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Accepted Paper:

A faith of ancestors: how Old Believers justified their faith in Imperial Russia of Aleksander II  
Danila Rygovskiy (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

In 1860-s, rumors about the Highest approval of Old Belief caused massive exoduses of Old Believers from Edinoveriie. Studying the accounts from Estonia and Siberia, I focus on the historical and cultural backgrounds of these rumors and the arguments OB opted for to confront the officials.

Paper long abstract:

In April 1861, an Orthodox priest Shchepetov reached a man in Raja village named Vasilii Poliakov, who claimed himself and Old Believer, despite being an Orthodox parishioner since 1855. Poliakov explained that he was converting back because of his mother who cursed him and his children for belonging to the official church and because he believed that free rejoining with the Old Belief had legal grounds.

Same as Poliakov, the repressive policy of the Nikolai I administration forced many Russian Old Believers (OB) to join the so-called Edinoveriie, a special branch of the Russian Orthodox Church designed to eliminate the schism. Imperial officials doubtlessly considered OB as been obscurely obsessed by “formal” manifestations of faith, such as rites, in particular, and assumed that Edinoveriie, where the liturgy would be performed in the old ways with the usage of the old books, would be acknowledged. Nevertheless, since parishes remained directed by official priests, OB did not massively consider Edinoveriie as a real alternative to their own denominations.

The anti-OB laws were loosened under Aleksander II but still, the open manifestation of it was forbidden. Nevertheless, the rumors about the Highest approval captured OB population of the Empire. As example of Poliakov shows, OB were justifying their claims by appealing to alleged vows of their parents and grandparents who asked them to keep up with the faith. In my presentation, I am going to show why Old Believers opted for this argument in an attempt to overrun the power of local authorities.

Panel Inte07b
Lost in translation: peasant subaltern agency and hegemonic power II
  Session 1 Thursday 24 June, 2021, -