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7-10-2015, 00:21

OLD BELIEVERS

The problems in the Church continued, however. The Old Believers were a constant thorn in the side of Romanov Russia. They were declared schismatics by a Church council in 1666 and ordered to return to the official doctrine. Many refused and were arrested, the most famous of these being the Boyarina Morozova, who refused to accept the new practices and died of starvation with her sister in prison in 1675. Entire villages locked themselves in their churches and burned them down, preferring to die in the purifying fire of earth rather than suffer the eternal fire of hell. From 1666 on, Old Believers formed an opposition community in Russia that was sometimes persecuted and sometimes tolerated. For the most part, Old Believers were sober, hardworking peasants and merchants, and the state left them alone. In times of crisis, however, Old Belief could form a rallying point for civil disobedience and draw the wrath of the crown.

The Old Believers occupied a volatile position in eighteenth-century Russia. Old Believers had, of necessity, their own clergy who retained the traditional Russian liturgy and rituals. Old Believers could not cut their beards, don Western clothing, or use tobacco. Although his father had persecuted the Old Believers for their refusal to fall in with the new teachings, Peter I did not seem to find them particularly troubling. He forced them to pay a double tax and a beard tax and to wear special clothing to mark their belief but refused to make them into martyrs. Over the course of the eighteenth century, their fortunes changed with the emperors: Elizabeth proved herself to be the most avid persecutor of Old Believers and exiled many of them from Russia, Peter III invited them back, and Catherine II operated on the Enlightenment principle of religious toleration and permitted Old Believers to practice their faith along with the other minority religions in Russia. The schism in the Church created more opportunities for disgruntled people to find justification for their dissatisfaction and, in extreme cases, to join the two large rebellions of the eighteenth century, the Bulavin and Pugachev revolts.



 

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