March 01, 2016


A contemporaneous portrait of Patriarch Nikon with brothers of the Resurrection New Jerusalem Monastery, circa 1660-65. Artist unknown.

How are we to understand the significance of the raskol or schism that roiled Russian Orthodoxy in the 1660s? Why did thousands of people rise up in protest and refuse to accept seemingly simple (and, from a contemporary perspective – let’s be honest – rather superficial) changes to Russian Orthodoxy’s rituals and texts? Why were thousands willing to face torture, exile, self-immolation, and execution for upholding the old faith? Why do ideas that today look downright medieval still persist? Why, even today, are there still over a million Old Believers, scattered across the globe by the forces of history?

What tectonic shift took place in Moscow 350 years ago? What people, ideas, and beliefs were brought into conflict?

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