A legendary city of Kievan Rus', which became invisible
(or was submerged in a lake) at the time of the Mongol
invasions, and continues to exist unseen to this day.
The story is especially popular with the Old Believers,
since Kitezh is the one place where "pure" pre-Nikonian
Russian Orthodoxy presumably continues. But the legend
attracts many people, unfortunately including some
unpleasant ultra-nationalist types and occult
sectarians. Such associations should not be
allowed to obscure the fact that to many genuinely
devout Orthodox, Kitezh is a symbol of the ideal
Holy Russia which ought to exist, or exists in the heart.
Norman Hugh Redington
- Where was Kitezh? The most popular version of the
story associates the lost city with Svetloyar Lake near
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh.
Includes some romantic paintings inspired
by Rimsky-Korsakov's opera, but also some remarks
about the folklore surrounding Svetloyar Lake.
--- Voice of Russia
Yaroslavl: Russian Paradise.
page about the history and beauty of
"Yaroslavl: the threshold of the eternity, the decorated gate to
the heavenly town of Kitezh ... along the secret invisible Volga flowing"
into Svetloyar. --- Novyj Gorod
- Another version, possibly of modern occult origin,
associates it with Issyk-kul in Central Asia.
This may tie in with the related legend of
Belovodia (see below).
The Apostle Matheus' Grave and the
Changaz Khan Treasures to be Searched
on the Bottom of Issyk Kul Lake.
An article in (post-Communist,
weirdly tabloidised) Pravda,
The painter and explorer Nicholas Roerich
reported in the early 1900s that Siberian Old Believers
spoke of a lost Orthodox city in the Altai
Mountains, Belovodia (White Water Country).
This sounds like the Kitezh legend transfered
to Asia, and perhaps combined with Mongol and
Tibetan legends about the invisible Pure Land
of Shambhala ("Shangri La"), a Buddhist utopia
also usually located in
the Altai. However, Roerich was an occultist
who spent much of his life trying to make contact
with the inhabitants of Shambhala; he is an
unreliable source about Buddhist beliefs on the
subject, and one suspects his versions of
Christian legends would be equally distorted.
Modern Russian writing about Belovodia, to
judge by a limited sample, seems to have dropped
the Christian and Old Believer connexion from
Roerich's account, and depicts the secret country
as a tradition of (possibly self-proclaimed or fictitious)
New York: Roerich Museum Press, 1930.
"What the grey-bearded Old Believer will tell
you, (should he become your friend)" ...
and so on in embarassingly florid Roerichspeak.
- Nicholas Roerich:
Heart of Asia, pp. 136-141 (1930).
The Invisible City of Kitezh.
This 1913 painting imagines Kitezh as a sort of ark.
--- Auburn University
- Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov:
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden
Febronia: Opera, 1907. Libretto by V. I. Belsky.
Passage to Kitezh.
A characteristically difficult and complex poem. Mechem
--- W. H. Mechem
Werner Herzog: Bells from the Deep.
A strange film about Kitezh and "faith and
superstition in Russia."
Searching for Kitezh.
To this Orthodox Soviet dissident, "searching
for Kitezh" is a metaphor for the quest for holiness.
--- In Communion
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