Kizhi Pogost

Cultural criteria: i, iv, v
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1990

The Kizhi Pogost or the Pogost of Transfiguration and of Our Saviour is situated in the north of the European part of Russia, in Karelia, on one of the islands of Lake Onega.  

In Early Rus the word “pogost” meant a big village together with church and cemetery. And in former times here was an extensive settlement indeed, where representatives of temporal and church power lived, Streltsy garrison stayed; people gatherings, trade fairs, church and other festivals took place here. It was a center of spiritual, cultural and economic life of the region.  

The modern Kizhi Pogost is a little space, fenced in by a wooden wall, inside of which there are unique monuments of wooden architecture – two churches and a belfry. These structures, different in height and outlines, make, nevertheless, a single and very picturesque ensemble, which also blends perfectly well with the northern severe landscape. Particularly well these high wooden structures, situated in the high place, not far from the island coast, look from water – from cruise motor ships regularly visiting these places.  

The “nucleus” of the whole ensemble is formed by the Transfiguration church (raised in 1714) – probably, the most difficult by design of all the monuments of the northern wooden architecture. In its aspect tiering, aliasing and pyramidality are traced. The total height is 37 meters. Its three tiers are formed by three octagons put one onto another. Four figured annexes join the wider lower tier. Numerous domes of the church (totally 22) go up by five steps to its central (the biggest) dome. And all these elements are coordinated between each other and subordinated to a single architectural idea. As in other churches of the Russian North, the main decor is connected with the ornament of four-storey iconostasis and the ceiling – “heaven”. Unfortunately, the initial iconostasis in the middle of the XVIII century was remade, and paintings of the ceiling were almost completely perished in the years of the Great Patriotic War. Only several icons of the lower row remained of the early interior of the church. For last several decades the church has been more than once restored and main efforts were directed at that to strengthening the church’s frameworks and improvement of its steadiness. This wooden halidom’s state, constantly exposed to precipitations, temperature difference and other negative climate factors, has aroused experts’ concerns for a long time.  

The Pokrovsky church, constructed in 1764, is lower in height, smaller in size and simpler in architecture than the neighboring Transfiguration church. It has nine little domes – one central, plus 8 on a circle, and they all form an original “crown”. This church’s interior was restored many times as well.  

The steepled belfry is situated between the two churches. Though it was built well after (in 1874), i.e. already in the days of northern wooden architecture’s decadence, it blends very well with the general landscape of the pogost. Its height is almost the same as that of the Transfiguration church, and the roof has the shape of a high hipped roof-cone.  

The ancient fence of the Kizhi Pogost, raised already in the middle of the XVII century, has not continued to this day. The modern fence was reconstructed per sample of the wooden fortifications extant in the north. Its impressive gate, miradors at the corners, solid frameworks, strong eaves of the gable roof underline the pogost’s severity, increase its similarity to an ancient stronghold.  

In 1966 on the base of this unique ensemble a state historical-architectural and ethnographical reserve museum was organized, a real open-air museum. Various civil and religious wooden structures were transported (and installed in immediate proximity to the pogost, forming its surroundings) to Kizhi island: churches, chapels, peasant houses, storehouses, mills, bathhouses etc. Altogether such structures are over 70. In addition, thousands of household maintenance products are collected here – they are instruments of labor, tableware, utensils, furniture, as well as icons, ancient handwritten books etc.  

At the present time a program of comprehensive restoration and strengthening of unique wooden structures of the Kizhi ensemble is being implemented, these works are carried out, particularly, with the international help.


Federal State Budget Institution “Kizhi State Open Air Museum of History, Architecture and Ethnography” invites you to take part in the International Academic and Research Forum “Systematic approach to preservation of wooden architecture monuments”.