Info

all unrepentant Old Believers and severe penalties for anyone who sheltered them, and enforced it even in the most remote areas of the country.27

The government's intransigence elicited equally militant responses. Scattered groups of religious radicals had already demonstrated the ultimate form ofprotest against the powers ofthis world-suicide by fire. Followingtheirlead, in the 1680s and 1690s groups of militants seized isolated monasteries and villages - notoriously the Paleostrovskii monastery in 1687 and 1689 and Pudozh in 1693 - and, when government forces attacked them, burned themselves alive rather than surrender. These episodes of mass suicide, which combined social banditry and religious fanaticism, profoundly shocked the government, the church and more moderate Old Believers, one of whom, Evfrosin, in 1691 wrote a denunciation of the practice as a violation of the traditional Christian prohibition of suicide.28

The second response of the opponents of the reformed church was less spectacular but ultimately more successful. Many fled to remote corners of the realm or beyond the borders of the empire, founded unofficial communities, and began to adapt Orthodox liturgical observances to their new circumstances. Some fugitive groups soon fell victim to governmental persecution; others, such as the Vyg community, managed to survive and became the principal centres of the Old Belief in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

In the last years of the century, Patriarch Ioakim (1674-90) set the agendas for the official church. By background a member of the service nobility, he proved to be a strong-willed leader who, like Nikon, saw the patriarch as the personification of the church. At the same time, he understood the necessity of collaboration with the secular government. Within the ecclesiastical administration, he strove for a disciplined, clearly organised hierarchy free from the routine interference of the state. On the recommendations of the councils of 1666-67 and a local council of 1675, Ioakim abolished the Monastyrskii Prikaz in 1677 and replaced it with a system under which committees of clergymen conducted trials of churchmen and administered church lands.

Ioakim's understanding of the church required that the hierarchy, under the patriarch's leadership, control devotional life and ecclesiastical culture. In dealing with popular religion, Ioakim suppressed unofficial and unverifiable saints' cults, notably the veneration of Anna of Kashin. He also continued

28 R. O. Crummey, The Old Believers and the world of Antichrist: the Vyg community and the Russian state, 1694-1855 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970), 39-57; G. B. Michels, 'The violent Old Belief: an examination of religious dissent on the Karelian frontier', RH/HR 19 (1992), 203-29.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment