July 29, 2014

The Schism and the Skoptsy

RIA Novosti is running a series on Russia's religious sects. The news service takes a look at the history of some of these groups and their leaders, and also asks "why Russia has proved such fertile ground for the growth of new and bizarre beliefs." Part one: MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti's Marc Bennetts) - Russia has seen a colossal number of sects and fringe religions throughout its long history, from the 18th-century self-castrating Skoptsy to the modern-day doomsday cult whose members threatened to burn themselves alive in the Volga Region last year. Up until the mid 17th century, the Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed complete spiritual authority. However, in 1666, Patriarch Nikon decided to bring the Russian Church in line with Greek Orthodoxy, and ordered the rewriting of ecclesiastical tomes. His move, in a country where dogma and tradition had always played a large role in religious life, caused an uproar. Nikon's assertion that Orthodox believers should use three fingers … [Read more...]