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Fear ex-governor will destroy Kizhi

The church of the Transfiguration has 22 unpainted wooden domes. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Staff and locals at the iconic outdoor museum of wooden architecture fear newly appointed director, ex-governor of Karelia Andrey Nelidov, will develop Kizhi into a tourist machine destroying the World Heritage site.

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Andrey Nelidov was appointed director of the Kizhi museum on Monday by Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky in a move Moscow believes will boost tourism to the iconic island in Lake Onega. Nelidov was governor of Karelia until he was sacked last year following Vladimir Putin’s return to Kremlin.

By getting a director appointed by Moscow, the staff at Kizhi fears the island will become a tourist machine with new hotels, numerous souvenir shops and asphalted parking lots. With new large-scale construction activities, the staff is afraid the island and the surrounding territories will suffer irreparable harm.

Kizhi is truly one of Russia’s iconic images and the home of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Church of Transfiguration, built almost 300 years ago.

In a petition posted on internet, the staff calls to annul the appointment of Andrey Nelidov as director of the Kizhi museum. The petition letter is addressed to President Vladimir Putin. 

The staff argues that Nelidov, an engineer by training, has no experience running a museum. 

“Unique monuments of Russian wooden architecture and fascinating untouched landscapes should be cherished with maximum care and should not be neighbored by high-tech hotels, numerous souvenir shops and huge asphalted parking lots,” the staff writes. 

In an up-heated debate, broadcasted by NTV, current governor of Karelia, Aleksandr Hudilaynen, admitted that he was only informed one hour in advanced about the order from Moscow to appoint Nelidov as museum director. Then it was too late to express any opinion. 

Russia’s Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, says to NTV the new director is the right person to develop Kizhi in order to increase sale of tickets and souvenirs to increase the income.