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Religious Legacy Lives on in Alaska: Orthodox Church is a durable legacy of Alaska's Russian past

Martha Dixon

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The Russian Orthodox church in Alaska is claiming a resurgence in a faith that most people predicted would die out. When Russia sold Alaska to America for $7.2m in 1867 it left little trace on the state - except its religion.

Speeding across calm blue waters we head with pilgrims from around the world towards one of the Russian Orthodox Church's most holy places. But this is not Russia - it's Alaska.

Spruce Island, off Alaska's south coast, was made famous by St Herman, America's first Orthodox saint.

He and other monks brought orthodoxy to Alaska in 1794, several decades after the Russians conquered this land. We land on the shingled beach and look up to an old Orthodox church nestled in thick green forest.

A new cathedral is being built in Anchorage

"For me it's a wonderful place to be. After Perestroika there is a resurrection of religion in Russia and every church and every chapel there has an icon of St Herman of Alaska," says Alexander Vankov, a Russian pilgrim from St Petersburg.

Nuns and monks here follow the traditions of St Herman - living a life of prayer in this remote outpost with no electricity or running water.

From their nearby island monastery nuns kayak in to Spruce Island to celebrate the pilgrimage.

Read the entire article on the BBC website.

Posted: 9/14/04



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