Raskolniks (that is, Schismatics), the general name used to denote the various sects which have dissented from the Russo-Greek Church. The first body that left the Established Church was the sect of the Strigolniks, which arose in the 14th century. Another more remarkable sect appeared in the latter part of the 15th century in the republic of Novgorod, teaching that Judaism was the only true religion, and that Christianity was a fiction because the Messiah was not vet born. The chief promoters of this sect were two priests called Dionysius and Alexius, the protopapas of the cathedral of Novgorod, together with one named Gabriel, and a layman of high rank. These secret Jews conformed outwardly to the Greek Church with so great strictness that they were reputed to be eminent saints, and one of them, Zosimus by name, was raised, in 1490, to the dignity of archbishop of Moscow, and thus became head of the Russian Church. By the open profession of adherence to the Established Church of the country, the members of this Jewish, or rather Judaizing, sect managed to conceal their principles from public notice; but they were at length dragged to light by Gennadius, bishop of Novgorod, who accused them of having called the images of the saints logs; of having placed these images in unclean places, and gnawed them with their teeth; of having spit upon the cross, blasphemed Christ and the Virgin, and denied a future life. The grand-duke ordered a synod to be convened at Moscow on Oct. 17,1490, to consider these charges; and although several of the members wished to examine the accused by torture, they were obliged to content themselves with anathematizing and imprisoning them. Those, however, who were sent back to Novgorod were more harshly treated. "Attired," says count Krasinski, "in fantastic dresses intendedl to represent demons, and having their heads covered with high caps of bark, bearing the inscription, 'This is Satan's militia,' they were placed backwards on horses, by order of the bishop, and paraded through the streets of the towIn, exposed to the insults of the populace. They had afterwards their caps burned upon their heads, and were confined in a prison — a barbarous treatment, undoubtedly, but still humane considering the age, and compared to that which the heretics received during that as well as the following century in Western Europe." The metropolitan Zosimus, finding that the sect to which he secretly belonlged was persecuted as heretical, resigned his dignity in 1494, and retired into a convent. About the beginning of the 16th century, a number of these Jmldaizing sectarians fled to Germany and Lithuania, and several others who remained in Russia were burned alive. The sect seems to have disappeared about this time; but there is still found, even at the present day, a sect of the Raskolniks which observes several of the Mosaic rites, and are called Subotniki, or Saturday-men, because they observe the Jewish instead of the Christian Sabbath.
Soon after the Reformation, though Protestant doctrines were for a long time unknown in Russia, a sect of heretical Raskolniks arose who began to teach that there were no sacraments, and that the belief in the diivinity of Christ, the ordinances of the councils, and the holiness of the saints was erroneous. A council of bishops convened to try the heretics condemned them to be imprisoned for life. Towards the middle of the 17th century various sects arose in consequence of the emendations introduced into the text of the Scriptures and the Liturgical books by the patriarch Nicon. This reform gave rise to the utmost commotion in the country, and a large body both of priests and laymen violently opposed what they called the Niconian heresy, alleging that the changes in question did not correct, but corrupt, the sacred books and the true doctrine. The opponents of the amended books were numerous and violent, particularly in the north of Russia, on the shores of the White Sea. By the Established Church they were now called Raskolniks. They propagated their opinions throughout Siberia and other distant provinces. A great number of them emigrated to Poland and even to Turkey, where they formed numerous settlements. Animated by the wildest fanaticism, many of them committed voluntary suicide, through means of what thev called a baptism of fire; and it is believed that instances of this superstition occur even now in Siberia and the northern parts of Russia.
The Raskolniks are divided into two great branches, the Popovschins and the Bezpaopovschins, the former having priests, and the latter none. These again are subdivided into a great number of sects, all of which. however, are included tinder the general name of Raskolniks. The Popovschins are split into several parties in consequence of a difference of opinion among them on various points, but particularly on outward ceremonies. They consider themselves as the true Church, and regard it as an imperative duty to retain the uncorrected text of the sacred books. Thev consider it to be very sinful to shave the beard, to eat hares, or to drive a carriage with one pole. The separation between the Raskolniks and the Established Church was rendered complete by Peter the Great, who insisted upon all his subjects adopting the civilized customs of the West, among which was included the shaving of the beard. Peter's memory is in consequence detested by the Raskolniks; and some of them maintain that he was the real Antichrist, having shown himself to be so by changing the times, transferring the beginning of the year from the 1st of September to the 1st of January, abolishing the reckoning of the time from the beginning of the world, and adopting the chronology of the Latin heretics who reckon from the birth of Christ.
The most numerous class of the Raskolniks are adherents of the old text, who call themselves Starovertzi (those of the old faith), and are officially called Steroobradtzi (those of the old rites). There are very numerous sects also included under the general denomination of Bezpopovschius, or those who have no priests. The most remarkable are the Skoptzi, or Eunuchs; the Khlestovschiki, or Flagellants; the Millotkrnes, and the Duchobortzi. But the purest of all the sects of Russian dissenters — are the Martinists, who arose in the beginning of the present century, and have signalized themselves by their benevolence and pure morality. SEE RUSSIAN SECTS; SEE RUSSO-GREEK CHURCH.