On the 2nd of August 2013, the White Sea-Baltic Canal's 80th anniversary was marked. The canal was one of the major projects of the first Soviet Five-Year Plan. It turned out to be more a monument to Stalin than a cost-effective water transport artery. 126,000 prisoners of Gulag, dug 21 million cubic meters of earth by hand, and due to official statements 25,000 prisoners died. Of course, the real numbers are still classified. But historians say from 100,000 to 200,000 "zeks" became victims of the project.

Many people were buried right under the stones in the waters of Belomorkanal. Some builders were shot, others died right when they were working. The ones who were 'lucky' got transferred to build another 'velikaya stroyka' - the Volga-Baltic Waterway. And most of them found their peace there.

Nowadays 19 canal’s gateways are opened for tourist ships heading to Solovetsky Islands, or for ships with Karelian woods crossing them just once a week. Most of the time the waterway is empty.

Former workers' settlements along the canal are inhabited not by the descendants of those prisoners. Most of population are ex-employees of Belomorkanal, others are the children and grandchildren of 'vertukhai' - the guards who watched out for zeks. They live their lifes close to the silent waters of Belomorcanal. And it looks like the still small voice drowned in those waters long time ago. Will it dive out one day? (Republic of Karelia, Russia, 2013)

© alexander aksakov