‘Raskolniks’ and ‘Inorodtsy’: A Mutual Attraction



Old Believers, ‘raskolniks’, ‘inorodtsy’, bookishness, religious practice, Ural-Volga region, Finno-Ugrians


Old Belief emerged as a broad social and religious movement in the second half of the 17th century as a result of church reform. The Old Believers who did not adopt the reforms were forced to flee to the outer reaches of Russia and were persecuted by both the church and secular powers until the beginning of the 20th century. This contributed to a great extent to the development of eschatological opinions and the striving for social and general isolation. A distinctive feature of the Old Believers’ culture is traditionalism, which is expressed in both everyday and religious practice. Old Belief, as a form of Christianity, is seen among most scholars and the general public as an exclusively Russian phenomenon. However, it was also quite widespread among a number of Finno-Ugric peoples; in the territory of the Ural and Volga region most of the non-Russian Old Believers were Mordovians or Komi-Permyaks.

The main reasons for the process of transition from ‘inorodtsy’ (‘infidels’) to ‘raskolniks’ (‘schismatics’) were the lack of social barriers (both were religious outsiders) and the conflict caused by the State’s policy of violent Christianisation. There were many different nuances in this process related to the problem of language, the perception among Finno-Ugrians of the use of books, and the closed nature of the group. In this paper, I would like to describe this based on archival documents and my own field research.


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