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#295042 - 07/13/08 08:16 PM Sekstanstvo (Sectarian) Bodies - The Eretiki (Heretics) (#4 of 5)  
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Sekstanstvo (Sectarians) were bodies which either lacked elements consistent with the espoused doctrinal precepts of the Old Believers or adopted theology and praxis that was so at odds with it that they could not reasonably be construed as having maintained valid ties to it or Orthodoxy.

Although often generically labeled as Bespopovtsy, the majority are really so distinct that they merit separate classification from the Bespopovtsy and would have been rejected by them. Collectively, I've used the term to encompass what were generally described as Eretiki (Heretics), and as Dukhovnye Khristiane (Spiritual Christians).

They span a continuum of belief and praxis from being theologically 'eccentric' to true extremism. The category also includes movements characterized, as much or more, by philosophical and/or social rather than theological constructs and others which represented a resurrection of heresies from earlier eras.

Considerations that contributed to and drove the rise of Sekstanstvo can probably be said to include:

  • Adaptation to circumstances
  • Despair
  • Extremism (under guise of religious fervor)
  • Fanaticism
  • Fear
  • Persecution
  • Personality conflicts
  • Philosophical beliefs
  • Pious practices
  • Populist sentiments
  • Practical considerations
  • Rebelliousness
  • Secularism
  • Self-aggrandizement
  • Superstition
  • Zealotry
The actual number of sects is generally estimated as hundreds. The true count depends in large measure on how one defines 'sect'. Speculation pervades any attempt to distinguish among the myriad beliefs and practices catalogued as existing among or practiced by various of these bodies.

It is possible that what have come down to us as defining characteristics of various sects were, in at least some instances, the perceived pious (or impious) praxis of individuals or small groups, rather than being truly representative of an organized ecclesiastical entity with distinctive theology and/or praxis. So, 'sect', as used here, should not be construed as necessarily defining a structured body. I've employed it to denote any distinct group derived from the constellation of Old Believers (and some that arose contemporaneous with but not from within the Old Believer movement), whether formally organized or informally united by belief or praxis.

Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 06:21 AM.

"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
#295043 - 07/13/08 08:28 PM Eretiki (Heretics) [Re: Irish Melkite]  
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Eretiki (Heretics) probably account for 25 percent of the priestless bodies that arose in Russia subsequent to birth of the Old Believer movement. Even with the myriad sects named hereafter (about 75, at a quick count), it's doubtful that I've captured the full panoply of groups or praxis that marked this category. It seems that every work on the subject references at least one group that isn't mentioned elsewhere.

Although some included priests among their adherents, the clerics did not generally serve in sacerdotal capacities and that explains even groups identified as having priestly members being categorized as priestless. Regardless of the attitude between Popovtsy and Bespopovtsy toward one another, they were united in disavowing most of these groups, considering them to be heretics.

The breakdown of these, the categorization of them as extremist, irrational/eccentric, judaizing, or radical is strictly my own. What I've chosen to call eccentric someone else might see as radical and, certainly, people might wonder about the artificiality of a distinction between radical and extremist - since we use the terms in modern parlance as essentially synonymous. I've tried to explain my reasoning.

I offer the caveat that the practices of some of the sects in the Extremist grouping (the subject of the post immediately following this one) are disturbing and anyone with strong sensibilities might want to consider whether to read it - although it is, frankly, no more graphic than the daily newspaper reports these days.

Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 06:21 AM.

"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
#295050 - 07/13/08 09:27 PM Extremist Sects [Re: Irish Melkite]  
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Extremist Sects include bodies whose primitive, unusual, or violent praxis and/or beliefs either did not reflect traditional Old Believer ideology or theology or carried it to excesses that surpassed generally accepted norms. Some such groups clearly used the Old Believer movement as a spring-board, from which to promote various bizarre cultic agendas. Most, but not all, of the Sekstanstvo bodies which centered on extremist behavior, are no longer extant, although rumors invariably abound that secret communities survive in isolation. Many of the most extreme sects were most prominent in the early years of the Old Believer movement. The self-destructive nature of the practices that they advocated virtually assured extinction or devolution into relative obscurity subsequent to ritualistic deaths pursued by their fanatic leaders and principal adherents.

To the best of my knowledge, there neither is, nor ever was, a list of precisely which practices and beliefs defined Sekstanstvo and 'extreme' is a particularly subjective term, allowing of much interpretation. In choosing which bodies to term Sekstanstvo and which of those ought to be classified as Extremist, I've sought to emulate what I think a reasonable contemporary observer among the Old Believers themselves might have concluded.

  • Bogomerzkie Pustynniki (Godless Hermits) were among the most fanatic of the sects. They kept prolonged fasts and went about girded in chains. As well as practicing extreme flagellation and sado-masochistic activity, they preached and practiced fasting to the point of death.
  • Bezbrachniki (Free-Lovers) absent any opportunity for sacramental marriage and perceiving that the Final Days were near-at-hand, decided that constraints on sexual activity were no longer necessary. They practiced what has been termed complex marriage in other communal settings. In such constructs, every member is theoretically 'married' to every member of the opposite sex and exclusive relationships are discouraged, if not forbidden outright.

    The Bezbrachniki perceived children as a visible sinful reminder of their carnality and sought to avoid conception by the practice of 'male continence', coitus interruptus, and encouraging 'initiatory' sexual activity of the 'January-December' type. The latter was considered likely to reduce instances of pregnancy and was intended to encourage role-modeling for youthful members by older faithful during the time spent with one another. This seeming paradox, choosing to sin but not wanting to be reminded of having enjoyed it, was also observed among other extremist sects.
  • Dietoubutsy (Child-Slayers) are alleged to have taken the lives of infants born from 'Christ's love' (a euphemism for promiscuous sexual activity) and identified by them as Christlings or 'baby Christs'. Purportedly, its adherents perceived a duty to spare these newborns exposure to the world's evils by facilitating their swift entrance to heaven. Stories described fantastic rituals that included the infants' death from a spear thrust into their left sides, drying the bodies, and use of the resultant powder in confecting the bread to be used in eucharistic celebrations. It is a virtual certainty that the existence of any such group was the equivalent of a modern-day urban legend and that no credence should be accorded to stories of it.
  • Duchelstchiki (Stranglers) practiced ritual strangulation as a means to hasten one's acceptance into the Elect for those who were elderly or seriously ill. Apparently, this was tied to the literal translation of a text from Matthew which they interpreted as requiring a violent death to be assured of entrance into Heaven. A red cord was the requisite or, at very least, the preferred instrument for performing the ritual. See also the Tiukalstchiki, who held similar beliefs.

  • Khlisty (Flagellants), also Khlistovshchina (People of the Whip), Khristy (Christs), and Khristovschina (Christ-Believers), were founded by a peasant, Danila Filippovich. The movement existed from the 17th century onward. The apparent play on names (Khlisty versus Khristy - Flagellants versus Christs) was arguably the difference between what they chose to call themselves versus how others styled them, or may have been intended to make their focus on corporal mortification less obvious.

    The latter names (Khristy and Khristovschina), though, do offer a clue to their belief, shared with a few other sects, that all were capable of becoming not "Christ-like", but actually "Christ". To this end, like several other bodies within the Eretiki, they identified some among themselves as Christ, generally also denominating a female member as "Mother" - a role that seems to have been more akin to a female deity than representative of the Theotokos. Other biblical roles were occasionally assigned as well, the specifics not necessarily consistent from one community or congregation to another.

    Although they believed that every adherent was able to become Christ, the sect did not consider itself as a bevy of Christs; rather, at all times, there was one among their number so perceived. Filippovich proclaimed himself to be God, under the title of Lord Sabaoth and identified Ivan Suslov as the sect's first 'Christ'. (Replacing each with another on the occasion of death does not seem to have conflicted these groups; subsequent Christs were deemed images rather than reincarnations.) Filippovich's Twelve Commandments incorporated some Staroviertsi tenets and also set the stage for some other precepts and praxis prevalent among Eretiki - e.g., rejection of marriage, abstention from alcohol, a closed societal attitude that forbade breaking bread with non-believers, and ecstatic behaviors.

    Most congregations were termed as a "ship" for reasons that are unclear, but may have been related to the imagery of the Ark as a means of salvation. (Interestingly, Khlisty were disproportionately represented in seaport cities, such as Saint Petersburg, and appear to have had significant numbers of naval personnel among their members.)

    Khlisty were notable in their early years for allowing (even encouraging) adherents to continue attendance at Orthodox temples, despite outright rejection of the need for presbyters and all of the usual devotional practices associated with Orthodoxy. It's possible that the attitude toward church attendance was really meant to allay official notice of their existence, since they rightly perceived that they would not be well-received by the authorities. Khlisty persisted, despite persecution and imprisonment, through several centuries. During that time, they spawned or inspired a variety of other extremist sects seized with the idea of "attaining grace through sinning" (a notion that was later fully conceptualized as doctrine by Shchetinin and his Novyi Vek, described later) or intrigued by the ecstatic quasi-worship practices that were rumored to culminate in orgies.
    • Ludi Bozhi (God's People) were 19th century Khlisty with the focus typical to the sect on achieving salvation through sinning, followed by extreme penance. Apparently, they differed from the classic profile of Khlisty only in being less attached to the idea that one was assured of becoming Christ. They did, however, subscribe to the idea that the Holy Spirit was physically embodied in some faithful and communicated directly with others.
    • Novokhlysty (New Flagellants) were a late 19th and early 20th century revival of the Khlisty. This sect was very possibly Rasputin's introduction to the bizarre mix of asceticism, deviancy, healing, and mysticism associated with his memory.
    • Postniki (Fasters) [1 of 2 by this name; see also an entry under Doukhobors] abstained from food for seven to ten day periods, in addition to observing a regimen of strict dietary restrictions imposed by Abbakum Kopylov, their founder, in whom they believed Christ resided as a Spirit. The food deprivation became a factor for the adherents in achieving an ecstatic state that they perceived as a reward granted them by Christ for their asceticism.
      • Staroiszrail (Old Israel) was the creation of Perfil Katasonov, a disciple of Kopylov and was born of a schism among the Postniki in the 1830s, after the death of Kopylov. Its adherents considered themselves to be the Chosen People, responsible for establishing God's Kingdom on earth. The number of faithful was substantial by comparison to many of the other sects but, like its parent, the Staroizrail were unable to maintain a unified existence after the death of their founder and were likely extinct by the end of the 19th century.
      • _______ Iszrail (Expiated Israel) derived from the break-up of Staroiszrail subsequent to the death of Katasonov. They strove to expiate for Christ's death through a combination of extreme fasts and other self-mortification that they considered would gain them entrance into Paradise.
      • Iszrail (Israel) was also a result of the fracturing of Staroiszrail; it sought a return to more traditional aspects of worship, including scripturally-based prayer. The movement was short-lived as a distinct body and was absorbed into the contemporaneous Novyi Iszrail.
      • Novyi Iszrail (New Israel) was another product of the schisms that afflicted Staroiszrail after the death of Katasonov. A peasant named Mokshin was its founder, but his importance to the movement apparently paled in comparison to that of his successor, Vasily Lubkov. In addition to re-establishing formalized worship in the form of prayer meetings, Lubkov introduced a new liturgical concept, probably best described as "biblical theatre" - a dramatized presentation of scriptural events that apparently served the dual function of teaching and worship. Like its predecessors, this sect was heavily invested in the personality of its leader as its Christ and likely did not survive Lubkov.
      • Novyi Sojuz Dukhovnye Iszrail (New Union of Spiritual Israel) was also a schism from Staroiszrail. I have no information as to its praxis or belief. As with the others of the ilk, it is likely that leadership disputes fueled its creation as a separate entity, rather than that there were significant doctrinal differences between it and the other schismatic sects.
      [*]Skoptzy (Eunuchs), also Skopchestvo and Castrati, derived from the Khlisty, but found the latter's concept of spiritual castration to be an inadequate commitment for attaining salvation. As the sect's name suggests, the Skoptzy castrated male adherents and amputated the breasts of female members to assure the sexual abstinence perceived as essential to salvation. (Some reports suggest that the sect also engaged in female genital mutilation, but those are not consistent and appear to be speculative, rather than based in fact.) The sect's founding is generally credited to a peasant, Kondraty Selivanov, who was variously believed by the faithful to be a reincarnation of either Christ or Peter III.

      The act of castration itself was a form of baptism to the believers; it was most typically referred to as "The Seal" - with the inference that its consummation sealed ones to the sect's beliefs. The Lesser Seal consisted of testicular amputation for males and amputation of the nipple and areola in the case of females; the Great Seal extended to include penile and breast amputation. The earliest instances were apparently accomplished by a cauterization technique, giving rise to it sometimes being styled "baptism of fire". This method is reported to have been short-lived and was replaced by tying-off the affected parts, which either effected atrophy or induced gangrene that would be followed-up by surgical excision. An alternative was the initial use of surgery.

      Skoptzy sometimes clustered together in remote villages and one traveler documented a somewhat stereotypical, but probably essentially accurate, description of his visit to one such enclave. He observed that its inhabitants were sallow-complected, listless, beardless men of high-pitched voice, and indeterminate age, of a sad disposition. He went on to analogize this as being consistent with the whole atmosphere of a place that lacked the laughter of running, playing, curious children who ordinarily greeted strangers entering any village. His closing remarks were that the hamlet was 'a dead, lifeless place.' However, Skoptzy ranks also included merchants and others of some means, a consideration that authorities several times noted as contributory to the movement's ability to survive as long as it did - from roughly the mid-18th to mid 19th century.

      Detailed accounts of Skoptzy services survive in recollections by F.P.Lubyanovsky , who observed them and met Selivanov late in the latter's life. Another excellent source is interviews given by Nikolai Ivanov, a low-ranking Army officer who was a sect member for several years, although he declined castration. Both Lubyanovsky and P.I.Melnikov, who documented the Ivanov memoirs, wrote dispassionate accounts that afford more factual information than is usually available on Extremist Sects.
      • Belye Golubi (White Doves), also Montanisty or Montany (Montans), shared the extreme beliefs and praxis of the Skoptzy from which they originated. The name referred to the Holy Spirit, with which the faithful believed they regularly communicated. They were vegetarians and abstained from the use of stimulants, including nicotine and alcohol, common items of self-denial among Old Believers, although strict observance in that respect varied in degree from group to group. Some writers categorize them with the Gnostic Sects, rather than the Eretiki, as they apparently also espoused some theosophical and mystical tenets. The alternative name ascribed to the sect, Montanisty, related to similarities between the beliefs and praxis of the Golubi and those of an early Christian heretical sect led by a priest, Montan.
      • Novo-Skoptzy (Neo-Castrati) appeared late in the 19th century, a quarter century after the original Skoptzy sect was generally considered to have become extinct (although it's likely that it had survived in remote regions, with those 'dead, lifeless' places periodically reinvigorated by those who heard of the sect and found that its ideas fueled their own fanaticism). The Novo-Skoptzy were initially committed to awaiting the reincarnation of Selivanov but soon found their own "savior" in a peasant named Kuzma Lizin, who was a member of several sects, including the Doukhobors and Molokans, before embracing the precept that castration was spiritually edifying.

        Although authorities sought to eliminate the Novo-Skoptzy, and considered the movement to be suppressed by the mid-1930's, pockets of adherents reportedly still exist, whether formally or informally organized, both in Russia and in neighboring East European nations, most notably Romania.
      • Milyutinskoi Sekte (Milyutin's Sect) is perhaps the best known among the Novo-Skoptzy sects due to the writings of P.I.Melnikov who reported the experiences of persons who had visited or were members of the sect. It was headquartered in Alatyr, where Milyutin was a prominent merchant. Notably, Melnikov described what was observed in a relatively objective account, avoiding the sensationalism common to other reporters, who often relied on third-hand accounts or rumor.
    • Tilebukhi or Tulebukhi ( ______ ) were a Khlyst sect among the Mordva ethnic group in the regions east of Samara, near modern-day Stavropol. They first appear under this name in the early 20th century, when they were led successively by two 'prophets', Grigori and Serafim. One researcher asserts that the sect's likely origins were in Samara Mormonism (described later). Reportedly, only remnant members of the body presently survive. I don't have any details on their particular doctrine or praxis.
    • Zaposhchevantsy (Flagellants) were either a spin-off from or subgroup within the Khlyst who apparently were focused specifically on attaining an ecstatic state as an outcome of the ascetic mortification in which they indulged. What little I have been able to learn of the group suggests more of a sado-masochistic obsession than there was any attempt to mix the experience with religious tenets or praxis.
  • Lesnye Startsi (Forest Elders) were followers of a monk, Capiton, who girded himself in a harness that held two huge stones and slept with his body pierced by and hanging from hooks (a practice termed "suspension" in the modern-day 'body modification' community).

    Startsi considered the end-times imminent but were fixated on the concept of the Anti-Christ versus that of promised redemption. Its adherents fasted for several days each week, severely restricted their intake on the remaining days, and eschewed meat altogether in most instances. Like other of the extremist sects, they rejected Liturgy and the Mysteries, deeming the presbyterate to have passed beyond salvation and thus unworthy to serve that role. Unlike many other such bodies, though, they made their disdain obvious, rather than presenting a public appearance of maintaining communion.

    Having formulated their doctrinal stance even before Nikon undertook his reforms, the institution of those merely served to confirm the mindset which they had adopted. The reforms became justification for them, proving that established Orthodoxy had made its pact with the Anti-Christ, and marking its hierarchs as his minions. The Tsar himself personified the Anti-Christ in their view. Although often cited as forming the initial core of the Bezpopovtsy, the Startsi were so exclusivistic - believing only themselves to be saved - that they were soon discernable as beyond the pale of the broader movement.
  • Misticheskikh Sekt (Mystical Sect), as the name suggests, were much enamored of supernatural phenomena, experiencing visions and indulging in praxis that included communicating with the dead in an effort to gain insight into the means by which their salvation might be assured. Trance-like states and hallucinations were apparently achieved as an outgrowth of such praxis as extreme fasts. Some sources suggest that they dabbled in various occult routines, including sorcery, something not unknown among the more primitive peasant communities, where it had a history of being employed for healing, predicting the future, casting spells, and warding off evil.
  • Novyi Vek (People of the New Age) came to being in the last third of the 19th century as the inspiration of Alexei Shchetinin, a Caucasian, who believed that the Holy Spirit would descend on him once he had been baptized by immersion in sin, acknowledged it, and risen above it. This process was repetitive in his view, recurring each time one fell again into sin and subsequently was saved by grace.

    The ideas espoused by Shchetinen achieved no small measure of notoriety since they invariably involved a plunge into debauchery for a day or more, succeeded by a graced period (termed "holy passionlessness"), during which the Novyi Vek would concern themselves with prayer, fasting, and good works. When one's capacity to morally sin recurred, he could anticipate what assuredly must have seemed to be a license to repeat debauchery, safe in the knowledge that it would be followed by re-baptism. Subsequent to his involvement with the Novokhlysty, it is possible that Rasputin associated with the Novyi Vek; his alleged visions, prophecies, and healings were consistent with their claims.
  • Ognenniye Kreshcheniya (Fire-Baptizers) believed that "burning christening", as Avvakum had spoken of it, would clean them from all earthly transgressions and assure their salvation. They saw the fire in which they enveloped themselves as both their first and last spiritual acts, causing them, at once, to be both enrolled among the elect and entered into the presence of their Savior.
    • Filipovtsy or Philipovtsy (Filip's or Philip's Confession), also Filippians/Philippians, and (in its inception, Burners) were an 18th century off-shoot of the Pomortsy. While not derived from the Ognenniye Kreshcheniya, they were certainly influenced by them. Disturbed by what they perceived as heretical compromise on the part of the Pomortsy with the basic spiritual tenets inherent in their break with Orthodoxy, they revived the by-then dormant practice of self-immolation.

      Reportedly, the faithful threw themselves on human pyres and assisted one another to their fiery self-martyrdom by burning whole households, accompanied by prayers and chanting. Over time, the body's harsh theological outlook mitigated significantly and came more in line with mainstream Bespopovtsy praxis and belief. For details as to the later history and current status of the body, see the entry for Filipovtsy under Bespopovtsy, above.
    • Samosozhigiateli (Self-Immolators), also Self-Cremators likely both described a particular body of Old Believers and had generic application. In the latter instance, it was commonly applied to those who set fire to their occupied temples, hastening (as they saw it) the ascent of their souls to heaven, rather than engaging battle against the troops of the Anti-Christ (the Tsar) come to punish them for their apostasy. (As previously alluded, in a rough parallel to Western practice during the Inquisition, it was the Church that deemed them apostate, but the civil authority that undertook to punish the apostasy.)

      Although there were instances in which Old Believers participated in revolutionary activity, those were the exception and pacifism was the norm. Would they carry that to the extreme of self-destruction to avoid battle? It's not out of the realm of possibility. I continue to believe, however, that the majority of these mass self-immolations were an opportunistic reaction to the circumstances in which the Old Believers found themselves, rather than fulfillment of a doctrinally-based praxis.

      However, as described in regard to several of the Extremist Sects, those committed to a millenarian view not infrequently employed self-destructive measures to assure their assimilation into the ranks of the elect at the appropriate moment. The cleansing effect of fire and the symbolism that can be deduced from rising smoke - wafting both prayer and souls to heaven - certainly explain the choice of self-immolation to achieve that.
  • Plastovscina (Salvation through Torture to Death) were another fatalist body with a focus on induced death as salvific. They interpreted Matthew 11:12 ('the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force') as assuring heaven only to those who endured pain prior to death. Like other sects of this genre, their praxis far exceeded mere self-mortification and is best described as blatantly sado-masochistic, resulting in both suicides and homicides, generally after extreme torture.
  • Tiukalstchiki (Butchers) were among the sects that saw themselves as conferring a blessing by hastening natural death for the elderly, those suffering from chronic disease, and the seriously ill, believing that one must suffer violence to gain entry to Heaven. Ritual knifes or swords were employed in the ceremonial murder. Compare to the Duchelstchiki.
  • Zadohnutsy (Smotherers) ritually smothered the sick, elderly, and dying to assure that the soul remained within the body to await its Resurrection. A red pillow was reportedly the preferred means to accomplish this religious obligation.


  • Other than those who maintain the Novo-Skoptzy praxis (and it's questionable that this is still claimed as a religious praxis rather than a sado-masochistic fetish), I'm fairly convinced that none of the other bodies are still extant.

  • Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 06:27 AM.

    "One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
    #295052 - 07/13/08 09:44 PM Irrational (or Eccentric) Sects [Re: Irish Melkite]  
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    Irrational (or Eccentric) Sects is a collective term I've ascribed to those bodies which embraced a range of beliefs, frequently mixing secular and religious symbolism, and 'different' enough to be classed as 'strange'. It's a generic label for those who: shunned the often deadly praxis seen among the Extremists; were less theologically bizarre in their tenets than the Radicals; but were too diverse to be broken out into a narrowly defined category, as was the case with the Judaizers.

    • Adamantovy (Adamants' Confession) refused to use money and passports, perceiving the royal seal thereon to be that of the Anti-Christ. See also Antipovo Soglasie and Beguni (Fugitives).
    • Antipovo Soglasie (Money-Rejectors) were one of several sects that declined to use coinage or currency bearing the Tsar's image or seal, since it perceived these as marks of the Anti-Christ, personified in the Tsar to their way of thinking. See also Adamantovy and Beguni (Fugitives).
    • Dyrniki (Hole-Worshipers), also Oknopoklonniki (_____________), eschewed the use of icons and prayed toward and through holes in the Eastern walls of their worship houses, watching and waiting for God's appearance. It was not uncommon for them to eventually become itinerant, trekking toward the East, hoping to be among those who would first encounter and greet Him.
    • Gorizontski (Horizonists) believed that God waited just beyond the Eastern horizon and watched and waited for Him to appear, while worshipping in that direction. Many, anticipating that they would encounter Him if they traveled beyond the horizon, became itinerant.
    • Hlystohotniky (Christ-Hunters) were itinerants, principally found in Siberia. They held that the appearance of the Savior was imminent and scoured the wilderness, seeking Him. They refused to submit to taxation as they considered justification for it to be foreclosed by the pending Second Coming.
    • Holy Thursday Communicants, also Holy Thursday Gapers, perceived Great and Holy Thursday to be the most perfect day on which to receive the Mystery of the Eucharist. They kept their mouths open or agape throughout services on that day, so that angels (whom they considered to be the only surviving sacramental ministers) could give them spiritual eucharistic sustenance, distributed from invisible chalices. This praxis was based on a belief that Christ would not wholly deprive the faithful of His Flesh and Blood, despite the void created by lack of a human clergy to serve them. See also Zevoksy.
    • Ikonobortsy (Icon-Fighters) [1 of 2 by this name], sometimes less accurately termed Iconoclasts, rejected the use of icons, considering them unnecessary to their spiritual life and, in the most extreme thinking, perceiving them as graven images. Overall, the rejection appears to have been manifested without the violence toward the icons or iconostases, such as occurred in the early heresy of Iconoclasm. While there were, undoubtedly, instances of such, they appear to have been the exception. Most commonly, the icons were simply abandoned. See also an entry by the same name under Spiritual Christians: Doukhobors.
    • Kitezhki (Kitezhians) emigrated to the shores of Svetloyar Lake, beneath whose waters was said to be the mythical city of Kitezh, which reputedly sank in the 13th century in response to its inhabitants' prayers that the city be preserved from an attacking Mongol army.

      Holding firm to the legends surrounding the city, Kitezhki listened at lakeside for the sounds of church bells and chant and watched for the lights of processional candles below the lake's surface, things said to only be experienced by those who were of pure heart and soul. Kitezhki expected that the city would rise at the Second Coming and become capital of a new earthly kingdom, inhabited by the righteous.
    • Molchalniki (Mutes) believed that evil was perpetuated by spoken words, particularly idle conversation and gossip. Consequently, they endeavored to avoid oral speech, relying on written messages and signed communication to the maximum extent possible. This attitude extended to prayer, which they did only silently. Compare Peredyshka, Shepotzi, and Vzdoki.
    • Peredyshka (Breathers) considered every breath to be a prayer, a praxis very possibly developed to complement the belief, ascribed to them, that they were unworthy, even at prayer, to speak God's Name. Compare Molchalniki, Shepotzi, and Vzdoki.
    • Pustinja Zhiteli (Desert-Dwellers) were isolationists whose faithful relocated to desolate places, believing that Christ, on return, would spend 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for the Final Days and that their presence among the elect would be enhanced, if not assured, were they there to meet and greet Him.
    • Self-Baptizers saw each of themselves as ministers of Baptism, the only Mystery which they retained (most groups vested designated particular individuals as the responsible ministers for the Mystery); ultimately, they deemed it essential that they each re-baptize themselves.
    • Shepotzi (Whisperers), like Molchalniki, perceived the spoken word as a vehicle for sin, but believed that, by whispering, they could minimize the occasions for sin to which they were exposed. This aversion to the spoken word extended even to oral prayer. Compare Molchalniki, Peredyshka, and Vzdoki.
    • Strigolniki (Cutters) [1 of 3 by this name] were so-called because they required the faithful to trim their hair in a certain manner and regulated the cut or styling of their clothing. The latter requirements extended into the secular sphere, versus the requirements that most communities imposed with regard to clothing appropriate to be worn during worship service. (As an aside, textile and clothing industries were disproportionately represented among adherents of the Old Beliefs generally.)

      They are not to be confused with a sect of the same name described under Judaizing Sects below nor with a third body referenced at Unrelated Contemporaneous Movements: Judaizing Sects (albeit the latter certainly inspired the name accorded to this body, if it was not also the template on which these Strigolniki modeled their own praxis).
    • Trezvenniki (Abstainers), also Temperance, were a late 19th century body of faithful for whom abstinence from alcohol and other stimulants, including caffeine, as well as tobacco in all forms (not uncommon among Old Believers generally), became the defining dogmatic precepts of their faith. The sect's faithful are not infrequently described as particularly industrious and noted for their piety, attributes that they themselves considered reflective of 'purity within, exuding itself'.
    • Vzdoki (Sighers) prayed repetitively and 'breathily' to the Holy Spirit, in a manner intended to convey resignation and submission to their earthly plight. They perceived the wind to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging their prayers. Compare Molchalniki, Peredyshka, and Shepotzi.
    • Wall People, discussed here recently by Father Serge, would congregate outside a temple and listen to the Divine Liturgy or other services through the doors and windows, but constrained from entering within. He indicated that there were, at one time, Wall People residing in the area of Berwick, PA. He was unaware of the presence of any remaining in Russia and didn't know to the theological reasoning behind the praxis of the sect. I've not been able to obtain any added information about the group.
    • Zevoksy (Gapers), also Open-Mouthed, during the course of a day, would stop and kneel in prayer, principally, but not necessarily, at crossroads. Looking heavenward with mouth agape, they would wait to be gifted with spiritual nourishment from God's own hand. See also Holy Thursday Communicants.
    I'm unaware of any of these bodies being extant.

    Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 07:09 AM.

    "One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
    #295054 - 07/13/08 09:56 PM Judaizing Sects [Re: Irish Melkite]  
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    Judaizing Sects describes the bodies that rejected trinitarianism and looked to the Old Testament for inspiration in formulating their dogma, doctrine, and praxis. Some, but not all, acknowledged the validity of the New Testament, albeit seeing the precepts of its predecessor canon as controlling in the matter of assuring salvation.

    While the labels attached to these sects suggest influence by Jews or an effort to turn their adherents toward Judaism, most adherents had little or no real-life exposure to the religious observances of the Jews, and, instead, relied on the Bible as a guidebook to craft a religious (and sometimes secular) lifestyle that was reminiscent of such. A similar phenomenon preceded the Old Believer movement by a century or so and it's likely that at least some of these sects represented instances of a reinvigoration/resurgence of the earlier groups with added aspects reflective of Old Believer culture and ecclesiology. See also Unrelated Contemporaneous Movements: Judaizing Sects, below.

    • Shekhitsi (Ritual Slaughterers), in addition to maintaining Judaic dietary restrictions, followed Jewish kosher practice with regard to the manner of slaughtering animals intended for human consumption. They are also sometimes described as offering animal sacrifice in their prayer houses, akin to the Old Testament requirements for such; however, it is less certain that this doesn't represent fanciful exaggeration.
    • Strigolniki (Cutters) [2 of 3 by this name], also Circumcisers, derived their name from the fact that, in addition to adopting Saturday for observance of the Sabbath and other Jewish praxis, they also required ritual circumcision of male adherents. They are not to be confused with a sect of the same name described under Irrational Sects above nor with a body, founded in the mid-14th century and extinct by the mid-15th century, referenced in Unrelated Contemporaneous Movements: Judaizing Sects, below. However, a derivative relationship with the latter body cannot be excluded.
    • Subbotniki (Sabbath People) [1 of 2 by this name], also Sabbatarians and People of Moses' Law, appeared in the middle of the 18th century in rural regions of Central Russia, when some Old Believers repudiated the New Testament. It has sometimes been described as Folk Judaism because the Jewish praxis adopted by them was overlaid on a base of folklore and ritual consistent with the origins of its peasant faithful. See also entry for Subbotniki at Molokans, below.

      The Subbotniki eventually separated into two factions.
      • Gery (Geres) became (for lack of a better term) "Jewish", at least to their way of thinking. They made contact with Russia's Jewish communities, seeking acknowledgement of their 'Jewishness', rather than assimilation. They have remained on the fringes of Judaism, accorded limited recognition by some Reform Jews in recent times, but outright rejected by most Jews as half-goyim. This was a natural result of the limitations inherent to their practice of their declared faith; principal among those roadblocks were the lack of rabbis and the inability to pray or read Hebrew, other than using memorized/transliterated texts.
      • Sabbathians (Saturday Worshippers) were non-Talmudic and accepted the New Testament as divinely inspired but accorded it no precedence over the Old Testament - in fact, rejecting the premise that it, in any way, superseded the latter. Christ was acknowledged as a prophet of great honor and a miracle-worker, but not as divine, although they gave credence to the resurrection as an historical event. They maintained the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law, ritually circumcised, observed the religious calendar, rejected icons and other images, and generally maintained an overall Jewish form to their religious life. They did not, however, consider themselves to be Jews and, in fact, rejected that characterization.

        Subsequently, Sabbathians divided into two bodies:
        • Karaim (Readers) are the stricter of the two, maintaining a relatively rigid adherence to Old Testament mandates. This particular body is comprised almost exclusively of a Turkic people from the Crimean region. They claim that their religious beliefs and praxis originate in an alternate Mosaic religion, rather than Judaism, and absolutely reject suggestions that they are Jewish.
        • Sabbathians (Sabbath-Keepers) were more selective in observance of Mosaic Law generally, although their beliefs remained consistent with those espoused historically by the parent sect whose name they have retained.


    Without question, Subbotniki are still extant in most, if not all, of their manifestations. There were some among them that emigrated to Israel; the decision to accept them as emigres created some controversy at the time.

    Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 06:30 AM.

    "One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
    #295056 - 07/13/08 10:19 PM Radical Sects [Re: Irish Melkite]  
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    Radical Sects, also Phanatne (Zealots), were principally, but not entirely, millenarian in outlook. In my way of thinking, their beliefs and/or praxis exceeded the bounds that would have allowed them to be classed among the Irrational Sects, but, generally, were not so bizarre as to merit being deemed Extremist Sects.

    • Apokalipticheskaya Sekta (Apocalyptic Sect) was apparently the only one to establish a date for the Apocalypse (as was common among later Western millenarian sects), although millenarian belief was rife among Eretiki (and not uncommon among Bespopovtsy generally). Initially, for obvious reasons, 1666 was selected; when that year passed without incident, the window was extended through 1668 and, thence, through 1669.

      The failure of Armageddon to come to pass by the end of the seventh decade of the century was perceived by many as a vindication of Old Belief by the Almighty, Whom they perceived to have spared mankind because of their steadfastness. The more pessimistic perceived it as a human miscalculation and announced that the end would come to pass in 1699. When that too proved wrong, the sect lost its impetus for survival and apparently drifted apart, its adherents absorbed into other bodies among the Eretiki.
    • Besodosa (Soulless) were rooted in despair as to the End Times that they felt were already upon them. They believed that the souls of the just and unjust had already been harvested, respectively, by Christ and the Anti-Christ. Those remaining on Earth were mere shells of beings, awaiting the actual Apocalypse when each would learn his eternal fate. Given this premise, they perceived no value in religious observance or praxis.
    • Chisleniki (Calculators), also Computers, Wednesday-Worshippers, and Wednesday People, held Wednesday to be the Sabbath, basing this conclusion on calculations made through their interpretation of the Creation narrative in Genesis.
    • Dvoeverie (Dual-Faith Believers) described those who incorporated pre-Christian pagan symbolism, praxis, and deities into an otherwise outwardly-Christian worship environment. The underlying pagan movement pre-dated that of the Old Believers, but was carried forward by many into their newly-defined spiritual life, as much of the appeal was to the same audience - poor, often uneducated, serfs to whom superstition was a routine aspect of daily life. Many devotional practices arising from this split affinity would not have been readily observed by those outside the immediate community. Others, however, were more transparent, such as the observance of dietary restrictions against consuming certain totemic animals that might otherwise have been typical menu fare for the average peasant.
    • Illuminati (Illumined), also Second Adventists, slept in coffins, in the expectation that the Second Advent might take place before morning of any day. The most fanatic among them are reported to have abandoned their fields, dressed in white shrouds, and taken up residence in coffins hollowed from felled trees - declining food or drink and ceaselessly praying as they starved to death awaiting their resurrection. This body was particularly prevalent along the Volga River in the decade from 1670 through 1680.
    • Imiaslavtsy (Name Glorifiers) [1 of 3 by this name], also Nameless, pre-dated the similarly-named Athonite heresy by about a century. Their doctrinal stance was only tangentially related to that which the monks would later espouse. They held the Name of Jesus to be ineffable, as a consequence of the Anti-Christ's ascendancy and the corresponding lack of a sacramental life.
    • Imiaslavtsy (Name Glorifiers) [2 of 3 by this name] reportedly were a small body of Bespopovotsy fascinated by the teachings and doctrine advanced by the Athonite monks who decreed that the Name of God Itself was not merely worthy of but demanding of worship. The movement was short-lived as was that of the Orthodox whose views it adopted.
    • Izbranaia (The Chosen) were millenarians who held that the elect would be limited to a given number, often cited as a thousand. All others could hope for nothing more than the reward of an earthly Paradise. My impression is that they perceived themselves to be able to identify the fortunate faithful and they were them.
    • Napoleoniki (Napoleonites), secure in a belief that the state represented the reign of the Anti-Christ, were ripe for the idea of welcoming as their Savior anyone who seemed destined to overcome its evils. Convinced that Napoleon's victory would be the salvation of the Russian peoples and bring an end to serfdom, they embraced him as the awaited Messiah and venerated images or busts of him during their prayer services. A belief was prevalent that Napoleon never actually died, but that he had escaped exile and taken shelter on the shores of Lake Baikal, a site associated in Russian legend with many mystical events. The expectation was that the Emperor would one day return from there to announce the Second Coming. The traitorous implications of such beliefs, especially with regard to a foreign prince who had warred against Russia, likely instigated a harsher state response than the mere ecclesiastical vagaries of other sects. Repression was presumably swift; I have found no indication that this body existed for any prolonged period.
    • Niemoliaki (Non-Praying), also Prayerless, deemed prayer to be unnecessary since, being omniscient, God was already cognizant of all of one's needs.
    • Netovtsy (Nay-Sayers), also Netovshchina (Negativists), held that, as there were no priests, there were also no Sacraments (even Baptism, the necessity for which was acknowledged by most other Old Believers) and there was no need for churches, since no liturgical worship could be (or needed to be) conducted. They considered even prayer to be futile and declared that salvation could only be achieved through hope and lamentation (although it's difficult to reconcile the idea of 'hope' with their despairing attitude). They substituted tears as the medium for communion.
    • Pliassuni (Dancers), also Vihry (Whirlers), concluded their services with a whirling dance during which they chanted and sang. Men and women danced separately at first, but gradually intermingled. In its inception, the rhythm was relatively sedate and decorous, but increased to a fevered pitch as time progressed and the participants became more frenzied. Some sources suggest that it culminated in indiscriminate sexual excess, others only that it continued until the worshippers fell, exhausted, from their gyrations. Whether the dance had particular spiritual significance, as was the case with the Radenie, is unclear.
    • Radenie (Ecstasists), also Spiritual Bathers, demanded silence and 'mindfulness without thinking' during their worship services, to allow the faithful to bathe in the Holy Spirit. They believed that, unless the 'Great Silence' prevailed, the Holy Spirit would not be able to enter their bodies and consciousness. During their services, the faithful would seek divine inspiration to enter into silent, frenzied dance, which was pursued to the point of exhaustion and collapse. Only when one was so moved was it considered that the Holy Spirit had entered into him or her. It is alleged that, on conclusion of the dance, orgiastic sexual activity often prevailed. Children born from these encounters were accorded special status, deemed to have been conceived with the blessing of the Holy Spirit. See also Pliassuni.
    • Razdevaty (Unclothed), also Naturists, were isolationists who saw the necessity for clothing as indicative of sinfulness and sought to become sufficiently pure to justifiably return to the natural state most pleasing to God in preparation for the Second Coming.
    • Riabinovtsy (Riabinov's Confession) believed that, due to the total infestation of the world by the Anti-Christ, it was only acceptable to pray in a room painted black and devoid of decoration except for a simple cross (without a Corpus).
    • Sambogi (Self-Gods) held, given the Church's failure and its complicity with the Anti-Christ, that religion as they had known it was a deception and all men were deities in their own right.
    • Spasovtsy (Savior's People) were a somewhat isolationist Siberian sect which assigned no salvific value to religious praxis and declined to engage in theological discussion or disputaton. Their faith in liturgical ritual was so jaded that they did not even re-baptize converts to their ranks (an almost universal practice among Old Believers), holding it unnecessary as salvation was dependent purely on Christ's benevolence.
    • Tikhonkoetsy (Tikhonkoetsians) were Old Believers (most likely Kamenshchiki) living in a village by the name in the Altai region, near the Siberian-China border. About 1850, despairing of the continuous persecution to which they were subject, they concluded that God wanted them to come to Him. They dug a deep communal grave, using timbers to shore its walls. Donning white garments, they prayed together, descended into the earth, and knocked away the chamber's supports, reportedly chanting as the earthen walls caved in around them.


    I don't think that there are extant remnants of any of these communities.

    Last edited by Irish Melkite; 03/16/12 06:32 AM.

    "One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."

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