Drowned city emerges from Russian reservoir

Mr Nolotelnov lays flowers at Mologa

Stalin ordered the flooding of the historic city of Mologa to make way for a giant reservoir in 1935, but now the 'Russian Atlantis' has risen from its watery grave - to the delight of its former inhabitants.

The city on the River Volga dates back to the 12th Century, and was a major trading post between the Baltic Sea and Asia. But the Soviets decided Mologa had to go to make way for the Rybinsk Reservoir and hydroelectric power station. The 130,000 townspeople were forced out, and the city gradually disappeared beneath the waters in the 1940s. Nearly 300 people refused to go and were left to drown, Soviet secret police files have confirmed.

The former inhabitants and their descendants sail to the site every year to pray and cast wreaths on the water. But a mild winter and hot summer have seen water levels drop dramatically, exposing remnants of the former Cathedral of the Epiphany and surrounding streets. The reservoir authorities allowed Nikolai Novotelnov, who had to leave Mologa when he was 17, to walk on his native turf again, Russia's TV Tsentr reports.

There is little to see beyond the cathedral foundations and the outlines of the streets, but Mr Novotelnov described the pre-war scene to television reporters. "Here was the inn, over there was the Voikov school and the flour store. Communist Street ran that way, towards the district administration building, the chemists, and my house," he told reporters. He laid flowers at the metal navigation marker that stands on the cathedral site and gathered brick fragments for his fellow Mologans.

Cathedral remains, Mologa The last of Mologa

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