Russian Harvest assists with the restoration of historic churches. These renewed churches provide the spiritual centers needed for the restoration of entire communities. When a church is built at the heart of a town, and there is devout faith in the hearts of the townspeople, the result is a strong and healthy community.

Many rural areas of European Russia are dotted with the ruins of old village churches.

It is not just the churches that have fallen into disrepair, but in most cases the thriving villages that supported them and filled them with congregations have all but disappeared, victims of a massive depopulation of the countryside over the last 100 years.

The first wave of depopulation occurred in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, of the last century, as peasants were stripped of their land and forced into collective farms, with many of them moving to towns to work in the factories of the rapidly industrializing Soviet Union.

Despite this first wave, the Soviet economic system still maintained many collective farms that employed a substantial population. Usually these farms were not efficiently run, and in many cases they were not economically viable, and the agricultural sector was widely subsidized. By Soviet standards, Russian collective farm workers had a good standard of living. Soviet leadership saw food security as an important part of national defense, as does the contemporary Russian leadership, so the sector was supported.

The second wave of depopulation occurred after the fall of Communism, when the socialist subsidies were removed. This was even more devastating than the first wave, and over the last 25 years depopulation of Russian rural areas has reached extremes.

It is not uncommon for entire forests to have grown up over the last 80 years in places that were once mostly farmland, supporting dense networks of villages filled with peasants.

In this respect, the Rostov district (Yaroslavsky Oblast) (Wikipedia) is no different from other parts of Russia. The district, which covers 2000 sq. kilometers, has about 50 village churches which are completely dilapidated, some of them in places where the villages have completely disappeared.

The Orthodox Rostov Foundation was set up in 2013 by Father Roman Krupnov, the Dean of the extraordinary Rostov Cathedral, which is a UNESCO site, to raise money to restore these churches and to seed agricultural communities around them.

Photographs and detailed historical descriptions of churches that need restoration are available here. The full list of the churches is available on the Foundation’s website (Russian only). The site is one of the most detailed and extensive catalogs of the condition of Russian village churches needing repair available anywhere. Of 50 churches, 2 have been restored so far.

A part of our mission is to restore more of these ancient churches.

For more information, and to find out how you can help restore these churches, feel free to contact us.

A video made by Father Krupnov, appealing to the public to bring these churches and villages back to life. The video has excellent drone footage of some of these villages and churches, showing how empty and lush the land is around them.