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Modern Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Hiiumaa

by Kadri Pentikäinen, 24 May 2009

 

 

Part 2: Kuri Orthodox Church

Kuri Orthodox Church, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Kuri Orthodox Church lies near the small village of Kuri on Hiiumaa's north-eastern coast, about four kilometres south-east of Paluküla in the parish of Pühalepa. The name Kuri means 'evil' in English, although the reason for this naming has been lost.

The ruined front entrance of Kuri Church

The village's Orthodox church is situated just outside the main settlement area, but with a population of just fifty inhabitants, that area is extremely small. The church was only in use between 1890-1952.

Kuri Orthodox Church, Hiiumaa, Estonia

The church was build within two years, at the end of the nineteenth century (between 1888-1890). The architects responsible for its design and for overseeing the construction were R Knüpfer and I Dimitrijevski. The congregation itself was active until the middle of the twentieth century.

Kuri kirik, Hiiumaal, Eestis

Kuri church was build as part of a very typical project for the time. The same project was also used for other Orthodox churches. In fact, all four of the Orthodox churches which exist on the island of Hiiumaa were constructed by following the same plan.

The ruined interior of Kuri Orthodox Church, Hiiumaa, Estonia

The architectural style used for the church is a typically sturdy, historically standard one for the region. The materials that were used in constructing the church included mostly granite, and red and yellow bricks.

Kuri kirik, Hiiumaal, Eestis

It used to be quite common to have village schools built next to churches, so Kuri Church also had its own school built next to it. Its running costs were financed by the Orthodox church authorities (in mother Russia, which counted Estonia as a satellite state until 1918), and the Russian imperial state, and for that reason it was one of the best schools of its time. During the process of Russification, in which the previous ruling German customs and practises were suppressed, the language in which education was carried out was changed from German to Russian.

Kuri Orthodox Church, Hiiumaa, Estonia

After the church was closed down in 1952, it was used by the Soviet border guard and also by a collective farm in the area called Hiiu Kalur. Later on, when the farm and border guards had moved out, time and wear-and-tear started to show on the building's infrastructure. By 1994 the situation regarding the building was so serious that the authorities were forced to remove the bell tower, which by now was very unstable.

Kuri kirik, Hiiumaal, Eestis

Today, there is not much left of this once beautiful building, only ruins. A very few details regarding the church's history are now held in the Museum of Hiiumaa.

Kuri Orthodox Church, Hiiumaa, Estonia

However, Hiiumaa's churches in general are very poorly documented, thanks in part to the succession of Russian and German periods of occupation in Estonia during the course of the twentieth century.

Kuri kirik, Hiiumaal, Eestis

As with many abandoned buildings, this one has been allowed to decay, and is in a much worse state than the nearby Paluküla Church. Estonia's re-Independence governments since 1991 have had a great many other historic buildings to save in the meantime, so Kuri Church dies a slow death.

All photos and text on this page contributed by Kadri Pentikäinen.

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