The KIZHI Federal Museum of Cultural History and Architecture is a museum of traditional farmers' culture of Karelia. The architectural and ethnographic exposition of the museum allows to completely represent the traditional farmers' culture of former Olonetskaya province of XIX - early XX century, to display the traditional farmers' household and spiritual life.
The Kizhi museum is located in 68 km distance from Petrozavodsk, in Lake Onega on Kizhi island which is a part of the unique natural complex of Kizhi skerries - a picturesque cluster of islands near to the southern extremity of Zaonezhsky peninsula. The museum occupies an area of about 10 000 hectares. It includes Kizhi island, surrounding islands and a part of mainland. Besides the monuments of the main exhibition, on the territory of the museum some old villages, important natural objects and archaeological monuments are situated.
The formation of the museum dates back to the middle of the XX century, when the territory of the Kizhi Architectural Ensemble was declared federal reserved area in 1945, the first restoration of its monuments was started in 1948 and the first monument - the house of farmer Oshevnev was transported to Kizhi island in 1951. Since 1966 the Kizhi museum has been functioning as a separate cultural organization. In 1993 the Kizhi museum was included into the State Code of Cultural Heritage Sites of Special Value of the Russian Federation.
The museum collection of architectural monuments includes 82 pieces of architecture: 68 of them are situated on the island, 8 are on the surrounding islands, 6 - in the City of Petrozavodsk. The museum's fund collections contain about 45 000 items, including ethnographic collections, collection of icons, pieces of applied art, rare old books, papers, photos, engineering drawings, archaeological collection. The core of the museum collection is the Kizhi Architectural Ensemble (Kizhi Pogost Ensemble). The Ensemble includes: The Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (1714), The Church of the Intercession of the Virgin Mary (1694-1764 (?)), a bell tower (1862, rebuilt in 1874), a log wall on a stone foundation (the stone foundation was laid in 1800, the log wall was reconstructed in 1959). The Kizhi Architectural Ensemble is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The Kizhi Ensemble and the Church of the Transfiguration became the symbols of the Russian wooden architecture in the whole world.
During the museum's almost 50-year existence the following pieces of wooden architecture have been transported to its territory: the oldest wooden church preserved in Russia - The Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus (XIV-XVI centuries.), several chapels, more than twenty farmer's houses, a large number of household structures: mills, barns, threshing barns, bath houses. In several houses and household structures traditional interiors were restored.
The pieces of farmers' wooden architecture situated on Kizhi island are united into three exhibition sectors: "The Russians of Zaonezhye", "The Russians of Pudozhye" and "Pryazhinsky Karelians", and are located in two historic villages on Kizhi island - Yamka Village and Vasilievo Village.
The land of Zaonezhye, where the Kizhi museum is situated, is one of the most remarkable historical and cultural regions of the Russian North. Russian culture owes the villages of Zaonezhye a lot. Thus, thanks to the farmers from the Kizhi island's vicinity and to the collectors of Russian folklore P. Rybnikov and A. Guilferding, the folk epic songs - bylinas (or "starinas" (old songs), as farmers used to call them) have preserved until now having become an integral part of Russian national culture. The best Russian epic singers - Trofim Ryabinin, Vasily Schegolenok, Leonty Bogdanov, Terenty Ievlev, Simeon Kornilov were buried in the old cemetery beside the walls of the famous churches of the Kizhi Architectural Ensemble.
The Kizhi museum occupies six historic buildings in the center of the City of Petrozavodsk. Three wooden structures and a church, the typical provincial urban dwelling houses and public buildings of the late XIX - early XX century, situated in the historic quarter of Petrozavodsk, were handed over to the Kizhi museum by the city authorities. After restoration the buildings were adapted for use as Lecture and Exhibition Hall of the museum, research library and scientific departments. After the museum had restored the building of industrial school, built in Petrozavodsk in 1885, the administrative departments of the museum, Information Center and an exhibition hall were located there. The nearby building of industrial school's workrooms (late XIX century) will soon be restored and adapted for storage of museum collections