Stolobny Island is the home of Nilov Monastery, which was founded by Saint Nilus in 1594, and previously welcomed up to 40,000 pilgrims each year. Most of the buildings of the monastery were built in the 18th and 19th Centuries in a neoclassical style. Today the monastery complex remains one of the most impressive ensembles of Neoclassical architecture in Eastern Europe. Some of its churches date back to the 17th century. A graceful embankment was completed by 1812, and a large cathedral was built in 1821-25. The construction of the causeway to the island was completed in 1812. The Nilow Monastery was one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries in the Russian Empire.
In 1919, after the October Revolution, the monastery was confiscated. It was closed in 1927 by the Soviet government and subsequently used for various purposes. From 1927 to 1939 there was a work camp for underage criminals.
In the period 1939 to 1941, during the first years of World War II, the monastery was a prisoner of war camp of the Russian secret service NKVD, which held approximately 7,000 Polish prisoners of war who had been taken captive by the Soviet Union as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Almost all of the prisoners were subsequently executed in April 1940 in Kalinin (now Tver) and then buried in mass graves in Mednoye, an act which became known as the Katyn Massacre. Amongst those killed were Polish officers, lawyers, policemen, teachers, doctors, and other members of the intelligentsia.
From 1941 to 1945 there was a hospital in the building complex, and again from 1945 to 1960, a camp for minors and orphans. From 1960 to 1971 the monastery was used as a retirement home, and from 1971 to 1990 a hostel for tourists.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.