Ninilchik Russian Orthodox Church

ninilchik russian orthodox church

A picturesque village that is home to an Orthodox church on the shore of Cook Inlet, ninilchik russian orthodox church has been a part of the Kenai Peninsula since the early 1900s.

The church is built on a traditional Russian rural design, a cross-shaped plan with the sanctuary at the eastern end. A gable porch at the west end leads into a narthex, which opens into the nave.


Located along the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula, this small village is a picturesque destination with amazing views across Cook Inlet. It has fascinating Russian history, a fun three-day music festival in early August and great salmon and halibut fishing.

The ninilchik russian orthodox church was built in 1901 and sits atop a bluff overlooking the town of Ninilchik. It was designed by local architect Aleksei Oskolkoff and was named the Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1847 Grigorii and Mavra Kvasnikoff moved to Ninilchik from Kodiak. They were the first of a large family of Russian-Sugpiaqs that settled here.

Their descendants are still alive and well today. They have worked with linguists to preserve their native language, which is endangered.

In 19th century Alaska, missionaries traveled to the Cook Inlet area twice a year to teach the faith, hear confessions, perform communions and baptize babies and infants. However, villagers often did not attend the services because they were poor or had other problems.


Built in 1901 of logs, the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Church is one of only four Alaskan Russian Orthodox churches to be constructed on a cruciform plan. It features a gable roof centered over the transept (the room that crosses the nave at right angles), an octagonal cupola topped by five onion domes, and a square bell tower on the west end.

This cruciform plan is a standard for most Russian Orthodox churches in America and is adapted from an older church in the Ukraine. The main section is one story high and has a gable roof; the narthex is three stories high and has a hipped roof.

Ninilchik was one of six Creole and Russian pensioners’ settlements established by the Russian American Company on the Kenai Peninsula in mid-nineteenth century. Today, it retains strong impressions of Russian culture.


A spectacular building, this church sits on top of a bluff overlooking Ninilchik and Cook Inlet. It is one of only four Alaskan Russian Orthodox churches in a cruciform plan. It was designed by local architect Aleksei Oskolkoff and dedicated in 1901.

The gable roof of the nave and transepts crosses over an octagonal cupola. It’s topped by five onion domes.

It’s the kind of church that would make a fine place to hold a wedding or a funeral. The interior is surprisingly intimate; the nine-bay iconostasis has been ornamented with large oil-on-canvas icons.

It’s also a fitting symbol of Ninilchik’s Russian heritage, which was the dominant language here for almost a century. But when the village changed to English in 1911, many native speakers downplayed their Russian and opted to speak English as a way to assimilate into American culture.


The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church offers a wide range of services. From moleiben (Thanksgiving service) to funerals, this church is a staple in Ninilchik.

This church is a community treasure and a popular tourist destination on the Kenai Peninsula. The chapel and rectory are structural reminders of the important Russian era in southcentral Alaska, while the church is a fine example of a traditional Russian village church.

Despite the lack of a permanent resident priest from 1881 to 1952, the Kenai parish maintained a strong presence in the region. Fathers visited each village every few years and often stayed for weeks at a time, providing spiritual support and education for the Kenai Indians.

The first permanent priest to serve in the area was Igumen Nikolai Militov, who came to the village in 1844 and was responsible for adding an iconistas to the church. He also helped the native population with their health problems. In addition, he sent to St. Petersburg for a vaccine against smallpox, which had been spreading across the Kenai Peninsula.

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