Journey to kizhi island

In February, the Karelia CBC project “Ethno-architecture of Fennoscandia in the 21st Century” started, with OSAO as a partner. The project includes restoration student study trips to Kizhi Island and Kurgenitsy Village in Russia, and the three media students were offered the opportunity to join in to document their trips. So the equipment was packed into backpacks this time and on the last day of March the first trip was made to Petrozavodsk and the island of Kizhi.


There were a total of nine departures and the trip from Oulu to Petrozavodsk took just over 13 hours by minibus. In the evening, after a long sit-down, we arrived in Petrozavodsk at our hotel right on the shore of the River Ääninen. Documentation of the trip started already on the way, so by the evening the first materials were unloaded.

View from the hotel yard to Ääninen

Petrozavodsk street view

On the way to lecture

The first day’s program included lectures at the University of Petrozavodsk, which we started to orient in the morning. We were told at the university about the program of the trip and the island of Kizhi, where the departure was the next day. Kizhi is known for its wooden churches, the Museum Island of Ääninen and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the presentation of Kizhi, the rules for staying on the island’s museum area were also reviewed, as there are certain restrictions on the area’s protection. After a few architectural lectures, we set out to eat and explore the city. At least for us who were in Russia for the first time, there was plenty to wonder.

Miika taking photos of the landmarks in the city

Our group waiting for the departure

The hovercraft which took us over the Lake Onega

On the second day we packed our bags again, as in the afternoon we departed for the Kizhi Island. In the morning there was another lecture, after which we left for a couple of hours to take stock of the city before leaving. At three we were dragged along with bags to the beach boulevard of Petrozavodsk, where two hovercraft ships were waiting for us. This new means of transport caused us a little wonder at first, but we jumped aboard and arrived in just over an hour. We were guided by the museum staff and were allowed to stay in their cabins. In the evening, the program included exploring the island, eating and seeking access passes, which must always be carried on the island. Staying on the island, and especially in the museum area, was carefully controlled.

A welcome committee who helped us with the luggage

We were also greeted by a retired police dog, who accompanied us the whole week.

Day three started with guided tours to two exhibitions. The exhibitions were in two different houses. One was about tools and objects made of wood and the other about metal, the museum staff told us about their history. Next was the presentation of the main exhibition area, the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ and Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at the southern end of the island. These solid wood churches with all their domes are truly spectacular. After the rest of the day’s program and dining, we asked permission to go to the main exhibition area to photograph the churches at sunset. The permit was obtained and the evening was spent. Moving from one place to another was also very time-consuming as we walked everywhere.

The Kizhi Museum also has a rich collection of old artefacts

Church of the Transfiguration of Christ

The museum is also known for their icon collection

The church “onions” in the evening sun.

On the fourth day, there were lectures in the morning, after which the restoration students got to practice measuring and were assigned a task.

Miika’s having a blast

On the fifth, which was also our last full day at the Kizhi island, was a new assignment right in the morning. Restoration students were able to disassemble the mini sauna and then reassemble it. The task was handled neatly and even a record time was broken. The rest of the day consisted of lectures and a tour of the chapels or “tsasouns”. At the same time we were also introduced to the villages of Kizhi, Jamka and Vasilyev.

Assembling a mini sauna

Group photo in front of a tsasoun.

On the sixth day, the bags were again packed ready for the afternoon’s departure. Before leaving, there was still a presentation of the main exhibition area in the program. We got to visit inside several buildings, even the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, even though it is still closed due to restoration. After half a day it was time to go to eat and after that the ride came to Petrozavodsk. We stayed another night in Petrozavodsk and the next day we left for home.

Our visit to Kitz Island was indeed a memorable experience. In the evenings, as we set off for the other end of the island at sunset, one could only amaze the peace and quiet of the island. In that silence, one couldn’t help but think about the history of the island, and how this small island in the midst of a huge Lake Onega is such an important place.

Kuvat ja teksti

Silja Huhta
Miika Ivola
Tuukka Haavisto