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Sects and Heresies in Russia

In its historical path Orthodox Russia had not omitted heretical movements within itself, sometimes of its own, but mostly ones that came from the West.

One of the first heresies in Ancient Russia (Russ) in the10-th century A.D. came from Bulgaria. The sect is called "Bogomilly" from the name of the monk Bogomil. This sect thought, that God begat two sons: Sataniel and Logos. Christ is Logos who was born of the Virgin Mary from her ear. This sect rejected all Holy Sacraments, and demanded a strict life style etc. In the 13-th century this sect spread into South Europe and Spain. Despite persecution, this sect survived in Russia until the 18-th century, when it became converted into a sect called "Whips" and "Eunuchs" (castrati).

Another secret sect was "Jewish-like." It appeared in the 15-th century, first in the city of Novgorod and then in the city of Moscow. It is a mixture of Jewish and rationalistic teaching. It rejects Jesus Christ as God, icons and church rites (services). The originator of this sect was a Jew by the name of SKARIA. He was a leib-madic (doctor) in the retinue of the Grand Duke Alexander (Olgovich) in the city of Novgorod. The preaching of Skaria attracted many people from high government ranks. One of the leaders of this secret sect was the nobleman Theodore Kurizyn — State Minister of Foreign Affairs and even some relatives of the Grand Duke. In 1504, this sect was outlawed and its followers were scattered into various prisons. From surviving members of this sect grew a new sect under the name of "Saturday People."

"The Saturday People" appeared in the 18th century; they celebrated Saturday, instead of Sunday and acknowledged only the Old Testament. Some even practiced circumcision according to Jewish tradition. Emperor Nicholas I banished them all to the Caucas Mountain region.

"Old Believers" or "Old Faithful" — is a general name for the religious group that separated itself from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th Century. It all began during the reign of Patriarch Nikon, who wanted to correct all mistakes in the Church books and Church services around 1655. The ones that disagreed with the corrected books grew into a split — dissidence. The dissidents attracted a large number of people, who "blindly" liked the "old ways" and old (unexpunged) books. In the beginning, the dissidents wanted to leave everything the way it was, without any heretical teaching, only to follow old Russian traditions and not to obey church administration. However, by dissenting from the Church, they also started to dissent also from government functions. They started to move to secluded parts in Russia: North Siberia, near the Volga River and also into Poland, Prussia, Rumania, Turkey and China.

As time went by, "Old Believers" were divided into many groups. Some of them used old service books and old style icons during their services. "Old Believers" differ from others and from one another, by strictness in everyday life style and moral standing. They differ from the Orthodox population regarding church customs and the nonrecognition of Church Hierarchy. They may be divided into two major parts: with priesthood and without a priesthood. (The one with a priesthood had priests who left the Church for various reasons and joined them). Both branches were divided into a multitude of smaller groups, which usually carried the name of its originators. Some of them, without priesthood degenerated into various sects.

By the end of the 18th century, the passion for "dissension" quieted down, some "Old Believers" started to look into a return to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Synod of ROC in 1783, permitted its bishops to ordain priests for "friendly Old Believers." The "Old Believers" who recognized the Russian Orthodox Church began to call themselves "Agreeable" (Soglasniki). A few years later a new group of "Old Believers" in Ergize, Kazan, Petrograd (St.Petersburg) and Moscow merged with the RO Church and began to accept its priesthood. That group began to designated themselves as the "One-Faithful." In 1885, at the meeting of Bishops of ROC in the city of Kazan an official statement was released which stated that the "Orthodox" and "One-Faithful" are one Church. Some of the "One-Faithful" parishes were united with the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia in 1970. Some of those sects from Russia are set forth as follows:

"Deniers of the Holy Ghost" (In Russian Dukhobory). This sect came from Quakers in the beginning of the 18th Century, in the Kharkov province. Due to the fact, that they were mostly illiterate, it was hard to formulate their teaching. They believe in the Divinity of Christ and acknowledge transposition of souls; hell and heaven they understand allegorically, they reject church hierarchy and church rites, reject oaths and military service.

"Molokans" — This sect does not recognize sacraments and rites of the Orthodox Church. They do not acknowledge the validity of saints. They worship only by the reading of the Holy Scripture and singing of Psalms. They forbid happy gatherings, drinking, smoking and vulgar language. At one time "Molokans" lived in the area of the Caucas region, later they moved to the United States and Canada.

"Castrati"(in Russian Skoptzy) — This sect considers the savings of a soul by imposing a physical disability (castration) to reproduce. It appeared in the 18th Century in Russia. For reasons known only to the sect, they considered the Apostle Matthew, as their originator.

"Scourge" (whip, in Russian Khlysty) consists in "societies" or "Ships" that are headed by prophets, christs, theotokoses and prophetesses. They reject sacraments, priesthood and the church. They believe in the "improvised" christ: that is, anyone can became a christ through ascetic methods. Their services are called "rvenie"= zeal, and consist of reading and interpretations of the Holy Scripture with singing, jumping, running and circling, that lead into loss of consciousness and hallucination, which is interpreted as prophetic inspiration. "Scourge" are wild fanatics and are a very dangerous sect.

"Pento-books" (in Russian Pjatoknisznyki) members — believe that there is one God, and the five books of Moses are the cornerstone. Jesus Christ is not God. The church is only a society of faithful. All visible appearance is man made and should be thrown away. Church (building) — is a pagan temple, Icons — are idols, hierarchy — are pseudo-teachers, priesthood — is a pagan office. There are no Sacraments. Communion is simply bread and wine. Repentance — is self-delusion. Icons and the Cross should be annihilated as idols. Lent and Monastics — thrown away. All people with different faiths are the same in God’s eyes. There should be no wars and no governments.

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