Old Believers in a Changing World

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This important collection of essays by a pioneer in the field focuses on the history and culture of a conservative religious tradition whose adherents have fought to preserve their beliefs and practices from the 17th century through today. Old Belief had its origins in a protest against liturgical reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-1600s and quickly grew into a complex torrent of opposition to the Russian state, the official church, and the social hierarchy. For Old Believers, periods of full religious freedom have been very brief—from 1905 to 1917 and since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Crummey examines the ways in which Old Believers defend their core beliefs and practices and adjust their polemical strategies and way of life in response to the changing world. Opening chapters survey the historiography of Old Belief, examine the methodological problems in studying the movement as a Russian example of “popular religion,” and outline the first decades of the history. Particular themes of Old Believer history are the focus of the rest of the book, beginning with two sets of case studies of spirituality, culture, and intellectual life. Subsequent chapters analyze the diverse structures of Old Believer communities and their fate in times of persecution. A final essay examines publications of contemporary scholars in Novosibirsk whose work provides glimpses of the life of traditional believers in the Soviet period.

Old Believers in a Changing World will appeal to scholars and students of Russian history, to those interested in Eastern Orthodoxy, and to those with an interest in the comparative history of religious movements.

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About the Author:

Robert O. Crummey is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Davis. His publications include The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: The Vyg Community and the Russian State, 16941855; Aristocrats and Servitors: The Boyar Elite in Russia, 16131689; and The Formation of Muscovy, 13041613.

Review:

A superb historian and teacher, Professor Crummey has put together a volume of essays which is erudite, perceptive, balanced, and eloquent. Firm and persuasive concerning his own views, he is simultaneously gracious and open toward those of others. These essays together will become maybe the best starting point of our study of Russia’s Old Believers in the 17th and 18th centuries and a wonderful tool for teachers of undergraduate and graduate courses.” David Goldfrank, Professor of History at Georgetown University

"Robert Crummey's has provided an elegant and thoughtful account of the main issues in the story of Old Belief as well as a fine introduction to a major aspect of the social and religious history of Russia." Journal of Social History

"I can think of no better entry into the world of the Russian Old Believers and the study of them than this collection. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Russian religious culture, but will also be of interest to those who work on seventeenth and eighteenth century Christianity or any form of religious dissent." Church History

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