Located within a spectacular setting of pristine natural beauty, Kenozero National Park has been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2004 due to the unique relationship between its exceptional natural values and its relevance as a cultural area.
Kenozero National Park is wealthy in historical remains scattered throughout this cultural landscape, with distinctive monuments of wooden architecture which attest to the passage of time in this rural region of northern Russia. The Park is the only Protected Area of Russia which owns architectural monuments; these masterpieces of wooden architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries include ten churches and a bell tower, thirty three wooden chapels and two water mills. Traditional cultural landscapes such as this one have preserved the features of rural land management and planning of that era which have been lost in other industrialised areas of Russia.
Kenozero National Park is known throughout Russia for its well preserved painted “heavens” in churches and chapels. Known as “the seventeen heavens”, these are unique patterns of decorative religious art which do not have any equivalent in the world.
For this reason, the National Park’s mission consists in the preservation, exploration and promotion of the tangible and intangible natural and cultural heritage of the Russian North. When Kenozero National Park was established most of monuments were in a poor condition. It required several years of hard work to remedy their state. However there is still much to be done.
Kenozero National Park has a long tradition in working with volunteers. Since 2012, volunteers were supporting the conservation and restoration of the heritage sites as well as the maintenance of chapels and churches located in Kenozero National Park.
The project will focus on conservation and restoration works at the chapel of St. Apostle John the Evangelist from the 18th century and a water mill from the late 19th century, both located in Zekhnova village.
The Chapel of St. Apostle John the Evangelist has been mentioned for the first time in 1846, but it dates originally back to the 18th century – the exact date of its foundation is uncertain.
In 1982, a volunteer student’s team performed series of accident-prevention and conservation works in the region, among them also at the Chapel of St. Apostle John the Evangelist. In 1998 and 1999, a team of Russian and Norwegian carpenters restored the chapel using a dedicated lifting technology. In 2008, a team of local carpenters performed a series of restoration works on the bell tower and the roofing.
In 2019, a first European Heritage Volunteers Project took place in Zekhnova. During the project, work on several parts of the chapel was carried out: the roof construction as well as the supporting beams for the dome were partially replaced, corrective action was taken on the porch, and finally, the wooden shingles on the main roof and the roof of the porch were partially replaced.
Most of the works at the chapel could be finished in 2019, but at the bell tower there are still interventions needed. The task of this year’s project will be first to deconstruct the structure in order to assess the damage of the old wood elements. After this, the participants will prepare the logs for reassembling, changing the old ones that are rotten and replace them with new ones. Additionally the railing of the tower has to be changed, some parts are broken. Finally, the structure will be reassembled.
The water mill in Zekhnova village exists since 19th century. But already at the beginning of the 20th century there was no miller in the village – every family grinded grain in turn. To provide the necessary water flow, a channel of 390 meters length was trenched.
By the end of the 1940s, local carpenters restored the watermill; however at the end of the 1970s it was abandoned. The restoration of the mill began in 2004 and was completed in 2008, but the water channel is still in poor condition. During the course of this year’s project the channel will be deconstructed, damaged logs will be replaced by new logs, the necessary treatment measures will be undertaken and the channel reconstructed.
During the project, participants will have the opportunity to obtain knowledge about using traditional carpentry tools and to learn basic techniques of working with axes. They will learn ways of marking and replacing logs as well as other wood processing technologies. In addition, volunteers will understand how water mills work and will have the chance to see the construction from inside.
The programme will be completed by excursions to explore and understand the surrounding cultural landscape.
The project is organised by Kenozero National Park, in partnership with European Heritage Volunteers.