Khor Tagna in Irkutsk Oblast, the last citadel of the old believers

Oksana Vasilieva | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Have you ever heard about the old believers in Siberia? There are plenty of them. They still live in the faraway villages where the civilization can't reach them. There is one village in particular that comes to mind when thinking about this kind of community. The true old believers live across the Sayan Mountains in Khor Tagna, the last citadel of the old believers in Irkutsk Oblast.


Who are the Siberian old believers?

The old believers claim that they practice the ancient form of Orthodox Christianity, the one originated in 1650. There are old believers' communities all around the world now (one can find them in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Latin America. Canada, the US, and Australia). What makes them different from Orthodox Christianity are some variations in usual Church ordinances. But more than that, they prefer to live a simple life, somewhere in the depth of the forest (or taiga of Siberia). Their children study religion more than in any other religious school. Curiously, the old believers tend to survive on what they can procure from nature. They don't respond well to the cash nexus of the modern world. There are a few places for tourists to go when they want to see the way of life of the true old believers. One of them is Khor Tagna, a village in Irkutsk Oblast.

©Istock/Evgenii Mitroshin

Why is Khor Tagna famous globally?

Khor Tagna is also known to people for other reasons than the old believers' settlement. In 2019, the village was given special status as one of the most beautiful villages in Russia. Khor Tagna belongs to the Zalari Region of Irkutsk Oblast.

The village was founded in 1892. It is surrounded by taiga and has lots of wooden constructions of the past centuries. The population of Khor Tagna is 850 inhabitants. As it is customary for Russian villages, Khor Tagna is situated on the board of two rivers, with their confluence occurring right in the middle of the settlement. The villagers' life depended on those rivers. During the summer, they used to cross it by boats, and during the winter they had to march over the thick ice. However, it was not so comfortable for them, so the bridge was built in 2013. This is unique for the region, as a stunning 145-meter-long bridge stands on three metal supports. Now the two separate sides of the village are connected no matter the weather. But the civilization as we know it, living in modern times and the big cities, is still just a word in Khor Tagna. There is a hospital, a grocery shop, and a post office there. But, your cell phone will be out of service most of the time.


Yet, as of September this year, Khor Tagna gets the status of one of the most beautiful villages in Russia (according to “The Most Beautiful Villages in Russia” Association). There are only 11 places on the list, and Khor Tagna is now one of them. The crucial distinguisher of this village is the fact that it** managed to keep its unique history intact**.


The houses of the 19th century (especially the Temple of Nicholas the Wonderworker) are considered to be important architectural monuments. Tourists just love the village! When embarking on an unusual trip around Siberia, make sure to visit Khor Tagna, the last citadel of the old believers in Irkutsk Oblast!

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