Museums Russian Federation

Culture minister's controversial appointment sparks protest in north Russia

Karelia's former governor to run state museum at Kizhi World Heritage Site

Church of the Transfiguration, pride of the Kizhi open-air museum

The appointment by Russia's culture minister of a businessman turned politician to run a state open-air museum in Karelia in the north of Russia has outraged opponents who fear that his inexperience and agenda to increase tourism will put the region's heritage and eco-system at risk.

The magnificent 18th-century Church of the Transfiguration, which is built of wood and has 22 cupolas, is the centrepiece of the Kizhi State Museum Reserve of History, Architecture and Ethnography. It stands on Kizhi Island on Lake Onega in the Karelia region, which borders Finland. As well as buildings, the museum has in its collection ceiling paintings and icons from the many other churches and chapels found on the lake's shore where the Kizhi Pogost (enclosure) is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

A 200-strong demonstration took place in early February in the regional capital, Petrozavodsk. Protestors held banners and made speeches accusing officials of corruption and over-exploiting the region and its heritage, Karelian news sites report.

In January, Medinsky announced that Andrei Nelidov, a businessman and member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party who is the former governor of Karelia, would replace Elvi Averyanova, who had run the museum for more than a decade. Nelidov has no previous museum experience but the ministry defended the decision, saying that Kizhi’s tourist infrastructure must be developed.

In an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, Kizhi's museum workers said that tourism plans developed under Nelidov’s governorship of Karelia threatened to destroy Kizhi, and accused Medinsky of being more interested in business than in culture. Medinsky, they wrote, has shown: "He doesn’t need experienced directors and professional museum workers, but is interested in managers who are called upon only to earn money by any means.”

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Comments

1 Mar 13
19:50 CET

NINA LOORY, GREATER NEW YORK AREA

I also was in Kiji in 1994, and can only completely approve all Neil's comments. The conditions on the island are shameful. Its incredible natural beauty, this fantastic church and other artifacts need a good, intelligent, savvy government.

27 Feb 13
15:23 CET

NEIL MCGOWAN, MOSCOW

I've been to Kizhi. It's a major site, in which the Russian Govt has invested billions in conservation and infrastructure programs. However, this idiot woman in charge there is a disaster. She couldn't run corner store. There are no adequate bathrooms. The only food available - considering that the only boat service leaves you there the whole day - is a worthless crappy store run by rude and vile people. The guides are viciously rude to anyone who isn't a practicing member of the Russian Orthodox Church. The whole experience is amateurish. They were entirely right to sack this woman.

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