Northern Illinois University Press


Old Believers in a Changing World

Robert O.  Crummey

An important collection of essays by a pioneer in the field

"I can think of no better entry into the world of the Russian Old Believers and the study of them than this collection. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Russian religious culture, but will also be of interest to those who work on seventeenth and eighteenth century Christianity or any form of religious dissent." –Church History

This important collection by a pioneer in the field focuses on the history and culture of a conservative religious tradition whose adherents strove to preserve and defend their beliefs and practices from the seventeenth century until today. Old Belief had its origins in a protest against liturgical reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-1600s and quickly grew into a complex torrent of opposition to the Russian state, the official church, and the social hierarchy. The movement began in a time of jarring cultural and political change that culminated in the reforms of Peter I, grew through the persecution and limited toleration in the imperial period, and survived the cataclysmic transformations in the Soviet age. For the Old Believers, periods of full religious freedom have been very brief – from 1905 to 1917 and since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Crummey examines the ways in which the Old Believers defended their core beliefs and practices and adjusted their polemical strategies and way of life in response to the changing world. Opening chapters survey the historiography of Old Belief, examine the methodological problems in studying the movement as a Russian example of “popular religion,” and outline the first decades of the history. The rest of the book looks at particular themes of Old Believer history, beginning with two sets of case studies of spirituality, culture, and intellectual life. Subsequent chapters analyze the diverse structures of Old Believer communities and their fate in times of persecution. A final essay examines publications of contemporary scholars in Novosibirsk whose work provides glimpses of the life of traditional believers in the Soviet period.

Old Believers in a Changing World will appeal to scholars and students of Russian history, to those interested in Eastern Orthodoxy, and to general readers with an interest in the comparative history of religious movements.

Robert O. Crummey is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Davis. His publications include The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: the Vyg Community and the Russian State, 1694-1855 and Aristocrats and Servitors: The Boyar Elite in Russia, 1613-1689.

(2011) 270 pages
ISBN: 978-0-87580-650-1
cloth $45.00x

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ISBN: 9780875806501
cloth $45.00