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Old Believers

The Old Believers are a schismatic group of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1652, Patriarch Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church introduced a number of reforms aimed at centralizing his power and bringing Russian Orthodox ritual and doctrine in line with those of the Greek Orthodox Church. Old Believers rejected Nikon's reforms. They were heavily persecuted until the reign of Peter the Great, when they were instead treated as an extra source of tax revenue. They had no official toleration until 1905.

In 1971 the Russian Orthodox Church revoked the anathemas placed on the Old Believers in the 17th century, but most Old Believer communities have not returned to Communion with other Orthodox Christians.

Old Believer doctrine is identical to that of Eastern Orthodoxy. Differences for most Old Believer communities are in details of ritual practice, alone. However, centuries of persecution, and the nature of their foundation, has made them highly culturally conservative and mistrustful of anything they see as insufficiently Russian. Some Old Believers go so far as to consider any pre-Nikonian Orthodox Russian practice or artifact to be exclusively theirs, denying that the Russian Orthodox Church has any claims upon a history before Patriarch Nikon.

Approximately one million Old Believers remain today, some living in extremely isolated communities in places to which they fled centuries ago to avoid persecution.

External links

The Eastern Christian Churches