Why were half-flooded churches left in Soviet times, and How are they being restored now?
Why were half-flooded churches left in Soviet times, and How are they being restored now?

The expansion of the Volga water area and the allocation of vast territories for reservoirs is a question that is still considered controversial. On the one hand - cheap electricity, which, by the way, we still use, on the other - the flooding of agricultural lands, forests and ancient monuments. The skeletons of ancient churches, towering above the water surface, have been attracting tourists and simply not indifferent people for many years. Some of the shrines are trying to save today.

During the entire period of hydraulic engineering construction in our country, 9 small towns fell into the zone of complete (or most of the territory) flooding: seven on the Volga and one each on the Ob and Yenisei. So the number of flooded churches is actually quite large - in Puchezh alone, five churches were included in the zone. True, it should be noted that only two of these towns were completely destroyed, and the rest moved to new places and some even received more development than before, such as Togliatti.

Many heartbreaking legends are associated with the flooded territories: about how entire cities were urgently transported and people almost at night ran out into the streets to get onto cars; about believers who chained themselves to churches in order to share the fate of shrines, about underwater houses and streets … However, one cannot believe the city folklore without verification. Historians argue that the flooding of cities was not carried out so quickly, without rushwork. People had time to move to a new place, and they often dismantled old houses for building materials. From former structures under water, today only foundations can be found. Leaving crumbling buildings in the navigation zone was simply dangerous, and the building materials were expensive, so everything they could was taken out of the flood zone, even the forests were cut down. A few churches were exceptions, and this was done for practical reasons.

Nikolsky Cathedral with a bell tower in the village of Krokhino in 1903

The bell tower in Kalyazin (Tver region), the most famous of the flooded churches, was intended to be used as a training tower for parachute jumps. It was even strengthened for this even before the flooding - a layer of soil was poured, thanks to which the structure still stands in such unfavorable conditions. True, it is not known whether extreme parachutists trained there, but after loaded barges began to walk along the Uglich reservoir, the high bell tower began to serve as a beacon.

In the 80s, the question was once again decided whether to disassemble the bell tower, since its condition worsened over the years and even a slight slope was outlined. They feared that the old building would simply collapse. However, it was decided to keep the tower, and its foundation was strengthened. At the same time, a small island with berths for boats was formed around the church. In May 2007, the Divine Liturgy was performed in the dilapidated church and the process of its restoration began. On August 18, 2016, five new bells appeared on the tower, and prayers are constantly held here in the summer. The bell tower attracts not only believers but also tourists. Over the years, it has become one of the main symbols of the small town of Kalyazin.

Today the submerged bell tower is located on a small island

Another famous historical site with a similar fate is the Church of the Nativity of Christ in the former village of Krokhino, Vologda Oblast. The late Baroque temple, built in the late 18th - early 19th centuries, went under water in 1961 when the Sheksna reservoir was filled. They left the tall building for the same reasons as the bell tower in Kalyazin - even in advance, in 1953, a flashing beacon for navigation was installed on the highest dome. This saved the temple from destruction. It is this flooded church that can be seen in the film by Vasily Shukshin "Red Kalina".

Krokhino church in the 80s, when it still served as a lighthouse

Unfortunately, after several decades of this kind of “service”, the walls of the church began to collapse. By 2000, it could no longer serve as a lighthouse due to the fact that only the western wall remained from the eastern part of the temple. Collapse continued every year, and at the end of 2013, during a storm, the remaining parts of the dome collapsed. True, since 2009, a team of enthusiasts has been trying to save the dying temple. Thanks to the route of tourist ships passing by it, the church gained world fame, and the Krokhino charitable foundation was established.

The project of restoration of the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Krokhin

Today, teams of volunteers have already built a man-made dam to protect the temple from waves and ice, restored the brickwork of the washed-out walls and equipped footbridges to the nearest shore. The collected funds and targeted grants have been used to develop projects to strengthen and restore the church. The ultimate goal of the project is the conservation of the temple. Most likely, a small chapel will be equipped there and a stylized lighthouse on the bell tower will be preserved. For several years, about five hundred volunteers have worked here. In the nearby town of Belozersk, a campus has even been built for them. In August 2018, the administration of the Vologda region officially transferred the building of the Church of the Nativity of Christ to the ownership of the Krokhino foundation. This is the first time in Russia that an ownerless memorial site was handed over to a non-profit organization.

Today, curious travelers, in addition to luxurious castles and temples, love to visit ruined and abandoned buildings. Particular attention is paid to Unfinished and incomplete work, which tourists adore no less than architectural masterpieces

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