Two Mysterious Islands on Lake Seliger in Russia

Seliger is a system of picturesque glacial lakes near Moscow.

Lake Seliger is actually a system of lowland lakes, connected with each other by narrow channels. Lake Seliger is not too far from Moscow (5 hours by car) – on the border of Tver and Novgorod regions of Russia.

Also on Lake Seliger there are many picturesque islands, and on some of them you will find relict forest. Scenic shores, plenty of fish, crystal clear water – the place has always attracted people.

1. Island Stolobny

On a small island called Stolobny there is a monastery Nilova Pustyn. Everything associated with the monastery is quite unusual.

Island Stolbny and Nilova Pustyn, lake Seliger, Russia

Island Stolbny and Nilova Pustyn, lake Seliger, Russia. View from above 

It is not known where he was born, what his origin was, and what the name of St. Nil Stolobensky was. It is known that the name “Nil” was taken by the monk when he accepted his vows in Krypetsky monastery, which is located near Pskov.

The monk was a true hermit – he made a hut by the river Seremha and lived in it. People from surrounding villages began coming to him for advice.

The monk was a real hermit – he soon left his hut and in 1528 moved to a new location – the island Stolobny on Lake Seliger. Why did the monk leave Pskov and moved 500 kilometers deep into Russia?

The first year the monk lived in a dugout, then he built a house and a chapel. Monk Nil gave a vow of non-laying. He slept sitting up by hanging himself on hooks sticking out of the wall at the level of his armpits. Monk Nil is depicted in his typical sitting position in his sleep with hooks sticking out from under his armpits.

In 1594 on the island a monastery was opened – Nil-Stolobensky Pustyn.

It all started well, and in peak years there were up to 1000 inhabitants in the monastery. It was visited by many pilgrims, during holidays – up to 15 thousand people. It was even visited by the Emperor Alexander I.

The 20th century didn’t leave much of its former grandeur. After the Revolution, the monastery was closed. It alternately housed: a colony for juvenile delinquents, a camp for Poles, a hospital, again a colony for juvenile delinquents, a nursing home, a hotel…

Now in the 21st century there are only 50 inhabitants in the monastery, and the affairs are steadily improving.

Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, Russia. View of the Nilova Monastery from the Solarium, 1910

Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, Russia. View of the Nilova Monastery from the Solarium, 1910. Library of US Congress 

2. Island Gorodomlya

A Russian nobleman in 1629 gave the island Gorodomlya to the friary Nilova Pustyn. At the end of the 19thcentury Nilova Pustyn founded here Gethsemane Skete where it sent elderly monks.

Relict pine forest of the island is depicted on the famous painting by Russian landscape artist Ivan Shishkin “Morning in a Pine Forest”, 1889 (together with Konstantin Savitsky).

Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Savitsky. Morning in a Pine Forest, 1889

Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Savitsky. Morning in a Pine Forest, 1889

After the socialist revolution of 1917, the monks were pushed out from the island.

On the island Gorodomlya the Biological Institute was opened. According to some sources, the institute was looking for ways to combat anthrax, cholera and smallpox. In 1935-1938 the Institute even produced ​​the first penicillin, which during World War II saved a lot of Russian lives.

According to another version, the Institute carried out the development of biological weapons. It is possible that both versions are correct. During World War II the Institute was evacuated.

After the war Germans came to the island. These were captured in Germany specialists in missile guidance systems FAA and rocket fuel.

Soon, the Germans left the island, and on the island a research Institute producing control systems of (precision-guided) missiles was organized.

The island was well guarded – on the ground and with patrol boats.

How well the scientific institutions of the island operated can be seen in the thousands of successful rocket launches.

Nature of Lake Seliger, Russia

Nature of Lake Seliger, Russia

How to Get to Lake Seliger

As we have already mentioned, the best way is to drive from Moscow. The trip will take about 5 hours.

There is also a bus that goes to the town of Ostashkov and takes 8-9 hours.

The most unpleasant option is the train. Until recently it had a number 666. By train you will travel to the town of Ostashkov … 12 (!) hours. The only con – the train goes at night, so you will not have to spend a full light day for your trip.

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Фото 1 и 4 – фотобанк Лори

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