A standout architectural feature incorporating the rich Russian influence of the area, the Holy Assumption Orthodox Church is well worth a visit. It’s also called the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is one of a handful of remaining Russian Orthodox parish churches in Alaska. Construction was completed in 1896, and it remains one of the oldest Russian churches in the state. It also served as a pinnacle for Native American assimilation.

The church became a National Historic Landmark in 1970, though it was dubbed a diocese by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1840. The Kenaitze, a local indigenous community, had especially strong ties to the church. Bishop Innocent went on to form five more parishes in Alaska. The state’s first Russian-American chapel was also built that year, close to Kenai at Fort St. Nichols as well.

A Faithful History

By the 1860s, Russian was the predominant language of the area. The church became key in helping to usher in Russian culture, serving as not just a church but also a judicial and administrative center. Featuring a bell tower added in 1900 and logs crafted in the Pskov style (shaped like a ship), with an interior boasting an incredible iconostasis, it’s truly a sight to behold.

Nearby, the Chapel of St. Nicholas (created in 1906) is also available for viewing. Stroll across the street and take in the sweeping views from the bluffs perched above Kenai River. Still a member of the Orthodox Church within the American Diocese, the oldest church is also a popular tourist stop for all visitors.