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Photographer's Note

It is a Holy Week now by Russian Orthodox calendar. I decided to show you some Russian Orthodox churches on Alaska.

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It was a calm sunny evening. We returned from Tracy Arm and walked around the city. We’ve found a small charming Orthodox church on the steep street close to downtown.

This Church was named for St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, a saint known as the protector of sailors, fishermen and travelers. Although this unique octagonal building was constructed with funds donated from Russia, and the six large panels in the front (called the iconostas or icon screen) were painted in Russia, there were no Russians in Juneau, and this has been an Alaska Native, mostly Tlingit Indian, parish since its founding in 1893.

Sitka was the capital of Russian America, and there were two churches: the Cathedral where Russians, Siberians and Aleuts worshipped, and a Tlingit church near the native village. The city of Juneau did not exist during the Russian era, which ended in 1867. Most of Alaska’s 87 Orthodox churches were founded by Aleuts or Aleut missionaries, but no Aleut or Russian missionaries came to Juneau.

It was the Tlingit Chiefs in the Juneau area who took the initiative, inviting the Orthodox bishop in Sitka to visit, instruct and baptize them about a hundred years ago. After Juneau’s founding as a Gold Rush town, American missionaries introduced Protestant Christianity in the region, but, following government policies of the time, refused to allow the use of Tlingit language in the services or schools, but the Orthodox allowed people to worship in Tlingit and to continue more of their own customs. Bishop Innocent Veniaminov had translated sacred texts into Tlingit 50 years earlier when the Russians were still in Sitka. Since the Indians were still the great majority of the population, they saw no reason to adopt the new, “foreign” language and customs of the newcomers, and asked to be received into the Eastern Orthodox. Church, knowing this religion had been using the Tlingit language for fifty years or longer at Sitka.

Today, Alaska Natives make up the bulk of Russian Orthodox congregations in Alaska, and St. Nicholas still has an active Tlingit parish.

jrj, devimeuxbe, singuanti, ianmcall, mumek, kolesn, Uhu has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Nikolay Murenets (Kolyamour) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 317 W: 101 N: 339] (1760)
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