How Fables and Legends Get Started: Americans earn their place in Russian Folklore
Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
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By ELIZABETH SCHUETT Article Submitted by Yuri Klitsenko, Russia

Cox News Service Wednesday, July 20, 2005

GIBSONBURG, Ohio — A few weeks ago, a small Russian fishing village lost its lake and livelihood overnight. When the folks went to bed, the lake was lapping its shores. When they woke up, it was gone.

"...fishermen from the village of Bolotnikovo looked on disconsolately," I wrote. And to quote one old woman who sat on the ground outside her house, "I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us."

Yuri Klitsenko, a reader in Russia, and student of history and legends in the Bolotnikovo area, has followed up with me on the story of the disappearing lake.

Russia's Ministry of Emergency Management initiated an investigation team made up of geologists and flood experts who began a lake search with "cutting-edge" electronic equipment and geological surveying tools.

On June 18th it was announced that the entire body of water had moved down 100m underground. As geologist Pavel Ivanov explained, "The lake was located on a geological structure which is like a Swiss-cheese.

The body of water was rapidly sucked into a bigger hole."

Flood expert Mikhail Leonenko commented that "Water was drained into an underground cave formed 200 million years ago, through a hole at the bottom of the lake. The body of water could," he added, "reemerge."

According to Yuri who has been studying legends of the "Oklandia" area long before the lake did its disappearing act, this is not the first time it has disappeared. Once, sometime between 1691 and 1764, it swallowed up an entire monastery, lock, stock, and monks. Only three horses escaped.

Local legend has it that the Russian farmers blamed the disappearing lake on the monks at the Rusaki monastery who were accused of cavorting in romantic dalliances with mermaids. Now, during the night or early in the morning, it is rumored that the ringing of bells may be heard over the lake and that ghosts sometimes appear above the sunken monastery. During a full moon, a gold cross may be seen on the lake's bottom.

"I have heard many stories about the lake of sunken monastery in Dedovo," Yuri wrote in his e-mail. "Fr. Viktor had seen seven-branched candelabrum over the lake.

"Local fishermen inform that one day a fisherman put his nets into the lake, and pulled out a rope. He pulled the rope, and a church dome appeared on the water surface. The fisherman was so stunned, that he fell down into the water from his boat."

Yuri says he does not believe that, nor has he found any documents proving the existence of a sunken monastery in Rusaki.

Same goes for the werewolves that were believed to populate a four kilometer stretch of road between nearby Dedovo and Korobkovo; the same road school children walk every day because school buses are "not known" there.

Since there is no transportation between Korobkovo and Dedovo, Yuri walked the 4k via the forest road of werewolves himself and without incident.

"I hope I will not begin to howl at the full moon after my expedition to Korobkovo and Dedovo," he jokes.

Yuri believes that he has located the exact place where the werewolves were supposed to have held their meetings — "the forest meadow near the bridge across small river Kutra." He affirms the opinions of scholars who deny the existence of werewolves and suggests the rumors of supernatural beings were based on a band of robbers who lived and operated close to the werewolf road.

Now, with the disappearance of Bolotnikovo's lake, Americans can take their place in Russian folklore, right alongside werewolves and unholy monks, as rapacious creatures who steal lakes in the night.

Of course, I'm not swearing we didn't, but I'd really like the folks in Bolotnikovo who have been robbed of their livelihood by the disappearance of the waters to know that if we did, we Americans never had a chance to vote on it — just like so much else we've mucked our way into these days.

Elizabeth Schuett writes for Cox News Service. Mail: 320 West Madison, Gibsonburg, OH 43431or e-mail: [email protected] 

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Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow.  He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.

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