Accepted paper:

Continuity and innovation in Old Believers' religious practices


Cristina Clopot (Heriot Watt University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes an analysis of themes of continuity and innovation related to the religious practices of Old Believers in Romania and beyond. It particularly focuses on the establishment of a new religious hierarchy outside Russia through the appointment of Bishop Ambrose.

Paper long abstract:

Scholars researching Eastern Christianity noted an emphasis on continuity (Hann and Goltz 2010) in religious practices. Theoretically, continuity has mostly been presented in a dialectic relation to innovation. In this paper I aim to challenge these assumptions by discussing how certain 'unorthodox' movements might add new layers to such an argument and how continuity and change might co-exist in religious traditions, as commended by different factors outside religion. I will particularly focus on the Old Belief and its complex history starting in Russia in the XVIIth century with the Schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. Their religious practices placed a great emphasis on continuity with a form of Orthodoxy preserved since the Christianization of Russia in the IXth century. Through these claims they opposed the Orthodox Russian Church innovations, rejecting Greek elements introduced by religious leaders in the 1600s. Following a period of persecutions due to their resistance to changes, devotees of the Old Belief left Russia, spreading around the world. While resisting hegemonic changes inland, they soon saw themselves forced to accept innovation to be able to preserve religious practices outside Russia that would allow ordaining new priests. Thus, a new hierarchy was officially created in the XIXth century at Belaya Krinitsa (currently in Ukraine), later moved to Braila, Romania. In this paper I will thus explore the tensions between claims to continuity and the adoption or rejection of such changes as well as their consequences in shaping different trajectories for Old Believers communities around the world.

panel P061
Religious trends toward intimacy and revolution