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Old Believers or Old Ritualists (starovéry or staroobryádtsy) :

are Eastern Orthodox  Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666. Resisting the accommodation of Russian piety to the contemporary forms of Greek Orthodox worship, these Orthodox Believers were anathematized, together with their ritual, in a Synod of 1666–1667 (I find this quite amazing), producing a division in Eastern Europe between the Old Believers and those who followed the state church in its condemnation of the Old Rite.

Russian speakers refer to the schism itself as raskol (Russian: раскол), etymologically indicating a "cleaving-apart".

Old Believer denominations :

1)  The Popovtsy ("with priests")

2)  The Bezpopovtsy ("priestless").

Although all Old Believers groups emerged as a result of opposition to the Nikonian reform, they do not constitute a single monolithic body. Despite the emphasis on invariable adherence to the pre-Nikonian traditions, the Old Believers feature a great diversity of groups that profess different interpretations of the church tradition and often are not in communion with each other (some groups even practice re-baptism before admitting a member of another group into their midst).

Since none of the bishops joined the Old Believers (except Bishop Pavel of Kolomna, who was put to death for this)apostolically ordained priests of the old rite would have soon become extinct.

Two responses appeared to this dilemma:

1)  The Popovtsy (поповцы, "with priests")

2)  The Bezpopovtsy ("priestless").


Popovtsy :


Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church paschal procession in GuslitsaMoscow region, 2008

The Popovtsy represented the more moderate conservative opposition, those who strove to continue religious and church life as it had existed before the reforms of Nikon. They recognized ordained priests from the new-style Russian Orthodox church who joined the Old Believers and who had denounced the Nikonian reforms. In 1846, they convinced Ambrose of Belaya Krinitsa (1791–1863), a Greek Orthodox bishop whom Turkish pressure had removed from his see at Sarajevo, to become an Old Believer and to consecrate three Russian Old Believer priests as bishops. In 1859, the number of Old Believer bishops in Russia reached ten and they established their own episcopate, the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy.

Not all popovtsy Old Believers recognized this hierarchy. Dissenters known as beglopopovtsy obtained their own hierarchy in the 1920s. The priestist Old Believers thus manifest as two churches which share the same beliefs, but which treat each other's hierarchy as illegitimate. Popovtsy have priests, bishops and all sacraments, including the Eucharist.

  • 5) Russian Orthodox Catholic - Some say there have also been Old Believer members of the Russian Catholic Church united with Rome, who would also be classed as popovtsy.




The Bezpopovtsy rejected "the World" where they believed the Antichrist reigned; they preached the imminent end of the world, asceticism, adherence to the old rituals and the old faith. More radical movements which already existed prior to the reforms of Nikon and where eschatological and anti-clerical sentiments were predominant, would join the bezpopovtsy Old Believers. The Bezpopovtsy claimed that any priest or ordinary who has ever used the Nikonian Rites have forfeited apostolic succession. Therefore, the true church of Christ had ceased to exist on Earth, and they therefore renounced priests and all sacraments except baptism.

The Bezpopovtsy movement has many sub-groups. Bezpopovtsy have no priests and no Eucharist. Priestless churches, however, may elect a mentor (Russian: наставник) or church leader (Russian: настоятель) to lead the community and its services.[28]

1) Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church or Danilovtsy (not to be confused with Pomors) originated in North Russia (East KareliaArkhangelsk Oblast). Initially they rejected marriage and prayer for the Tsar.

2) Novopomortsy, or "New Pomortsy": accept marriage

3) Staropomortsy, or "Old Pomortsy": reject marriage

4) Fedoseevtsy: "Society of Christian Old Believers of the Old Pomortsy Unmarried Confession" (1690s until present); deny marriage and practice cloister-style asceticism.

5) Filippians: Named after their founder, Filipp. They were repressed by the Russian Government and so, the Fillipovtsy started practicing self-immolationas a means for the "preservation of the faith".

6) Chasovennye (from chasovnya i.e. chapel), a Siberian branch. The Chasovennye initially had priests, but later decided to change to a priest-less practice. Also known as Semeyskie (in the lands east of Lake Baikal).

7) Lipovans (Russian Old Believers) during a ceremony in front of their church in the Romanian village of Slava Cercheză in 2004


Bezpopovtsy: minor groups 

Apart from these major groups, many smaller groups have emerged and became extinct at various times since the end of the 17th century:

1) Aristovtsy (beginning of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th centuries; extinct): from the name of the merchant Aristov;

2) Titlovtsy (extinct in the twentieth cent.): emerged from Fedoseevtsy, supported the use of the inscription "INRI" (titlo) upon the Orthodox cross, which other groups rejected;

3) Troparion confession (troparschiki): a group that commemorated the tsar in the hymns (troparia);

4) Daniel's confession of the "partially married" (danilovtsy polubrachnye);

5) Adamant confession (adamantovy): refused to use money and passports (as containing the seal of Antichrist);

6) Aaron's confession (aaronovtsy): second half of the 18th century, a spin-off of the Fillipovtsy.

7) "Grandmother's confession" or the Self-baptized: practiced self-baptism or the baptism by midwives (babushki), since a valid priesthood—in their opinion—had ceased to exist;

8) "Hole-worshippers" (dyrniki): relinquished the use of icons and prayed to the East through a hole in the wall;

9) Melchisedecs (in Moscow and in Bashkortostan): practised a peculiar lay "quasi-Eucharistic" rite;

10) "Runaways" (beguny) or "Wanderers" (stranniki);

11) "Netovtsy" or Saviour's Confession: denied the possibility of celebrating sacraments and praying in churches; the name comes from the Russian net"no", since they have "no" sacraments, "no" churches, "no" priests, etc.

32) wiki link =  OLD BELIEVERS:

a) The Popovtsy ("priested ones") or Popovschina were from the 17th century one of the two main factions of Old Believers,

b) along with the Bezpopovtsy ("priestless ones").



Through the rites of the Church — that is, by the various external actions such as bows, singing, and the making of the sign of the Cross, the Church expresses its belief in Jesus Christ and glorifies Him and the saints, and nourishes the spiritual life of the people. There are undoubtedly many ways of expressing the same thing, and the Church of Christ has a treasury of beautiful rituals which express its Orthodox Faith in a variety of ways.

When we speak of the “New” and “Old” rites, we are speaking of a phenomenon of the Russian Orthodox Church that originated in the 17th century due to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon. The revised rites he introduced conformed more or less to almost all of the other national Orthodox Churches, but it differed considerably from the ancient practices of the Russian Church. Old Believers — or, more correctly, Old Ritualists — are Russian Orthodox Christians who have preserved the Old Rite.

Prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, there were probably more than 20 million Old Ritualists throughout the world. However, after more than a half-century of Communist persecution, there are less than 2 million.

Old Ritualists are known for their strict adherence to the practices of the Russian Orthodox Church as it existed prior to Patriarch Nikon. Some of the many differences in the rites which have been explosive in the past are: the making of the sign of the Cross, the number of loaves used at the Eucharist, unison vs. harmony singing, the shape of the bishop’s staff, the number of prostrations and bows to be made during the services, the manner of icon-painting, the singing of Alleluia, and many others. Additionally, Old Ritualists have preserved an ancient form of singing, known as Znamenny Chant, that continues to draw the attention of other Orthodox Christians, as well as scholars and historians.

Our parishioners realize that although the rites of the Church express its dogmas and are not to be treated lightly, the rites themselves are a means to an end, not dogmas in themselves, and the exact same dogma can be expressed in many ways. Although we love and cherish the old rites of the Russian Church, we do not reject those who practice the new ones, and they in turn have shown much interest and respect for our customs. The pitiful misunderstandings and persecutions of former years have now been replaced with a realization that the Orthodox Church has a precious and sacred treasure in its many beautiful ancient rites.

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