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Image of Kizhi


Location: Lake Onega, Karelia    Map

How to get: hydrofoil from Petrozavodsk (summer), snowmobile (winter), boat, cruise ship, helicopter



Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat


Description of Kizhi

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 an issue.


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 Lake Onega.


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

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 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 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.



Get in
In summer (from late May), boats run from Petrozavodsk to Kizhi. A ticket cost 2300 rubles return in June 2013. The journey takes 1hr 15min.

Tour Holding Karelia

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.


Hotels, motels and where to sleep

The Kizhi Museum runs a guest house on the island :

Kizhi Museum Guest House (д. Ерснево. «Кижская благодать» гостевой дом Елупова), ☎ +79214510081. Double room from 2300 rubles


Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

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.