Project: Fence construction at St. Nicholas Church in Nikolski, Alaska
About the church
The Saint Nicholas Church in Nikolski was built in 1930 and is well-known for its remarkable decorative carving. Sergei Sovoroff is reputed for completing most of the interior carving; Sergei and Joseph Krukoff together carved the royal doors. Previously, John Kriukov and Brother Innocent constructed a chapel in 1806 on the same site. Today the church does not have a resident priest; however, it is serviced by the Orthodox Diocese of Alaska and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, the church fence has been falling apart, allowing wandering, wild animals to access the sacred ground and burial site. Prior to building a new fence, a formal archaeological survey by the Alaska State Office of History and Archaeology must be completed. Due to harsh weather and scheduling, ROSSIA was not able to start this project during the summer of 2019. However, it is our intent to prioritize this for next summer and erect a new fence around the church.
History of Nikolski
The village of Nikolski, which is located on Nikolski Bay, is situated off the southwest end of Umnak Island, one of the Fox Islands in the Aleutian Chain, 116 air miles west of Unalaska, and 900 air miles from Anchorage. In 2010, the population was only 18 people.
Nikolski is reputed by some to be the oldest continuously-occupied community in the world. The Chaluka archaeological site, in the village of Nikolski, indicates 4,000 years of virtually continuous occupation. In 1834, it was the site of sea otter hunting, and was recorded by the Russians as “Recheshnoe,” which means “river.” In 1920, a boom in fox farming occurred here. A sheep ranch was established in 1926 as part of the Aleutian Livestock Company.
In June 1942, when the Japanese attacked Unalaska and seized Attu and Kiska, residents were evacuated to the Ketchikan area. Locals were allowed to return in 1944, but the exposure to the outside world brought about many changes in the traditional lifestyle and community attitudes
Due to its isolated location, travel originates from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor (Unalaska) by plane, and then a helicopter takes passengers to Nikolski, weather permitting due to its precarious location on the Aleutian Chain ( “Nikolski.” Exlore North, 11 Nov. 2019).