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Old Belief and Folk Crafts.

21 july 2018

In the Russian history there are many phenomena that have not yet been fully explored, but which, nevertheless, are of key importance for understanding of this history, understanding the economic, political and cultural characteristics of our country. One of such phenomena is the Old Belief.

Old Believers — a group of religious currents, united by Russian Orthodox tradition, did not accept the church reform of the 17th century Patriarch Nikon.

Seeking to become the head of the entire Orthodox world, the ambitious Moscow Patriarch Nikon (1652-1666) initiated a religion reform on the modern Greek patterns, which consisted of the correction of books and icons, the change of rituals, the introduction of regular church sermons, etc. The purpose of the reforms was the unification of the services of the Russian and Greek Churches.

The reform dealt mainly with the ritual aspects, for example, replacing the two-fingered sign of the cross with a three-fingered or changing of Religious procession, as well as corrections of the Holy Scripture texts and liturgical books, which in fact do not change the general meaning.

The reform was supported by Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich and the ruling Russian Orthodox Church, as it allowed Russia to be proclaimed as a successor to Byzantium and the center of Orthodoxy of that time.

On May 13, 1667, the cathedral of Russian and Eastern bishops imposed anathema (curses) on those who continued to perform old rites and traditions. So began the famous "split" — one of the most dramatic and vivid pages of Russian history. And until 1905, all those who did not agree with the reform were called "splitters".

Only in the local cathedral of 1971 the official church canceled curses from the Old Believers. Nevertheless, the split in Russian Orthodoxy has not been overcome so far.

Radical innovations of Nikon immediately alienated many believers from him. And among the believers who did not accept the reform, there were representatives of all population groups, including the aristocracy, and clergymen.

Картина Боярыня Морозова Суриков В. И.

Those who refused to perform new rites were severely persecuted.

The executions of the Old Believers acquired a mass character. From 1668 to 1676, the siege of the opposing church reform of the Solovetsky Monastery continued, in the capture of which all monks were subjected to cruel executions.

The head of the Old Believers, Avvacum, with three followers, was imprisoned in the underground prison of Pustozersk, where on April 14, 1682, they were burned in a hut. In the summer of the same year, an Old Believers' revolts was held in Moscow, supported by the archers, led by Nikita Pustosvyat. Then, in 1682, the Streltsi revolts began in which the splitters played an important role. All revolts were brutally suppressed.

Сожжение протопопа Аввакума. Картина П. Е. Мясоедова.

During the reign of Princess Sophia and Tsar Peter I, persecutions against the Old Believers continued with increasing power. In 1685, a decree was passed condemning the burning of the old ritual agitation in the village. And also more "soft" punishments: a whip, a link, a fine for the secret confession of the Old Believers and the harboring of dissenters.

The response was the mass escapes of splitters on the territory, poorly controlled by the tsarist and official Church authorities — the Volga region, Pomorie, Ural and Siberia. In remote places, the schismatics founded large and small settlements — the monasteries, where they continued to follow the old faith and the old way of life, to copy original church texts by hand.

Old Belief had many varieties and currents, their description can be devoted to a separate article or even a book. But this is not the purpose of this article.

The royal troops, accompanied by the Nikonian priests, persecuted the fleeing, forcibly converted to new faith, burned settlements and old books. In response, there were many mass suicides of people. The most widespread form of protest was self-burning, so-called fiery ships. Only until 1690 these actions killed about 20 thousand people. Later, the spread of such actions as self-suffocation in the cellars and self-buring in graves and caves. It was believed that such an action is a sacrifice to Christ and does not interpreted as suicide.

Repressive measures of the authorities forced the fugitives to develop new lands, skills and crafts. Harsh conditions forced to show ingenuity and initiative.

Among the splitters was a large number of icon painters. It was they who laid the foundation for new directions of icon painting, and later of everyday painting. According to the most widespread version, the unique way of painting wooden utensils "under gold" in the forest Zavolzhie and the very birth of the Hohloma artcraft was attributed to the Old Believers at the end of the 17th century.

Ярмарка близ Хохломы

There is a legend about the origin of the Hohloma painting:

"Dissatisfied with Nicon innovations, the icon painter Andrey Loskut fled from Moscow and began to paint icons in the wilderness of the Volga forests using the old model and paint wooden handicrafts." Patriarch Nikon sent soldiers for the disobedient icon painter, but Andrey refused to obey and burned himself in the hut, only the bright sparks shot up in the sky. Since that time, the scarlet flame is burning, the bright colors of Hohloma sparkle with golden sparks."

Лебеди Хохломы

One of the spiritual centers of the Old Believers in the Volga region was the town of Kerzhenets, and also located near the Gorodets village. Around the rivers monasteries grow and skete settlements widely spread. They become centers of culture and crafts. The rich forests served as a constant source of raw materials. In the XVII century in these places, woodworking industries began to develop. The masters made sledges and logs, tubs and wooden buckets, wicker furniture and baskets, sieves and bright little bases of spinning-wheels. The appearance of the painted bases dates back to the mid-19th century. Masters began to paint the carving with the berries and roots juice, later with paints. It promoted the birth of a new art, which turned into a world famous Gorodets painting on wood.

Gorodets painting

In the XVIII century icon painting reduces and focuses in 3 large villages of the Vladimir province: Palekh, Kholue and Mstera. Here iconography became the main occupation of the population, most of which were Old Believers. It was thanks to them that the ancient styles of icon painting in Russsia were preserved. In the middle of the XIX century up to 2 million icons were written in these regions.

After the revolution of 1917, the icon painting practically ceased to exist. The masters had to look for new ways of using their skills. In Palekh, a new style of miniature writing was created, which in many ways inherited the techniques of icon painting. In December 1924, the "Artel of Ancient Painting" was organized in Palekh for the painting of papier-mache products. Former icon painters did not abandon their usual writing technique with egg colors and dissolved gold, and preserved the conventional forms of icon painting. The art of lacquer miniature brought world fame to Palekh.

Палехская роспись. Пушкин

Another stronghold of the splitters was the Urals, because of the distance from the center. At factories of the Urals, which Peter the Great entrusted to the Tula master Nikita Demidov, the secret Old Believer, at the beginning of the 18th century. The main contingent of workers was again the Old Believers. Those days one of the largest centers of Old Belief was in the Olonets region, whose inhabitants had long been engaged in the extraction and processing of local ores. In the conditions of a permanent shortage of labor, cooperation with skillful and disciplined workers, such as the Old Believers, was extremely beneficial to the owners. The business of Nikita Demidov was continued and expanded by his son Akinfiy, and then by grandson Nikita and great-grandson Nikolai, the famous industrialist and politician of Russia.

Akinfiy built seventeen iron and copper plants in the Urals, however, his main business was the Nizhnetagilsky plant, the equipment of which corresponded to the best Russian and Western European models. This enterprise exists since 1725 up to this day.

Акинфий Демидов

Thanks to the metalworking industry development in this region, in 1746 craft of metal trays manufacturing and painting arosed . In an article devoted to Russian cuisine, we talked about it's new spiral of development at this time. The demand for beautiful dishes and table accessories was huge at that time.

It is believed that the Tagil artcraft, which arose more than 250 years ago among the Old Believers — is the ancestor of the Zhostovo craft. In the first half of the XIX century, this artcraft was rapidly developing, which is largely associated with the activities of the school of painting (1806-1820), specially established by the owner of the Tagil factories, Nikolai Nikitich Demidov.

Тагильский поднос

Searchers confirm the certain link of Demidovs family with the Old Believers. The history of the Demidovs empire formation is also the history of the distribution of Old Believers in the Urals.

Despite the government repressive measures, and perhaps because of them, in the 19th century almost a third of the population of Russia adhered to the Old Believer traditions. In the economy, an important role was played by the Old Believer merchant class, which became the backbone of the development of entrepreneurship and the economy. This was justified by the Old Believer traditions — the ban on smoking and alcohol, loyalty to their word, diligence.

Prince Shcherbatov wrote in the second half of the eighteenth century: "... this heresy (Old Believers) has spread so much that there is almost no city or noble village, where there is not one of the splitters, and there are whole cities like Kargopol, Olonets, Nizhny Novgorod and many others who are infected with this poison." Even Moscow remained a rather important center of the Old Believer, despite all persecutions.

The development of the influence of the Old Believers on the economy, politics and culture of Russia, forced the authorities to relax the persecution of this already significant part of society.

Tsar Peter III, by a special decree, will stipulate that "in the practice of the law, according to their custom and old printed books, there will be no rebuking." Elizaveta Petrovna continued this policy, and Catherine II, in continuation of the decree of Peter III, granted the splitters 70 thousand acres of the best land in the Volga region, freeing from taxes and works for six years. She did not only continue the policy of religious tolerance of Peter III, but actually equalized splitters in rights with other subjects of the empire. For the first time in Russian history, Catherine will not even use the term "splitters". As if by magic persecuted religious fanatics, leading a rather closed way of life, become the leading force of capitalist modernization of Russia.

In the near Moscow suburbs at the end of the XVIII century there is an economic center for the manufacture of ceramic dishes — Gzhel. The local places were always rich in clay, so the main occupation of the inhabitants was pottery. Speaking "Gzhel", most often we mean not only the village with this name, but the congestion of neighborhood villages. This region is the birthplace of the Kuznetsov family, who glorified Russian porcelain for the whole world. It was in the Old Believers' Gzhel village of Novo-Kharitonovo where in the first half of the 19th century the local peasant Yakov Vasilyevich Kuznetsov opened his first enterprise. His business continued sons — Terenty and Anisim, and their descendants expanded to the scale of porcelain and faience monopoly of Russia.

Кузнецовы. Основатели Гжельского завода.

Since then, the art of Gzhel painting has become a symbol and a kind of visiting card of Russia.

Talking about the famous industrialists and patrons of the time, we can not ignore the dynasty of the Morozovs who founded the largest weaving manufactures in the Moscow, Vladimir and Tver provinces. The founder of the dynasty Savva Timofeevich Morozov became the largest Russian and European industrialist, patron of the Moscow University, Moscow Art Theater.

Савва Морозов

In addition to the Kuznetsovs and Morozovs, we can name such well-known families of Old Believers as Tretyakov, Ryabushinsky, Guchkov, Prohorov and many others.

So, paradoxically, the Old Believers, protagonists the old days, considering "novelties" as the intrigues of Antichrist, turned out to be a progressive alternative to the official Russian life. Authorities adoration, lack of initiative, slavish obedience, laziness and drunkenness were absolutely unacceptable for the Old Believers. By the end of the XIX century formed invisible alter ego of official Russia, which lived according to the Ranks table and associated success only with loyal service to the sovereign and master. In this environment, the value of the individual is preached, regardless of the position and gender. According to the teachers of the Old Believer, the personality should not be contemplative, but active, and assertive.

In conclusion of the article, it can be confidently affirmed that the emergence and development of many unique art crafts in Russia, which later formed the cultural treasury of the nation, is due to the Old Believers, the advantages of its followers.



Kozhurin K. Culture of the Russian Old Believers XVII — XX centuries.

Zenkovsky S.A. Russian Old Believers: Spiritual Movements of the XVII Century.

Konovalov A.E. Gorodets painting. Stories about folk art.

Rudakov S.V. Society and the consent of Gorodets Old Believers. The beginning of the XX and XXI centuries.

Rodionov A.A. Pitirim and Nizhny Novgorod Old Believers.


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