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Old Believers-notes

The Old Believers of Transbaikalia SEMEISKIE


Margarita Karnysheva (History)


Russian and Far Eastern history

She is from Buryatia home town is capital Ulan-Ude

Originally part of junior faculty development program us state department, now finishing her doctorate


In this class we have been exploring the religious traditions that have been important in Siberia (Shamanism, Buddhism, etc.). We haven’t covered the Orthodox church separately, they were part of the domination of Siberia (followed Cossacks, etc.)


Great schism of Russian church—those that left the church in 17th century are called schismatics, old believers. Decendents still live in many parts of the world, including turkey, united states (Oregon), around Russia


Will tell story of Russian old believers, and to express gratitude to jerry—many generations of Russian students have known that his house is always open to them. Jerry has a lifelong commitment to Russian literature, language and culture. Numerous Russians who have met jerry in Russia, believe that Americans are intelligent and gracious.


Eastern bank of Baikal lake who do not represent themselves as Russian, preserve the essence of Russian culture. Will discuss the split, the history of the relationship between the local people and the government. Photo of medvedev and the youngest daughter of a family that hid themselves—old fashioned language and old script, did not ever abandon old way of life despite many opportunities. She lived secluded and refused to move to village.


The reform of patrirch Nikon. Middle 1600 the head of the othodox church allied with tsar alexey mikhailovich and invited greek scholars to make corrections and ajustments so that more in line with greek orthodox. One major reason was old way to cross self was with two fingers rather than three. There were minor changes in lithorgy and service, but reforms were conducted brutally, reaction was refusal to follow reforms. Cursed, thrown out of church, executions. High ranked preiest was burned to death. Many were executed or fled to forests. Led to something like civil war


1 million Russians refused reforms (10% of population) under peter the great. Fled to forest and built “skit” secret settlements. Refused to accept priests from church, instead used priests from within community. Many left for Poland, beluruse, turkey, lithurania


1735  Catherine 1 conquered the kingdom of Poland and incorporated its territory into Russia. The old believers were forcefully expatriated back to Russian and exiled to Siberia in three waves 1756, 1765, 1795. Old believers were removed from Poland and sent to Siberia.


By sending old believers to Siberia removed group that was always going to be in oppostion, but also brought good farmers to Siberia. Leaders of 17th and 18th century uprisings were old believers, considered dangerous anti-governmental group.


By beginning of 19th century, industrial development. Concept of backwardness came only after 1917 revolution. Old believers were part of the development—broad network of money lenders, were trusted. Trade and industrial bread meat fish trades, cotton and wool fabrics, metals dominated by old believers. Did not drink and were hard working. Refused to shave beards. Built factories in Moscow.


Philosophy of economy—wealth has never been considered a sign of gods favor, wealthy should share. Old believers built hospitals, services for workers. Donated money to artists and actors, sponsored opera theatres. Zimmans opera house competed with Bolshoi


Land cultivators—came on foot escorted by Cossacks. Cleared and cultivated land and built houses governor of buryatia said 40 years after settlement they were able to convert stones into wheat fields, model. Traded Chinese tea Mongolian cattle for  other products. Silk, porcelin. When they arrived in transbaikalia there were native people and Cossacks, when old believers arrived the Cossacks were already there and were nabbed immediately. So the old believers needed to adjust to local life, and within 50 years they taught local people how to grow vegetable and wheat, cattle trade with Mongolia, writing about interactions and intermarriages is an interesting and large topic for research.


Land cultivators, local people were nomads, during long period land ownership based on cultivating (the more you cultivated the more you had). But Russian government limited the territory of cultivation by peasants and old believers that were in tribe possession (not individual ownership). As immigration from center of Russia increased and population of old believers, the need for land increased. So they took land from the buryats.


When revolution started the moto was ‘land for the tiller’. Old believers in siberia took up slogan and claimed that buryats were local land lords and land should be confiscated from natives. Had some ethnic background to the conflict. In 1905 reports of massacres by old believers of entire settlements.


Buryats joined the Whites during the revolution (whites advocated return of tsar or democracy, but not Bolsheviks). The old believers sided with Bolsheviks because of promise of land. White Cossacks and buryats served together—confiscated hay, horses, food. Those who refused were whipped or killed. From 1918-1921 siberia was occupied by Japanese and American troops. Red gurrellas fought agains Japanese, fierce fighting. Cossacks were supported by Japanese


1927 bolshevik government changed policies towards villages, promulgated industrialization and collectivization. Old believers were stripped of possessions, those who refused were punished. Woman in opening slide—her family escaped during this period and went into hiding.


Peasant uprisings in Siberia 1929-1932, protest against Bolsheviks

the great Purge of 1937 (Stalinist purge) many were killed

second world war (great patriotic war) also took its toll on peasants, old believers in particular. In some villages there were no cars, tractors, or men (all had to serve in red army)—women plowed by pulling the plow themselves during the war. This was a heroic achievement to be able to feed people and the army. After the war adjusted to collective farm.


1990 brutal reforms


Agaf’ia  Lykova—governor of Novosibirsk oblast, who is a tartar mulsim is a friend. She communicates with the rest of the world via a helicopter, that comes monthly and takes a note in old script to the governor. She lists what she needs and he sends it to him by helicopter. She refuses modern medication and will not move to a village. She thinks that bar codes are a sign of the anti Christ. She is studied by many linguists. Doctors are studying her because her immune system is not adjusted to modern viruses—her family died of flu after contact by outsiders. Don’t have any signs of hypertension, arteriosclerosis. She is under observation by doctors because of this. She is now in her 60’s. she does all work on her own, builds, chops trees.


Why did she become a symbol for modern Russia? She is a symbol of authentic Russia that has been lost in waves since peter the great, and centuries of reforms. Freedom of self expression, hard work.


Nikon was patriarch during schism. Head of oppostion was exiled briefly to Siberia

Protopope Avvakum (Archpriest) was burned with entire family. 1620 (about) until 1672 after 15+ years of exile and prison. Earliest leader of schimatics. First sent to lake Baikal then allowed to return, after further oppositon sent to far north.


2 fingers= divinity and humanity of Christ, the three fingers below are the trinity. The 3 fingers=trinity.


Nikon was not ethnic Russian (finno-ugric ethnicity, ask jerry for spelling). Opposed old church elite. Ideologically wanted to reform service and rituals by inviting several greek scholars to reform to bring more in line with greek orthodox. Those that opposed in church agitated the laymen in villages and caused the uprising based on small changes.


Not so theological dispute as power struggle. much secular powers having power over church (Nikon went along with idea until he eventually tried to take too much power and was removed)