27 best sights of Kizhi – descriptions and photos

Sights of Kizhi Island

When we say “Kizhi” – at once we imagine a huge wooden church with many domes. It’s a symbol of the island, which is always depicted on postcards. Hence the association.

Kizhi pogost is unique and is included in UNESCO World Heritage list. You may ask why? Because there are other masterpieces of wooden architecture in Russia. The point is that this is the only preserved ensemble, consisting of two multi-domed churches and belfry. The summer Transfiguration church has 22 cupolas in the form of onions, while the winter Intercession church has nine cupolas.

Wooden buildings of Kizhi Pogost are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Photo: globallookpress.com

Sights of Kizhi island are not only cathedrals, but also famous houses. Take, for example, the Oshenev house, built in 1876 – this is the date carved on the facade. Its first floor is a warm hut, the second one is a summer room, and above them there is a lighthouse. The whole house is surrounded by a carved balcony, which is called gulbishche in Russian wooden architecture. The owners could get to three tiny balconies from the chandelier and from the attic.

If you come here, you will admire the architecture, pay attention to the carved houses and take away a picture of the best sights of Kizhi island.

State museum-reserve “Kizhi”

Monuments of wooden architecture, included in the museum-reserve “Kizhi”, brought from all over Karelia. You can see them all if you go on a trip to the nearby villages of Onega. On Kizhi Island itself is the symbol of all Russian wooden architecture and the main attraction of the museum-reserve – the Church of the Transfiguration.

Church of the Transfiguration

The main thing for which people come to Kizhi island is to see a unique 37 meter high Church of the Transfiguration. People say about it “made without a single nail”. Is it really so? Yes and no. Because the log buildings really were collected without nails, but in order to fix the various elements, it was impossible to do without them. Today the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin

The church was built in the late 17th – 18th centuries, and it is here, unlike many monuments that were brought to Kizhi from the neighboring villages. Pine temple crowned by nine heads, covered with aspen planking. Restored in the mid-20th century under the direction of the architect Alexander Opolovnikov. If it were not for this restoration, we would now see the Church of the Intercession as its more famous neighbor, the Church of the Transfiguration. In the 19th century the wooden churches were painted white and the domes were covered with metal. Soviet restorers decided to return them to their original appearance.

Bell tower of Kizhi churchyard

Thirty meter bell tower is also a part of Kizhi Pogost ensemble and is a UNESCO monument. It is younger than the Preobrazhenskaya and Pokrovskaya churches, having been built in 1860-70s and restored in the middle of the last century. The architecture of the bell tower is traditional: “an octagonal on a square”, a blockhouse divided into three tiers, a bell tower and a bell tower, covered with aspen planking on top.

Oshevnev House

Oshevnev’s house is one of the Kizhi monuments, which you can not only see and photograph from the outside, but also go inside. You will find yourself visiting a wealthy Russian peasant (the house is located in the “Russian Zaonezhye” sector), in the interiors of a century ago. The house was brought to the museum from the village of Oshevnevo in Medvezhyegorsk district. The Oshevnev family was obviously large and hardworking. They built the two-story house of pine logs themselves.

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Bikanin windmill

Wooden windmill was brought to Kizhi open-air museum from the village of Volkostrov in Medvezhjegorsk region of Karelia. It was built in the early 20th century by peasant Nikolai Bikanin. By the name of the master, the mill is now listed in all catalogs and maps: there are architectural masterpieces of Shekhtel or Shchusev, and on an equal footing with them, the mill, cut down by the Karelian craftsman, is also a monument to cultural heritage of federal importance. The mill is square and has two stories and eight wings.

Sergeeva House

In Vasilevo (one of the historical villages on Kizhi island) stands a beautiful house Sergeeva, named by the name of the previous owner. It was brought to the museum from the village Lipovitsy of Medvezhjegorsk district. The house is over a hundred years old. It is a huge five-storied hut with a two-storied farmyard and a driveway, through which horses with carts and sleighs moved. The elegant carved balcony with semicircular arches, to which the three windows of the chapel open – you can immediately imagine how the elegant beauty goes out on the balcony to see people and show yourself off. And along the lower row of windows there is a beautifully carved gallery.

Chapel of the Transfiguration

In the north of Kizhi island, in the Kondopoga sector of the museum, there is the Chapel of the Lord Transfiguration, transported from the village Kavgora of Kondopoga district. The chapel is 22 meters high and consists of two pine log structures: a smaller and lower one is the chapel itself and a bigger and higher one is a bell tower with a tent and a cupola. It was built in the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Sergin’s house

In the same village of Vasilevo there is the Sergin’s house, impressive in its size and non-standard forms. It was transferred to Kizhi from the village of Munozero in Medvezhjegorsk region. The peasant Sergin lived quite well, if he has built a house with two fully fledged floors and a third floor with a summer living room with balconies on two sides. Not to mention the two-story sheds, the yard and the stable. All this was combined into one huge house.

Yakovlev house

On the east of the island of Kizhi you can see the traditional architecture of the Karelian-Livviks – this section of the museum is called “Pryazhin Karelians”. Its main exhibit is the house of peasant Maxim Yakovlev from the village of Klesheila of the Pryazhinsky region. It was built in the early 20th century by the owner himself together with a team of carpenters from the same village. The result was impressive: the first floor is a hut, the second floor is an upper room where people lived only in the summer. Everything was cut down of pine logs on boulder foundations. The dwelling rooms (the porch and style nurseries lead to them), and all the household rooms: the barn, the stable, the yard (where you go up by the ramp) are under one roof, as it is customary in the North. Elegantly carved platbands, an openwork balcony under the very roof – a beauty, who of us would refuse such a house!

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The island of Kizhi: museum-reserve of wooden architecture

Amazing and mysterious Kizhi Island is a place that has become a real symbol of skill and talent of Russian Northern architects. Today it is home to a museum-reserve, which is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

The island is located in the northern part of Lake Onega, 68 kilometers from Petrozavodsk, and is the most popular attraction in Karelia after Valaam Island. Tourists come here from all over Russia, from the nearest Scandinavian countries, from the Baltic States and Western Europe, from Asia and even from across the ocean.

Island of Kizhi

The most interesting objects of the open air museum are the fairytale Transfiguration and Intercession churches, the bell tower with a hipped dome, the windmill with eight wings, the Chapel of Archangel Michael and the house-museum of Oshevnev, and also old huts and outbuildings brought here from other places in Karelia and organically complementing the overall historical picture.

About the island of Kizhi and its sights – our article.

Kizhi Island: interesting facts

Sights of Kizhi

  • It is believed that the island of Kizhi got its name from the Karelian word “kijat”, which means “games”. Scientists and archaeologists are of the opinion that in pre-Christian times there were pagan rituals and ceremonies.
  • Most of us are accustomed to pronouncing the word “Kizhi” with the stress on the second syllable, but philological scientists and local residents claim that the orthoepically correct variant is to pronounce the name of the island with the stress on the first syllable.
  • In addition to the Historical and Architectural Museum, there are three villages on Kizhi Island – Kizhi, Vasilievo and Yamka. Each of them has only two or three households, but it does not prevent them annually to attract tourists – such landscapes and a unique peasant color can not be found anywhere else in the world.
  • Kizhi Pogost’s ensemble has received the status of historical and architectural monument in the twenties of the last century, but became an open-air museum only four centuries later – in 1966.
  • During occupation of Karelia by Finnish troops the ensemble survived by a miracle – it was saved only by the fact that Finns treated it with care and hoped to include the island in their country and make it the object of Finnish scientists’ research. Of course, these plans could not be realized, but they managed to save unique monuments of Russian wooden architecture.

Kizhi museum

  • There is a legend that the invaders still planned to destroy the island of Kizhi and all its attractions, but, seeing the incredible, almost unearthly beauty of Pokrovskaya and Transfiguration churches, the pilots, controlling bombers, dropped bombs into the lake. However, documentary evidence of this fact has not yet been found.
  • Transfiguration Church on Kizhi island is made of pine logs, and its heads and barrels are covered with so-called “plowshares” – small slats carved from aspen. The use of such materials creates a striking combination of the gray-brown tones of the log walls of the church with the silver color of the domes covered with aspen slats, reflecting all the colors of the surrounding nature. Against the background of the cold northern sky, this picture becomes even more beautiful and mysterious.
  • It is believed that the churches of the island were built without a single nail. This statement is only partially true – in the construction of walls and towers nails were not really used, but when covering the domes with aspen flakes they were still used.
  • In the middle of XX century, the first major restoration of the ensemble was carried out – it lasted 10 years. In the 80s, a metal frame was installed in the Church of the Transfiguration to prevent the collapse of the building. Unfortunately, it damaged some of the logs, so the iconostasis and the unique ceiling “sky” had to be dismantled.
  • The last restoration of the ensemble began in 2010 and will be completed in 2020. In order not to damage the overall historical appearance of the structures and to prolong their life, master restorers used methods that were used as early as 300 years ago in the construction of the Church of the Transfiguration. On June 1, 2021 the church was opened to the public after 40 years.
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Sights of Kizhi Island

Kizhi pogost

Kizhi pogost

The site of museum-reserve Kizhi: kizhi.karelia.ru Entrance fee: 600 rubles, free for pensioners and students 300 rubles, free for children under 16 years.

The main sights of the island are “summer” Church of Transfiguration, “winter” Church of Intercession, tent belltower and surrounding fence. All together they form a single ensemble “Kizhsky pogost”, the like of which is not available anywhere in the world. It is located in the southern part of the island, and mostly tourists come for it when visiting the island for the first time. The word “pogost” in this case means administrative district. Just Kizhi pogost sites are included into UNESCO World Heritage List.

On the island there are also other buildings, which are very interesting both for adults and children-adolescents.

Transfiguration church on Kizhi island

The Transfiguration Church of Kizhi

Church of Transfiguration being restored

The 38-meter high Transfiguration Church is the main monument on Kizhi island, known probably to every schoolchildren. It is her photo is printed in the history books in the themes of Russian architecture. Completely wooden building, crowned with 22 domes, giving it the appearance of royal terem from a Russian fairy tale, is dated 1714. It is believed to have been built on the site of a church that burned down at the end of the 16th century. The Transfiguration Church is one of the most beautiful churches in Russia.

There are two main legends concerning the creation of this greatest architectural masterpiece. The first is that the designer and builder of the Transfiguration Church was none other than the Emperor Peter the Great himself. He was sailing on Lake Onega, saw the piled wood on the shore and ordered the construction of a miracle, equal to which there is not and never will be.

The second legend says that the Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi island was built by a talented craftsman named Nestor. When he finished his work, he threw an axe into the waters of Lake Onega – it was done so that no one else would ever dare to build something as great. Be that as it may, the testament of both Peter and Nestor has been fulfilled – probably no master whose talent could surpass that of the creators of the Church of the Transfiguration has yet been born.

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Even the form of the church is atypical for religious constructions of the time – it is rounded. The creator chose an octagon as the main figure. There are three of them in the temple, each of them consists of two tiers and is lower than the previous one in height. The parishioners also took an active part in the construction of the temple. The temple is a “summer” construction and is not working in winter.

Unfortunately, in the 80s of the last century during the installation of the metal frame was damaged iconostasis, and a unique “heavenly” ceiling – they had to be dismantled and sent for storage to various museums. Since 2010 the church of the Transfiguration has been under reconstruction. I must say that the framework, because of which a part of the interior decoration of the church suffered, still played a positive role – only thanks to him, the construction has not collapsed under its own weight.

A refectory is attached to the Transfiguration Church, an equally unique structure, the logs of which have the property of shimmering in clear and sunny weather. In the past, locals used it for folk gatherings, courts or various festivals.

Church of the Intercession

Pokrovskaya Church of Kizhi

The Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin, as well as the Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi Island is a unique monument, testifying to the incredible skill and talent of the architects of the Russian North. Its architecture has much in common with the architecture of the Transfiguration Church and the hipped bell tower – all together they form a coherent composition and complement each other seamlessly.

The Pokrovsky church has more modest sizes and austere appearance. It is crowned with only nine domes, and the only decorative element of its facade is a patterned wooden pediment, the geometrical forms of which are directed to heavens. This is the so-called “winter” type of church, intended for divine services in severe winter time.

It is known that the Church of the Protection of the Holy Mary burned down and was repeatedly reconstructed, and the appearance which we admire today, it has found only in 1764. The temple is equipped with a high porch and halls, which is a characteristic feature of churches built at that time in the northern part of the Russian Empire. The interior decoration is represented by a high iconostasis, many elements of which were lost during the bloody events of the first half of XX century. In the 1950s, it was restored and can now be seen by both parishioners and tourists.

The steepled bell tower

The steepled bell tower is another structure located between the two churches, and is an integral part of the ensemble of Kizhi pogost, preserving the same style, despite the fact that it was built much later than Pokrovsky and Transfiguration churches. The melodious ringing of its bells is still heard around the area. It is known that 300 years ago there was a bell tower at its place, which was demolished because of its dilapidated state.

The bell tower of the hipped bell tower

The bell tower, which survives today, was built in 1863. It, as well as both churches, is clearly visible from the Onega Lake.

Chapel of Archangel Michael

Chapel of Archangel Michael Kizhi

Chapel of Archangel Michael is another part of the magnificent Kizhi ensemble. It is a small wooden structure with porches and a bell tower, built in the early 19th century. The building was brought to Kizhi from the village of Lelikozero, in the northern part of Onega.

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This building, like many others on the island, has an appearance typical of the architectural masterpieces of the Russian North. It is crowned with a double roof and a high wooden dome with a cross. Its main distinguishing feature is a hipped bell tower, which rises above the halls. The interior decoration is also unique – a high iconostasis, merging with the “heavenly” ceiling. It dates back to the XVIII century.

The house-museum of Oshevnev

Oshevnev house-museum

The house of the prosperous peasant Nestor Oshevnev is another historical building that dates from the second half of the 19th century. This large house, intended for a large family, today is a museum of life, everyday life and customs of wealthy peasants of Zaonezhye at the end of the XIX – beginning of the XX centuries.

The house has a typical Zaonezhye form – the living part and outbuildings are under one roof. This allowed the tenants to carry out many works without going outdoors, which in winter was a big advantage. The facade is decorated with patterned balconies and a gallery.

Every thing in the house is real, brought to us from that distant and mysterious time. There is a stove, a cradle for children, dishes, a spindle, a large chest, and a samovar. All this creates a unique and unrepeatable atmosphere – coming here, it is as if you are traveling back in time and get to the past, which remained so far behind.

Sergeev House

Sergeev House

Sergeev house has a square shape, so it seems that there are no outbuildings here, unlike the Oshevnev house. But if we walk around it from the other side, we can see that they did not disappear, but were simply put back, but still under the same roof as the living part. The facade of the house is richly decorated, especially the carved casings on the windows.

Its interior has not been reconstructed and has a worn wooden floor and similarly worn-out furniture in the corners and the center. Today there are two expositions here: one devoted to Karelian applied arts, the other to the oral folk art of Zaonezhye people.


There are four bathhouses on the island, which were also brought from other settlements of Karelia. It is easy to find them – they are located on the shore of the lake by the water. They are simple wooden buildings, inside of which there are several bathhouses and a stove.


The facade of the bathhouses was not decorated in any way because they were perceived simply as a way to keep the body clean and no sacred meaning was put into them. Nevertheless, a bathhouse had to be present even in the most run-down village.

Eight-Winged Windmill


The eight-winged windmill is a rather young structure built in the 1920s. It was brought to Kizhi island from Volkostrov village.

Inside the mill there are two floors – the first one contains a flour stall and a device for grinding flour, the second one contains a mill bucket, millstones and a shaft with wings at the end. What is surprising is that nowadays the eight-winged windmill performs its original function: grinding grains and making flour.

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