Wooden ensemble at Kizhi that is named UNESCO World Heritage Site is located
on an island 7 km (5 mi) long and 0.5 km (0.3 mi) wide. It is just one of
many islands on the lake, but certainly most impressive. There is no
overnight lodging in Kizhi itself unless you want to make private
arrangement with local residents. A large town of Petrozavodsk is your best bet. Setting
tents on a near by islands is not prohibited, but personal security might be
The Kizhi Pogost in the center of Kizhi Historical
Monument is the area surrounded by a wall. Religious compound includes Church of Transfiguration (1714)
that is crown by 22 domes with a total height of
37 meters. Domes are covered by shingles made of aspen that apear silver
covered at the sun light. Iconostasis of Church of Transfiguration
iconostasis dates back to the 18th century. It is also known as a "summer church"
since it was used in the warmer summer months.
A smaller church is an
Intercession Church (1764) and is called "winter church" covered
by nine domes. Due to its size it
was heated faster in cold winter months when temperatures are particularly
frigid. Icons inside this church are some of the oldest in Kizhi.
Some of them date back to the 16th century.
The refectory of Kizhi was used both as a dining room
for the monks as well as gathering meeting of local peasants who
worked in these lands. The octagon shaped bell
tower was completed in 1862- 1874. It reaches the height of 30 meters, which
offers a stunning view of the surroundings and the water surfafce of
However not all buildings were originally built here.
Church of Saint Lazarus was braught to Kizhi from the Muromsky
Monastery. It was constructed in 1244 by Saint Lazarus of Murom
himself. Modest church was moved to Kizhi in 1959 where it was
transformed into a museum. It is a simple structure without cupolas
reminiscent of an ordinary small cottage with a gable roof. Other
wooden buildings include peasant houses, chapels, barns, mills,
baths and other structures that date back to the 19th century. They
were moved beam by beam from the surrounding villages. The Kizhi
museum also exhibits chapel of the Archangel Michael from the early
18th century. It was moved here from a village Lelikozero. It is
decorated with a two tier iconostasis and so called "sky", top row,
with an icon of Christ Pantocrator in the middle.
History of Kizhi
Name 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 the 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 the 16th century) comprised an
administrative entity called Spas-Kizhi Pogost. Since the 13th and
14th 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 sparked 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 sent 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 the 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
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 the 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 Scots 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 at 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.
Fees and permits Entry fee is 625 rubles for foreigners,
100 rubles for Russian citizens, payable in cash only upon arrival.
The fee is not included in the ticket price for the boat or
hydrofoil from Petrozavodsk.
Around the island
Moving around the island is carried out on foot. It is necessary
to adhere to the designated routes of movement, walk on the roads or
wooden flooring - walkways.
There are a few snack cafes and a small supermarket near the
landing for the hydrofoils and cruise ships. Bringing your own
picnic lunch is allowed, but be sure to use the bins or carry your
own refuse off the island with you.