Kargopolye. A Realm of Hidden Time

Here, well-preserved are magnificent cathedrals, sacred crosses, old well sweeps, wooden sidewalks and many other things that make Kargopolye an exceptional area of the Russian North. Even today you can immerse yourself into the atmosphere of the 17–18th century merchants’ town that was first mentioned in ancient chronicles as early as 1146.

The Kargopol District, though it is located in the southern part of the Archangelsk Region, but due to its climatic features is equaled by the Russian legislation to the Far North. In order to preserve its unique nature, the Kenozersk national park was established where you can marvel at the clearest waters of the lakes and rivers and virgin forests. Also, Kargopolyeis one of the world’s centers of inimitable monuments of wooden architecture.

Having arrived to the town and enjoying the calm air, you can walk by boardwalks up to the former Torgovaya Square (currently — Krasnoarmeyskaya Square). In the 17th century, three stone cathedrals were erected in the square; two of them, exceptional in their beauty, the Annunciation Cathedral and Our Lady’s Nativity Cathedral, have survived to this day. The historical center of Kargopol is Cathedral Square, with its complex of federal monuments: Christ’s Nativity Cathedral (16th century) and Presentation Church (19th century) as well as one of the town’s symbols, the 60-meter high Cathedral Bell tower that was built in the 18th century.

While in Kargopol, you can talk with folk artists and craftsmen or carve with your own hands a traditional Archangelsk wooden bird of fortune, make a Kargopol clay toy or bake “teterki” from bread dough, according to a local recipe, or a colorful Pomorye gingerbread — “kozulya”, as well as communicate with hospitable Kargopol residents. 

The rich cultural scene is alive all year round. In winter, you can enjoy the musical bells during the unique winter bell-ringing festival “Crystal Ringing”, and to evaluate the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the international ice sculpture contesters. In summer, the town holds children’s art festivals, the folk crafts days, gastro- and rock festivals. And much more events!

Since the 17th century, residents and guests of Kargopol every August, during the assumption lent arranged a Cross procession to the ancient Holy Dormition Alexander-Oshevensky monastery, founded in 1460 and named in honor of its founder, reverend Alexander Oshevensky (1427–1479). Along the old 40-km-long road there are ancient settlements and memorial crosses, spring brooks and lakes, with ancient chapels on its banks. In the village of Reka tourists can stop for a while and chat with the villagers, drink tea with “wicket cookies” and visit the ancient St. George the Victory-­bearer Church and the monument to four villages whose inhabitants went off to war and died during the World War II.

The final 10-km stretch of a thread-like straight road leads to the walls of the Alexander-­Oshevensky monastery located on the bank of the Churyega River. 

After crossing the wooden bridge, you can get to the town of Oshevenskoe that consists of four villages. In 2016, the village of Oshevensky Churchyard (part of Oshevenskoe), was recognized in the national competition as the most beautiful village in Russia.

The traveler can see ancient peasants’ houses — “ships” flowing from village to village, and visit the wooden Epiphany Church with an octagonal dome built in 1787 and a free-standing bell tower of the 19th century. It boasts a unique arched ceiling painted with biblical scenes, the so-called “sky”, created by a group of painters under Bogdanov-Gorbachevsky in the 18th century. In the Museum courtyard, in front of the church, you will be welcomed by a crowd in traditional costumes and given lunch “from the oven.” Also, you can watch local dancers performing a holiday rural quadrille to the accordion’s lively melody. You will have an opportunity to take part in all quadrille movements. And a “tip” roll will let know you that the end of the feast is near, and the hospitable hosts will bid you goodbye saying: “Stay longer!”

Yelena Kutukova, Deputy Governor of the Arkhangelsk Region