Old Believers or old Ritualists aim to preserve the oldest elements of Slavic Christianity such as they existed in Russia before the schism of the Russian Orthodox Church and its reformation of the mid-17th century. The encounter between Russian Old Believers and the Finno-Ugric peoples has been an extremely complex and multifaceted phenomenon. The Finno-Ugric peoples among the rivers in Northern Eurasia have been the most ready to accept the Old Believer identity of their Russian neighbours. The encounter has been in the nature of a peaceful symbiosis. The conservative Russian mentality has encountered a diversity of Finno-Ugric economic and social institutions, their many ethnic religions, folklore, world views and cultures. The Finno-Ugrians have been attracted primarily by the social, ritual and folkloric codes of the Russians. In the history of the Old Believers, Finland and Estonia are a special case when compared to the other Finno-Ugric regions.
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Juha Pentikainen is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tromso, Norway.
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