Russian Old Believer communities: Nikolaevsk, Vozneseka, Razdolna, & Kachemak Selo
Four Russian Old Believer communities are located on the southern Kenai Peninsula.
The first to be founded was Nikolaevsk, a 10-mile drive east of Anchor Point, following the North Fork of the Anchor River. Established in 1968 by five families, with the financial support of the Tolstoy Foundation of New York, Nikolaevsk has grown to about 300 residents.
The village’s roots date back to the early 1900s, when Old Believers were seeking a place to worship openly in the way of the Old Rite Russian Orthodox (Staro-Obrachestvo). They journeyed into China, then on to South America, Oregon and Alaska, as well as other points around the globe.
Beginning with 640 acres and tents for shelters, Nikolaevsk’s founding families carved out their new home. The first naturalization of Nikolaevsk residents was held at the Anchor Point School in 1975, with a large crowd of well-wishers on hand.
Today, the community has a public school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade that come from the village and the neighbouring area. There is a post office, small restaurant serving Russian food, lodging and the beautiful Church of Saint Nicholas.
After years of depending on firefighting and emergency response from Anchor Point, villagers opened a new fire station in 2008.
Visitors to Nikolaevsk are asked to heed signs stressing the slow speed limit and to request permission before taking pictures.
Three additional Russian Old Believer villages are located east of Homer. Voznesenka is situated beyond the end of the paved East End Road, a distance of approximately 23 miles from Homer. Razdolna can be reached by taking a gravel road that turns off East End Road. The village is about 25 miles from Homer. The homes in each of these villages are spread across a hillside overlooking the head of Kachemak Bay. Voznesenka School has students in kindergarten through 12th grade and Razdolna School has kindergarten-10th grade students.
Kachemak Selo is nestled near the mouth of a stream, between the beach and a canyon. There is no road to the village. Residents, as well as teachers at the preschool-12th grade school, travel by foot, four-wheeler or vehicles with four-wheel drive to reach this small settlement.
Russian is the first language spoken by many of the children, with English learned after they enter school. Clothing is of a colorful, traditional style, with men and boys wearing embroidered shirts and handwoven belts, women and girls wearing ankle-length dresses.
After arriving on the Kenai Peninsula, many Russian Old Believers became commercial fishermen, building their own boats and spending long summer hours fishing Alaska’s waters. Since then, others have opened their own businesses on the Kenai Peninsula and in other Alaska communities.
Privacy and preserving their lifestyle are important to Russian Old Believers. Keep that respectfully in mind when visiting one of their communities.