuu). 1 July 2014. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Valamon luostarin yt-neuvotteluissa vältyttiin irtisanomisilta" [Terminations of contracts avoided in Valamo co-determination process]. Kaleva (in Finnish) (Oulu). 9 Oct 2013. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  7. ^ a b c d Keskiaho, Saila (15 Feb 2011). "Valamo etsii suuntaansa kriisin jälkeen (‘Valamo is looking for a new direction after a crisis’)". Kirkko ja kaupunki (‘Church and the City’) (6/2012) (The Parish Union of Helsinki). pp. 4–5. 
  8. ^ a b "Erottaminen herättää keskustelua (‘Sacking causes a debate’)". YLE uutiset. 
  9. ^ "Vetoomus am. Sergein palauttamiseksi Valamon luostarin johtajaksi (‘Petition to reinstate Archimandrite Sergei as the head of the Valamo Monastery’)". 
  10. ^ STT (November 23, 2012). "Valamon entinen johtaja palautettiin virkaansa (‘The former head of the Valamo monastery reinstated’)". Helsingin Sanomat. p. A 4. 
  11. ^ STT (November 23, 2012). "Valamon entinen johtaja palautettiin virkaansa (‘The former head of the Valamo monastery reinstated’)". Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  12. ^ STT (20 Nov 2012). "Ortodoksit pohtivat vielä lakia luostarin johtajan erottamisesta". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). p. A8. 
  13. ^ "Valamon luostari irtisanoo johtajan (‘The Valamo monastery dismisses an executive’)". Helsingin Sanomat. 2013-02-13. pp. A 14. 
  14. ^ Vuoripuro, Verna (2 July 2014). "Valamon luostarissa aletaan valmistaa viskiä" [Whisky to be produced in the Valamo Monastery]. Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki: Sanoma). p. A 12. 
  15. ^ Lehtiniemi, Keimo (1 July 2014). "Valamo aloittaa viskin valmistuksen – luostariin Suomen suurin tislaamo" [Valamo to begin production of whisky]. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  16. ^ "Valamossa satojen tuhansien vahingot — taideaarteet saatiin pelastettua" [Losses worth several thousand Euros in Valamo — valuable works of art were saved.]. YLE uutiset Etelä-Savo. 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  17. ^ "Valamon luostarin tulipalo käräjille" [Valamo monastery fire goes to the local court]. YLE uutiset Etelä-Savo. 23 July 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Viljakka, Vuokko (2012-12-05). "Syytteet Valamon tulipalosta hylättiin" [Charges dismissed in the case of the Valamo monastery fire]. (Savon Sanomat). Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  19. ^ Igumens of Valamo Monastery 1758–
  20. ^ "Lintulan Kroniikka" (The Cronicle of Lintula ) edited by Archmandrite Panteleimon (1992) p. 96

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 62°33′47″N 028°47′26″E / 62.56306°N 28.79056°E / 62.56306; 28.79056