Russian Sects

Russian Sects.

Religious sects abound in Russia, and under the most absolute monarchy in Europe we have the singular phenomenon of large bodies of dissenters defying the sovereign's power, and living in open secession from the National Church. All of these sects are included under the general name of Raskolniks (q.v.), i.e. Schismatics. The Raskolniks are divided into two great branches, the Popoftchins and the Bezpopoftchins, thie former having priests and the latter none. (For much of the following article we are indebted to the Rev. F.W. Flocken, missionary to Bulgaria.)

I. The POPOFTCHINS are divided into five principal sects.

1. The Diaconoftchins. This sect was started in 1706 at Veska, usnder the leadership of Alexander the Deacon, from whom it takes its name.

2. The Epefanoftchins (q.v.).

3. The Peremayanoftchins (q.v.).

4. The Starovertzi (men of the ancient faith) is the name assumed by the majority of those who refused to acquiesce in the reforms introduced ini the 17th century, especially the revision of the Scriptures and the liturgical books effected by the patriarch Nikon (A.D. 1654). The following are the points which, they strenuously maintain, justify their separation from the National Church:

a. The service should be according to the old books before their alteration by Nikon.

b. In the Creed the article on the Holy Ghost should read, "And in the Holy Ghost, the true and living Lord."

c. The Hallelujah should be sung only twice, not three times; after the second adding "Glory to (God."

d. The processions around the churches should go with the course of the sun, and not against it.

e. That the sign of the cross should be made by uniting the fourth and fifth fingers, and not the first three fingers, with the thumb.

f. To acknowledge, respect, and adore only the eight-ended cross.

g. The name of Jesus is to be written and pronounced Isus, and not Jesus.

There were other and still smaller points of dispute, and the tendency to fanaticism so universally found in Russian dissent did not fail to appear among them. They were persecuted under Peter I (A.D. 1689-1725), who laid double taxes on them; but his successors, especially Catharine II and Alexander I, have adopted a milder policy with the hope of winning them back to the Eastern Church. But little success has attended these attempts at reconciliation.

5. Tchernoltzi, or Wjetkaers, an insignificant body who, during the time of the persecution (A.D. 1730), took refuge on the islands of the Wjetka, a small river between Russia and Poland, whence their name. Here they formed a separate community and built two monasteries, from which, fifty years later, some of them migrated to Poland and built a church and convent at Tchernoboltz. Their chief distinguishing practices are a refusal to take oaths and to offer prayers for the emperor.

II. The BEZPOPOFTCHINS, as we have said, are dissenters who refuse to have priests, the sacraments being administered and services conducted by lay elders. They recognize no priestly hierarchy. and dislike the national bishops and priests so much that when any one of these enters their houses they hasten, as soon as he leaves, to wash the seats and walls. They believe that the Church is in a period of decline and apostasy, that the apostolic succession has been interrupted, and that legitimate priests are now impossible. They hold that the world has had four aeras: a spring, or morning, from Adam until the building of Solomon's Temple; a summer, or noon, lasting until the birth of Christ; an autumn, or evening, until the appearance of Antichrist, about 1650; and now the cold winter, the dark night, which will continue until the Lord shall descend upon earth to save men. The Bezpopoftchins are divided up into very many sects, some of them holding opinions exceedingly absurd. The three principal of these sects are the following:

1. The Pomoryans. — The founder of this sect was a runaway deacon of the name of Danilo Wiculin. In the year 1695 he founded a monastery on the borders of the Viga, of which for forty years he was the prior, and (died in 1735. In the erection of the monastery and in its leadership he was assisted by Andrei Mishtezky, who was of princely origin, and occupied his post until his end, ill 1736. Soon after this a monastery for females was organized, of which Salomonia, the sister of Mishtezky, became prioress. The monasteries soon amassed wealth, and were thereby enabled to procure a large library of old Slavic manuscripts, and composed books for the education of singers, writers, painters, and the future leaders of the sect. At the end of the past century these monasteries contained 2000 male and 1000 female inmates. Andrei and Simion Denisow have written several works for the sect, and in general defense of the Raskolniks, of which the Pomoryan Answers to the Questions of Nevfit is the principal.

The teachings of the Pomoryans, also called Danilowtchina, consist in the following:

a. From the time of Nikon, the Antichrist has been reigning, though unseen, in the orthodox Church, and has abolished the true sacraments and priesthood.

b. Those from the orthodox Church who wish to join the Pomoryans must receive rebaptism, which, like other sacraments, can, in consequence of the fall of the true priesthood, be administered by laymen, and even by females

c. As there is no true priesthood, there is no one to solemnize marriages, therefore all are obliged to live in the unmarried state, and those married in the Church must separate.

d. Monks from the orthodox Church can be acknowledged as such after having been rebaptized, and they may install others in that state and be permitted to serve as priests, even if they have not been such before.

e. For those in authority no prayers are to be offered. During the reign of Anna Ivanova one of the Pomoryans reported this to the authorities; then, to avoid difficulties with the government, they introduced a prayer for the czar, which they have used ever since. f. The crosses not to have the inscription "J.N.R.I., "because this is a Latin heresy, but to have the initial letters of these words: Zar Slavy Isus Christos Sin Boshii, "Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ, Son of God," as it had been to the time of Nikon. g. The food bought in the market is not to be considered unclean. h. To be ready for suicide by fire for the true faith.

2. The Fedosejoftchins. — This is the second of the principal sects of the Bezpopoftchins, which spread with the same rapidity in another part of the country. The principal promoter of it was a deacon by the name of Fedosei, a contemporary of Danilo Wiculin. Having removed with his family to Poland, he gathered around him in a short time a number of Raskolnik fugitives from Russia, and founded two abodes, one for males and the other for females, among whom he acted as priest. He agreed in all points with the Pomoryans, except two, viz.:

a. The inscription of "I.N.R.I." is to be retained upon the cross.

b. The food bought in the markets must be purified by prayer and adoration. These two points gave rise to the sect. The efforts of the Pomoryans to form a union with the Fedosejoftchins proved unsuccessful, and an open enmity between the two began, which increased just as soon as the Pomoryans commenced to pray for the czar. In the year 1771 they succeeded, at Moscow, in founding a cenobitical establishment, known as the Preobrashensky Cemetery, which became the principal center of the sect. The originator, and for thirty-eight years the head of this institution, was Elijah Alexejew Kowilin. a dealer in bricks and wines. During the pestilence at Moscow in 1771, when all the poor workmen who had been there commenced to leave the town to return to their native places, and in that way carried the sickness to all parts of the country, Kowilin, with another merchant, Zenkoff, applied for permission to establish, at their expense, a quarantine on one of the principal roads leading from the city, and with it to connect a cemetery for the burial of those that died. Having received the permission, they established a barrier and building for the purpose proposed. He, with others, fed the hungry, nursed the sick, and comforted the dying. The news of the comfort provided by Kowilin spread very rapidly, and, besides the hungry and sick, the people en masse took refuge with him. He, on the other hand, did all he could to instil into the minds of the refugees that this woe from hunger and pestilence was sent upon Moscow by God as a just punishment for the Wilonian heresy, and exhorted them to repent and turn to God. The people, seeing that those dying as orthodox were just thrown into a cart and hurled off, while those under Kowilin's care were provided with all the necessaries of life, the sacraments in the last hours, and when dead were given a Christian funeral, chose, between the two, the latter, and submitted en masse to rebaptism and the conditions of Kowilin. At the same time, they turned over to Kowilin all their movable and real property. When the pestilence ceased, he retained many of his adherents and formed a kind of monastery, which, at the commencement of the present century, contained 1500 persons of both sexes. The sect numbered nearly 10,000 members at Moscow. To perpetuate the institution, he petitioned for assistants under the name of trustees, who were selected from among the members, and were of the richest merchants. The news of the wealth and good order of this establishment and the concern of Kowilin for the good of the Fedosejoftchins raised him in the eyes of the sect in other parts of the land, which by degrees placed all their communities under his protection and made them dependent upon the Preobrashensky Cemetery institution, from which they all began to get their leaders and singers, and bought all their books and ikonas, and to which they continued to send their annual contributions.

3. The Philippoftchins. — Besides the general doctrines of the Bezpopoftchins, the Philippoftchins hold: a. That only the eight-ended cross without inscription is to be venerated. b. Only the ikonas according to the old style, and painted by themselves, are to be worshipped. c. No prayers are to be offered for the czar. d. Man and wife are to be separated after having been rebaptized. e. Suicide by fire or hunger is martyrdom for the true faith. This last point explains why the Philippoftchins are sometimes also called Samososhigately (Self-burners) and Morelshtchiky (Starvationists). Even Philip and a number of his followers burned themselves by setting fire to their monastery and remaining in it. SEE PHILIPPINS.

4. Among the minor sects are:

(1.) The Pastushkoe, or A damantowa. — The originator of this sect was a herdsman of Denisow, Adam by name. Pastush, in Russian, means herdsman; and this his calling, combined with his name, forms the name of the sect. He censured the Philippins because of their passion for suicide, the Pomoryans on account of their aversion to eat and drink with others; and taught that it was sinful to walk on paved streets, to handle money, and possess passports, because the first is an invention of the Antichrist, and the last two bear the seal and imprint of the same.

(2.) The Spasova, or Kusmintchin. — Its founder was Kusma, an illiterate peasant, and his doctrine was called Netovtchina (a word derived from the Russian word net, which means "there is not"), and is used in this form to show that he held that since the time of the correction of the books, and with them the prayers and faith in the orthodox Church, the Antichrist is reigning, and, consequently, "there is no" grace, no sanctity, no sacraments. He taught that there is nothing holy remaining in the world, and that salvation is to be obtained only through the "Spassa," which is the Slavic word for the Russian Spassitel, meaning "Savior." His followers do not rebaptize those that join them, nor do they always baptize their own children, believing that the "Spassa" can save them without it. The marriage tie, where or whenever performed, is with them considered indissoluble; but, with the approach of age, they are forbidden to make use of its rites. They worship only their own ikonas and crosses, which they always carry with them, and which, therefore, are small and made to fold together. This sect is principally to be found in the districts of Nishgorod.

(3.) The Detoubeitchins (Inf anticides). — This sect consider it a great misfortune for children to come under the influence of Antichrist (the established Church), and believe it to be the best offering they can make to God to deliver them from this calamity — by death, if necessary. They do not hesitate, therefore, to commit the crime of infanticide.

(4.) The Beguny (Deserters), or Stranniky (Wanderers). — This sect originated about 1790, in the village of Sopel, district of Jaroslav, from which it is sometimes called Sopelniks. Its founder was Deserter Efimy, who, after having been rebaptized, settled in said village and taught that the Antichrist had ascended his throne long ago: first, one thousand years after Christ he invisibly reigned in the Greek empire under the Greek name of Appolyen,* as intimated by John in the Revelation; then, after the lapse of 666 years, which letters compose his name, he appeared in Russia, not yet as czar, but as a false prophet, as stated in the Revelation by John. And this first beast and false prophet was the patriarch Nikon, for he was the first to blaspheme against God by changing the name of Isus into Jesus,† and, like a beast, persecuted the worshippers of the true Isus; and that he really was the beast spoken of in the Apocalypse is seen from his real or lay name, Nikita, in Greek Νηκήτιος,‡ which gives the number 666. After his fall, there appeared the third Antichrist, or the second beast with the two horns, which signify the two imperial names, czar and imperator, the last of which, in Greek, is Ι᾿περάτορ,§ and also gives the number 666. In this trinity the members of the orthodox Church are baptized and marked with the sign of the cross by three fingers instead of by the two first, as it was of old. To escape eternal punishment, it is necessary, first to wash off this sign and mark by rebaptism, and then flee from every city and village which forms part of this Babel of Antichrist.

(5.) The Isbraniki, or "Company of the Elect." — The cause of the separation of this sect from the Russian Church was not any difference of doctrine or ritual, but a desire to protest against the laxity and inclination to change displayed by the clergy, and to adopt a greater piety and purity of life. They were termed by the orthodox party Roscholshiki (Seditionists). Pinkerton (On Russian Sects) identifies them with the Starovertzi.

(6.) The Bezslovestni (the dumb), the name given to a not very numerous sect of the 18th century, whose members, after conversion, became perpetually speechless. Very little is known of their tenets.

(7.) The Ismiye Christiane. SEE MALAKANS.

(8.) The Karabliki. See No. (18) below.

(9.) The Khlistie, or Flagellants.

(10.) The Malakans (q.v.). (11.) The Martinists (q.v.). (12.) The Moreshiki. (13.) The Netovtshins (q.v.).

(14.) The Niconians (q.v.).

(15.) The Njetowschitchini. SEE NETOVTSHINS.

(16.) The Roscholshiki (q.v.).

(17.) The Sabatniki (q.v.).

(18.) The Skoptzi (eunuchs), a name given to this sect because of their practice of self-mutilation, which they supposed to be warranted by Scripture (Mt 19:12). The general characteristics of this sect, even among those who do not adopt this extreme course of action, is one of self-mortification and asceticism. They perform self-imposed penances, such as flagellation, wearing haircloth shirts, and iron chains and crosses. They profess great respect for Peter III, of whom they keep pictures in their houses, in which he is represented with a scarlet handkerchief tied round his right knee (which is supposed to be one of their Masonic signs). They expect him to revisit the earth as the true Messiah, and, having rung the great bell of the Church of the Ascension in Moscow, to summon the elect, and reign over all the true Skoptzi. They are noted for their anxiety to procure converts, and he who gains twelve is dignified with the title of apostle. Their chief peculiarities of practice and doctrine are the rejection of the resurrection of the body, a refusal to observe Sunday, and the substitution of certain rites invented by themselves in lieu of the sacrament of the eucharist. They are a numerous sect in some governments, as that of Orel, comprising whole villages, and they have many adherents among the jewellers and goldsmiths of St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other large towns.

(19.) The Strigolniks. This sect arose in Novgorod at the close of the 14th or early in the 15th century. A Jew named Horie, joined by two Christian priests, Denis and Alexie, and afterwards by an excommunicated deacon named Karp Strigolnik, preached a mixture of Judaism and Christianity, and gained so many followers that a national council was called to suppress him. They regard the payment of money by the clergy to the bishops on ordination as simoniacal, and confession to a priest as unscriptural. Strigolnik himself was thrown into the river and drowned during a riot in Novgorod, but the opposition of his followers to the Russian Church continued for many years after his death.

(20.) The Wjetkaers.

(21.) The Yedinovertzi (Coreligionists). This name was given to some members of the Starovertzi in the reign of Alexander (1801-25), when strong hopes were entertained of regaining them to the orthodox communion. They assume for themselves the name of Blagoslovenni, or "The Blessed." For literature, see Dimitri, Hist. of Russian Sects; Farlati, Illyricum Sacrum; Gregoire, Hist. des Sectes Religieuses (Paris, 1814), vol. 4; Haxthausen, Studien uber Russland (Han. 1847); Krazinski, Lectures on Slavonia (Lond. 1869); Mouravieff, Hist. of the Church of Russia (ibid. 1842); Platon, Present State of the Greek Church in Russia (Pinkerton's transl. Edinb. 1814; N.Y. 1815); Strahl, Gesch. der Grundung, etc., der christlichen Lehre in Russland, etc. (Halle, 1830). SEE RUSSIA.

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