The Disappeared Lake - How Fables and Legends Get Started
Religious Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Stories
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Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko, Russia

"fishermen from the village of Bolotnikovo looked on disconsolately... an old lady in a tiny Russian fishing village would be blaming us for stealing her lake".

Traveling in Russian province I learned how important is fishing for poor people in that time of "great depression"; after the lake disappeared, locals' survival will be more difficult. How can one joke about poor people starving? How do Western media manage to recognize "oppressor" in old lady from poor forest village?

Nizhny Novgorod area is famous for its "sunken churches". Murom scholar Alexander Epanchin and Nizhny Novgorod scholar Segei Chesnokov believe that if any church had ever sunken it could really happen in Dedovo, which is in the same area as Bolotnikovo of the disappeared lake.

In 1960s divers explored Dedovo lake's bottom, and they found a wooden deck with a door in it, a long chain was attached to the door (the story was recorded by Murom scholar Alexander Epanchin, however Nizhny Novgorod scholar Segei Chesnokov failed to find any confirmations). And yet Segei Chesnokov has got written report of a diver about the "bottomless pit" at the lake's bottom, diver was afraid to go further to that hole.

How can one trust legends about monks, mermaids, werewolves etc.?

Legends connect the building of the church in Dedovo with Tsar Ivan the Terrible war against Kazan Tatars in 1552 and mention that monks served in that church. Local priests or literate peasants could know that date from the inscription on the icon of St. Nicholas, which informs that the icon was made in 1562. Normally monks wouldn't serve in the parish church - there is great difference between married "white clergy" and monastic "black clergy" in Russia.

Locals hardly could know the documents about life of Vasiliy Kravkov, the founder of the church in Dedovo.

His two brothers were killed during Kazan wars, and after their death Vasiliy became a monk and was in close contact with one of Murom monasteries.

Thus documents found in Murom in general confirm the local legend about Dedovo church foundation.

I don't know of any documents which can prove the existence of the sunken monastery in Rusaki, not speaking here about mermaids and werewolves.

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

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