Summer’s a great time to get out in the fresh air and explore, so why not pay a visit to one of Russia’s fascinating open air museums? Here’s our pick of the best.
One of the first such museums to open in Russia, Kizhi’s exhibits can be found on an island in the northern part of Lake Onega up in Karelia at the heart of the Russian North. It contains well over eighty wooden constructions including the UNESCO-listed Kizhi Pogost, and ensemble formed of the twenty-two domed Church of the Transfiguration, remarkably built without nails, the Church of the Intercession and an octagonal bell tower.
Although there’s been a long history of settlement on the island, some of the exhibits have been brought in from elsewhere in the country. One of the most notable is the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus from Murom Monastery, thought to be the oldest surviving wooden church in Russia. Alongside, there are numerous other buildings to explore, in particular bell towers, peasant houses, mills, barns and saunas, making this one of the area’s must-visit attractions.
Deep in Krasnoyarsk region, in the heart of Siberia, the Shushenskoye estate and museum preserves life from the 18th and 19th century complete with a tavern, shops and homes. Lenin was exiled here from 1897 to 1900 and as a result, for years he was the focus of the museum. These days, tourists also come to Shushenskoye to learn about the history associated with the Russian revolution as well as Siberian village life.
Over to the east near Irkutsk and a popular stopping off point for visitors on the Trans-Siberian railway is the grandly named Taltsy Museum of Architecture and Ethnography. Also known as the Wooden Architecture Museum, its 67 hectare site contains over forty monuments and a further 8,000 exhibits. The museum is a great place to learn about the traditional Siberian way of life. Situated on the banks of the Angara River, you’ll find a range of wooden homes displaying antique furniture and domestic utensils belonging to the ethnic groups who inhabited this part of Russia such as the Evenks and Buryat people.
Don’t miss the Saviour’s Gate Tower from the fort of Ilimsk which dates from 1667 and also the Kazan Chapel originally built in 1679. Both were transferred here from the areas flooded when the reservoir was created at Ust-Ilimsk. There are also three 19th century watermills from Vladimirovka and a tower from Ilimsky jail dating from 1630.
The Ethnographic Museum of the Peoples of the Trans-Baikal Region, located near the city of Ulan-Ude, is where you’ll learn the story of the Old Believers. It was here that the Old Believers known as Semeyskie lived, Orthodox purists who rejected modern teachings and stuck to the old ways of life enjoyed by their ancestors. This open air museum features their homes alongside yurts typical of the Trans-Baikal Buryats, exhibits about the reindeer-herding Evenks and even a small zoo.