Churaevka (Russian Village Historic District)

The Russian Village Historic District (Churaevka) is a small self-contained community located on a heavily wooded hill in the southwest corner of Southbury, Connecticut. Churaevka was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Churaevka contains 46 buildings, early-twentieth-century seasonal cottages and modern houses; most of them make a historical contribution to the district. Russian Village Road, the entrance road to the village, Kiev Drive, and Tolstoy Lane are the only roads in the district; none of them is a through road and some of them is private.

Churaevka was founded in 1925 as an artistic community for Russians who fled to America after the Revolution of 1917. The village was created by two Russian writers, Count Ilya Tolstoy, the son of Leo Tolstoy, and the famous Siberian novelist George Grebenstchikoff. They dreamed of establishing a cultural center and actively planned to create a rural haven where Russian writers, artists, musicians and scientists could live and flourish.

Some other better known names connected with Churaevka are Igor Sikorsky, helicopter inventor; Sergei Rachmaninoff, composer; Michael Chekhov, actor; Baron Leo von Nolde, writer; Nicholas Roerich, philosopher and painter, who painted a small Russian Orthodox chapel for this village. The village was named after a mythical Siberian village mentioned in the works of Grebenstchikoff. Commissioned by George Grebenstchikoff and financed with generous contributions by Igor Sikorsky, the chapel was built in 1932-33 with labor volunteered by village residents, including a skilled stone mason named Ivan Wassileff. The chapel is dedicated to one of the most venerated saints of Russia, St. Sergius, who kept Christianity alive after the Tartan invasion of the 14th century. It is also meant to be a memorial to the Cathedral of Our Savior which was destroyed by the Soviets in 1931.

Frequent guests in the village in the 1930s included distinguished Russian contributors to art, dance, music, and the theater: Grebenstchikoff’s patron, the artist, Nicholas Roerich; the pianist and composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff; the actor Michael Chekhov, also a producer of his uncle Anton Chekhov’s plays; and Vera and Michael Fokine, both ballet dancers.

It is now part of Connecticut historical heritage sites.


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