Russian Old Believer Villages
Text by http://www.homernews.com
Ten miles east of Anchor Point is Nikolaevsk, the first of several communities of Russian Old Believers. Founded by five families in 1968, with financial help from the Tolstoy Foundation of New York, the community and its church are named after their patron saint, Saint Nikolas the Wonder Worker.
Since the early 1900s, Old Believers had searched for a place where they could have the freedom to worship in the way of the Old Rite Russian Orthodox (Staro-Obrachestvo). Their search took them out of Russia to China, South America, Oregon and finally to Nikolaevsk. Others chose other countries.
This corner of the Kenai Peninsula offered isolation from Western influence and the land was affordable. Part of the price, however, was the work necessary to turn this uninhabited 640 acres into a community. Tents provided temporary shelter as homes were constructed. Gardens began to take root. In 1975, the naturalization of Nikolaevsk residents was a cause for celebration, filling the bleachers of the community’s school with supportive spectators. By the late 1970s, Nikolaevsk’s population had reached about 400.
Church of St Nicholas, Nikolaevsk, AK. Photo by Gerry Marks
Typical Home in the Nikolaevsk Village. Photo by Gerry Marks
Several other Old Believer communities have since developed on the southern Kenai Peninsula including Voznesenka, Razdolna and Kachemak Selo. Voznesenka spreads across the hillside some 23 of miles east of Homer. The school, located next to the village church, has 130 students.
East End Road headed toward Voznesenka. Photo by TheKenCook
Razdolna is 25 miles east of Homer. Situated on rolling hills, it overlooks the Fox River mud flats. There are 32 children in Razdolna School.
Razdolna Roads. Photo by russikana
Kachemak Selo is located near the head of Kachemak Bay. Ninety-eight students attend school in this remote village.
Native village of Kachemak Silo near the east end of Kachemak Bay. Photo by Clifford Cochran
Russian Old Believers continue to value their privacy and their way of lifestyle. Their lives are set by the Julian calendar. Russian is spoken in their homes, Slavonic is the language of church services and English is used everywhere else. Old Believers’ clothing is of a traditional style. Men and boys wear colorfully embroidered shirts with handwoven belts; women and girls wear ankle-length dresses.
Commercial fishing has provided income for many families, not only as fisherman but also as boat builders. Others work in their community’s schools or local businesses. And an increasing number of Old Believers have opened businesses of their own.
Nikolaevsk has its own post office, as well as a small store that offers fabric and handmade Russian gifts and traditional clothing.
Samovar Cafe, Nikolaevsk, Alaska: Here is Nina, without a doubt the nicest and craziest women in Alaska. Good food though. Photo by Josh_Ellis