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Beauty will save the village

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Beauty will save the village


Sergey Vinogradov

Bolshoy Kunalei village in Buryatia was called “the Most Beautiful” in Russia.The Most Beautiful Russian Villages Associationgives this award for the third year. The previous two winners have received a big inflow of tourists, articles in the press, and even twinning with other beautiful villages abroad.

The Association organizers believe that this action helps to revive Russian villages. It unites more than 40 rural communities, possessing outstanding historical, cultural and natural heritage to promote conservation, from Archangel region do Buryaria. Many villages lack active people who would deal with promotion, right development approach, and simply funds. The founder and President of the Association is Professor at RGAU-MSHA named after K. A. Timiryazev, doctor of economics Alexander Merzlov states that the goal is to inspire others to love rural Russia. When there's love, there's everything else.

Bolshoy Kurnalei village. Pic:

Colorful village

The most beautiful village of Russia has to be a lively rural settlement, which have preserved the rural lifestyle, and local traditions and residents who speak with regional accent. There are enough open-air ethnographic museums with architecture masterpieces brought from around al region, cashier at the entrance, and custodians sitting on zavalinka ( But such museums won't be part of our Association. Talking about beautiful villages on our list, one understands that this title is given not for cool facades and designer things but for originality, cleanliness, and hospitality. The people who live in a beautiful village are also special because they really care about this place, they want it to flourish.

Kunaley, the village located in the Republic of Buryatia, had become famous well before our Association and award The Most Beautiful Village has been established. In many tour guides and reportages one could easily read very nice reviews saying that guests were passing by, met locals and tasted Buryat food. At the end they were singing songs all night long with local choir.

Kunaley looks like a simple rural settlement with quiet streets and picturesque hills on the background. There are white roads here, and old wells are more common than water pumps. Colorful huts and fences attract attention immediately. Pleasantly colored blue, red, brown – they look like they've been just painted. Bright colors are traditional for this area.

Big Kunaley is the village with particular history. It was founded in 1730 by Russian immigrants (60 Old Believer families). At first there were about 200 people in the village. These first villagers were provided with very poor looking, unlivable places. To convert the new home into a happy place people spared no efforts to paint it with joyful tones and plant lots of trees and flowers.


100 years ago there were 5000 inhabitants in Kunaley. Today there are about 1000 people, most of them are farmers. There are just few old houses of 19 and beginning of 20th centuries. However the new ones have to be built following main characteristics of traditional houses and painted in bright colors. Lugged architrave, panelled shutters and decorated gates. Inhabitants are great gardeners. Houses roll in the sea of greenery; owners take care of flowers, bushes and trees.

Longs songs flourish in the evenings, almost every day, if the choir is not on tour. The local Bolshekunaleysky Semeiskiy folk choir (Big Family Folk Choir) is a pride of all Buryatia. It is one of the most famous groups that represent the folklore of Zabaykalsky Semeyskie. The choir which is 90 years young, meet guests and introduce them to the local music traditions. Choir toured all over the world (US Japan, Europe), and the famous Semeyskie tunes entered in music theory books. All the village sings. There are three vocal ensembles; out of 90 local schoolchildren 50 participate in one of the choirs.

Feast. Picture:

Girls in Semeyskie outfits
Flourished like a Bunch of flowers.
While guys with accordion
Where shining like a sunlight.

Merchants' museum and Karelian drinks

Vyatskoe village in Yaroslavl region the first full member of The Most Beautiful Russian Villages Association and the first owner of The Most Beautiful award. The old merchant village of Vyatskoe was founded also as an Old Believers's place. New life started 10 years ago, when the Museum of Russian Enterprise (or Museum of one village that wanted to become a city) was launched, and when the Nicolas II bust was put back.

Vyatskoe Village. Picture:

There are ten museums today in Vyatskoe, which are joined in historical-cultural complex. The village looks like a decoration for the film about 19th century Russian village. Thousand guests come here for All-Russia Nekrasov Feast of Poetry, Nekrasov Days in Vyatskoe annual festival, and another festival called Province, Russian Soul. Every year more than 100 thousand tourists visit the village comprising of 500 inhabitants. Last fall Vyatskoe has got its official twin village Semur-en-Brionnais in Bourgogne, France. The first joint project was the Russian-French dish that called a success. Since the French village is famous with its beef, and Russian with its pickles, two ingredients were combined in a an original salat.

Karelian village Kinerma, granted The Most Beautiful one year after Vyatskoe, primarily attracts attention with its unique monuments of wooden architecture.

Thanks to the care of the locals, the place keeps image of a typical old Karelian village. There are just two dozens of houses (and almost all are old) and only 5 permanent residents. The tour around the place includes engaging stories about Karelian traditions, arts, crafts and basics of Karelian language master-classes. Tourists can try national cuisine and learn how to cook (for example famous Karelian-style pirogi Kalitki.) Karelian sauna is prepared for those who is willing to indulge in a real smoke sauna experience. The services offered by the friendly owners of the village.

House in Kinerma. Picture:

Expedition to the middle of the countryside

The Most Beautiful Russian Villages Association nominates its candidates in several ways. It accepts applications and also launches expeditions to discover new places. For example, not long ago, during the fifth expedition Verkola village was discovered in Arkhangelsk region. Surrounded by beautiful nature, the village has very particular wooden architecture. Famous Russian writer-villager Fedor Abramov called it the one of the most beautiful places of Russia. The work process has started with a round table where future development possibilities were defined, along with legal and organizational issues. Association provides a set of recommendations on how to adjust village realities for tourists and how to welcome guests; it helps new members with building parking and other facilities. The Association has organized a small university - some kind of a platform to exchange experiences for its members.

Winter in Verkola village. Picture: Alexey Romanov/

According to the President of the Association Alexander Merzlov, the goal of the Association is to save Russian village, no more no less. Most of the programs of the rural territories development keep attention on villages located close to large agricultural factories. . Distant place are less protected from extinction.

As Merzlov noted in one of the interviews, the The Most Beautiful Russian Villages Association provides with concrete examples that it's possible to develop villages using only internal resources cultural, national, natural, et cetera. There are not enough specialists, noted Merzlov. They do teach herders and agronomists in agrarian institutions, but there're no departments of the complex village development. However, naturally born village entrepreneurs exist, they just need to be encouraged to support to realize their dreams.

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