Raskol was the event of splitting of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 into an official church and the Old Believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

 movement in mid-17th century, triggered by the reforms of Patriarch Nikon
Patriarch Nikon
Nikon , born Nikita Minin , was the seventh patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church...

 in 1653, aiming to establish uniformity between the Greek and Russian church practices.

The Raskol: result of Church reforms

The members of an influential circle called the Zealots of Piety
Zealots of Piety
The Zealots of Piety was a circle of ecclesiastical and secular individuals beginning in the late 1630s in Russia, which gathered around Stefan Vonifatiyev, the confessor of tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. The impetus to the group's formation was the Times of Trouble...

 (Russian: Кружок ревнителей благочестия Kruzhok revnitelei blagochestiya) stood for purification of Russian Orthodox faith. They strove to reform Muscovite society, bringing it into closer accordance with Christian values and to improve church practices. As a consequence, they also were engaged in the removal of alternative versions and correction of divine service books. The most influential members of this circle were Archpriest
An archpriest is a priest with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches, although it may be used in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church instead of dean or vicar forane.In the 16th and 17th centuries, during...

s Avvakum
Avvakum Petrov was a Russian protopope of Kazan Cathedral on Red Square who led the opposition to Patriarch Nikon's reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church...

, Ivan Neronov, Stephan Vonifatiyev, Fyodor Rtishchev
Fyodor Rtishchev
Feodor Alekseyevich Rtishchev was a boyar and an intimate friend of Alexis I of Russia who was renowned for his piety and alms-deeds....

 and, when still Archbishop of Novgorod
Archbishop of Novgorod
The Archbishop of Novgorod is the head of the eparchy of Novgorod the Great and is one of the oldest offices in the Russian Orthodox Church. The archbishops have, in fact, been among the most important figures in medieval Russian history and culture and their successors continued to play...

, Nikon himself, the future Patriarch.

With the support from the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 Alexei Mikhailovich, Patriarch Nikon began the process of correction of the Russian divine service books in accordance with their modern Greek counterparts and changed some of the rituals (the two-finger sign of the cross
Sign of the cross
The Sign of the Cross , or crossing oneself, is a ritual hand motion made by members of many branches of Christianity, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of a trinitarian formula....

 was replaced by the one with three fingers, "hallelujah
Hallelujah, Halleluyah, and the Latin form Alleluia are transliterations of the Hebrew word meaning "Praise Yah". The last syllable is from the first two letters of the name of God, YHWH, written JHVH in Latin). Hallelujah is found primarily in the book of Psalms...

" was to be pronounced three times instead of two etc.). These innovations met with resistance from both the clergy and the people, who disputed the legitimacy and correctness of these reforms, referring to theological traditions and Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastic rules. Ignoring these protests, the reforms were approved by the church sobor
A sobor is a council of bishops together with other clerical and lay delegates representing the church as a whole in matters of importance...

s in 1654–1655. In 1653–1656, the Print Yard under Epifany Slavinetsky
Epifany Slavinetsky
Epifany Slavinetsky was an ecclesiastical expert of the Russian Orthodox Church who helped Patriarch Nikon to revise the ancient service-books, thus precipitating the Great Schism of the national church....

 began to produce corrected versions of newly translated divine service books.

A traditional, widespread view of these reforms is that they only affected the external ritualistic side of the Russian Orthodox faith and that these changes were deemed as a major event by the religious Russian people. However, these reforms, apart from their arbitrariness, established radically different relations between the church and the faithful. It soon became obvious that Nikon had used this reform for the purpose of centralization of the church and strengthening of his own authority. Nikon’s forcible introduction of the new divine service books and rituals caused a major estrangement between the Zealots of Piety and Nikon. Some of its members stood up for the old faith and opposed the reforms and patriarch’s actions.

Avvakum and Daniel petitioned to the tsar in favour of the two-finger sign of the cross and bow
Bowing (social)
Bowing is the act of lowering the torso and head as a social gesture in direction to another person or symbol. It is most prominent in Asian cultures but it is also typical of nobility and aristocracy in many countries and distinctively in Europe. Sometimes the gesture may be limited to lowering...

s during divine services and sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

s. Then, they tried to prove to the clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 that the correction of the books in accordance with the Greek standards profaned the pure faith because the Greek Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 had deviated from the "ancient piety" and had been printing its divine service books in Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 print houses and that they had been exposed to Roman Catholic influences. Ivan Neronov spoke against the strengthening of patriarch’s authority and demanded democratization
Democratization is the transition to a more democratic political regime. It may be the transition from an authoritarian regime to a full democracy, a transition from an authoritarian political system to a semi-democracy or transition from a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic...

 of ecclesiastic management. This conflict between Nikon and defenders of the old faith took a turn for the worse and soon Avvakum, Ivan Neronov and others would be persecuted and eventually be executed in 1682.

The case brought by the defenders of the old faith found many supporters among different strata of the Russian society, which would give birth to the Raskol movement. A part of the old faith low-ranking clergy protested against the increase of feudal oppression, coming from the church leaders. Some members of the high-ranking clergy joined the Raskol movement due to their discontent over Nikon’s aspirations and the arbitrariness of his church reforms.

Some of them, such as Bishop Paul of Kolomna
Paul of Kolomna
Paul of Kolomna was a 17th century Russian prelate and martyr in the view of the Old Believers.The son of a rural clergyman, he was born in the town of Kolychevo, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. He entered monastic orders at Makaryev Monastery, and became treasurer there...

, Archbishop Alexander of Vyatka (as well as a number of monasteries, such as the famous Solovetsky Monastery
Solovetsky Monastery
Solovetsky Monastery was the greatest citadel of Christianity in the Russian North before being turned into a special Soviet prison and labor camp , which served as a prototype for the GULag system. Situated on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, the monastery braved many changes of fortune...

), stood up for the old faith; bishop Paul was eventually executed for his loyalty to the old rites. Boyarynya Feodosiya Morozova, her sister Princess Urusova, and some other courtiers openly supported or secretly sympathized with the defenders of the old faith.

The unification of such heterogeneous forces against what had become "the official church" could probably be explained by the in some aspects contradictory ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 of the Raskol movement. A certain idealization and conservation of traditional values and old traditions, a critical attitude towards innovations, conservation of national originality and acceptance (by radical elements) of martyrdom in the name of the old faith as the only way towards salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

 were intertwined with criticism of feudalism and serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

. Different social strata were attracted to different sides of this ideology.

The most radical apologetes of the Raskol preached about approaching Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

 and coming of the Antichrist
The term or title antichrist, in Christian theology, refers to a leader who fulfills Biblical prophecies concerning an adversary of Christ, while resembling him in a deceptive manner...

, Tsar’s and patriarch’s worshiping of Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, which ideas would find a broad response among the Russian people, sympathizing with the ideology of these most radical apologetes. The Raskol movement thus became a vanguard of the conservative
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 and at the same time democratic opposition.

Uprisings and persecution

The Raskol movement gained in strength after the church sobor in 1666–1667, which had anathemized
Anathema originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; it later evolved to mean:...

 the defenders of the old faith as heretic
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

s and made decisions with regards to their punishment. Especially members of the low-ranking clergy, who had severed their relations with the church, became the leaders of the opposition. Propagation of the split with the church in the name of preservation of the Orthodox faith as it had existed until the reforms was the main postulate of their ideology. The most dramatic manifestations of the Raskol included the practice of the so-called ognenniye kreshcheniya (огненные крещения, or baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 by fire), or self-immolation
Self-immolation refers to setting oneself on fire, often as a form of protest or for the purposes of martyrdom or suicide. It has centuries-long traditions in some cultures, while in modern times it has become a type of radical political protest...

, practiced by the most radical elements in the Old Believers' movement, who thought that the end of the world was near.

The Old Believers would soon split into different denominations, the Popovtsy
The Popovtsy, or Popovschina , were one of the two principal movements of the Old Believers, which was formed by the end of the 17th century in Russia.-Historical backgrounds:As none of the bishops joined the Old Believers The Popovtsy, or Popovschina (Поповцы, Поповщина in Russian; this name...

 and the Bespopovtsy
Bespopovtsy is one of the two major strains of Old Believers, the one that rejects priests and a number of church rites, such as the Eucharist...

. Attracted to the preachings of the Raskol ideologists, many posad
A posad was a settlement, often surrounded by ramparts and a moat, adjoining a town or a kremlin, but outside of it, or adjoining a monastery in the 10th to 15th centuries. Usually it was inhabited by craftsmen and merchants, known as posadskiye lyudi .In the Russian Empire a posad was a small...

 people, mainly peasants, craftsmen and cossacks fled to the dense forests of Northern Russia and Volga region, southern borders of Russia, Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, and even abroad, where they would organize their own obshchina
Obshchina or Mir ) or Selskoye obshestvo were peasant communities, as opposed to individual farmsteads, or khutors, in Imperial Russia. The term derives from the word о́бщий, obshchiy ....

s. This was a mass exodus of common Russian people, who had refused to follow the new ecclesiastic rituals. In 1681, the government noted an increase among the "enemies of the church", especially in Siberia. With active support from the Russian Orthodox Church, it began to persecute the so-called raskolniki (раскольники), i.e. 'schism-makers'.

In 1670s–1680s, the exposure of certain social vices in the Russian society gained special importance in the Raskol ideology. Some of the Raskol apologetes, such as Avvakum and his brothers-in-exile at the Pustozyorsk
Pustozyorsk was the administrative center of Yugra and Pechora krais of Muscovy and Imperial Russia. It was situated in what is today Nenets Autonomous Okrug of Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia....

 prison, tended to justify some of the uprisings, interpreting them as God’s punishment of the ecclesiastic and tsarist authorities for their actions. Some of the supporters of the Old Believers took part in Stepan Razin’s rebellion in 1670–1671, although this uprising is not regarded as an Old Believers' rebellion and Stenka Razin himself had strongly antiecclesiastic views. The supporters of the old faith played an important role in the Moscow Uprising of 1682
Moscow Uprising of 1682
Moscow Uprising of 1682, also known as Streltsy Uprising of 1682 , was an uprising of the Moscow Streltsy regiments which resulted in supreme power being devolved on Sophia Alekseyevna...

. Many of the members of the old faith migrated west, seeking refuge in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

, which allowed them to practice their faith freely .

In the late 17th – early 18th century, the most radical elements of the Raskol movement went into recession after it had become obvious, that the reforms could not be reverted. The internal policy of Peter the Great
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

 eased the persecution of the Old Believers. The Tsar, however, did impose higher tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

es on them. During the reign of Cathеrine the Great, Old Believers who had fled abroad were even encouraged to return to their motherland. However, the position of Old Believers in Russia remained illegal until 1905.

The Raskol (schism) still exists, and with it a certain antagonism between the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Old Believers, although on an official level both sides have agreed on a peaceful coexistence. From an ecclesiastic and theological point of view the Raskol remains a highly controversial question and one of the most tragic episodes of Russian history.

See also

  • Patriarch Nikon
    Patriarch Nikon
    Nikon , born Nikita Minin , was the seventh patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church...

  • Old Believers
    Old Believers
    In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

  • Avvakum Petrov
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
    Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov
    Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky. The name Raskolnikov derives from the Russian raskolnik meaning "schismatic"...

In English

  • Cherniavsky, M., "The Reception of the Council of Florence in Moscow" and Shevchenko I., "Ideological Repercussions of the Council of Florence", Church History XXIV (1955), 147-157 and 291-323 (articles)
  • Crummey, Robert O. The Old Believers & The World Of Antichrist; The Vyg Community & The Russian State, Wisconsin U.P., 1970
  • Gill, T. The Council of Florence, Cambridge, 1959
  • Zenkovsky, Serge A. "The ideology of the Denisov brothers", Harvard Slavic Studies, 1957. III, 49-66
  • Zenkovsky, S.: "The Old Believer Avvakum", Indiana Slavic Studies, 1956, I, 1-51
  • Zenkovsky, Serge A.: Pan-Turkism and Islam in Russia, Harvard U.P., 1960 and 1967
  • Zenkovsky, S.: "The Russian Schism", Russian Review, 1957, XVI, 37-58

In Russian

  • Зеньковский С.А. Русское старообрядчество, том I и II, Москва 2006 / Zenkovskij S.A. “Russia’s Old Believers”, volumes I and II, Moscow 2006
  • Голубинский Е.Е. История русской церкви, Москва 1900 / Golubinskij E.E. “History of the Russian Church”, Moscow 1900
  • Голубинский Е.Е. К нашей полимике со старообрядцами, ЧОИДР, 1905 / “Contribution to our polemic with the Old believers”, ČOIDR, 1905
  • Каптерев Н.Ф. Патриарх Никон и его противники в деле исправления церковныx обрядов, Москва 1913 / Kapterv N.F. “Patriarch Nikon and his opponents in the correction of church rituals”, Moscow 1913
  • Каптерев Н.Ф. Характер отношений России к православному востоку в XVI и XVII вв., Москва 1914/Kapterev N.F. "Character of the relationships between Russia and the orthodox East in the XVI and XVII centuries", Moscow 1914
  • Карташов А.В. Очерки по иситории русской церкви, Париж 1959 / Kartašov A.V. “Outlines of the history of the Russian church”, Paris 1959
  • Ключевский И.П. Сочинения, I – VIII, Москва 1956-1959 / Ključevskij I.P. "Works", I – VIII, Moscow 1956-1959
  • Кутузов Б.П. Церковная «реформа» XVII века, Москва 2003 / Kutuzov B.P. “The church “reform” of the 17th century”, Moscow 2003
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