Kalyazin Bell Tower

Take a trip up the Volga river in Russia and when you get to the small town of Kalyazin keep your eyes peeled for something unusual. There, in the middle of an artificial lake stands something a little perplexing.

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The Kalyazin Bell Tower is a Neoclassical campanile rising to a height of 74.5 metres (244 ft) over the waters of the Uglich Reservoir on the Volga River opposite the old town of Kalyazin, in Tver Oblast, northwestern Russia. The steepled belfry was built in 1796—1800 as part of the Monastery of St. Nicholas, with a pentacupolar katholikon dating from 1694. Of its 12 bells, the largest weighed some 1038 poods (17,000kg).

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It was cast in 1895 to commemorate the coronation of Nicholas II of Russia. During the 1940s the then Communist government had big plans to make the turbulent river navigable all year around, so Joseph Stalin ordered the construction of the Uglich Dam in 1939. So a cascade of dams and reservoirs was ordered on the Upper Volga. It gave the region the much needed transport artery and hydroelectricity in to the bargain.

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It also buried hundreds of years of history, of which the bell tower of the Makaryevsky Monastery is the only visible remnant above the waters of the Uglich reservoir. The katholikon was dismantled, while the campanile was left, a landmark towering above the water. It may seem today like an awful act of historical desecration and it is difficult to counter that argument, even though the 1940s were years of huge change for the USSR.

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The all important thrust was towards modernization and improving the infrastructure of the war ravaged country. History could sometimes be buried. The early flooding of the area meant that there had been no time to destroy the cathedral before the waters came.

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It was decided to keep it as a navigation point as the waters at this point make a sharp bend. However, there was always the risk of flooding. Nevertheless, man made island was created around the first floor of the belfry above the waters. So, it stands in the middle of the Volga, most of the time utterly alone, with a handful of people visiting during the summer months.

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