Arkhangelsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast). It includes the Arctic archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya, as well as the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea. Among the oldest cities of the region are Kholmogory, Kargopol, and Solvychegodsk; there are a number of Russian Orthodox monasteries, including the Antoniev Siysky Monastery and the World Heritage Site of the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea. Plesetsk Cosmodrome is one of three spaceports in Russia (the other two are Kapustin Yar in Astrakhan Oblast and Svobodny in Amur Oblast). The area of Arkhangelsk Oblast has been settled by Finno-Ugric peoples since prehistoric times, and most of the toponyms in the region are in fact Finno-Ugric. It was subsequently colonized by the Novgorod Republic. Kargopol was first mentioned in the chronicles in 1146, Shenkursk was mentioned in 1315, and Solvychegodsk was founded in the 14th century. By 13th century the Novgorodian merchants had already reached the White Sea. The area was attractive in the first instance because of fur trading. The Novgorodians penetrated the area using the waterways, and this is why most of the ancient (and, as a matter of fact, of the modern) settlements were located into the main river valleys. After the fall of Novgorod in 1478, all these lands became a part of the Great Duchy of Moscow. Until 1703, the Northern Dvina served as the main export trading route of Muscovy. The local centers were Veliky Ustyug and Kholmogory, however, during the 17th century, Kholmogory lost its significance, and its role was gradually replaced by Arkhangelsk. In 1708, when the governorates were established by Tsar Peter the Great, Arkhangelsk became the seat of one of the seven governorates of the Russian Empire.
At the same time, Arkhangelsk lands were one of the most remote areas in Russia. This fact was attractive for monks fleeing the crowds. In 1436, Solovetsky Monastery was founded, and it quickly became one of the richest and the most influential Russian monasteries. Other monasteries followed. For instance, Kozheozersky Monastery, founded in 1552, still remains one of the most remote Russian Orthodox monasteries. After the great schism in Russian Orthodox Church, known as Raskol, occurred in 1653, the area attracted many Old Believers, the defenders of one of the parties, who were persecuted by the state. Later, the Old Believers in Arkhangelsk Oblast are all but disappeared, fleeing to more remote locations like Siberia. Arkhangelsk Oblast is famous for its wooden buildings which include churches, chapels, peasant houses and farms, and city houses. The choice of wood as the construction material is natural for a region almost exclusively covered by taiga and still being one of the biggest timber producers. Some of these buildings date from 17th century. Churches and chapels are considered particularly fine, and almost all of these constructed prior to 1920s have been declared the cultural heritage at the federal or local levels. More than 600 buildings (both of timber and stone) are protected on the federal level. An open-air ethnographic museum was open in the village of Malye Korely close to Arkhangelsk, with the purpose of preserving this heritage.