Религиозная организация
Русская Древлеправославная Церковь





P 1

The second edition

To mark the 100th anniversary of

Saviour’s Transfiguration

Cathedral Church 

Moscow 2010 


This booklet contains materials concerning:

– the history of schism in the Russian Church in the XXVII century;

– spiritual life of the Ancient Orthodox Christians during the period of absence of bishops;

– search for and finding of bishops of the same faith to restore the three-level hierarchy;

– the modern life of the Russian Ancient Orthodox Church in the modern world.

This booklet shall be beneficial for all those who wish to learn the true history of the Ancient Orthodox Church. 


"And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee... to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy 8, 2).

"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deuteronomy 32, 7).


The Orthodox Faith adopted in Russia in the late Х century A.D. by Equal of the Apostles Great Prince St. Vladimir brought magnificent fruit and was decorated with numerous saints.

The Russian Church, at first as a metropole of the Church of Constantinople and later as an independent Church, i.e. autocephalous, was in unity with the entire Ecumenical Orthodoxy. The history of its development, just as the history of Russia, witnessed numerous hardships: invasions of enemies, civil disorders, various heretical insults. But the Russian Church guided by God always overcame all these hardships with honour, both at the time of Kievan Russia and the time of Moscovite Russia because the Church’s loyal sons defended the authenticity of the Orthodoxy.

In Russia there were times when the supreme hierarchy of the Russian Church either fell into heresy or encouraged it, for example, at the time of Judaizers’ heresy during the Florentine Union when the Papists intended to install Catholicism in Russia. At that time the civil authorities in the person of an Orthodox tsar together with holy fathers of Russia raised their voice to protect the Orthodox Faith. Also, there were times when archpriests of the Russian Church sacrificed their life for the Truth, just as Metropolitan Philipp and Patriarch Germogen, leading the Russian people and secular rulers to the path of godliness and fulfilment of God’s Commandments. Hundreds of God’s pleasers shone in the Russian Church. Their righteous life and prayers strengthened the Orthodoxy in the Russian state and Russia became Holy.

But in the course of time, upon the devil’s instigation, the negligence to piety grew up and the holiness in Russia diminished. The things that seemed to be unthinkable of became usual and habitual and lead to a great disaster. While at the Great Stoglav Council in 1551 and during installation of the Patriarchate in 1589 the Russian Church openly asserted itself as a full-fledged successor of the earthly greatness of ancient Christian thrones of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, in just several decades the Russian Church turned out to be desecrated and laughed at both by its hierarchy and hierarchs who came from the formerly glorious and Orthodox East.

The enemy of the human race, the devil, instigated power-seeking thoughts in both Patriarch Nikon and King Alexey Mikhailovich. One thought himself to be equal to the Ecumenical Patriarchs, while the other – to emperors of Byzantium. And such "oddity”, according to them, as the difference of the Russian Liturgical Rite from the Rite of the Greeks and the Ukrainians amended under the influence of Catholicism and Reformation should not be an obstacle in establishment of the Orthodox Empire. Russia was upheaved, an unprecedented event occurred! All matters that had been fundamental for the Russian spiritual conscience, according to the clerical and secular authorities, turned out to be "incorrect” and "unfair” which should be immediately amended.

Practically all theological texts, even the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of the Orthodox Faith, were subjected to illiterate amendments by reformers. The newly printed books published at that time had numerous amendments in texts of canonical prayers made by Nikon’s correctors. It often happened that such amendments were not just philologically illiterate but blasphemous, too. Liturgical Canons were also amended, and all orders of service were changed. Even the two-finger sign of the cross, so habitual to the Russian Christians inherited from ancient holy fathers, was accused of heresy by reformers and was replaced with the three-finger sign of the cross which at that time was widely spread in the East.

The Roman Catholic Church initiated this novelty. In the XIII century Pope Innocent III (1161—1216), a hangman and an infanticide, wrote: "One shall make the sign of the cross with three fingers for it is done to call up the Trinity about which the prophet says: «Who holds the earth with three fingers?»1.

Pope Innocent III is known for the fact that in 1215 he established the church tribunal, "holy” inquisition, and some time before, in 1212, he organized the so-called "Children Crusade” which took away thousands of children’s lives. It was Pope Innocent who organized the IV Crusade aimed against the Orthodox Christians of the East. After a long siege in 1204 crusaders occupied the stronghold of the Eastern Orthodoxy, Constantinople, and, as a result of three days of robbery and murders, they almost fully destroyed the city. Crusaders-robbers established the Latin empire and the Pope ordained a Catholic patriarch of Constantinople. The three-finger sign of the cross came to the East with crusaders-heretics and gradually proliferating among Eastern Christians finally it fully forced out and replaced the ancient apostolic tradition of the two-finger sign of the cross.

Similar rationalisations were the fundamental of the majority of other novelties of Patriarch Nikon, yet, it could not be different since major assistants of Nikon in the case of carrying out clerical reforms were either Latin heretics or absolute villains.

Ardent supports of the Orthodox righteousness immediately opposed the vicious intentions and actions of Nikon - reformer. Hopeful of support of King Alexey Mikhailovich they submitted a petition to him where they stated the differences of Nikon’s novelties to the ancient Orthodox Rite. However, the king provided all possible support to the reformer Patriarch although from the very beginning he knew about those things which he devised. Various oppressions fell upon priests, adamant followers of the Orthodox Faith, both from the clerical and secular authorities.

To establish some canonical foundation for his malicious plot on "correction” of the Orthodox faith which had existed in Russia since ancient times Patriarch Nikon summoned a council in 1654 which ruled to amend service books in accordance with ancient Greek and Slavic manuscripts. Being afraid of their mundane wellbeing practically all senior hierarchs of the Russian Church supported Nikon’s decision. Only Bishop of Kolomna Pavel openly spoke at this council against these ideas of the reformer patriarch. For such deeds he was beaten by the patriarch’s servants, Nikon tore away a robe from him and, without a ruling of a council’s court, having defrocked him of his bishop’s rank, Nikon sent him to a northern monastery under severe surveillance where this confessor bishop was tortured to death having suffered persecution and torment. According to the legend, he was burnt alive by executors sent by Nikon.

"Reformers” also dealt away with other advocates of the patristic faith: archpriest Avvakum was exiled to Siberia, archpriest Daniil was defrocked and exiled to Astrakhan, archpriest John Neronov was put under strict monastic surveillance. Many and many supports of the Orthodox faith were punished in a similar way.

Later, Patriarch Nikon who became too pretentious turned out to be no longer needed by Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich who grew older and Patriarch Nikon also found himself in disgrace.  But his reforms got second wind supported by various adventurers and vagabonds from the East as the devil intended to ruin the Orthodox faith in Russia through them. For some time the Christians lived with a hope that things would come round, that the secular authorities would understand their injustice towards advocates of the ancient godliness. However, the councils of reformers held in 1666 and 1667 which ruled on numerous severe reprimands and condemnations against the ancient Orthodox traditions, just as all subsequent actions to teach the "true” faith to Russian Christians, made it quite clear that Holy Russia as a symphony of the Orthodox people and the Orthodox authorities was gone. Indeed, since that time Orthodox Russia became hidden, just like the legendary city of Kitezh.

In their savage diabolic rage reformers dealt away with advocates of the true faith. Ancient Orthodox Christians were burnt alive, beheaded, their tongues were cut, their nostrils were torn, their ribs were broken by pincers, they were quartered, they were frozen alive. What made it all the worse is that new ritual hierarchs who, without exception, supported the church reforms of Patriarch Nikon inspired and blessed secular authorities to do such bloody genocide, thus, it is quite fair to apply to them the words spoken by holy fathers of the VII Ecumenical Council about hierarchs – iconoclasts: "They robbed and put to disorder our churches. At the same time they were heresiarchs and hierarchs; they proclaimed discourse to people instead of peace, they planted chaff instead of wheat in church lands; they mixed wine with water and gave this harmful mixture to the neighbour. Being really Arabian wolves they pretended to wear sheepskin and supported the lies by distorting the truth”2.

Saint Philipp, Metropolitan of Moscow, the wonderworker, once pronounced prophesy about such overall retreat from the Orthodoxy of bishops and church widowhood: "For time shall come when the Church accepts widowhood, and clergymen, like mercenaries, shall be despised. And nobody’s service shall be kept immaculate”3.

A many-years siege and desolation of the most glorious Orthodox monastery, Solovetsky monastery, which brethren refused to subordinate to ‘novelties’ of Nikon became denunciation of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich and new ritual hierarchy to God. After eight years of the siege, on January 22nd, 1676, the mercenaries broke into the holy monastery and with merciless cruelty dealt away with monks. About 400 monks of Solovetsky monastery lost their lives when they were hanged, drowned in ice holes and beheaded on scaffold.

On April 14th, 1682, archpriest Avvakum, priest Lazarus, deacon Fyodor, monk Epiphaniy were burnt alive in a wooden house. Boyar Morozova who was ordained to monasticism before imprisonment and her sister, Princess Evdokia Urusova, gained the wreath of martyrs for the ancient Orthodox faith. After severe torture they were starved to death in an underground prison. The history kept the names of just the most known advocates of the ancient godliness while there were many thousands of other Christians who suffered for the true Orthodox faith.

In 1685, upon request of Patriarch Joachim, Tsarevna Sofia adopted a special law against the ancient Orthodox Christians, 12 punitive articles, which proclaimed advocates of the ancient Orthodox faith as dissenters and opponents of the church for which they would be sentenced to horrible punishments. Even those who did not openly profess the ancient Orthodox faith were supposed to be ordered to punishment by lashing with subsequent exile. One of the articles said that the ancient Orthodox Christians who baptised those who were allegedly baptised by the new ritual church (for example, "baptised” by pouring) "were to be sentenced to death without any mercy” even if they repented4.

It is necessary to explain that the new ritual council of 1667, apart from various novelties, also ruled to cancel the church rule about adoption of Catholics to the Church by baptism, thus, equalising the Orthodox baptism by triple immersion with heretical pouring. Naturally, after this council a vicious practice started spreading in the ruling church to perform baptism in accordance with the Catholic tradition, i.e. by pouring or sprinkling. This Latin and Protestant tradition was brought to Russia by archpriests and priests from Little Russia and the Balkans who literally flooded the Russian country in the last ten years of the XVII century. Without doubt, the ancient Orthodox Christians did not consider baptism by pouring as lawful, fully disregarded it and performed baptism over those who had been baptised by pouring and wished to join the Church by full triple immersion in water and put themselves to deadly threat of being executed without any mercy for doing so in accordance with 12 articles of Tsarevna Sofia.

Patriarch Joachim issued a decree after these articles of Tsarevna Sofia: "See to it that dissenters shall not live in districts and forests, and if they appear anywhere they shall be exiled, their houses shall be destroyed and their property shall be sold and the money shall be brought to Moscow”.

Due to such sever persecutions and ostracism advocates of the ancient Orthodox Church were forced to leave towns and villages and go to deep forests of Zavolzhie and Pomorie, Siberia, areas near rivers of Don, Terek and Yaik populated by Cossacks. Ancient Orthodox Christians ran away from their Motherland Russia to Poland and the Osman Empire. As some time passed, through the grace of God and enormous work done by the first ancient Christian settlers, unique spiritual fortresses of the ancient Orthodox faith were established, such as Kerzhenets, Vyg, Starodubie, Vyatka. Those who did not accept reforms of new ritual followers but remained loyal to the Orthodox faith started gathering in these places remote from the centre of the country! They were monks and the secular clergy, craftsmen and peasants, merchants and the military, noblemen and princes. This host of Christians brought together into the Russian "pre-schismatic” world started to live separately from the secular and ecclesiastical authorities of the Russian state. Naturally, such state of affairs was not accepted by reformers since preachers of the ancient faith strongly influenced on that part of the Russian people who only seemingly subordinated to reforms of Nikon and the Moscow Councils of 1666-1667 but their hearts were on the side of the patristic faith.

Real military operations were carried out against Ancient Orthodox Christians with the purpose of destruction of centres of "ancient godliness” and corporal punishment of the most valuable pastors. Ecclesiastical and secular authorities were especially merciless in Zavolzhie. Ardent ‘nikonian” Pitirim, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod, encouraged dispatch of a punitive squad to Kerzhenets. This event went down into history under the name of the "Kerzhenets desolation”. Similar military expeditions were sent to Pomorie and the Don River. Following the example of the Catholic inquisition Ancient Orthodox Christians were executed by burning.

But the devil dealt a fiery blow on Christians not only from the outside, alas, preachers, the so-called "burners”, appeared from Ancient Orthodox Christians. Seeing the anger of Christians caused by reformers and seduced by a false idea they started calling up their children to burn themselves as an act of voluntary martyrdom for the faith of Christ. Small monasteries and preaching houses with Russian people caught fire. Having hidden themselves from persecutors Christians set fire on themselves hoping to keep their godliness in this suicidal fire. They burnt themselves out of grievous events through simplicity of their hearts having believed in teachings of preachers-burners who themselves were caught in the nets of diabolic craftiness. The church could not put up with this fiery madness and people who turned out to be immune to the influence of this diabolic seduction raised their voice against preachers of suicide. Such burning was condemned as only God is the Master of life and death and only He decides on a man’s life or death.

Some ten years after the schism in the Russian Church Ancient Orthodox Christians faced yet another problem: priests who were ordained before the schism departed to the heavens. Christians at that time had no bishop loyal to the Ancient Orthodox faith, thus, nobody was available to ordain new priests instead of ageing and dying priests who were ordained before the schism. Then, using the multi-century experience of the Universal Church which was in acceptance of priests who were ordained by heretical bishops in some exceptional, specially considered cases it was ruled to accept priests in the current rank who decided to join the Ancient Orthodox Church from the new ritual church. For example, in Vyatka, in 1695, monk-priest Theodosius Vorypin, one of the last priests at that time who was ordained before the schism received into communion two priests, Alexander from Rylsk and Gregoriy from Moscow, who were ordained by new ritual bishops establishing in this way a new rule for accepting others.

Since the Church at that time lived through a period of persecution faithful Christians were dispersed, the Church centralisation, i.e. the united church management, was absent, Ancient Orthodox Christians failed to come to agreement about the rite of acceptance of new ritual priests. In some communities new ritual priests were accepted by ointment while other communities only asked new ritual priests to condemn heresies to accept them. This difference in the rite caused periodical disputes between communities, "however, there were no divisions between them, and neither party ever objected to the rite of accepting priests in any way. And they jointly lived in peace between them like brothers”5.

However, to great regret, not all Ancient Orthodox Christians remained faithful to the truth. At the time of severe persecutions many Christians were caught in the nets of various false teachings which proclaimed quick end of the age. They declared "new” dogmas of the faith: establishment of the spiritual kingdom of antichrist in the earth and imminent depletion of priesthood and all other Church Sacraments established by Christ. Thus, in 1694, in Novgorod, at one of their meetings they made an oath and declared: "we establish the following teaching and we make an oath to keep for ever the established rites and canons. Amen. 1st: Undoubtedly, we believe and teach others that because of our suns we have lived until the end of time, and now antichrist rules the world but rules spiritually (invisibly) in the visible church sitting on the throne of Living God under the name of another Jesus passing himself off as God and by doing so desolating the Church of God with the help of antichrist’s host. He destroyed all of the Church’s sacraments and befouled all holy things и established his novelties”.

Ancient Orthodox Christians did not accept these new dogmas which had been unknown before, they had a firm belief that Christ’s priesthood would not be destroyed, rather it would be preserved and stay for ever by paths provided by God: "As He Himself (Christ) never dies, so His priesthood under the order of Melchizedek never dies for it is written that you are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The order of Aaron died as a temporary one while Christ’s priesthood came to be for ever” (the Book of Cyril, page 78). And truly so, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of priests firmly accepted Nikon’s reforms, nevertheless, many priests ordained in the new ritual church being caring and attentive to their salvation and understanding the antagonism of reforms to the previous godliness of Russia wholeheartedly wished to accept the Ancient Orthodoxy and renounce Nikon’s novelties. According to the Saviour’s words who said: "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John, 6, 37) our ancestors accepted with love those priests who ran away from the new ritual church. After they accepted purification and reconciled with the Ancient Orthodox Church via priests who preserved godliness, Ancient Orthodox Christians gladly submitted themselves to these priests-newcomers as the true shepherds of Christ’s sheep.

A similar situation was present in the Church of Christ during the plague of iconoclastic heresy in the VIII-IX centuries. And Saint Theodore the Studite, answering a question of a certain Stefan, a reader, about his attitude to priests who were ordained in heresy but who returned to the Church, wrote: "So, let us investigate and learn with whom we shall communicate, if he professes the right faith, if he was not ordained for money or not, if something even more evil is present in his life or what is rumoured about him. But it is true that he, although he received ordination from a heretic, or was ordained for money, is not himself a heretic and was without his knowledge ordained by someone who had been ordained for money, that is, by a simoniac, and confesses the whole truth, and preserves the faith and the canons unchanged and rejects those who depart from the one and the other, then we have no basis for separating from him. For such a person is not subject to condemnation, according to the opinion of the saints – and through them, of all. In such a case we have communion, and we advise you to do the same. For if the investigation extends further, then the exhortations of the saints will be rejected, as I said, and the great gift of the priesthood becomes vain with the help of which we become Christians. Thus, we may fall into heathendom which is senseless... Priesthood would be destroyed in this way, so, to prevent it, we shall observe the above mentioned rule according to the saints”6.  

Martyr archpriest Avvakum believed in eternity and preservation of the Orthodox priesthood, the Sacrament of Communion to the Body and the Blood of Christ and all other Sacraments of the Church. In his epistles he tried to bring to reason in a father-like manner those who dared to profess the opposite: "May God save you, the Church children, for you stay away from false brethren. May God accept your prudence, but your thoughts about priesthood and the Eucharist are not prudent. You say: they are gone, do not fear, the light shall not be gone even during the rule of antichrist. The Body of Christ, It shall stay forever. But it is necessary to study the priesthood, for numerous false prophets and false christs are sons of the hell, they pass themselves for apostles of Christ. But you have a sensible soul, if a priest performs services in the right way, according to the ancient Orthodoxy, under books printed during Patriarch Filaret, you shall acknowledge it … For the devil instigated you and you start to deny priesthood and sacraments like Lutherans and Calvinists. My friends, you walked into the depths of vice. Gather your hearts! For even the devil himself cannot destroy the holy sacraments, even more so the antichrist with his brood. Our Lord said to His disciples: "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”. Our Head is Christ, the true King and Primate, He shall never allow for destruction of Holiness? Children of God, have no doubts about it! For even if the priesthood is expelled, it shall never die completely”7.

However, despite the teaching of saints, there were people who, according to the words of Saint Theodore and Saint Avvakum, were so reckless that, through their spiritual blindness, failed to observe "the above mentioned rule” but, having listened to "an enemy who spoke to their ears” forfeited the priesthood rank "with the help of which we become Christians” and became dissenters renouncing priests and sacraments like Calvinists and Lutherans. Having entrusted the life of their communities into the hands of usurpers from "the laymen”, the so-called mentors, they quickly divided themselves into various groups inimical to each other. These groups took the names of their founding fathers, for example, the Danilovtsy after deacon Daniil Vikulov, the Theodosites after deacon Theodosiy Vasiliev, the Phillipovtsy after fugitive soldier Fotiy Vasiliev (Philipp in monasticism) etc., by doing so they likened themselves to ancient dissenters who also took the names of their heresiarchs and became Arians, Nestorians, Donatists etc., by doing so these and those people came to be denunciators of their wrong faith which, according to their names, was traced down not to Christ but to their fleshly ancestors as God "convicted them of false witness by their own mouth” (Daniel 13, 61).

While our ancestors, the true children of the Ancient Orthodox Church, invariably kept loyalty to the patristic faith guided by edifying Sacraments of the Church performed by godly priests "who ran away from novelties”.

As a proof we shall write the names of just few priests out of those who preserved the truth or recovered it by sincere repentance. These were protopope and martyr Avvakum who was burnt alive, monk-priests: Job Lgovskiy and Dosifei Chirskiy; Ioasaph, Theodosius, and Alexander Vetkovskiy; Dionysus Shuiskiy and Triphyllus Vologodskiy; Sophronios and Alexander Kerzhenskiy. All of these and many other fathers suffered greatly for Christ’s faith, they were subjected to defamation and persecution, beating and torture. Many of them were executed by the new ritualists for zealous observation of the ancient church traditions. But during their doleful life, despite numerous hardships, they lead their congregation to the Kingdom of God by "a narrow path” catechising them in the pure faith and defending them from various heresies and false wisdoms which were prolific at that time of persecution in Russia.

It hurt the Ancient Orthodox Christians to look at the new ritual church. They witnessed degeneration of the patriarch church into the synod church. The church actually lost its independence during the rule of Emperor Peter the First and became a state "ministry of spiritual affairs”, and even refused from naming itself the Church and took a new name: "Ministry of Orthodox Faith”. Having subordinated itself to the interests of the mortal world represented by a ruling monarch the synod church entirely and in all possible aspects tried to observe a monarch’s will paying little attention to the will of Christ, the Saviour, the Scriptures and the Church Traditions and Canons. However, the attitude of Ancient Orthodox Christians to the new ritual church was not unanimous. While in both capitals of Russia and in eparchial cities "Nikonianism” was evident and aggressive, in provincial Russia until the nineteenth century, quite often, both the clergymen and the congregation performed prayers under before-Nikon books, made the sign of the cross with two fingers, walked cum sole and observed the rules of the Household Management Code Book. That is why the Ancient Orthodox Christians sincerely believed that the sorrow of the Russian Church is temporary, that there is a hope for its resurrection in its former glory which it had before the church schism. For example, the famous answers of Kerzhenets monks to questions of new ritual bishop Pitirim of Nizhny Novgorod say: "We passionately wish and ask Our Lord to keep Orthodox bishops until the end of the time. And may those who fell away from the Orthodox faith return to it"8; "If you make the Great Russian Church as it was before, then we, without any human persuasion, shall find ourselves in it and without any objection we shall subordinate to you as true pastors.”9 Old ritual Christians of the legendary Vyg, spiritual fathers of all major dissent groups who renounced priests and sacraments, shared their opinion: "We are anxious about joining the current Russian church not because we disregard church meetings, not because we defy holy rites, not because we despise church sacraments but because of novelties introduced at the time of Nikon”10.

Since it was impossible at that time of persecution to summon a council of the entire Ancient Orthodox Church, where, according to canonical traditions, Orthodox hierarchs, parish clergy and people would make a unanimous and binding ruling on the new ritual church, heresies which took root there, the Ancient Orthodox Christians could not make a final ruling on "new ritualists”. Even "Nikonians” quite often changed their false views reinforcing some heresies and denouncing other ones while blurring some other ones making it quite difficult to make a balanced and sufficiently full ruling about their faith. Gradually they acquired Latinism, some forms of protestant teachings and even some postulates from classical antique philosophy. Finally, it became quite evident even to new ritualists themselves: "In our theological teachings, – says a famous new ritualist theologian, Professor Alexander Pavlovich Lopukhin, – there are two on-going traditions which sometimes deviate from the Orthodoxy to even non-Orthodox outlooks, one of them is close to Protestantism, while the other one is close to Roman Catholicism. It is not a new phenomenon. It became quite evident yet at the time when the great reformer tsar brought us close to the West in public and political relations. Its two famous advocates, Theophane Prokopovich and Stephen Yavorskiy, acted as representatives of these two traditions, and since that time this dualism was always evident, of course, first of all, in the area of theological thought but it also affected our entire public life and thought”11. To great regret, understanding of this theological dualism appeared only much later and due to various circumstances never brought positive fruit.

However, deviation of new ritualists from the Orthodox traditions in theology and everyday life was not the same in all places. In various regions of the Russian Empire they differed even externally. Yet, it is beyond doubt that despite various changes in the teaching of the new ritualist church it remained invariably hostile to the Ancient Orthodox Church defying the Ancient Orthodox traditions and proclaiming them as heretical which "slipped into” the life of the Russian Church due to "ignorance” of its former children. As we have already said this hostility resulted in persecutions, unprecedented for their severity and duration, against the Orthodox Christians for observation by them of Orthodox canons, Orthodox traditions, the Orthodox faith.

As time went on, attitude of Russian rulers to Ancient Orthodox Christians eased up somewhat. It was again allowed to live freely in cities and villages, go into crafts, trade and agriculture; however, it did not mean the end of persecutions. Such persecutions only changed their form but actually never stopped. Ungodly Emperor, Peter the First, by his decree of February 8th, 1716, ruled that our ancestors should be subjected to an unfair and humiliating double personal tax for the love to the patristic Orthodoxy, for observation of pious church traditions, in particular, for wearing beards: "If there are schismatic anywhere, in all regions, governors shall list both men and women (except for those who live near frontier areas) and, having listed them, subject them to a tax two times more the current one”. Ancient Orthodox Christians were also obliged to wear clothes of a special cut so that they could be easily identified. Thus, having failed to destroy Ancient Orthodox Christians during the years of bloody genocide, the new ritual church and the state authorities which were unanimous with it decided to put them all under strict surveillance and full control and at the same time rob unscrupulously desolate and humble people without any pricks of conscience.

No doubt, continuing unfair persecutions caused discontent with Ancient Orthodox Christians, however, men who remained loyal to the true faith in accordance with the Holy Scriptures discussed all these issues and ruled unanimously: "The government ruled to subject Christians to the double tax for the faith in 1716 and 1722, to wear clothes with special upright collars. The council ruled: do not object but obey to the authorities”12. It was a wise decision for it gave Christians an opportunity to gain spiritual freedom– to have faith and pray to God as their conscience told them – although suffering from material needs due to unfair double tax. The holy church canons also say that those who bought off persecutors are worthy of praise: "Against those who have given money that they might be entirely undisturbed by evil, an accusation cannot be brought. For they have sustained the loss and sacrifice of their goods that they might not hurt or destroy their soul, which others for the sake of filthy lucre have not done; and yet the Lord says, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26) and again, "You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24) In these things, then, they have shown themselves the servants of God, inasmuch as they have hated, trodden under foot, and despised money, and have thus fulfilled what is written: "The ransom of a man's life are his riches” (Proverbs 13:8) For we read also in the Acts of the Apostles that those who in the stead of Paul and Silas were dragged before the magistrates at Thessalonica, were dismissed with a heavy fine. For after that they had been very burdensome to them for his name, and had troubled the people and the rulers of the city, "having taken security”, he says, "of Jason, and of the others, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea” (Acts 17:9-10)”13. Although the clothes dictated by the authorities had a special cut but its appearance did not contradict Christian traditions, was modest and quite decent.

Subsequent rulers of the Russian state after infamous Emperor Peter the First paid little attention to particularities of the Russian church life, they were either foreigners or were brought up by Catholic and Protestant teachers. So, followers of priest-free groups were understandable to them in their particular aspects of religion and life mentality as they were externally similar to various Protestant sects. However, their attitude to Ancient Orthodox Christians was very apprehensive and often hostile. The "Orthodox” empire could hardly put up with the fact that, apart from the ruling "Nikonian” Church in Russia there was the Ancient Orthodox Church with its clergymen and multiple congregations.

An important event happened in the life of the Ancient Orthodox Church during the rule of Catherine the Great. The Russian government having interest in development of vast areas of the empire decided to call upon colonists from various countries of Europe to settle in empty lands. European Protestants of various traditions and countries, Germans, Danish, Dutch, were the first to come to develop successfully the fertile lands near the Don and the Volga.

The Russian government also paid attention to the Russian people who found themselves outside their motherland against their will. Through various promises and, sometimes, even threats and direct military pressure as was the case with Vyatka settlements, Ancient Orthodox Christians returned to their motherland which they had left many decades before running away from merciless violence that threatened them. Welcoming the return of Ancient Orthodox Christians to Russia Emperor Peter III gave them a promise that "nobody shall be punished for observation of law under their traditions and ancient books”. The Manifest by Catherine the Great of December 4th, 1762, having confirmed the rights of Christian settlers, also guaranteed that "nobody shall be persecuted for not shaving beards or not wearing prescribed clothes”.

God Who provides everything to us is merciful! The Orthodox Vyatka ruined by tsar troops was revived, new centres of Ancient Orthodox faith appeared in Russia: Irgyz, Altai, Zabaikalie. Many Ancient Orthodox Christians who sought to attract ordained priests settled in the ancient capital of Moscow near Rogozhskaya Gate where a big settlement with Ancient Orthodox prayer houses and a cemetery appeared.

Empress Catherine the Great allowed Ancient Orthodox Christians in their new settlements openly profess their patristic holy faith. She allowed wearing beards and traditional ancient Russian clothes, joining the merchant class. She also cancelled the double personal tax. Besides, she allowed hierarchs in Ancient Orthodox settlements to perform services freely under "the old faith” while it had been banned before. In 1769 Ancient Orthodox Christians were returned the right to act as witnesses in a court and in 1785 they received the right to be elected to public offices. Such situation made our ancestors so strong that tsar bureaucrats who witnessed such events wrote inn their reports that "the entire region of Povolzhie returned” to the Ancient Orthodox Church. The largest and most authoritative spiritual centre of the Ancient Orthodox Church was established right there, in Povolzhie, at Irgyz monasteries during the rule of Catherine the Great.

Catherine limited the powers of the new ritual Synod and justly reproached persecutors for persecutions which members of the synod and their predecessors previously used against the faithful: "Oats and prohibitions! Against what? Against objects which are not just innocent, honest, godly and salvific, but even more reasonable and more elaborate than those stated by the council. Corporal punishments and executions, whips, lashes, cutting of tongues, fires, ice holes – all these things are against whom? Against people who wish only one thing: remain loyal to traditions and faith of fathers!... As for corporal punishments and civil executions, did not you bless it with council rulings and, tsars, did not you inspire and insist on punishment and execution of your own people?”14.

Relatively calm times lasted for Ancient Orthodox Christians and during the rule of Catherine’s successors. A decree of Paul I dated March 12th, 1798, allowed Ancient Orthodox Christians to build churches all over Russia and since October 27th, 1800, in the ancient capital, Moscow, too. The Emperor’s decree dated March 18th, 1798, actually allowed the freedom of religion in Russia.

Tolerance in religious matters was the basis of the rule of Emperor Alexander I. The Emperor banned persecution of Ancient Orthodox Christians for their beliefs "concerning the faith”, allowed to maintain the Ancient Orthodox ranks and traditions, perform church services under the ancient books, but "without any public show of teachings and church services”. For the purpose of avoidance of "show of schism” Ancient Orthodox Christians could not make procession of the Cross around their churches even during the Pascha. Outside the church Ancient Orthodox priests were not allowed to wear the clothes appropriate to their rank. Christians might get together to a common prayer but in such a way so that nobody could see them; they could maintain a building for praying but in such a way so that neither the building architecture nor the bell ringing could reveal that such building was a church.

However, despite such semi-legal situation Ancient Orthodox Christians built a lot: new churches and even new monasteries with numerous monks appeared. In 1815-1816 chapels with domes and bells were built in Chuguyev, Borovsk, Fatezh, village Kurlova in Kursk province, a charity house with a chapel in Saratov, a nunnery with a church near Saratov. The government allowed to keep all these and other buildings and only ordered to remove domes and bells.

The next year saw a decree which disallowed Ancient Orthodox Christians to build chapels, churches, charity houses and monasteries. However, since this decree had little effect and construction continued, on March 26th, 1822, the government made an additional law: "Concerning those schismatic churches which were built a long time ago, no further consideration and investigation may be continued... New construction is strictly banned”. According to the emperor’s personal order the government assigned to a category of "churches built a long time ago” all churches which had been built by Ancient Orthodox Christians before 1817, so, all churches built after the said year were demolished. Thus, the above mentioned governmental decree caused huge material and spiritual damage to the Ancient Orthodox Church. But God provided consolation in this new sorrow – all Ancient Orthodox churches built before 1817 received the status of officially allowed, moreover, Ancient Orthodox priests who joined the Church before 1822 were relieved from any persecution.

After accession to the Russian throne of Emperor Nicholas the First, all Russian society groaned under the bureaucratic and barrack-type yoke. Ancient Orthodox Christians were the major target of this oppression. The government of Nicholas the First ruled to liquidate the Ancient Orthodox Church as a phenomenon that did not fit into a harmonic mechanism of the state power. All administrative and police measures were used to bring to "the bosom of the mother, Greek-Russian Church” these "insensible schismatic run-away priests and congregations”.

Places which were most precious to the Russian Ancient Orthodoxy - monasteries, hermitages, churches and chapels – were dealt away with. Many of them were desolated and confiscated while construction of new ones was strictly prohibited. Irgyz monasteries were desolated and transferred to coreligionists in 1841. Ancient Orthodox monasteries in Kerzhenets suffered the same fate. It was strictly prohibited for hierarchs of the Greek-Russian church to pass over to schismatic run-away communities. Priests who dared to violate this decree and persons who assisted in their transfer to Ancient Orthodoxy were subjected to criminal punishment. Severe pressure was put on merchants-benefactors from Ancient Orthodox Christians to deprive communities of means of subsistence.

Laws enacted in 1846-1847 disallowed Ancient Orthodox Christians to purchase into ownership real property and land, to enter merchants’ guilds, to be elected to public offices. Entire Ancient Orthodox communities were put under strict police surveillance. Ancient Orthodox Christians were deprived of all benefits provided by previous tsars. They were again deprived of the majority of civil rights and freedoms, an opportunity to perform religious services openly in their motherland.

Nicholas the First could realise with his rational cold reasoning expressly inclined to Protestantism that he fought not with some political organisation but the Church of Christ and it was impossible to defeat it and this fact is proved by numerous examples in the history of Christianity! Neither atrocities of pagan emperors, nor plots of numerous heretics, nor cruelty of Russian new ritualists could destroy the Church of Christ, so, Emperor Nicholas the First also failed to do so.

Our fathers had to undergo numerous hardships at that time. By violence and threats all over the empire they were told to join the so-called co-religionism instituted by 1800 by Moscow metropolitan Platon (Levshin). Co-religionism was instituted under the model of Brest-Lithuanian Union of hierarchs of the West Russian Orthodox Church made with Catholics in 1596. Just at that time it was allowed to those who fell away from the Orthodoxy into the Union to perform services under "the Eastern ritual” in the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church under full subordination to the Roman Pope; so, now, those who joined co-religionism were allowed to perform religious services under ancient books using ancient rites and traditions but under obligatory subordination to hierarchs of the new ritual church.

Defenders of the Ancient Orthodox Church had to labour a lot to disclose to the doubtful the crafty plot of the emperor’s authorities and the new ritual synod, to reveal that the synodic church at the time of the rule of Nicholas the First helped missionary co-religionism with just one purpose: to catch souls of simple-minded Christians while considering it as a preparatory phase for their involvement in the "Nikonian” church.

The founding father of the co-religionism and multi-year advocate of the secular authorities in the fight against the Ancient Orthodox Church, new ritual metropolitan of Moscow, Platon, wrote about the true purpose of the co-religionism established by the synodic church: "to have a good hope that such people (Ancient Orthodox Christians who joined the synodic church  editor’s note) in due time would be enlightened by God and would come to concord without any divisions”15.

Metropolitan Platon was echoed by his successor at the Moscow new ritual cathedra and one of the major persecutors of the Ancient Orthodox Church metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov): "We must be lenient towards them (coreligionists – editor’s note) and spare their old habits hoping that perfect unity would be supported by their children”16. Filaret thought that co-religionism was established not to acknowledge the Ancient Church traditions as the Orthodox ones but just as a manes "to bring the alienated ones closer to the unity with the church and hierarchy”17, while he wrote about pre-schismatic liturgical books and rites that such books contain "uncorrected statements” and the Ancient Church traditions were allegedly "acquired with mistakes”.

For various reasons some Ancient Orthodox Christians joined the co-religionism of Nicholas. Some joined co-religionism sincerely believing that in such a way they would participate in the great case of reconciliation of Christians and overcoming of schism. Some did so because they were afraid to lose their earthly profit and privileges. Some – "because of Judaic fear” being afraid of various persecutions and repressions on behalf of "Nikonian” government.

Some people from "deacons” communities and the so-called "factory run away priests” from the Urals communities joined co-religionism,however, they did their best to preserve their separation from the Synod hoping that by their example of invariable maintenance of the ancient godliness they would manage to correct the entire "Nikonian” church.

Oppression due to forceful acceptance of co-religionism was reinforced by large-scale "hunt” against Ancient Orthodox priests carried out by Nicholas’ government over entire Russia. Dozens of priests were arrested and exiled to remote monasteries-prisons under severe surveillance. Numerous Ancient Orthodox communities, in particular, in the Urals and Siberia, for a long time had no pastoral direction.

Due to these exceptional circumstances the most authoritative and spiritually knowledgeable laymen undertook responsibility for the life of such communities. Gradually these communities started losing any connection with communities of other Ancient Orthodox Christians who still enjoyed pastoral direction by run-away priests. "After the death (around 1840s) of Father Nicholas, the last priest in the Urals, and later, after the death of Father Pavel Tulskiy who was favoured by some part of the Urals’ Ancient Orthodox Christians, primarily, some prominent Ancient Orthodox Christiansfrom Yekaterinburg, a large part of this community finally turned from those who accepted priests to those who rejected priests, at first seemingly on a provisional basis due to absolute impossibility to have a priest, but gradually they got used to be without any priests and started absorbing priest-free convictions about onset of the last kingdom of antichrist”18.

Having no possibility to perform the Divine Liturgy they turned their churches into chapels which later gave the name to this Ancient Orthodox Christian communities. "Thus, the so-called "chapel” accord appeared which actually was priest-free as some thought but which did not fully sever with their former faith and traditions in accordance with which ancestors of "chapel” old believers lived. Until now, before death they receive Holy Sacraments allegedly remaining in a sufficient quantity from last priests (since 1830-40s). More than one generation grew and, of course, some part of them died without any pastoral direction, i.e. without performance of Holy Baptism, Holy Anointment, without Wedding Ceremony, without communion of Holy Gifts, justifying this situation by the onset of kingdom of antichrist that allegedly "destroyed the sacrifice”And "chapel” priest-free Christians, by communion to the Holy Gifts before death, seemingly prove that this "sacrifice” was not destroyed yet. It reflects full uncertainty and internal disagreements of the chapel accord.”19 Chapel Christians also realised it, that is why many of them did not lose hope to regain Ancient Orthodox priests and bishops and together with other Ancient Orthodox Christians participated in the case of search of a worthy bishop about which we shall dwell upon later.

Both in those years and now the Ancient Orthodox Church is sorrowful about separation with beloved brothers in Christ, Ancient Orthodox Christians who call themselves "chapel” ones, and pray to God to remedy this separation by the ways known to Him so that co-religionist brothers shall be united in one Church and in the same Holy Sacraments.

Nicholas’ oppression which led to almost complete disappearance of Ancient Orthodox priests with renewed vigour revived in our Christians the wish to find somewhere a bishop who would share their opinions. No doubt, restoration of Ancient Orthodox episcopate would solve the problem of lack of priests and would remedy burdensome dependence of communities on rare passages of priests from the ruling church.

Nicholas’ decree of 1832 which stipulated an absolute prohibition of passage of priests from the synodic church to the Ancient Orthodox Church was the last drop that spilled the cup of patience of Ancient Orthodox Christians. A Council of the Ancient Orthodox Church was summoned in secret from the government at Rogozhskoye cemetery in Moscow in winter of the year 1832. Representatives of Ancient Orthodox communities came to the Council from all, even most remote parts of the empire – "from Vyatka, Starodubie, Kerzhenets, Irgyz, Saratov, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Rzhev, Torzhok, Tver, Tula, Borovsk, etc. There were 40 Cossacks from the Don and the Urals among the participants”20.

The subject of the discussion at the Council was the situation about Ancient Orthodox priests. Various opinions and suggestions were voiced concerning possible ways of solving the problem with catastrophic lack of priests. Finally, the Council ruled "to petition about restoration of the previously existing procedure about acquisition of priests and at the same time find the ways to establish the hierarch office, also to ask to participate in both affairs Saint Petersburg community, especially the head of this community, Sergey Gromov, and send deputies to Saint Petersburg with this petition”21. Upon the Council’s decision Saint Petersburg Christians "on their side shall petition to the supreme government for all Ancient Orthodox Christians.”22 

Should restoration of 1822 rules be refused it was decided "to send authorised delegates to Turkey and Greece to try to persuade a metropolitan without an office to come us”23 and by doing so to stop dependency of the church hierarchy from irregular passages of priests from the ruling church. At the same time the majority of our Christians were still sure "that somewhere in the East there should be unaffected Orthodox faith and hierarchs of ancient godliness. We need to find such country and persuade one of those bishops to come to take over the "widowed” Ancient Orthodox Church in Russia.”24 

Merchants Shelaputin, Feodor Rakhmanov, Bokov, and Gorelov were ardent advocates of finding a worthy bishop and asked the Council "to petition to the government to provide a permission to have our own bishop which was promised in the previous century and, in case of refusal, to secretly establish Ancient Orthodox hierarchy/”25 

In May 1832 Irgyz deputy Afanasiy Kochuyev on behalf of Ancient Orthodox Christians made a petition about restoration of rules concerning "permitted priests” and submitted it to Moscow Governor-General, Prince Gallitzin, but, as one would expect, this petition was left without any consequences. The same petition was made by Saint Petersburg Christians, however, their leader, merchant Sergey Grigorievich Gromov, who was to submit this petition to the emperor, after consultations with the chief of secret police and gendarmerie Count Benkendorf, considered this step as useless.

Having persuaded Gromov not to disturb the emperor with a petition about return of freedoms for Ancient Orthodox priesthood Benkendorf advised him how Ancient Orthodox Christians could bypass the existing severe laws. According to archimandrite of Belaya Krinista monastery, Gerontius (Leonov), it was Benkendorf who suggested to Gromov to establish a bishop office abroad and then petition to the emperor "aboutpossible permit of His Imperial Majesty to use churches and ordained priests in accordance with foreign religious legislative acts”26.

Despite the fact that Benkendorf actually proposed to Ancient Orthodox Christians to consider themselves voluntarily as members of a foreign, meaning non-Orthodox, religion and liken themselves by doing so to, for example, Catholics or Protestants, Gromov liked the idea as quite acceptable and he immediately started to implement it.

It is difficult to provide an unbiased assessment of these or those events which occurred a long time ago, nevertheless, we shall note about this event that in accordance with such advice of Benkendorf, an opponent and persecutor of the Orthodoxy, Gromov refused to fulfil the will the Council of the entire Church and by doing so he resorted to self-will and arrogance as the basis for all his further actions.

Only after some years, in 1835, Gromov managed to find a person who, according to his opinion, could implement the idea to travel to Eastern countries to find a bishop who would share outlooks of Ancient Orthodox Christians. The name of this person was Pyotr Vasilievich Velikodvorskiy. Absolute confidence in his own importance differed Pyotr from other men. On the basis of dreams he saw he believed that he was under absolute patronage of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. He believed himself "to be in some especially close relations to him”27. And after yet another dream in which Saint Nicholas allegedly appeared to him "pointing at his light-emitting omophorion and told him: "look at me and see – just as I am, so others shall be!... He jumped from his bed in exaltation and woke up his friends and called on them: Oh, my brothers! Wake up now! – Christ’s Sanctifier Nicholas appeared to me twice and assured me with his holiness”28,  "nothing could shake him conviction that he allegedly had some special assignment from the heavens and that he would act under an immediate direction of the master of heavens”29. Under the influence of this visionary conviction Pyotr always acted with initiative and persistence. Later on several times in his life he relied upon dreams and used his own interpretation of such dreams as the basis for his most important decisions and actions.

Evidently, Pyotr Velikodvorskiy was not aware of teachings of holy fathers about dreams and their warnings and prohibitions about believing in dreams.

"For the sake of great virtue, however, let it be sufficient for us not to be in any way persuaded by any fantasy at all. For dreams are for the most part nothing other than the phantoms of deluded thought or again, as I said, the mockery of demons” (Saint Diadochos of Photiki) 30.

"The one who believes in dreams is like the one who pursues his shadow and wants to catch it. Once we start believing demons in dreams they shall sport of us and when we are awake. The one who believes in dreams is inexperienced while the one who does not believe in dreams is really wise” (Saint Abba Isaiah) 31.

We have a testimony by Barsanuphius the Great about dreams that repeat several times. He was asked once: "I have heard that if one and the same dream appears to someone three times, one should recognize it as true; is this so?” And Saint Barsanuphius answered: "No, this is wrong; such a dream also one need not believe. He who has appeared once to anyone falsely can do this three times and more.”32

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