RU-658386 311 - ая открытка

Country: Russia

Distance: 1,019 km

Travel time:  17 days

On postcard: Kizhi

Kizhi (Russian: Ки́жи, Karelian: Kiži) is an island near the geometrical center of the Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia (Medvezhyegorsky District), Russia. It is elongated from north to south and is about 6 km long, 1 km wide and is about 68 km away from the capital of Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Settlements and churches on the island were known from at least the 15th century. The population was rural, but was forced by the government to assist development of the ore mining and iron plants in the area that resulted in a major Kizhi Uprising in 1769–1771. Most villages had disappeared from the island by 1950s and now only a small rural settlement remains. In the 18th century, two major churches and a bell-tower were built on the island, which are now known as Kizhi Pogost. In 1950s, dozens of historical wooden buildings were moved to the island from various parts of Karelia for preservation purposes. Nowadays, the entire island and the nearby area form a national open-air museum with more than 80 historical wooden structures. The most famous is the Kizhi Pogost, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.



The name Kizhi is believed to originate from ancient Veps or Karelian word “kizhat” or "kizhansuari" ("social gathering" or “island of games”). In Russian, it is usually pronounced with stress on the first syllable; an alternative stress on the ultimate syllable is grammatically incorrect in the Russian and Karelian languages.

Industrial development

Since at least 14th century, the island was part of the exchange route between Novgorod and White Sea. The numerous settlements on Kizhi and neighboring islands (about 100 by 16th century) comprised an administrative entity called Spas-Kizhi Pogost. Since 13–14 century, the area acquired economical importance as a source of iron ores. By the early 18th century, as a consequence of the industrial reforms of Tzar Peter I, several ore mines and metallurgy plants were built on the Onega Lake, in particular on the place of modern Medvezhyegorsk and Petrozavodsk cities. Those plants required hard physical labor such as cutting forests for wood, coal burning, ground works, etc., which was mostly provided by the local peasants. The labor was forced; the disobeyed were punished by public beating and fines that was sparking local riots. The largest one occurred in 1769–1771 and is known as Kizhi Uprising, which was sparked by a governor order to send peasants during the harvest season for works at Tivdiysk marble mine and construction of the Lizhemsky metallurgical plant. Peasants disobeyed and boycotted the order. They were soon joined by up to 40,000 people from all over Karelia led by Kliment Sobolev, Andrei Salnikov and Semen Kostin. The revolt was based in the Kizhi Pogost that resulted in its name. The peasants sent petitioners to St. Petersburg, but those were arrested and punished, and a military corps was send to suppress the uprising. They arrived to Kizhi by the end of June, 1771, and after artillery fire the peasants quickly surrendered. The leaders and 50–70 other peasants were publicly beaten and sent to exile in Siberia. Many others were forced into military service, which was a form of punishment of the time. However, the recruitment of peasants for the construction of local plants and mineworks had stopped.

Farming and other traditional activities

From the early times, the most important occupation of the islanders was farming. All available area, about half of the island was converted to fields; from the remaining half, a quarter was rocky and the rest occupied by swamps. On one occasion in 18th century, two villages were moved from Kizhi island to the nearby infertile mainland to free land for farming. Until 1970, the island had about 96 hectares of fields yielding various grains and potato, and combine harvesters and tractors for field cultivation. The farming was stopped in 1971 by a government directive. Some fields were reconstructed in 2004 as part of the Kizhi museum. Those fields are an exhibit demonstrating major steps of the farming and harvesting work.

Other traditional activities of the area included embroidery, making beaded jewelry, weaving (including traditional birch bark weaving), knitting, spinning, woodcarving (which included making traditional Russian wooden toys) and pottery.

Original churches of Kizhi

The first mentioning of churches on the island is dated to 1563. This document describes two domed wooden churches with a bell-tower standing in the southern part of the island (on the site of the present Kizhi Pogost), and mentions their earlier description of 1496. A more detailed description was documented in 1628. In particular, contrary to the later, domed churches of the pogost, the first ones had pyramidal roofs. Those churches were burned by a fire caused by lightning in the end of 17th century. The first church raised after the fire was the Church of the Intercession (Russian: церковь Покрова Богородицы, 1694) which was heated and held services all year long. It was reconstructed several times in 1720–1749 and in 1764 rebuilt into its present 9-dome design. In 1714, the 22-dome Transfiguration Church (Russian: Церковь Преображения Господня) was constructed and soon after the bell-tower was added, thereby completing the Kizhi Pogost. The bell-tower was entirely rebuilt in 1862. Much earlier, some time in the 17th century, a 300-meter long fence was built around the churches, which then served as a protection ground against Swedish and Polish incursions.

Kizhi churches were built on stones, without a deep foundation. Their major basic structural unit is a round log of Scotts pine (Pinus sylvestris) about 30 cm in diameter and 3 to 5 meters long. Many thousands logs were brought for construction from the mainland which was a complex logistical task in that time. The logs were cut and shaped with axes and assembled without nails, using interlocking corner joinery — either round notch or dovetail. Flat roofs were made of spruce planks and the domes are covered in aspen.

Kizhi museum

The ensemble of wooden architecture in Kizhi - a memorial 3-ruble coin of the Central Bank of Russia (1995).

Open-air museum Kizhi is one of the first in Russia, which started functioning on the island in 1951 and currently contains about 87 wooden constructions. The most famous of them is the Kizhi Pogost, which contains two churches and a bell-tower surrounded by a fence. The pogost was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1990. Since 1951, a large number of historical buildings were moved to the island. They include Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus from Murom Monastery, which is regarded as the oldest remaining wooden church in Russia (second half of 14 century), several bell-towers, more than 20 peasant houses, mills, barns and saunas. In 1993, the museum was included into a short list a Russian Cultural Heritage sites. The museum contains more than 41,000 exhibits. Most of them are domestic artifacts: tools, dishes, utensils, furniture, etc. There are about 1000 icons of 16–19 centuries which includes the only in Russia collection of "heavens". There are also church items, such as crosses early manuscript of 17–19 centuries. Museum also contains exhibits of 20th century, about 10,000 photographs and 1,500 drawings.

The museum conducts a wide range of scientific studies in the history, archeology, ecology, nature and other fields related to the island. It is based in Kizhi and Petrozavodsk, has an advanced web portal and a web camera on the island. Kizhi museum also publishes the monthly "Kizhi newspaper". In summer, it runs week-long education courses at the school and university level.

Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus

Tradition says that the church was built by the monk Lazarus (1286 (?) – 1391) in the second half of the 14th century. The church became the first building of the future Murom Monastery located on the eastern shore of Lake Onega. Over time, the church became the main attractions of the monastery as it was reputed to miraculously cure illnesses. Clergy announced the monk Lazarus as a local saint, and every summer, on 23–24 June, the church was attracting pilgrims. The building is 3 meters tall and has a perimeter of 9×3 m. The original two-tier iconostasis of the church is preserved; it consists of 17 icons of 16–18th centuries.

Chapel of the Archangel Michael


Chapel of the Archangel Michael

The Chapel of the Archangel Michael was moved to Kizhi in 1961 from the Lelikozero village. It measures 12.0×3.0×11.0 meters and has a rectangular frame elongated from east to west and a two-slope roof. Above the entrance hall there is a belfry capped with a pyramid roof. The iconostasis of the chapel has two tiers and contains icons of 17–18th centuries.



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