- The Old Believers (starovery or staroobriadtsy) separated from the mainstream of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) at the end of the 17th century in a protest against church reforms. Specifically, these concerned new liturgical rites introduced by Patriarch Nikon, including the visual canon of Russian icons and everyday rituals. In effect, Old Believers were the most conservative branch of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, resisting even the slightest changes in the religious practices. In tsarist Russia, the Old Believers were persecuted, tortured, and executed. To escape such harsh treatment, many moved to peripheral parts of Russia or fled the country altogether. Consequently, they helped to colonize some of the most remote parts of Russia (including Siberia, Latvia, and Alaska), and therefore continued the Russian imperial project. The ROC viewed them as a threat to the Russian state until 1905 when Tsar Nicholas II signed an act allowing freedom of religion and ending the persecution of religious minorities in Russia. Many Old Believers were Russia’s main merchants and philanthropists. In the 1970s, the Orthodox Church apologized for its discrimination of Old Believers and accepted them into the fold once again. In recent years, the Russian state has reached out to Old Believers in the Americas and elsewhere, hoping to partially alleviate the country’s endemic demographic challenges through remigration to the Russian Federation.See also Romanovs.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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