Eastern Orthodox church history, the Old Believers, or Old
Ritualists (Russian: старове́ры or
старообря́дцы, starovyery or staroobryadtsy) are Eastern
Orthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices
Eastern Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of
Patriarch Nikon of Moscow
Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666. Resisting the
accommodation of Russian piety to the contemporary forms of Greek
Orthodox worship, these Christians were anathematized, together with
their ritual, in a
Synod of 1666–1667, producing a division in
Eastern Europe between the
Old Believers and those who followed the
state church in its condemnation of the Old Rite.
Russian speakers refer to the schism itself as raskol (Russian:
раскол), etymologically indicating a "cleaving-apart."
1 Introductory summary of origins
2 Reforms of Patriarch Nikon
2.1 Main alterations introduced by Patriarch Nikon
3.1 After the schism
4 Old Believer denominations
4.2.1 Bezpopovtsy: minor groups
6 Validity of the reformist theory: sources of Russian traditions
8 Main differences between the
Old Believers and post-Nikonian Russian
9 Present situation
10 Old Believer churches
11 See also
13.1 In English
14 Further reading
14.1 In Russian
15 External links
Introductory summary of origins
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Patriarch Nikon (1605–81; Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox
Church from 1652 to 1658) introduced a number of ritual and textual
revisions with the aim of achieving uniformity between the practices
of the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. Nikon, having noticed
discrepancies between Russian and Greek rites and texts, ordered an
adjustment of the Russian rites to align with the Greek ones of his
time. In doing so, according to the Old Believers, Nikon acted without
adequate consultation with the clergy and without gathering a
council. After the implementation of these revisions, the Church
anathematized and suppressed—with the support of Muscovite state
power—the prior liturgical rite itself, as well as those who were
reluctant to pass to the revised rite.
Those who maintained fidelity to the existing rite endured severe
persecutions from the end of the 17th century until the beginning of
the 20th century as "Schismatics" (Russian: раскольники
raskol'niki). They became known as "Old Ritualists", a name introduced
during the reign of Catherine the Great. They
continued to call themselves simply "Orthodox Christians".
Reforms of Patriarch Nikon
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The three-barred cross of the Russian Orthodox Church
By the middle of the 17th century, Greek and Russian Church officials,
Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, had noticed discrepancies between
contemporary Russian and Greek usages. They reached the conclusion
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church had, as a result of errors of
incompetent copyists, developed rites and liturgical books of its own
that had significantly deviated from the Greek originals. Thus, the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church had become dissonant with the other Orthodox
churches. Later research was to vindicate the Muscovite service-books
as belonging to a different Greek recension from that which was used
by the Greeks at the time of Nikon. The unrevised Muscovite books
proved to be older than the current Greek books, which had been
revised over the centuries, were newer, and contained
innovations. Nikon wanted to have the same rite in the Russian
tsardom and majority-ethnic Slavic lands (current territories of
Ukraine and Belarus), then part of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth,
to attract local Orthodox rebels. Their rite was closer to the Greek
than that in the
Moscow duchy. Nikon did not want to adopt two
different rites in the same church.
Tsar Alexis (r. 1645–1676), Nikon carried out some
preliminary liturgical reforms. In 1652, he convened a synod and
exhorted the clergy on the need to compare Russian Typikon,
Euchologion, and other liturgical books with their Greek counterparts.
Monasteries from all over Russia received requests to send examples to
Moscow to have them subjected to a comparative analysis. Such a task
would have taken many years of conscientious research and could hardly
have given an unambiguous result, given the complex development of the
Russian liturgical texts over the previous centuries and the lack of
textual historiographic techniques at the time.
The locum tenens for
Patriarch Pitirim of Moscow
Patriarch Pitirim of Moscow convened the 1666
Moscow Synod, which brought Patriarch
Macarios III Zaim
Macarios III Zaim of
Patriarch Paisius of Alexandria and many bishops to Moscow.
Some scholars allege that the visiting patriarchs each received both
20,000 rubles in gold and furs for their participation. This
council officially established the reforms and anathematized not only
all those opposing the innovations but the old Russian books and rites
themselves as well. As a side-effect of condemning the past of the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church and her traditions, the messianic theory
Moscow as the
Third Rome appeared weaker. Instead of the
guardian of Orthodox faith,
Moscow seemed an accumulation of serious
Nevertheless, both Patriarch and
Tsar wished to carry out their
reforms, although their endeavors may have had as much or more
political motivation as religious; several authors on this subject
point out that
Tsar Alexis, encouraged by his military success in the
Russo-Polish War (1654–67)
Russo-Polish War (1654–67) to conquer West Russian provinces and
Ukraine, developed ambitions of becoming the liberator of the Orthodox
areas which at that time formed part of the Ottoman Empire. They also
mention the role of the Near-East patriarchs, who actively supported
the idea of the Russian
Tsar becoming the liberator of all Orthodox
Christians and who suggested that
Patriarch Nikon might become the new
Patriarch of Constantinople.
Main alterations introduced by Patriarch Nikon
The numerous changes in both texts and rites occupied approximately
Old Believers present the following as the most crucial
Spelling of Jesus
рожденна, а не сотворенна (begotten but not
made); И в Духа Свѧтаго, Господа
истиннаго и Животворѧщаго (And in the Holy
Spirit, the True Lord and Giver of Life)
рожденна, не сотворенна (begotten not made); И в
Духа Свѧтаго, Господа Животворѧщаго
(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life)
Sign of the cross
Two fingers, pointer finger straight, middle finger slightly bent
Two fingers joined with thumb, held at point
Prosphora in the
Liturgy and Artoclasia
Direction of Procession
Аллилуїa, аллилуїa, слава Тебѣ, Боже
(alleluia alleluia, glory to Thee, o God)
Аллилуїa, аллилуїa, аллилуїa, слава
Тебѣ, Боже (alleluia alleluia alleluia, glory to Thee, o God)
Boyaryna Morozova showing two fingers, painting by Surikov – detail,
sketch 04 from Tretyakov gallery
Today's readers might perceive these alterations as trivial, but the
faithful of that time saw rituals and dogmas as strongly
interconnected: church rituals had from the very beginning represented
and symbolized doctrinal truth. The authorities imposed the reforms in
an autocratic fashion, with no consultation of the subject people.
Those who reacted against the Nikonian reforms would have objected as
much to the manner of imposition as to the alterations.[citation
needed] Also, changes often were made arbitrarily in the texts. For
example, wherever the books read 'Христосъ' [Christ], Nikon's
assistants substituted 'Сынъ' [meaning the Son], and wherever they
read 'Сынъ' they substituted 'Христосъ'. Another example
is that wherever the books read 'Церковь' [meaning Church],
Nikon substituted 'Храмъ' [meaning Temple] and vice versa.
According to a sympathetic source:
"The incorrectly realized book revision by Nikon, owing to its speed,
its range, its foreignness of sources and its offending character was
bound to provoke protest, given the seriously assimilated, not only
national but also the genuine orthodox identity of the Russian people.
The protest was indeed global: the episcopate, the clergy, both
regular and monastic, the laity and the ordinary people."
Opponents of the ecclesiastical reforms of Nikon emerged among all
strata of the people and in relatively large numbers (see Raskol).
However, after the deposition of patriarch Nikon (1658), who presented
too strong a challenge to the Tsar's authority, a series of church
councils officially endorsed Nikon's liturgical reforms. The Old
Believers fiercely rejected all innovations, and the most radical
among them maintained that the official Church had fallen into the
hands of the Antichrist. The Old Believers, under the leadership of
Avvakum Petrov (1620 or 1621 to 1682), publicly denounced
and rejected all ecclesiastical reforms. The State church
anathematized both the old rites and books and those who wished to
stay loyal to them at the synod of 1666. From that moment, the Old
Believers officially lacked all civil rights. The State had the most
Old Believers arrested, and executed several of them (including
Archpriest Avvakum) some years later in 1682.
6th-century icon, depicting Christ giving a blessing. Two digits
appear straightened, three folded. The
Old Believers regard this as
the proper way of making the sign of the Cross.
After the schism
After 1685, a period of persecutions began, including both torture and
Old Believers fled Russia altogether, particularly
for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where the community exists to this
Old Believers became the dominant denomination in many regions,
Pomors of the Russian Far North, in the
Kursk region, in
the Ural Mountains, in Siberia, and the Russian Far East. The
40,000-strong community of
Lipovans still lives in Kiliya Raion
Tulcea County of
Romania in the Danube Delta.
By the 1910s, in the last Imperial Russian census just before the
October Revolution, approximately ten percent of the population of the
Russian Empire said that they belonged to one of the Old Believer
branches (census data).
Government oppression could vary from relatively moderate, as under
Peter the Great
Peter the Great (reigned 1682–1725) (
Old Believers had to pay double
taxation and a separate tax for wearing a beard)—to intense, as
Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825–55). The Russian synodal state
church and the state authorities often saw
Old Believers as dangerous
elements and as a threat to the Russian state.
Tsar Nicholas II signed an act of religious freedom that
ended the persecution of all religious minorities in Russia. The Old
Believers gained the right to build churches, to ring church bells, to
hold processions and to organize themselves. It became prohibited (as
under Catherine the Great—reigned 1762–96) to refer to Old
Believers as raskolniki (schismatics), a name they consider
insulting. People often refer to the period from 1905
until 1917 as "the Golden Age of the Old Faith". One can regard the
Act of 1905 as emancipating the Old Believers, who had until then
occupied an almost illegal position in Russian society. Nevertheless,
some restrictions for
Old Believers continued: for example, they were
forbidden from joining the civil service.
Old Believer denominations
Old Believers groups emerged as a result of opposition to
the Nikonian reform, they do not constitute a single monolithic body.
Despite the emphasis on invariable adherence to the pre-Nikonian
Old Believers feature a great diversity of groups that
profess different interpretations of the church tradition and often
are not in communion with each other (some groups even practice
re-baptism before admitting a member of another group into their
Since none of the bishops joined the
Old Believers (except Bishop
Pavel of Kolomna, who was put to death for this), apostolically
ordained priests of the old rite would have soon become extinct. Two
responses appeared to this dilemma: the
"with priests") and the
Popovtsy represented the more moderate conservative opposition,
those who strove to continue religious and church life as it had
existed before the reforms of Nikon. They recognized ordained priests
from the new-style Russian Orthodox church who joined the Old
Believers and who had denounced the Nikonian reforms. In 1846, they
Ambrose of Belaya Krinitsa
Ambrose of Belaya Krinitsa (1791–1863), a Greek Orthodox
bishop whom Turkish pressure had removed from his see at Sarajevo, to
become an Old Believer and to consecrate three Russian Old Believer
priests as bishops. In 1859, the number of Old Believer bishops in
Russia reached ten and they established their own episcopate, the
Not all popovtsy
Old Believers recognized this hierarchy. Dissenters
known as beglopopovtsy obtained their own hierarchy in the 1920s. The
Old Believers thus manifest as two churches which share the
same beliefs, but which treat each other's hierarchy as illegitimate.
Popovtsy have priests, bishops and all sacraments, including the
Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy—The largest popovtsy denomination. One can
refer to the Russian part of this denomination as the Belokrinitskoe
Soglasie (the "Belokrinitsky Agreement") or as the Russian Orthodox
Novozybkovskaya hierarchy or Russian Old-Orthodox Church
Beglopopovtsy (extinct, now the Russian Old-Orthodox Church)
Luzhkane, also known as Luzhkovskoe soglasie; in some places, they had
no priests and so belonged to the
Bezpopovtsy rejected "the World" where they believed the
Antichrist reigned; they preached the imminent end of the world,
asceticism, adherence to the old rituals and the old faith. More
radical movements which already existed prior to the reforms of Nikon
and where eschatological and anti-clerical sentiments were
predominant, would join the bezpopovtsy Old Believers. The Bezpopovtsy
claimed that any priest or ordinary who has ever used the Nikonian
Rites have forfeited apostolic succession. Therefore, the true church
of Christ had ceased to exist on Earth, and they therefore renounced
priests and all sacraments except baptism.
Bezpopovtsy movement has many sub-groups. Bespopovtsy have no
priests and no Eucharist.
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church or Danilovtsy (not to be confused with
Pomors) originated in North Russia (East Karelia, Arkhangelsk Oblast).
Initially they rejected marriage and prayer for the Tsar.
Novopomortsy, or "New Pomortsy": accept marriage
Staropomortsy, or "Old Pomortsy": reject marriage
Fedoseevtsy: "Society of Christian
Old Believers of the Old Pomortsy
Unmarried Confession" (1690s until present); deny marriage and
practice cloister-style asceticism.
Filippians: Named after their founder, Filipp. They were repressed by
the Russian Government and so, the Fillipovtsy started practicing
self-immolation as a means for the "preservation of the faith".
Chasovennye (from chasovnya i.e. chapel), a Siberian branch. The
Chasovennye initially had priests, but later decided to change to a
priest-less practice. Also known as Semeyskie (in the lands east of
Bezpopovtsy: minor groups
Apart from these major groups, many smaller groups have emerged and
became extinct at various times since the end of the 17th century:
Aristovtsy (beginning of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th
centuries; extinct): from the name of the merchant Aristov;
Titlovtsy (extinct in the twentieth cent.): emerged from Fedoseevtsy,
supported the use of the inscription "INRI" (titlo) upon the Orthodox
cross, which other groups rejected;
Troparion confession (troparschiki): a group that commemorated the
tsar in the hymns (troparia);
Daniel's confession of the "partially married" (danilovtsy
Adamant confession (adamantovy): refused to use money and passports
(as containing the seal of Antichrist);
Aaron's confession (aaronovtsy): second half of the 18th century, a
spin-off of the Fillipovtsy.
"Grandmother's confession" or the Self-baptized: practiced
self-baptism or the baptism by midwives (babushki), since a valid
priesthood—in their opinion—had ceased to exist;
"Hole-worshippers" (dyrniki): relinquished the use of icons and prayed
to the East through a hole in the wall;
Moscow and in Bashkortostan): practised a peculiar
lay "quasi-Eucharistic" rite;
"Runaways" (beguny) or "Wanderers" (stranniki);
"Netovtsy" or Saviour's Confession: denied the possibility of
celebrating sacraments and praying in churches; the name comes from
the Russian net "no", since they have "no" sacraments, "no" churches,
"no" priests, etc.
Main article: Edinoverie
Edinovertsy (Russian: единоверцы, i.e. "people of the same
faith"; collective, единоверчество): Agreed to become a
part of the official
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church while saving the old
rites. First appearing in 1800, the Edinovertsy come under the
omophorion of the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church of the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, abbreviated as ROCOR –
have come into communion under different circumstances and retain
being old believers in the traditional context and retain the use of
the pre-Nikonian rituals. They can be regarded as "Old Ritualists",
but they do not count as "Old Believers" in the traditional context.
Validity of the reformist theory: sources of Russian traditions
Vladimir officially converted the Eastern Slavs to Christianity in
988, and the people had adopted Greek Orthodox liturgical practices.
At the end of the 11th century, the efforts of St. Theodosius of the
Kiev (Феодосий Киево-Печерский, d.
1074) introduced the so-called Studite Typicon to Russia. This typicon
(essentially, a guide-book for liturgical and monastic life) reflected
the traditions of the urban
Monastery of Stoudios
Monastery of Stoudios in Constantinople.
The Studite typicon predominated throughout the western part of the
Byzantine Empire and was accepted throughout the Russian lands. In the
end of the 14th century through the work of Cyprian, metropolitan of
Moscow and Kiev, the Studite liturgical practices were gradually
replaced in Russia with the so-called Jerusalem Typicon or the Typicon
of St. Sabbas—originally, an adaptation of the Studite liturgy to
the customs of Palestinian monasteries. The process of gradual change
of typica would continue throughout the 15th century and, because of
its slow implementation, met with little resistance—unlike Nikon's
reforms, conducted with abruptness and violence. However, in the
course of the 15th—17th centuries, Russian scribes continued to
insert some Studite material into the general shape of Jerusalem
Typicon. This explains the differences between the modern version of
the Typicon, used by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the pre-Nikonian
Russian recension of Jerusalem Typicon, called Oko Tserkovnoe (Rus.
"eye of the church"). This pre-Nikonian version, based on the Moscow
printed editions of 1610, 1633 and 1641, continues to be used by
modern Old Believers.
However, in the course of the polemics against Old Believers, the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church often claimed the discrepancies
(which emerged in the texts between the Russian and the Greek
churches) as Russian innovations, errors, or arbitrary translations.
This charge of "Russian innovation" re-appeared repeatedly in the
textbooks and anti-raskol treatises and catecheses, including, for
example, those by Dimitry of Rostov.
The critical evaluation of the sources and of the essence of the
church reforms began only in the 1850s with the groundbreaking work of
several church historians, byzantologists and theologians, such as SA
Belokurov, AP Shchapov, AK Borozdin, N Gibbenet, and later EE
Golubinsky, AV Kartashev, AA Dmitriyevsky and Nikolai F Kapterev; the
latter four were members of the Imperial Academy of Sciences. Research
was continued later mainly by Serge A. Zenkovsky (1907–90), a
specialist on Russian ecclesiastical culture. Golubinsky,
Dmitriyevsky, Kartashov and Kapterev, among others, demonstrated that
the rites, rejected and condemned by the church reforms, were genuine
Orthodox Christianity that had been altered in Greek
usage during the 15th–16th centuries, but remained unchanged in
Russia. The pre-Nikonian liturgical practices, including some elements
of the Russian typicon, Oko Tserkovnoe, were demonstrated to have
preserved earlier Byzantine practices, being closer to the earlier
Byzantine texts than some later Greek customs.
Remarkably, the scholars who opened the new avenues for re-evaluation
of the reform by the Russian Church themselves held membership in the
official church (A.V. Kapterev, for instance, was a professor at the
Slavic Greek Latin Academy), but took up study of the causes and
background of the reforms and of the resulting schism. Their research
revealed that the official explanation regarding the old Russian books
and rites was unsustainable.
The Uspensky cathedral in Belaya Krinitsa (beginning of the 20th
century), the oldest centre of the priestly Old Believers
As Sergey Zenkovsky points out in his standard work Russia's Old
Believers, the Old Believer schism did not occur simply as a result of
a few individuals with power and influence. The schism had complex
causes, revealing historical processes and circumstances in
17th-century Russian society. Those who broke from the hierarchy of
the official State Church had quite divergent views on church, faith,
society, state power and social issues. Thus the collective term "Old
Believers" groups together various movements within Russian society
which actually had existed long before 1666–67. They shared a
distrust of state power and of the episcopate, insisting upon the
right of the people to arrange their own spiritual life, and
expressing the ambition to aim for such control.
Both the popovtsy and bespopovtsy, although theologically and
psychologically two different teachings, manifested spiritual,
eschatological and mystical tendencies throughout Russian religious
thought and church life. One can also emphasize the schism's position
in the political and cultural background of its time: increasing
Western influence, secularization, and attempts to subordinate the
Church to the state. Nevertheless, the
Old Believers sought above all
to defend and preserve the purity of the Orthodox faith, embodied in
the old rituals, which inspired many to strive against Patriarch
Nikon's church reforms even unto death.
In the past the Old Believers' movement was often perceived as an
obscure faith in rituals that led to the deaths of tens of thousands
of ignorant people.
Old Believers were accused of not being able to
distinguish the important from the unimportant. To many people of that
time, however, rituals expressed the very essence of their faith. Old
Believers hold that the preservation of a certain "microclimate" that
enables the salvation of one's soul requires not only living by the
commandments of Christ, but also carefully preserving Church
tradition, which contains the spiritual power and knowledge of past
centuries, embodied in external forms.
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Old Believers reject the idea of contents a priori prevailing over
form. To illustrate this issue, the renowned Russian historian Vasily
Klyuchevsky (1841–1911) referred to poetry. He argued, that if
one converts a poem into prose, the contents of the poem may remain
intact, but the poem will lose its charm and emotional impact;
moreover, the poem will essentially no longer exist. In the case of
religious rituals, form and contents do not just form two separable,
autonomous entities, but connect with each other through complex
relationships, including theological, psychological, phenomenal,
aesthetic and historic dimensions.
These aspects, in their turn, play a role in the perception of these
rituals by the faithful and in their spiritual lives. Considering the
fact that Church rituals from their very beginning were intertwined
with doctrinal truth, changing these rituals may have a tremendous
effect on religious conscience and a severe impact on the faithful.
Nevertheless, centuries of persecution and the nature of their origin
have made some
Old Believers culturally conservative. Some Old
Believers consider any pre-Nikonian Orthodox Russian practice or
artifact as exclusively theirs, denying that the Russian Orthodox
Church has any claims upon a history before Patriarch Nikon.
However, Russian economic history of the late 19th and early 20th
centuries reveals the Old-Believer merchant families as more flexible
and more open to innovations while creating factories and starting the
first Russian industries.
Main differences between the
Old Believers and post-Nikonian Russian
Boris and Gleb, the first Russian saints (early 14th century icon of
Moscow School). The
Old Believers only recognize saints which were
canonized before the Schism, although they do have their own saints,
such as Archpriest
Avvakum and Boyarynya Morozova.
Old Believers use two fingers while making the
Sign of the Cross
Sign of the Cross (the
pointer finger straight, middle finger slightly bent) while new-style
Orthodoxy uses three fingers for the sign of cross (three fingers
(including the thumb) held together at point, two fingers folded). Old
Ritualists generally say the
Jesus Prayer with the Sign of the Cross,
while New Ritualists use the
Sign of the Cross
Sign of the Cross as a Trinitarian
symbol. This makes for a significant difference between the two
branches of Russian Orthodoxy, and one of the most noticeable (see the
picture of Boyarynya
Feodosia Morozova above).
Old Believers reject any changes and emendations of liturgical texts
and rituals introduced by the reforms of Patriarch Nikon. Thus they
continue to use the previous
Church Slavonic translation of the Greek
texts, including the Psalter, striving to preserve intact the
"pre-Nikonian" practices of the Russian Church.
Old Believers only recognize performing baptism through three full
immersions, in agreement with the Greek practice, but reject the
validity of any baptismal rite performed otherwise (for example
through pouring or sprinkling, as the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church has
occasionally accepted since the 18th century).
Old Believers perform the
Liturgy with seven prosphora, instead of
five as in new-rite Russian Orthodoxy or a single large prosphoron, as
sometimes done by the Greeks and Arabs.
Old Believers chant the alleluia verse after the psalmody twice rather
than the three times mandated by the Nikonian reforms.
Old Believers do not use polyphonic singing as the new-style Russian
practice, but only the monodic, unison singing of Znamenny chant. In
this respect it represents a tradition that parallels the use of
Byzantine chant and neumatic notation.
Old Believer church outside of Gervais, Oregon, USA.
In 1971, the
Moscow Patriarchate revoked the anathemas imposed on the
Old Believers in the 17th century. In 1974, the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside Russia issued an ukase revoking the anathemas and asked
forgiveness from the
Old Believers for the wrongs done to them. Under
their auspices, the first efforts to make the prayer and service books
Old Believers available in English were made. Nevertheless,
most Old Believer communities have not returned to Communion with the
Orthodox Christianity worldwide.
Old Believers church in
McKee, Oregon near Gervais and Woodburn
in Oregon, USA
Estimates place the total number of
Old Believers remaining as of 2006
at from 1 to 2 million, some living in extremely
isolated communities in places to which they fled centuries ago to
avoid persecution. One Old Believer parish in the United States, in
Erie, Pennsylvania, has entered into communion with the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside Russia, after a split in the congregation.
The remainder have continued as Old Believers.
Old Believer churches in Russia currently[update] have started
restoration of their property, although
Old Believers face many
difficulties in claiming their restitution rights for their churches.
Moscow has churches for all the most important Old Believer branches:
Rogozhskaya Zastava (
Popovtsy of the Belokrinitskaya hierarchy
official center), a cathedral for the Novozybkovskaya hierarchy in
Preobrazhenskaya Zastava where
Old Believers in Woodburn, Oregon.
Old Believers believe that
Christ had a beard and that all men should follow his example, so
shaving is considered a great sin.
Within the Old Believer world, only
each other relatively well; none of the other denominations
acknowledge each other. Ordinary
Old Believers display some tendencies
of intra-branch ecumenism, but these trends find sparse support among
the official leaders of the congregations.
Old Believers live all over the world, having fled Russia
under tsarist persecution and after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Old Believers are still transient throughout various parts of the
world today. Significant established Old Believer communities exist in
United States and
Canada in Plamondon, Alberta; Woodburn, Oregon;
Erskine, Minnesota and in various parts of Alaska
including near Homer in the Fox River area villages of Voznesenka,
Razdolna, and Kachemak Selo, Nikolaevsk, Beryozovka, Delta
Junction, and Kodiak,
Alaska (Larsen Bay area, and on Raspberry
Island). Two flourishing communities also exist in Sydney,
Australia and in the
South Island of New Zealand. Communities also
have been established in many parts of South America, including
Bolivia and Argentina, where they moved after
having found refuge in
China between the 1920s and the 1950s.
Old Believer communities are also found in Georgia and
Small hidden communities have been found in the Russian Far North
(specifically remote areas of
Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi
Republic) and various regions of Siberia, especially concentrated in
the areas between the
Altai Mountains and Tuva Republic. Perhaps the
highest concentration of older established Old Believer communities,
with foundations dating back hundreds of years, can be found
concentrated in Eastern Siberia, specifically the
in desolate areas of
Buryatia and Zabaykalsky Krai. Others, like the
Lykov family, fled later into the wild to avoid Communist persecution.
The Lipovans, who live in Romania's Danube Delta, are descendants of
Old Believers who left Russia in around 1740 to avoid religious
Conservative Old Believer population stands at some 3,000 in Bolivia,
while that in
Alaska is estimated at 2,500.
Old Believers arrived
Alaska in the second half of the 20th century, helping to revive a
shrinking Orthodox population.
In Estonia, there are 2,605
Old Believers according to the 2011
Census. They live mostly in villages from
Omedu and from
Varnja on the Western coast of Lake Peipus, and on Piirissaar
Two Old Believer missions have been established in Pakistan and
Old Believer churches
Lipovan Orthodox Old-Rite Church (Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy)
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church (Pomortsy)
Russian Old-Orthodox Church
Russian Old-Orthodox Church (Novozybkovskaya Hierarchy)
Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church (Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy)
Union of Old Believer Parishes in Estonia
Eastern Christianity portal
Continuing Anglican movement
Old Believers (Latvia)
Old Believers in Lithuania (official website)
^ a b c d e f Zenkovskiy S.A., 1995, 2006.
^ a b c Kapterev N.F., 1913, 1914.
^ Kartašov A.V. Očerki po istorii russkoj cerkvi, Paris 1959; II,
^ "Nikon's correctors made such a lot mistakes in the new editions,
which were so absurd and awkward, that it gave ground to maintain that
Nikon had said to the head corrector: 'Revise, Arseny, just anyway, if
only it doesn't look as before.'" Mel'nikov F.E. Kratkaja istorija
drevlepravoslavnoj (staroobradčeskoj) cerkvi, Barnaul 1999,
^ Apology of the Old Belief. An outsider's view: the Old Belief
through the eyes of non-Old Believers, p. 108. Moscow, 2006 (in
^ Zenkovsky, S.A., Russkoe staroobrjadčestvo, 1970,1990, pp. 19–20.
^ Klyuchevsky, V. A History of Russia, (4 Volumes), J.M. Dent/E.P.
Dutton, London/NY, 1911. from Archive.org vol. 3 pp. 298–299
^ "Home". Church of the Nativity. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
^ "Community Snapshots".
Alaska Economic Trends November 2002: the Delta region" (PDF). AK,
USA: Labor State Department.
^ Rojas, Daniel. "La "colonia de los barbudos", un clan aislado en
Uruguay". El País. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
^ Fedorov, Gleb. "
Old Believers preserve rare Russian dialects in
South America". Russia beyond the headlines. Retrieved 13 January
^ "Slavo-Georgian (Iberian) Old-Orthodox Church".
Old Believers Keep the Faith." November 4, 2010
^ "Saving the souls of Russia's exiled Lipovans". The Daily Telegraph.
April 9, 2013.
^ Montaigne, Fen (2016-07-07). "Tracing Alaska's Russian Heritage".
Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
^ "Residents of
Pakistan are transferred to the Russian Old
Believers". Russia News Today. 10.07.2017.
^ "After prolonged and serious training, the Council of the
Metropolitanate decided to take protopresbyter Joachim Kiimbu into the
bosom of the Church as the second rank in the existing rank.". Russian
Orthodox Old Believer Church. 05/19/2013
Cherniavsky, M.: "The Reception of the Council of Florence in Moscow",
Church History XXIV (1955), 147–57.
Shevchenko I., "Ideological Repercussions of the Council of Florence",
Church History XXIV (1955), 291–323.
Crummey, Robert O.: The
Old Believers & The World Of Antichrist;
The Vyg Community & The Russian State, Wisconsin U.P., 1970
Gill, T.: The Council of Florence, Cambridge, 1959
MacCulloch, Diarmaid, A History of Christianity, 2009, Penguin 2010
ISBN 978-0-14-102189-8, chapter 15
Meyendorff, P (1991), Russia—Ritual and Reform: The Liturgical
Reforms of Nikon in the 17th Century, Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's
Seminary Press .
Zenkovsky, Serge A.: "The ideology of the Denisov brothers", Harvard
Slavic Studies, 1957. III, 49–66
———————— (1956), "The Old Believer Avvakum", Indiana
Slavic Studies, I, pp. 1–51 .
———————— (1967) , Pan-Turkism and Islam in
Russia, Harvard UP .
———————— (1957), "The Russian Schism", Russian Review,
XVI, pp. 37–58 .
Old Orthodox Prayer Book. Trans. and ed. by Pimen Simon, Theodore
Jurewics, [and] German Ciuba. Erie, Penn.:
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church of
the Nativity of Christ (Old Rite), 1986. N.B.: Consists of the liturgy
Old Believers (a.k.a. Old Ritualists), as also now authorized
for use in parishes of the canonical Russian Orthodox Church; texts in
Russian and English on facing pages. Without ISBN
Голубинский ЕЕ: История русской
церкви, Москва, 1900 / Golubinskij EE: "History of the
Russian Church", Moscow, 1900
———————— (1905), К нашей полемике со
старообрядцами, ЧОИДР / "Contribution to our
polemic with the Old believers", ČOIDR, 1905
———————— (2004), Исправление книг
при патриархе Никоне и последующих
патриархах, Москва: Языки славянской
культуры / Dmitrievskij A.A.: The correction of books
Patriarch Nikon and Patriarchs after him. Moscow, "Jazyki
slavjanskoj kul'tury", 2004
Зеньковский С.А.: Русское
старообрядчество, том I и II, Москва 2006 /
Zenkovsky S.A.: "Russia's Old Believers", volumes I and II, Moscow
Каптерев Н.Ф.: Патриарх Никон и его
противники в деле исправления
церковныx обрядов, Москва, 1913 / Kapterv N.F.:
Patriarch Nikon and his opponents in the correction of church
rituals", Moscow, 1913
———————— (1914), Характер отношений
России к православному востоку в XVI и
XVII вв, Москва / Kapterev N.F.: "Character of the
relationships between Russia and the orthodox East in the 16th and
17th centuries", Moscow, 1914
Карташов А.В.: Очерки по истории
русской церкви, Париж, 1959 / Kartašov A.V.:
"Outlines of the history of the Russian church", Paris, 1959
Ключевский И.П.: Сочинения, I–VIII,
Москва, 1956–1959 / Ključevskij I.P.: "Works", I–VIII,
Мельников Ф.И.: Краткая история
(старообрядческой) церкви. Барнаул, 1999
/ Melnikov F.I.: "Short history of the Old orthodox (Old ritualist)
Church", Barnaul, 1999
Урушев Д.А. Возьми крест свой: история
старообрядчества в событиях и лицах.
Барнаул, 2009. / Urushev D.A. Take up your Cross: most
influential persons and events in the history of Old Belief, Barnaul,
N.B.: All these works come from scholars and scientists, none of them
Old Believers, except for Melnikov (an Old-Believer apologist) and
Urushev (a religious historian).
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Old Believers.
Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church (in Russian)
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church of Lithuania (in Russian)
Old Believers in North America — a bibliography