Shoina, the Village Buried in Sand Where People Still Live

Street scene Aug. 2005

Shoina is a village on the coast of the White Sea. Houses in Shoina are being covered with white sand which comes from the beach. When it was built in the 1930s, the land was covered with forest and moss. Then, in the 1950s, the sand started coming in. At first, the three houses of the lighthouse keepers were covered. Sometimes a building could be covered with sand as quickly as overnight. As a local, Natasha, said “one night we were just able to take the last things out of our old house and then the wind started blowing again, and the roof of our old house got covered with sand, like it was waiting for us to take the last of our belongings out. We were trying to save the motorcycle, and we didn’t know if we would be able to get out”.

  Street scene Aug. 2005

As local meteorologist, Natasha says, she uses her attic to enter her house now. She cut a manhole in the roof and has put up a ladder to climb into the house. “It’s very comfortable”, Natasha says “you get out right on the ground and go wherever you want”.

Street scene Aug. 2005


As Natasha says, some of her neighbors’ houses are already under the sand. She says that some of them were already covered by sand when she was still in school. However, she notes that “it got faster during 80s, when all this Perestroika happened”. And in the nineties in the new country, after the USSR collapse, the boats stopped arriving at Shoina village, salaries were delayed for months, and the only local store was out of food.

“And the dunes started approaching really quick. Like they felt it.”, recalls the woman.

“Like it all goes to nowhere”, says Natasha, crying.

Street scene Aug. 2005


Officially, Shoina has a population of 375 people. It has been said that there is no unemployment and getting a job is easy. There is also an army base nearby. People say that sometime ago they could get money right out of thin air, literally: there is a space launch facility “Plesetsk” used both for civil and military needs nearby, so the pieces of the rockets – the rocket stages – were falling down around the village. The people collected them and converted them to their needs or turned them into scrap metal. However lately, the missiles have disappeared so the Shoina people collect berries instead.


People don’t know why the sand has arrived. Some say it is because the fishing boats have damaged the sea bottom and sludge was moved out of its place, so the sand started rising from the sea bottom. Others think that the animals and trucks damaged the grass around the village and unleashed the sand.

Street scene Aug. 2005

The local small hospital is being dug up by a tractor, as it is state controlled. It takes an hour and a half to get the sand out of part of the house. The tractor driver, Sasha, says it takes ten hours to uncover a house completely. He says he doesn’t like his job: “I dig one house out, and the others are mad at me!”. An hour of tractor work costs roughly $70. Nobody in the village can afford a ten hour tractor job, and the government pays forty hours for all for a month.

Street scene Aug. 2005  Municipal bath  Aug. 2005 7ac8582df64be02921ae5939c22a68a5-original Remains of the fishing fleet once totaling more then 70 the ships. Aug. 2005 Street scene Aug. 2005 1a5ed630644e2f201424b423b9b6ed9b-original

5 thoughts on “Shoina, the Village Buried in Sand Where People Still Live”

  1. Very interesting. They seem to have a lot of scrap metal around there. They should scrap it all and build a wall of some sort to stop the sand from moving in.

    How windy is it over there?

  2. A while back RT had an interesting documentary about Shoina …

  3. Plant dune grasses and anchor the sand. this is done in North Carolina to protect the beaches from wind erosion.

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