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The Old Believers and the New Religion

Abstract

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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Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
  • URL: /core/journals/slavic-review
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