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Freezing cold, hard work, path to God: Russian Orthodox channel looking for brave souls for monastery reality show

Freezing cold, hard work, path to God: Russian Orthodox channel looking for brave souls for monastery reality show
A Russian TV channel is looking for a dozen volunteers, who will spend a month in winter at a secluded island Orthodox monastery, where they will live a life of novices as part of a new reality show.

The unusual project, according to its producer, seeks to overturn the negative connotations currently surrounding the term “reality show.” Called ‘Island,’ it won’t be about a group of attractive men and women ‘surviving’ on a tropical resort, hooking up, and occasionally voting for which participant to kick out. Instead, it will show a group of laymen seeking to rediscover their path in life by observing the strict rules of a Russian Orthodox monastery.

That won’t be an easy life. A novice is expected to follow a strict daily routine of prayers, hard labor and collective meals. And the Nilov monastery, which is located on a lake island some 300km west of Moscow, lacks some of the usual comforts of urban live. Add to that the winter cold – shooting starts in mid-November, when Seliger Lake freezes up.

Those hardships, however, are meant to distract monastery residents from the fluster of ordinary life and encourage spiritual reawakening. And that is exactly the process that the show wants to unveil to viewers, Boris Korchevnikov, the head of the Spas channel said.

“It’s about the search for God, the search for answers to the most important questions. And about revealing to themselves and to the country at large the beauty and nature of monastic life,” he said.

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The Nilov monastery, where the shooting of the show will take place, is one of the oldest in Russia, tracing its history back to the 16th century. In the last century, it fell victim to the Bolsheviks’ anti-clerical policies, when monks were ousted and buildings were converted for other purposes. It served as a prison for young delinquents, a jail for prisoners of war, an elderly retreat, and a tourist base at various points in time. In 1995, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and restored to its original function.


The monastery has a number of workshops, where participants of the reality show will work as part of their obedience. So, viewers will likely see some artisan candle making, carpentry work, and milking of cows. Korchevnikov also announced close engagement with pilgrims visiting the monastery, but otherwise was a bit vague about what will happen. So, apparently we’ll have to wait and see.

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