What I intend to address here are the missconceptions, misunderstandings, misrepresentations that surround the Carelian Bear Dog (CBD) and its 'cousin', the Russo-European Laika (REL). Virtually every country and established registry in the world recognizes the uniqueness of these two breeds, and identifies them accordingly with different standards.
The Finns lay claim to the CBD; the Russians to the REL and the 'next of kin' Laika breeds, the West Siberian, East Siberian, and Karelo-Finnish varieties. The Canadian and United Kennel Clubs, the American Rare Breed Association, and every Federation Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) country acknowledges that these two dogs are separate and apart, worthy of their individuality by their differences in appearance, capabilities, and most importantly, historical background.
In spite of this, there is an insistence on the part of many North Americans that these dogs are 'interchangeable', that the variations and nuances within the two breeds are simply figments of overactive imaginations. There is a little history lesson here. Someone not long ago made the particularly flippant comment that "There's a controversy because the Finns and the Russians don't get along, but they're the same dog". The animosity between these two countries is deep and ingrained. During the Russian invasion of Carelia province, in the so-called "Winter War", untold numbers of Finns lost their homes, their lands, and their lives.
The people of Carelia evacuated the area; by some accounts, the numbers ran to the hundreds of thousands. Many CBD's were not so lucky. In his book "The Story of the Karelian Bear Dog", Juho Perttola relates that "As the front line drew nearer to Pitkaranta, 5 adult dogs were buried in the same grave. Those dogs included one of the two cornerstones of the breed, the unforgettable Musti originally owned by Cpt. Kivikko...As he (Antti Herrala) left his home, 5 adult dogs followed. Nalle and her puppies had to be left behind as booty. But the dogs that were running loose following Herrala disappeared on the road that ran along the coast of Lake Lagoda....Miraculously, Nalle, who had been left behind in Kovero, was evacuated with her puppies to Sortavala by Lt. O. Virolainen, who was ordered to destroy the village...The first phase of the conservation of the Karelian Bear Dog in the eastern border thus ended in the destruction of various kinds of dogs".
To those I have spoken with who lived through this time, it was more than simply a case of "not getting along". While some may have tried to 'forgive and forget', in 1945 retired Major-General E. Raappana, a noted breed judge, wrote: "The breed standards that we have created for the Karelian Bear Dog were originally designed for the dogs from Aunus, and therefore a dog from Russian Karelia cannot compete if we wish to create an establised breed of the Karelian Bear Dog".
To that end, I hope you find this website interesting and informative. If it does in some small way, pay tribute to this courageous breed and the great country that created and protected them, then I have done my job.