proceed successfully. As Michels has shown, the Printing Office quickly sold each printing of the new service books and, by 1700, the new liturgical texts had spread to even the most remote parts of the realm.26

Matters were not so simple, however. Even in disgrace and prison, Nikon retained the allegiance of many of the faithful who revered him as the true patriarch and turned to him for spiritual counsel. He remained intransigent in his belief that the state - the agent of the Antichrist - had trampled on the rights of the church. Nevertheless, in 1681, Aleksei's son, Fedor, gave him permission to return to his beloved New Jerusalem, although he died before reaching it.

The origins of the Old Believers

On the other side, the determined defenders of traditional Russian practices -the Old Believers - understood full well that, after 1667, there could be no compromise with the official church or the state. Avvakum and his fellow prisoners smuggled virulent attacks on the new order to small groups of supporters in Moscow and elsewhere. Their execution at the stake in 1681 only added the authority of martyrdom to their teachings. Ironically, they agreed with Nikon, their old enemy, that the reign of the Antichrist, precursor of the Last Days, had begun.

Ultimately the decisions of 1666-67 had brought not peace but the sword. Outbursts of violent resistance to the state and the church became a regular feature of the Russian landscape in the last decades of the seventeenth century. Local grievances fuelled each uprising: opposition to the reformed church also played a prominent part in the rebels' demands. In the most dramatic instance, the Solovetskii monastery, long a law unto itself, rebelled against the imposition of the new liturgy and held out against besieging government troops from 1668 until 1676. Even though its surviving defenders were massacred, its example strengthened the determination of other opponents of the new order in state and church.

The bloody uprising in Moscow in 1682, in which Old Believers led by Nikita Dobrynin joined forces with the mutinous garrison, made the explosive mixture of political and religious opposition unmistakably clear. When Sophia emerged from the crisis as regent for her two brothers, her government issued the decree of December 1684, which mandated death at the stake for

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment