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The Old Believers and the New Religion

  • Michael Cherniavsky


For nearly two hundred years the history of the Raskol, the Russian Church schism of the seventeenth century, was a secret one. To be sure, the Old Believers wrote, and in enormous quantities, but they wrote—by hand—secret manuscripts, copied secretly and circulated secretly. And, except for official condemnations of schismatic teachings and the publication of laws directed against the raskol'niki, more or less serious historical investigation started only in the last years of the reign of Emperor Nicholas I and was confined to printed but highly restricted memoranda passed around in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Even the nature and the chronology of early Raskol historiography raise questions about the nature of the schism. Why was the history of the Raskol secret for such a long time? Why were the Old Believers persecuted by the government for so long? Was it all, as the government maintained, because they were ignorant, illiterate, superstitious, fanatical, and disobedient toward the Church?



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1 Raskol means schism. Until 1905 the official name for all the sectarians who did not acknowledge the official church was raskol'niki (schismatics). The term staroobriadtsy (Old Ritualists or Old Believers) was used only by the liberals. After 1905 the official, legal appellation, too, became Staroobriadtsy. In this paper, to avoid monotonous repetition, I use the terms Raskol,“schism,” and“Old Belief” interchangeably.

2 They were sometimes obtained through underground channels and printed abroad. See the collection put out by Kel'siev, V., Sbornik Pravitel'stvennykh Svedenii o Raskol'-nikakh (4 vols.; London, 1860-62). Even some of the laws concerning the Old Believers were, in effect, secret and cannot be found in the Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov (hereafter referred to as PSZ); see Sobranie Postanovlenii po chasti raskola, printed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (St. Petersburg, 1875), editorial note. See also Sakharov, F., Literatura, istoriia i oblicheniia russkogo raskola (3 vols.; Tambov, 1887-1900), passim.

3 See the numerous works of N. Subbotin, N. Nil'skii, V. Belolikov, and E. V. Barsov, particularly their studies in Khristianskoe chtenie, Tserkovnyi vestnik, Pravoslavnoe obozrenie, Trudy Imperatorskoi Kievskoi dukhovnoi akademii, and Bratskoe slovo.

4 See, for example, the basic collection by Subbotin, N., Materialy dlia istorii raskola za pervoe vremia ego sushchestvovaniia (9 vols.; Moscow, 1874-90), hereafter cited as Subbotin; E. V. Barsov, Novye materialy dlia istorii staroobriadchestva, XVII-XVIII vv. (Moscow, 1890) and his“Akty otnosiashchiesia k istorii raskola v XVIII stoletii,” Chteniia v Obshchestve istorii i drevnostei rossiiskikh, No. 2, 1889, pp. 1-87; and the sources published in Bratskoe slovo (edited by Subbotin) in 1884, 1888, 1890, and 1891.

5 A prime example of this dilemma was the Old Believer position on the priesthood. Not wishing any change, let alone reform, the Old Believers found themselves in an impossible situation: as the first generation of Raskol priests died off and no bishop joined the schism, where were they to get new priests? If from the Nikonian church, then the whole schism would be rendered meaningless. And if they did without any priests, then they had either to give up all the sacraments or end up (as many did) with the Protestant logic of each man his own priest.

6 See Shchapov, A., Russkii raskol staroobriadchestva (Kazan, 1859) and Zemstvo i raskol (St. Petersburg, 1862); and the many works of A. S. Prugavin, V. V. Andreev, V. G. Druzhinin, and I. Iuzov (I. I. Kablits).

7 Shchapov, Zemstvo i raskol, pp. 59 ff.

8 Malyshev began his hunt for Old Believer documents some thirty years ago. Since 1947 every volume of the Trudy Otdela Drevnerusskoi literatury has contained his articles and his manuscript discoveries. See, for example, his“Dva neizvestnykh pis'ma protopopa Avvakuma,” TODRL, Vol. XIV (1958);“Tri neizvestnykh sochineniia protopopa Avvakuma i novye dokumenty o nem,” Doklady i soobshcheniia Filologicheskogo instituta Leningradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, Vol. III (1951). The manuscript collection of the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskii Dom), which he heads, is unique. See also his Ust'-Tsilemskie rukopisnye sborniki XVI-XX w. (Syktyvkar, 1960).

9 See, for example, L. E. Ankudinova, Sotsial'no-politicheskaia sushchnosf religioznoobshchestvennogo dvizheniia v russkom gosudarstve treťei chetverti XVII veka (unpublished dissertation, Leningrad, 1951) and“Sotsial'nyi sostav pervykh raskol'nikov,” Vest' nik Leningradskogo universiteta, Seriia istorii, iazyka i literatury, Vol. III , No. 14 (1956); Klibanov, A. I.,“K. kharakteristike novykh iavlenii v russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli vtoroi poloviny XVII—nachala XVIII vv.,” Istoriia SSSR, No. 6, 1963 ; Robinson, A. N.,“Avvakum i Epifanii (K istorii obshcheniia dvukh pisatelei),” TODRL , Vol. XV (1958),“Tvorchestvo Avvakuma i obshchestvennye dvizheniia v kontse XVII veka,” ibid., Vol. XVIII (1962), and Zhizneopisaniia Avvakuma i Epifaniia (Moscow, 1963); and Sarafanova, N. S.,“Ideia ravenstva liudei v sochineniiakh protopopa Avvakuma,” TODRL , Vol. XIV (1958).

10 The schismatics“clung persistently to the old ways” according to Clarkson, Jesse D., A History of Russia (New York, 1961), p. 157. The problem was in the ignorance and illiteracy of the“tradition-bound Muscovite clergy,” states Ellison, Herbert J. in his History of Russia (New York, 1964), pp. 77, 79 .“To many of the Russian Orthodox the slightest alteration in religious practices… appeared to be the work of the devil” ( Harcave, Sidney, Russia: A History [3d ed.; New York, 1956], pp. 3940 ).“Attention to the form rather than the substance of Christianity, which had long characterized Russian Orthodoxy, brought stubborn support for the strange practices even when they were shown to be without scholarly foundation” ( Wren, Michael C., The Course of Russian History [New York, 1958], P. 237 ).“First and foremost was Muscovy's traditional attachment to external observances … no question of principle or dogma was involved” ( Florinsky, Michael T., Russia: A Short History [New York, 1964], p. 150).“Over a long period of time, errors in translation from the Greek and other mistakes had crept into some Muscovite religious texts and rituals … But in the face of general ignorance, inertia, and opposition little was done until Nikon became patriarch” ( Riasanovsky, Nicholas V., A History of Russia [New York, 1963], p. 219; see also pp. 220 ff.). The only accurate and also detailed account is by Zenkovsky, Serge A.,“The Russian Church Schism: Its Background and Repercussions,” The Russian Review, Vol. XVI, No. 4 (1957). His interpretation follows those of pre-Soviet historians such as Kapterev and Mel'gunov.

11 On this whole issue, on the symbolism of the two and the three, and on the fact that, in the course of Christian history, the number of fingers used has ranged from one to all five, see, for example, P. S. Smirnov, O perstoslozhenii (St. Petersburg, 1904).

12 Florinsky, p. 154.

13 We have no statistics for the Old Believers until 1852, when a secret government expedition came to the conclusion that the official figures represented about one tenth the real number. Subsequently, both the government and the liberal scholars agreed on the figure of about 20 percent. See the government estimates made by the expedition of 1852, by Nadezhdin, and by Liprandi in Kel'siev; and, for an example of liberal calculations, Iuzov, I. (Kablits, I. I.), Russkie dissidenty, starovery i dukhovnye khristiane (St. Petersburg, 1881 ), Chap. 3. More convincing than all the statistics is the fact that, in his rebellion, Pugachev offered the peasants their“old faith” again, and, as far as we know, none of the great mass that he reached turned him down.

14 Partly, of course, because the Old Believers fled to the peripheries but also because their propaganda was particularly successful in those areas.

15 Except for the times of Catherine II and Alexander I; see Sbornik Postanovlenii po chasti raskola for the periods of those reigns. In general, legislation on the Raskol can serve as a touchstone for the evolution of government policy in Russia as a whole.

16 The civil wars of the Time of Troubles, the peasant unrest in the 1630s, the town rebellions in the 1640s and 1650s, the Cossack uprisings in the 1660s and 1670s (which usually involved the peasants), the strel'tsy fronde in the 1680s and 1690s. The strel'tsy were the infantry regiments created by Ivan the Terrible and armed with muskets.

17 As was the case in the religious conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in western Europe. On this problem see the very interesting suggestions of Ia. S. Lur'e,“K izucheniiu klassovogo kharaktera drevnerusskoi literatury,” TODRL, XX (1964), 100-120.

18 See note 5 above. For example, opposing Nikonian reforms, the Old Believers also had to oppose the Nikonian clergy. This could only be done by denying the validity of clerical ordination performed by a heretical church. But then, if there were no priests, there could be no valid sacrament; and if no sacraments, then what about communion, absolution, or marriage in a theological or even social sense? Once every man became his own priest, there was no limit to how far one could go, and the Raskol suffered a constant splintering off of small and large sects pushed ever further by the logic of religious language.

19 D. S. Likhachev, Kul'tura Rusi vremeni Andreia Rubleva i Epifaniia Premudrogo (Moscow and Leningrad, 1962), pp. 48 ff.

20 Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei (St. Petersburg, 1834— ), VI, 221 ff.

21 Stoglav, ed. D. E. Kozhanchikov (St. Petersburg, 1863), passim. See also A. A. Zimin, Reformy Ivana Groznogo (Moscow, 1960), pp. 375 ff.

22 Kapterev, N. F., Patriarkh Nikon i ego protivniki (2d ed.; Posad, Sergeiev, 1913 [first published in 1887]); hereafter cited as Nikon i protivniki.

23 PSZ, Vol. I,“Ulozhenie,” Chap. 13; see also M. Arkhangel'skii, O sobornom Ulozhenii v otnoshenii k pravoslavnoi tserkvi (St. Petersburg, 1881). The Code also registered legislation which was clearly formulated at the council of 1666-67, by which parish priests, formerly chosen by their parishioners, were henceforth appointed by the bishops, under whose total control they passed.

24 See N. F. Kapterev, Patriarkh Nikon i Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (Sergeiev Posad, 1909), I, 71 ff.; hereafter cited as Nikon i Aleksei.

25 See Kapterev, Nikon i protivniki, pp. 105 ff. The makeup of the Zealots reflected the traditional split in the Eastern Church, between the white clergy—priests required to marry—and the black, who were monks. Again traditionally, only monks could become bishops and hence control both the monastic and the episcopal hierarchy.

26 The issue was edinoglasie (single voice), i.e., the conduct of the service with each litany recited separately, in sequence, versus mnogoglasie (many voices), an arrangement in which, to save time, several deacons would recite a number of litanies and psalms simultaneously while standing in different parts of the church. On this problem and its history, including the Stoglav legislation concerning it, see Kapterev, Nikon i protivniki, pp. 133 ff.

27 Ibid. Some of these priests, beginning with Avvakum himself, were such fiery preachers that they had to flee to Moscow from infuriated provincial parishioners whose sins they castigated.

28 See the formulation of P. Pascal, Avvakum et les debuts du raskol (Paris, 1938), pp. xvii ff.; he, in effect, rejects both the Orthodox and the liberal interpretations and suggests that the controversy originated from a clash between two conceptions of Christianity, spiritualized and secularized, that existed in Russia.

29 For a highly detailed account, see Kapterev, Nikon iAleksei, I, 106 ff.

30 Nikon failed to get any active support from Constantinople but managed to get the official adherence of Patriarch Macarios of Antioch, who was in Moscow in 1655. See the account of Macarios’ son, Paul of Aleppo, in Patrologia orientalis, Vol. XXII, Part 1; Vol. XXIV, Part 4. The Russian translation,“Puteshestvie Antiokhskago patriarkha Makariia v Rossiiu,” was published by G. Murkos in Chteniia, No. 4, 1896; No. 4, 1897; and No. 4, 1898.

31 This lack of interest continued during all the long years after his abdication, until his death two decades later.

32 To avoid confusion I call the council of Russian bishops which opened in April 1666 the“Church Council of 1666“; and the council presided over by the Eastern patriarchs, which opened in December 1666, the“Patriarchal Council of 1666-67.” Kapterev's argument, in Nikon i Aleksei, II, 360 ff., was that the decisions of the second of these councils were the result of the cleverness of the Greeks—filled as they were with contempt for the Russians—in bringing pressure on the council to condemn all things Russian. But the argument does not hold, for Kapterev himself showed how totally dependent the Greek prelates were (particularly while in Russia) on the Russian government and how careful they were to anticipate every wish of Tsar Alexis (and then impose it on the Russian prelates).

33 See Pascal (p. 545, note 158), who points out correctly that we have no definitive evidence for the burning. The details of the execution are known to us only via Old Believer tradition.

34 This is, of course, an exaggeration; a number of priests shared the views of the prisoners, though they behaved with more circumspection. And then there was the active and fanatic adherence of the famous Sokovnin sisters—Feodos'ia, married to the boyar Morozov, and the younger Evdokiia, married to Prince Urusov. Both sisters were eventually imprisoned for their continued participation in the schism. See Pascal, esp. pp. 34 ff.

35 Nearly all their writings are published in Subbotin; Barsov, Novye materialy; and Ia. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki istorii staroobriadchestva XVII veka (St. Petersburg, 1927;“Russkaia Istoricheskaia Biblioteka,” Vol. XXXIX).

36 Subbotin, IV, 90 ff.; see also Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, I, 451 ff.

37 Subbotin, III, 264.

38 I.e., plans for hegemony amongst the South Slavs and in Constantinople. Robinson, Zhizneopisaniia, adheres to this view but gives no reasons for doing so; he gives the literature on this problem on p. 17, note 58.

39 See Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, I, 151 ff.

40 Subbotin, II, 220 ff.

41 See Avvakum's reminders, in all his letters to Tsar Alexis, of the latter's“pious ancestors.“ For a highly dramatic and very late illustration of this tension, see the statement of Ivan Ermakov during his interrogation in 1855:“The civil laws are created not by the tsar but by the authorities (nachal'stvom)... Therefore I find these laws false and illegal, and I recognize [only] the Stoglav law of Ivan Grozny” (Kel'siev, I, 221). Ermakov rejected not only ecclesiastical but all laws passed after Ivan IV.

42 See Subbotin, III, 247, esp. 158-59; V, 227 (Avvakum). It is interesting that in one of these references to Moscow the Third Rome (Subbotin, VII, 86-87) the monk Filofei of Pskov, who first enunciated the doctrine, is called Saint Filofei; see Kapterev, Nikon i protivniki, 153-54, note 1.

43 Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, II, esp. 216 ff. Nikon's statements and opinions were published in Zapiski Otdeleniia russkoi i slavianskoi arkheologii Russkogo arkheologicheskogo obshchestva, Vol. II (1861); hereafter cited as ZRAO.

44 See Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, II, 465ff.; in addition, Metropolitan Paisios Ligarid of Gaza, so instrumental in pushing through the Tsar's objectives, had actually been deprived of his episcopal status.

45 For the writings of Filofei, see Malinin, V., Starets Eleasarova monastyria Filofei i ego poslaniia (Kiev, 1901), Appendix.

46 For details, see my Tsar and People (New Haven, 1961), pp. 44 ff.

47 See ibid, for the references to the impressions of Paul of Aleppo; see also I. E. Zabelin, Domashnii byt russkikh tsarei v XVI i XVII stoletiakh (Moscow, 1872), for a most detailed description of the daily life of the Russian tsars.

48 PSZ, Vol. I,“Ulozhenie,” Chap. 2.

49 See Golikova, N. B.,“Organy politicheskogo syska i ikh razvitie v XVII-XVIII vv.,” in Absoliutizm v Rossii (XVII-XVIII vv.) (Moscow, 1964), pp. 244 ff.

50 For the medieval theological origins of these terms in the West, see Kantorowicz, E. H.,“Mysteries of State: An Absolutist Concept and Its Late Mediaeval Origins,” Harvard Theological Review, XLVIII (1955), 6591.

51 See, for example, la. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki istorii staroobriadchestva XVII veka, cols. 771-85, where the point is that though the spirit of Antichrist is present, he himself has not yet come.

52 See, for example, Pascal, p. 209, note 66; Smirnov, P. S., Vnutrennie voprosy v raskole v XVII veke (St. Petersburg, 1898), pp. 16 ff.

53 There were few attacks on Nikon after his abdication, and the emphasis shifted to the Tsar. For numerous expressions of this, see Pascal, passim.

54 See Smirnov, Vnutrennie voprosy, pp. 31 ff. Antichrist, like angels—or Moses—had the two horns of divinity. See Avvakum on this in Subbotin, IV, esp. 230.

55 Biblioteka Akademii nauk, Leningrad (BAN), ms 33-5-10, p. 151r.

56 This identification was suggested by V. I. Sreznevskii, in Sreznevskii and F. I. Pokrovskii, Opisanie Rukopisnogo Otdela Biblioteki Imperatorskoi Akademii Nauk (St. Petersburg, 1910). I, 54.

57 The portraits are from the Tituliarnik of 1672, ordered by Alexis, containing the images of all the Russian rulers, as reproduced in Portrety, gerby i pechati Bol'shoi Gosudarstvennoi Knigi 1672 goda (St. Petersburg, 1903), plates 32 and 31 respectively. The Russian tsars in general were portrayed sufficiently alike (compare the portraits of Ivan IV and Vasilii Shuiskii), except for the moustache of Michael with its upward sweep (which leads me to suggest Michael as the prototype for the Antichrist) that a mistake would be natural. And by the early eighteenth century Old Believers would not have cared enough to distinguish between the two Romanov tsars.

58 Publichnaia Biblioteka imeni Saltykova-Shchedrina (PB), Leningrad, ms Q.I. 1076, p. 66°b.

59 Unnumbered portrait from the collection of the Muzei Istorii Religii i Ateizma (MIRA), Leningrad.

60 See Belokurov, S. A., Arsenii Sukhanov (Moscow, 1891).

61 Institut Russkoi Literatury (IRLI) (Pushkinskii Dom), Leningrad, ms 625 of the Peretts collection, pp. 26r-27°b.

62 la. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki pervykh let russkogo staroobriadchestva (St. Petersburg, 1912). P. 333.

63 See, for example, Pascal, p. 250.

64 These calculations can be found in virtually every one of the Old Believer apocalyptic tracts, which number in the thousands. One theorem holds that Antichrist was to lie bound for the first 1ooo years; released, he then obviously waited for his number, 666, to come up. The other theorem—more historical—is that the year 1000 marked the first appearance of the beast, with the fall of Rome from orthodoxy (the reference is clearly to the split between the Eastern and Roman churches—1054). Another 600 years pass before his second appearance (the Union of Brest, 1591), and then 66 years before his final appearance. On this last step, there are variations, with the third appearance coming 60 years after the second, or in 1660, marked by the beginning of heresy, famine, and unrest; and then, 6 years later, the final coming. The variation provides a nice symmetry—600, 60, and then 6.

65 Ia. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki istorii staroobriadchestva XVII veka, col. 464. See also Robinson, Zhizneopisaniia, p. 29, where he argues that the glorification of the ruler grew greater between 1651 and 1657, that where the service book (sluzhebnik) of 1651 commemorates the tsar quite casually, among the other Christians, the service book of 1657 published by Nikon commemorates“Our Most Pious Tsar and Grand Prince,” etc. There is no doubt that the reign of Alexis was the triumph of theocratic ritual and practices, but in this instance Robinson made a mistake. He is correct about the 1651 text (edition of July 18, p. 146), but he checked only one of the liturgies, and not a prominent one. The liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has the usual glorification of the pious ruler (p. 161), and the liturgy of St. Basil the Great included the real memorial, the prayer for the“well-being and salvation of our pious and Christloving Sovereign” (p. 112). This formula is repeated, word for word, in the St. Basil liturgy of the edition of April 4, 1657. In fact, in checking all the printed service books published in Russia between 1602 and 1676, I was unable to find any significant changes or variants in the memorial prayers for the tsar.

66 Ia. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki istorii staroobriadchestva XVII veka, col. 464; Subbotin, V, 229 ff.

67 For Avvakum's arguments, and also for his violent personal attacks against Alexis, see the references gathered in Robinson, Zhizneopisaniia, pp. 28 ff. On the identity of person and office in Russian theocratic rulership, see Tsar and People, Chap. 2.

68 Ia. L. Barskov, Pamiatniki istorii staroobriadchestva XVII veka, cols. 467, 477.

69 Ibid., col. 477.

70 See, for example, Kazakova, N. A. and Lur'e, Ia. S., Antifeodal'nye ereticheskie dvizheniia na Rusi, XIV—nachala XVI vekov (Moscow, 1955), for the apocalyptic thought of the late fifteenth century, which accompanied the emergence of the centralized state under Ivan III.

71 S. A. Belokurov, Iz dukhovnoi zhizni Moskovskogo obshchestva XVII v. (Moscow, 1902), pp. 152 ff. The role of the printing press in forming public concerns or mood deserves study, though it would be most difficult to do for Russia. One can hypothesize, however, that the mass production of a book would at least create a situation in which an enormous number of people (by medieval standards) would be concerned with the same problem at the same moment. And this, in turn, could generate a sort of dynamic spontaneity on a scale unthinkable for a society dependent on manuscripts.

72 For the literature on Kapiton, see Pascal, p. 62 and notes.

73 Ibid., pp. 35 ff.; Barskov, Pamiatniki pervykh let russkogo staroobriadchestva, pp. xiv ff.

74 See p. 14 above and note 62.

75 The best account of the Nikon-Alexis controversy and the most complete sources for it are the studies of Kapterev cited above.

76 ZRAO, II, 543.

77 See ibid., passim; Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, II, 178ff. The sources of Nikon's Hildebrandine doctrines (Ukrainian scholars, a Muscovite tradition?), however, have not been sufficiently explored.

78 Kapterev, Nikon i Aleksei, II, 196-97, notes.

79 Ibid., p. 201, notes. Nikon wrote this in a letter to his friend, the boyar Ziuzin, who paid heavily for this friendship. See Delo o Patriarkhe Nikone (St. Petersburg, 1897), pp. 190 ff. (a publication of the Arkheograficheskaia Komissiia).

80 BAN, Druzhinin ms 134 (“Knizhitsa o Antikhriste“), pp. 16-17.

81 For sources on the Solovetskii rebellion, see the works by Barskov cited above (notes 35 and 62) and, in particular, Barsov, Novye materialy, and Akty istoricheskie (St. Petersburg, 1841-42), Vol. IV, passim.

82 See Andrei Denisov (one of the founders of the great Vyg community of Old Believers), Istoriia o otsekh i stradal'tsakh solovetskikh, ed. V. T. Usov (Moscow, 1907), pp. 20-21.

83 See Pascal, p. 443 and note 12, for the legend that Razin, in his rebellion, was accompanied by Patriarch Nikon. In popular tradition, therefore, everything got mixed up— Nikon, Avvakum, Razin, the Tsar—and the one clear fact that remained was rebellion itself.

84 See Barsov, Novye materialy, esp. p. 122.

85 See ibid.,“Akty otnosiashchiesia k istorii Solovetskogo bunta,” for the reports of the local governor on the interrogations of prisoners.

86 See Pascal, pp. 435 ff.

87 On the role and problem of the strel'tsy, see S. M. Solov'ev, Istoriia Rossii (Moscow, 1959-), Vol. XIV; Ocherki istorii SSSR: Period feodalizma, XVII v. (Moscow, 1955).

88 The full account of this affair is to be found in the Istoriia o vere i chelobitnaia o strel'tsakh of the ex-priest Savva Romanov, who wrote it in 1682. A nineteenth-century manuscript of this work was used for the edition by Nikolai S. Tikhonravov, in Letopisi russkoi literatury i drevnostei, V, Sec. II, 111-48.

89 Tikhonravov, p. 139.

90 PSZ, Vol. I, item 1102.

91 For the whole problem, see Sapozhnikov, D. I., Samosozhzhenie v russkom raskole (Moscow, 1891); also published in Chteniia, 1891, No. 3 (subsequent citations refer to the publication in book form).

92 Sapozhnikov, p. 144. See also E. V. Barsov,“Samosozhigatel'stvo raskol'nikov v Olonetskoi gubernii,” in Pamiatnaia Knizhka Olonetskoi Gubernii za 1868-69 god, II, 194-96;“Samosozhzheniia staroverov,” Olonetskiia Gubernskiia Vedomosti, No. 57, 1878, pp. 698-700.

93 Sapozhnikov, p. 126.

94 Kostomarov,“Istoriia raskola u raskol'nikov,” Vestnik Evropy, No. 4, 1871, p. 493; in general, see Druzhinin, V. G., Raskol na Donu v XVII veke (St. Petersburg, 1889).

95 On the origins and history of this community, see the excellent study by R. O. Crummey,“The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: The Social and Economic Development of the Raskol in the Olonets Region, 1654-1744” (unpublished PhD. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1964).

96 Ibid., pp. 165ff.

97 See S. G. S., ,“Otnoshenie raskol'nikov k gosudarstvu,” Vera i Razum (Kharkov), No. 16, 1892, pp. 252 ff.; and Barsov, E. V.,“Semen Denisov Vtorushin,” Trudy Imperatorskoi Kievskoi Dukhovnoi Akademii, 1866, p. 222 . On the subject of the Vyg community in general, see Filippov, Ivan, Istoriia Vygovskoi Pustyni, ed. Koshanchikov, D. E. (St. Petersburg, 1862).

98 On the Filippovtsy, see Kel'siev, IV, 236-41.

99 The Stranniki would have nothing to do with any aspect of Antichrist; they would not touch money, which bore the ruler's portrait and the state coat of arms; they would not obtain a passport, pay taxes, etc. To survive, the sect created the institution of sheltergivers; these people would live in the world, and, in effect, sacrifice, or pollute themselves, by worldly success. Their function was to provide shelter, food, and safety for the true Stranniki. Frequently a shelter-giver would be initiated as a true Strannik on his deathbed, so that he too might be saved completely. See S. G. S., in Vera i Razum, No. 23, 1892, pp. 642 ff.

100 For the argument that the forty-two months must be understood symbolically and that they could actually last many years, see Smirnov, P. S., Spory i razdeleniia v russkom raskole v pervoi chetverti XVIII veka (St. Petersburg, 1909), p. 173.

101 Kel'siev, IV, 252 ff.

102 Ibid., p. 279; see also Iuzov, I. (Kablits, I. I.),“Politicheskiia vozzreniia Staroveriia,“ Russkaia Mysl', No. 5, 1882, p. 190 . That the merchants prayed, although reluctantly, is well illustrated by the famous Gnusin case. The Preobrazhensk Cemetery in Moscow was the richest and most powerful Old Believer community in Russia, for years under the patronage of the Moscow governors general and, during the reign of Alexander I, in effect under imperial protection. In 1820, however, the government learned that everything was not quite ideal in the community. Police officers who came to search the buildings and the chapel found, in fact, a portrait of Alexander I, with horns and tail, the number 666 on the imperial forehead. The painter, named Gnusin, managed to flee in time, and the portrait (unfortunately for us) was destroyed. See Kel'siev, I, 43; Trudy Imperatorskoi Kievskoi Dukhovnoi Akademii, No. 1, 1876, p. 115.

103 For instance, PB, ms Q.I. 1141, an illustrated apocalypse in which there are empty frames wherever the image of Antichrist or of his demons should appear. In contrast, an example from the year 1691, is an apocalypse borrowed by Old Believers who then drew in four-pointed“Latin” crosses and the“reformed” episcopal staffs in“indecent places“; see Barsov, Novye materialy, p. 17.

104 PSZ, item 4053.

105 On the evolution of the Preobrazhenskii Prikaz into a political police, see Golikova, pp.243-80.

106 In his eagerness to suffer martyrdom Talitskii is a striking example of that category referred to by Peter in the law quoted above; he and others like him (see the Levin case below) were more than eager to talk and explain their theories. This did not exempt them, of course, from the classic Preobrazhenskii Prikaz routine: interrogation with torture, confrontations, interrogation with torture until the same testimony was obtained three times running—then on to the next witness. No difference in procedure obtained between the accused and the witnesses.

107 The case is published in Esipov, G., Raskol'nich'i dela XVIII stoletiia (St. Petersburg, 1861), I, 5987.

108 Tsarevich Alexis was condemned and died under mysterious circumstances in 1718.

109 The case is published in Esipov, pp. 3-55.

110 Of course Sysoev had to make the tsars match the symbols of the prophecy, but it is interesting that he included the half-witted half brother of Peter, Ivan V, and omitted Feodor (II), son of Alexis and oldest brother of Peter, as well as Boris Godunov and Vasilii Shuiskii—tsars who were not members of the Riurik or Romanov dynasty.

111 Tsentral'nyi Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Drevnikh Aktov (TsGADA), fond 7, Raskol'nich'i dela, delo 359.

112 See Esipov, Raskol'nich'i dela, passim; Semevskii, M. I., Slovo i Delo! (St. Petersburg, 1885); Esipov, , Liudi starogo veka (St. Petersburg, 1880); Solov'ev, Istoriia Rossii, Vol. XV; Chteniia, from 1863, passim; and the TsGADA folders of the Preobrazhenskii Prikaz and the Secret Chancellery (Tainaia Kantseliariia).

113 The records show, time and again, how many were punished in these investigations for hearing talk like this and not reporting it. According to the law, this made them guilty of the same crime; that is, in matters of state crime, misprision of treason was equivalent to treason.

114 For example, in the early 1730s an astonishing number of priests used any dodge, fair or silly, to avoid swearing allegiance to or praying for Empress Anna—excuses of illness, absence, ignorance of the requirement, or lack of opportunity. See the cases before the Most Holy Synod in the year 1773 alone, in Tsentral'nyi Gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (TsGIAL), Leningrad, fond 796, 1733, cases no. 14, 156, 185, 226, 233, 240, 268.

115 Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskii Musei (GIM), Museinoe Sobranie, No. 156 (“Tolkovyi Apokalipsis“). See Shchepkin, V. N.,“Dva litsevykh sbornika Istoricheskogo Museia,“ Arkheologicheskie Izvestiia i Zametki, V, No. 4 (1897), 97102 . The manuscript was written in the Far North, in the Pomor'e (Arctic Ocean coastal area), and is, apparently, unique in the boldness of its iconography.

116 35°r. If the baby is the Tsarevich Alexis, he was obviously associated (correctly) with his father's policies, rather than seen as a symbol of opposition to Petrine reforms and as the defender of ancient Orthodoxy.

117 354r.

118 Because the State Historical Museum manuscript was being readied for publication, I was allowed photographs of only the two miniatures which had been published by Shchepkin in 1897.

119 This arithmetic conjunction is emphasized in BAN, Druzhinin ms 171, p. 106r. The usual count was from Ivan III. Avvakum got Tsar Alexis as the eighth tsar by counting Vasilii III and including all the tsars. See Subbotin, IV, 247.

120 For the numerous expressions of this conviction, see the literature listed in note 112.

121 On the nature of the true and legitimate tsar, see my Tsar and People, pp. 55 ff.

122 At this point it is impossible for me to resist a personal anecdote. While working in June 1965 on the frescoes of the Arkhangeľsk Cathedral in Moscow, I was engaged in conversation by a guard from the Kremlin Museum, assigned that day to the Cathedral. In asking me about my work, he displayed great interest in the question of balance between church and state power. He said that only under Peter did the state win complete domination over the Church. I pointed out, casually, that Alexis seemed to have had little trouble handling Nikon (we were standing next to Alexis* tomb). But that was quite different, he argued. The clash was a personal one. Alexis was away at war quite often, and the patriarchal and imperial palaces were connected by a passage. So, Nikon used to stroll over and … anyway… Peter was really Nikon's son, and this was the reason for Alexis’ enmity. (In fact, of course, Nikon abdicted in 1658, and Peter was born in 1672.) The man was not an Old Believer (I asked him about this). In fact, he was a professed atheist. Yet, in 1965, he believed in a legend which clearly belongs to the Raskol ethos.

123 See, for example,“Knizhitsa o Antikhriste” (BAN, Druzhinin ms 134), pp. 26 ff. In fact, according to a tradition dating back to the second century, Antichrist had to be a Jew (of the tribe of Dan), a requirement which presented some problems for Old Believer historiography and was constantly emphasized by the Orthodox prelates, who argued that Peter could not be Antichrist.

124 “Sobranie ot Sviatogo Pisaniia o Antikhriste,” in Kel'siev, II, 249. See also the variant“Istoriia pechatnaia o Petre Velikom: Sobranie ot Sviatogo Pisaniia o Antikhriste,“ Chteniia, No. 1, 1863. F. Eleonskii, O sostoianii russkogo raskola pri Petre I-om (St. Petersburg, 1864), p. 102 and note 1, shows convincingly that the work was originally composed immediately after 1725, though most of the available manuscripts are of a later date.

125 Kel'siev, IV, 252.

126 Library of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kiev, ms 97, p. 10r.

127 See, among many references,“Sobranie,” in Kel'siev, II, 248. We have here, in the play on the words“patriarch” ∼“father,” an example of the fitting in and utilization of all evidence. See below for the particular significance of the usurpation of a patriarchal, ecclesiastical title.

128 In the Old Russian system of designating numbers by letters, i = 10, n = 50, p = 80, and so forth. See, for example, Evfimii, in Kel'siev, IV, 253. The new title did puzzle many people, who neither pronounced it correctly nor understood it. Some of them paid a very high price for their illiteracy in the cellars of the Secret Chancellery; see Solov'ev, Vol. XV, passim.

129 See S. G. S., in Vera i Razurn, No. 23, p. 646.

130 See, for example, the testimony of Ermakov in 1855, in Kel'siev, I, 220.

131 See, for example, the eighteenth-century manuscript“O napisanii dvoeglavogo orla,“ in Gosudarstvennaia Biblioteka SSSR imeni V. I. Lenina (GBL), Moscow, fond 238, ms 1307, PP. 371r—391b-1°. In contrast, the eighteenth-century manuscript PB, Q.I. 1075, p. 91, pushes the attribution of this symbol, actually adopted in the 1490s, back to Vladimir Monomakh in the twelfth century and hence exonerates it from all satanic implications.

132 GIM, Khliudov Collection, No. 361, a roll of 1841, entitled“Ob Antikhriste.“

133 “Sobranie,” in Kel'siev, II, 248-49.

134 BAN, Druzhin ms 134, p. 23°b; for the same argument, see GBL, fond 98, ms 779 (end of the 18th century), p. 29°b and r. See also the sermons of Iavorskii, Propovedi blazhenyia pamiati Stefana Iavorskogo (Moscow, 1804), III, esp. 112 ff.; and the law (PSZ, item 3891) in which the Most Holy Synod ordered that the Old Believers praise the emperor: imeti by iako glavy svoia i otsa otechestva, i khrista gospodnia.

135 See E. V. Barsov,“Drevne-russkie pamiatniki Sviashchennago Venchaniia tsarei na tsarstvo,” Chteniia, No. 1, 1883, pp. 90 ff. and 105, for the coronation of Peter's older brother, Feodor Alekseevich, at which he was anointed on his head, his body, and his limbs, i.e., in an episcopal fashion.

136 These appellations were used constantly by the metropolitans Stefan Iavorskii and Feofan Prokopovich in their sermons, and they took special care to explain the meaning of the words. In medieval Russia, however, the term pomazanik was applied to the anointed clergy and to Biblical figures, particularly to King David; see Sreznevskii, Materialy dlia slovaria drevnerusskogo iazyka, s. v. pomazanik.

137 For example, the calendar reform of Peter, changing the beginning of the year from September 1 to January 1, and the year count from the creation of the world to the birth of Christ. Hence the apocalyptic prophecy that time and law would change under Antichrist was fulfilled by Peter, who, they said, introduced the“Janus count,” two-faced, counting forward (from Christ) and backward (before Christ), and who picked January 1 in honor of Janus, a pagan deity and therefore Satan. See“Sobranie,” in Kel'siev, II, 248; BAN, Druzhinin ms 134, p. 23r.

138 See Kel'siev, IV, 265-66; Chteniia, No. 1, 1863, p. 7; Eleonskii, p. 108; S.G.S., in Vera i Razum, No. 23, p. 647.

139 An example of the awareness of Peter's brutality was the rumor that he was going to massacre two hundred soldier-deserters by lining them up and shooting cannon at them; see Esipov, Raskol'nich'i dela, I, 564.

140 See Smirnov, Spory i razdeleniia, p. 161.

141 “Sobranie,” in Kel'siev, II, 251.

142 The cases quoted in Solov'ev, Vol. XV, are full of references to the tax on souls and what it portended.

143 Kel'siev, IV, 254-65.

144 Ibid., pp. 263-64.

145 Smirnov, Vnutrennie voprosy, p. 11; Subbotin, IV, 251.

146 For example, Evfimii always used the term dukhovnaia vlast’ for ecclesiastical authority

147 GBL, fond 98, ms 1668, p. 23°b.

148 Chelobitnaia, ili Istoriia Petra Velikogo,” in Shchapov, Russkii raskol staroobriadchestva, pp. 106-9.

149 PSZ, item 1910.

150 Ibid., item 2991.

151 Polnoe sobranie postanovlenii i rasporiazhenii po vedomstvu pravoslavnogo ispovedaniia Rossiiskoi Imperii (St. Petersburg, 1869-1916), II, 102, 410.

152 Ibid., I, 27. For other discriminatory legislation see Smirnov, Spory i razdeleniia, pp. 3 ff.

153 PSZ, item 2877; see also item 3479.

154 See, for example, Prince I. Khovanskii's later confession to Talitskii that he had been appointed a“metropolitan” in the“council” and might have gained eternal life by refusing and undergoing martyrdom but that he lacked the courage. Esipov, Raskol'nich'i dela, I, 68-69.

155 Golikov, Ivan I., Deianiia Petra Velikogo, Dopolneniia (Moscow, 1790-97), Vol. XVII : Anekdoty, pp. xciv, 354-56.

156 See Solov'ev, XIV, 570 and notes. See also PSZ, item 2874, Dec. 29, 1714; all these prescriptions were repeated over and over, with reminders of the heavy fines imposed for disobedience.

157 PSZ, item 1741; see also item 1887 (in the year 1701). Dummies dressed in such clothing were prominently displayed for the benefit of the public.

158 Ibid., item 2874.

159 Ibid., item 2929.

160 Ibid., item 2991; see also item 3169 (in the year 1718).

161 Ibid., item 3718, dated January 19, 1721.

162 Ibid., item 3963.

163 Ibid., item 4052. Birthdays and name days of the royal family and anniversaries of coronations were called tsarskie dni (tsar's days, or imperial holidays).

164 Ibid., item 3893.

165 Ibid., item 3223.

166 One striking expression of this can be seen in the amnesty proclaimed after the victorious peace with Sweden in 1721. It applied to most criminals, but Old Believers sentenced to hard labor were forgiven only if they renounced their“obstinate” beliefs (PSZ, item 3842). Another interesting aspect of this attitude was the welcome Peter extended to all foreigners, guaranteeing them full tolerance and protection, except for one group—the Jews (ibid., item 1910). They, too, of course, were always“outside.“

167 See the sermons of the Metropolitan Daniil during the reign of Vasilii III, in V. I. Zhmakin,“Mitropolit Daniil i ego sochineniia,” Part 2 (texts), in Chteniia, No. 2, 1881.

168 See PSZ, item 1898, prescribing the parade dress proper for ceremonial days and holidays. On the significance of the uniform and its role in the religion of the state, see E. H. Kantorowicz,“Gods in Uniform,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CV, No. 4 (1961), 368-93.

169 Eighteenth-century drawing on cardboard from MIRA, Druzhinin Collection (no acquisition number).

170 MIRA, ms B-607-IV, p. 12r.

171 Ibid., p. 80°b.

172 Ibid., p. 50°b.

173 IRLI (Pushkinskii Dom), Kerzhenskoe Sobranie, ms 74, p. 82r.

174 Alexander Herzen, with his usual insight, saw the chinovniki created by Peter's“revolution“ as a civil clergy,“performing holy services in courts and police” (Byloe i dumy [Moscow, 1956], I, 252 [Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, Vol. VIII]).

175 For the Old Believers,“Peter I” was, in itself, proof of Peter-Antichrist, for the omission of the patronymic acknowledged what they suspected, that Peter was not the son of Alexis; as Antichrist, he had no father, and hence was the first of his name.

176 For a madly incongruous image of Catherine I, the servant-girl wife of Peter, as St. Olga (grandmother of St. Vladimir, who, according to historical legend, brought Christianity to Russia in the tenth century), see Address of the Most Holy Ruling Synod, July 5, 1725, in Barsov, Novye materialy, p. 159.

177 See the sermons of Iavorskii (Propovedi blazhenyia pamiati Stefana Iavorskogo) and of Prokopovich, Feofan (Sochineniia [Moscow and Leningrad, 1961]); and Tsar and People, p. 94 and note 47. On the Astraea imagery in general, see Yates, F. A.,“Queen Elizabeth as Astrea,” Warburg Journal, X (1947), 2782.

178 For a typical variant, Peter as Augustus-like creator, see Prokopovich, esp. p. 45. For the ruler as creator, as the life-giving principle, in the West during this period, see Kantorowicz, E. H.,“Oriens Augusti—Lever du Roi,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, XVII (1963), 165 ff.

179 “Kratkoe opisanie Blazhennykh Del Imperatora Petra Velikago, Samoderzhtsa Vserossiiskago,” in Zapiski russkikh liudei: Sobytiia Vremen Petra Velikago, ed. N. Sakharov (St. Petersburg, 1841), p. 4. See also Zapiski Ivana Ivanovicha Nepliueva (St. Petersburg, 1893), pp. 120 ff.; Razskazy Nartova o Petre Velikom, ed. L. N. Maikov (St. Petersburg, 1891), pp. 60 ff.

180 See, for example, Razskazy Nartova, p. 69.

181 “Sobranie,” in Kel'siev, II, 256.

182 V. Farmakovskii,“O protivo-gosudarstvennom elemente v raskole,” Otechestvennye zapiski, CLXIX, No. 11-12 (1866), 633-34.

The Old Believers and the New Religion

  • Michael Cherniavsky


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