John H. Lind
University of Southern Denmark
In historical sources the Karelians appear in the 12th century although archaeological excavations suggest that the amalgamation of groups of Baltic Finns, centered on the Karelian Isthmus, that came together from east and west respectively to form them originated in the late Iron Age and early Viking Age. Accordingly they were from the start recipients of impulses from both east and west, a phenomenon that continued throughout the medieval period and ended with their physical division between what became a politico-religious division of Europe between east and west, lasting until today. The article concentrates on the role played by the landscape, situated on an important passageway of international trade and close to two growing neighbouring powers, Sweden and Novgorod, that profited from this trade route but at the same time became ever more opposed to one another as result of the crusading movement of the Latin Church.