Vorontsova Elena; Sundukova Daria

An old believers’ skete in the soviet village: (in)visible presence

Vorontsova Elena, Sundukova Daria (2020) "An old believers’ skete in the soviet village: (in)visible presence ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2020, vol. 88, pp. 83-102 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202088.83-102


Unlike the sketes of Siberian Bespopovtsy, the Belokrinitsky sketes which existed in the European part of Russia in the 20th century remain practically unexplored. Moreover, there are cases when such communities functioned during the Soviet period. This paper presents an attempt to reconstruct the history of a Belokrinitsky skete which existed from the 1930s to 1990s in Shoda village near Kostroma. In the beginning, the local religious community was in opposition to the main group within the Belоkrinitskaya hierarchy and did not recognise the so called “Okruznoe poslanie”, but later they joined the Russian Orthodox Old Believers’ Church and became an important spiritual centre of Yaroslavl-Kostroma Diocese. The article discusses diff erent versions of the origin of the skete refl ected in narratives of the present day Old Believers, provides biographical information about some of its monks and nuns. The focus is on how the local farmers’ community manage to practise traditional forms of asсetic life in new realities of the Soviet period when the government was intended to close all monasteries and sketes. The authors try to demonstrate that a non-cenobitic skete, consisting of separate cells, сan be a normal part of everyday life in a Soviet village (as it was before the Russian revolution) and does not need any special mechanism of adaptation. Remote location of Shoda and family relations between the nuns played an essential role in this arrangement. It is noted that apart from nuns, in the village community existed a group of unmarried women who lived a secluded lifestyly, performed religious rites consistently, owned icons, religious books, and enjoyed a reputation for being literate. The article also discusses topics of “neokruzhniki”, “keleynitsi”, as well as interactions between Old Believers and state authorities, horizontal and vertical connections between various Belokrinitsky communities. The article is mainly based on fi eld interviews and documents from Old Believers’ family archives.


village of Shoda, сonvent, neokruzhniki, Old Believers, skete, Belokrinitskaya hierarchy


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Information about the author

Vorontsova Elena

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philosophy;
Place of work: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities; 6/1 Likhov pereulok, Moscow 127051, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0002-1292-4580;
Email: lendail@yandex.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.

Sundukova Daria

Place of work: Lomonosov Moscow State University, 27/4 Lomonosovsky Prosp., Moscow GSP-1, Russian Federation;
Post: Teaching and Learning Specialist;
ORCID: 0000-0003-2158-9590;
Email: dariasund@gmail.com.


Russian foundation for basic research 18-39-00087/19.