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.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Skeptics Say Stranniki Are Authentic

Russians held stranniki, Holy Fools and startsy in awe. Thought they often had the appearance of dirty, deranged outcasts, their clothing threadbare, their hair filthy and uncombed, their manner wild-eyed and intimidating, still they were believed to possess a rare holiness, to be, by their very nature, channels for the divine. Many cures were ascribed to them, and they were believed capable of foreseeing the future. The credulous gathered around stranniki and Holy Fools with unreasoning fervor, but even the skeptical, among them educated, sophisticated people who questioned the existence of God, conceded that these shabby, half-incoherent holy beggars possessed authentic and inexplicable powers.

So when Alix and Nicky welcomed holy Matrena, a wandering fortuneteller, and Vasya Tkachenko, another stranik, and Antony the Wanderer to the palace they were following an established Russian custom, which called for well-off people to provide charity to “God’s slaves,” as the wanderers were sometimes called. And when they took the Holy Fool Mitya Kozelsky, a mute simpleton with deformed legs who “talked” by means of hand gestures, they were seeking a blessing, a glimpse of God, a message of comfort.

Alexandra: The Last Tsarina, pages 122,3.