As you may have noticed if you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been traveling a lot lately. One of the things I’ve been doing? Traversing the state of Alaska. I spent a few days in the town of Kenai, and was excited to find not just one, but two historic Russian churches in Kenai’s historic district. Perched on a bluff over Cook Inlet, these churches speak to Alaska’s unique and complicated history.
A Russian Fort, St. Nicholas Redoubt, was built on this bluff in 1791. Cook Inlet was a focus of explorers searching for the Northwest Passage and was visited by Captain Cook in 1778, Artega in 1779, Fidalgo in 1790, and Vancouver in 1794. The site was not without problems: the fur-trading Russians encroached on native soil and a siege of Kenai took place in 1797. Alaska became a diocese in the Russian Orthodox Church in 1840, and a number of old Russian Orthodox churches remain in Alaska.
Two historic Russian Orthodox churches are still standing in Kenai: the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church was complete in 1896. The Saint Nicholas Memorial Chapel was built in 1906 over the graves of Igumen Nicholai (1810-1867), Makary Ivanov (1835-1878) and others.
Photo key: the Holy Assumption Church has the blue roof; the Saint Nicholas Memorial Chapel is of log construction. Quick credits: information found on-site (signage, etc). All photos are my own.