I love the Russian countryside, it's full of dramatic vistas and unexpected surprises. Sometimes travelling about the Russian countryside you might come across ancient Russian Orthodox chapels that recall the works of pioneering photographer, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. For example...

Source: Pinterest

These are small, dilapidated wooden structures that seem barely large enough to hold more than 3 people. From my own collection...

I have never been inside one.

Question: Is it OK to just walk up and enter one of these buildings? Are they regulated against people entering them? Or should one obtain permission from the local RO Patriarch? Of course there are all the various issues about the health and safety of entering one of these structures, but aside from those are there any legal or social impediments?

Secondary: For those abandoned churches next to the sea or other large body of water, for example a locale like Archangel, are they any restrictions about photographing them from the outside?

  • 1
    These buildings would typically be called chapels, or shrines, not churches. A church (building) is large enough for a congregation to gather for a worship service. These smaller buildings (if they are similar to those I've seen in Latin America) are chapels, which often contain a shrine to a particular saint, or are simply a place for prayer. I've edited your question with the more accurate terminology.
    – Flimzy
    May 30, 2016 at 7:32
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    Note: Archangel is "an angel of high rank" (wiki). You most probably meant Archangelsk, with "-sk" suffix being somewhat similar to "-berg" or "-burg" in German, denoting a settlement (I assume English also has something similar, but I can't recall it immediately). You don't say Ham instead of Hamburg, and you should not be saying Archangel instead of Archangelsk.
    – Petr
    May 30, 2016 at 9:54
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    @Petr, the English conventions closely follow the Germanic conventions because many of the place names were established by Anglo Saxon settlers, -ton, -bury, -ham, all of which are Teutonic in origin. As a Russian speaker I like to use friendly names in English when possible, hence Peter and Archangel. But the main point being that locales like Arkhangelsk may (or may not) have Russian naval facilities in the area and this may (or may not) cause the local constabulary to worry if a tourist is taking photographs. And per the wiki entry "... also known in English as Archangel..."
    – Gayot Fow
    May 31, 2016 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: though I have been living all my life in Russia, I am not a lawyer neither a religious person, so I might be not aware of some specific regulations, but I am answering based on my own experience.

I have never heard of any general regulations prohibiting entry to any such chapel or church, so I would see no problem in entering them unless:

  • There is any explicit sign outside prohibiting entry, or
  • The chapel is on a private area or at least on something that looks like a private area or an area where strangers are not expected. (The one on the left picture can be seen as such, I can imagine some workers emerging from those shacks around and questioning what a stranger is wandering around for. On contrary, for the one on the right, staying in the middle of nowhere, nobody will be asking questions.)
  • If you see someone who looks like a local and/or a religious person, you might want to ask them first, though often locals might be surprised at your questions because they would never think that anybody will prohibit entrance.

Obviously, you should follow some more-of-less obvious rules of behaviour around, and especially inside the buildings: be respectful to the place itself and to people around (if any), do not shout loudly, do not take a lot of photos (a couple of them might be OK, or even more if the building is really great, such as Church of the Intercession on the Nerl), etc. Some religious people might say that you must be properly dressed (long trousers and bare head for men, long skirt and some head cover for women, etc), but I think that for such almost abandoned objects this is not too important.

Apart from this, I consider entering such places to be completely OK, and even if you violate some rules, I don't think you will face any serious consequences (unless there is real damage, of course).

As for taking photos, the churches and chapels alone also do not represent any restrictions on what you may photo. Once again, if it is on a private or looking-as-a-private area, some people might question you, but not for taking photos of a church, but for taking photos of them.

  • 3
    I totally agree. Just want to add that for men one should remove any hats inside chapels and churches. Also, the more the chapel or churches looks old and forgotten, the less you should care regarding the religious rules.
    – VMAtm
    May 30, 2016 at 13:26
  • 1
    @VMAtm, yes, added about bare head
    – Petr
    May 30, 2016 at 13:31

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