The Stranniki (Russian for Runaways or Wanderers) are the strong Pomorsky Old Believers who rejected prayers for Tsar Peter and all government papers (identification, passports, money, etc). They would not wear clothing contrary to Old Orthodox Russia, nor eat with those of contrary Faith and Practice. Keeping themselves separate from the antichrist society they went far into the Siberian wilderness. This blog is about these people and my effort to conform my life to theirs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

We Do Not Have Freedom of Conscience

In the book Provincial Landscapes, by Donald J. Raleigh, we can find these words on pages 187, 190-1.

...Old Believer nastavniki, nachetchiki, monks, nuns, and other active members of their communities were charged as wreckers, saboteurs, agitators, poisoners, and agents of foreign powers... Conspiratorial organizations such as the Brotherhood of Russian Truth (Bratstvo russkoi pravdy) or the League of Militant Christians were likely invented to facilitate collective trials during 1937-38.

The religious affiliation of arrested Old Believers was often represented as a motivation for their anti-Soviet activity. The NKVD often used holy books, crosses, religious paintings, and even outward expressions of piety as evidence of anti-Soviet activity. For example, a 1937 case against two brothers, both Old Believers, drew on the fact that they prayed before and after breakfast in the workers’ canteen...

Ten copies of a “holy letter” discovered by the NKVD in peasant houses in Cheliabinsk Region, read, “Do not come to the councils of the not get tempted by the satiated life (sytoi zhizn’iu) in the kolkhozes that is the work of the in your own individual household.”

...According to official reports, the radical Beguny denounced Soviet power and its representatives as the Antichrist, refusing to join the collective farms, since they were of Satan's doing.

The intensity of apocalyptic sentiment among Old Believers peasants during collectivization, however, should not be exaggerated on the basis of the NKVD reports and charges of anti-Soviet agitation. Eschatology, an integral element of Old Believer religious identity, had a variety of meanings that are not to be reduced to the language of dissent. The position of the Beguny, for example, had much to do with their religious teaching, which had caused them in the past to refuse to join the tsarist army, carry passports, or possess money...

Chasovennye and other priestless Old Believers in the Urals believed that the Antichrist, understood as a distorted spirit of true Christianity, had ruled the world since the seventeenth-century schism. Priestly Old Believers, on the other hand, believed that the Antichrist was yet to come. Anna Ivanova’s father (b.1919), a member of the Belokrinitskie current, for example, maintained that the Antichrist would come after a world war, when the Jews from all over the world would father together in one state, which, according to him, was a matter far into the future.

[I would note that the terms priestless and priestly are both misnomers as they are commonly applied to the two Old Believer groups. Those called priestless have Christ as their Heavenly High-Priest, and those who are thought of as being priestly adopted heretical New-Rite clergy and therefore their priests are invalid. A last comment about the Antichrist, as the Lord Himself taught that there would be many Antichrists, it is no contradiction to say that Peter the Great was the Antichrist and yet there is still another one to come, or that might very well be before us now.]

A letter sent in 1938 by a group of Pomorian Old Believers from the village of Sepych in Perm Oblast articulated the bitterness that all Old Believers felt at the time: “Article 125 says there is freedom of conscience but as it is we do not have any. The Old Believer religion is driven underground.”

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