An iconic symbol, the Kalyazin Bell Tower sits alone in the Volga River in the small town of Kalyazin, 125 miles outside of Moscow. The steepled bell tower was built in 1796 as part of the monastery of the St. Nicholas Cathedral. The church was flooded and submerged under water after the construction of a dam as part of Josef Stalin’s pursuit of modernization of the USSR in 1939.

When Stalin ordered the construction of the Uglich Dam in 1939 to form the Uglich hydroelectric power station, parts of the town of Kalyazin, including several medieval structures, were submerged under the reservoir’s waters. This included the St. Nicholas Cathedral as well as streets, houses and other historic and architectural parts of the town.

All of the flooded structures were demolished by the rising waters, with the exception of the miraculous survival of the Kalyazin Bell Tower of St. Nicholas Cathedral. The authorities decided to preserve the historic building and use it as a nautical marker and lighthouse. It is now sitting in the middle of the artificial lake and throughout the years it has become a symbol of the Volga River and the small town of Kalyazin.

The height of the bell tower, used as a lighthouse, rises 244 ft. above the water—which is nearly equal to a 23-story building. The unique structure of the flooded bell tower serves as a marker for ships and sailors travelling near the small town of Kalyazin.

The inside of the tower is completely empty, as any relics or furniture were removed before the water levels rose. Many tourists still come to visit the iconic tower to look inside of the ancient structure. It also attracts swimmers and has a small boat dock on the outside for tourists. In winter, when the lake is frozen, the bell tower can be visited on foot.

The Russian Orthodox Church will hold special religious ceremonies at the bell tower throughout the year. For more information, visit

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.