RUSSIAN OLD BELIEVERS IN ESTONIA
The western coast of Lake Chudskoye (Peipus) was settled in the late 16th century, although Russian fishermen came to fish here already in the 13th-14th centuries. In the 16th-17th centuries, the population was mostly Estonian. Russian fishermen made up to 20 % of the north-western coastline population. According to A. Moora, a researcher of Prichudye (the Lake Peipus area), fishing was of minor importance for Estonians: they preferred agriculture.
First Russian Old Believers (starovery) appeared on the shore near Mustvee in the late 17th century. The end of the 18th century was marked by growing resettlement of Old Believers from provinces of Vitebsk, Novgorod and even Tver. Russian population was increasing mostly in the villages engaged in fishing. Estonians lived in the places favourable for agriculture.
Before speaking of the history of the Old Belief in Estonia, one should turn to the history of the Russian Church. Having adopted the Christian Orthodox faith from the Byzantine Greeks during the rule of the Grand Prince Vladimir in 988, the Russians held it sacred until the mid-16th century: they considered it their inviolable national sacred possession. The Russians adopted the Greek forms of divine service, rites, customs and churchdom.
After Patriarch Nikon had come to power in 1653, reformation of the Russian Orthodox Church began (mainly for political reasons and because of patriarch's personal ambitions). The reforms included textual correction of the liturgical books, change of rites, abolition of down-to-earth bows, the manner of crossing oneself with three instead of two fingers, etc. The government supported persecution of the disobedients by laws and military power. The clergy that resisted reforms was exterminated. The adherents of the Old Belief remained without guidance. In 1665, the bishop Pavel Kolomensky was killed. In 1668, the governmental troops besieged the Solovetsky monastery: it was seized in 1677. Those who remained alive were imprisoned. In November of 1675, boyarynya Morozova died in the earthen prison from starvation. In April, the archpriest Avvakum was burnt alive after four years of confinement. Old Believers were cruelly persecuted, exiled, tortured and executed all over Russia. Their churches, icons and homes were burnt down. They took refuge abroad, in the Baltic and even in America. After the schism, the Old Believers split up into several branches (concords). "Pomortsy" (Pomorians) and "Fedoseevtsy" (Fedoseyans) found shelter in Estonia. Enemies of Old Believers called them "raskolniki", whereas Old Believers called themselves "starovery". After the Tsar's edict of toleration (April 17, 1905), the status of Old Believers and the name "Old Believers" (for the first time in the Catherine the Great's edict of August 13, 1785) were legitimized.
Relatively little is known about the Old Believers who fled to Estonia in the late 17th century. There is more information on the Old Believer monastery in Ryapino. Adepts of Feodosi Vasilyev, the founder of the Fedoseyan concord, settled there. In 1710, they founded the monastery. They built a mill, a forge and a number of buildings and were engaged in agriculture and fishing. In 1718, the prior Konstantin Fedorov left the monastery and became an enemy of Old Believers. He was appointed the priest in Yamburg (now Kingisepp) and acquired the right to influence the Old Believers' destiny. Fedorov wrote the letters to Ryapino monastery, threatening to send soldiers for reprisals. The threat was soon put into effect. A false report by a soldier Petr Tyukhov served as a pretext. Tyukhov reported about the fugitive soldiers hiding in Ryapino manor. The Old Believers had heard about the danger not long before the soldiers arrived. Some of them took horses and rode away, others fled. The soldiers pursued and arrested the Old Believers. The latter were brought to Yuryev (Tartu), tortured, brought to Petersburg and tortured again. Quite soon it turned out that the report was false. Persecutions, nevertheless, continued, and Ryapino monastery was destroyed in 1719. Building of Old Believer worship houses started in Prichudye in the early 18th century. Thus the worship house in Kikita village was built by the Novgorod merchant Nikitin and one of the Moscow boyars Morozovs in 1740. They also brought liturgical books, four bells and all necessary utensils there.
By the late 18th century, the new worship houses appeared in Varnja, Krasnye Gory (Kallaste), Kasepeli, Kolki and Chernyi Posad (Mustvee) villages. In the early 19th century, worship houses were, on the contrary, closed. Under the rule of the Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855), repressions against Old Believers were intensified. The order to close all Old Believer churches came from Riga (the centre of the Province of Livland, to which also Dorpat uezd belonged). In 1837, the Kikita worship house was sealed. On March 5, 1846, the Old Believers of this village petitioned to the Ministry for Internal Affairs to get back their personal icons with "parental blessing". In December, they received the answer from St.-Petersburg: "To dismantle the worship house, to hand over the icons and liturgical books to the Edinovertsy church of Chernaya (Mustvee) village" (the Edinovertsy or the unified faith was a branch of the state-sponsored Russian Orthodox Church, dedicated to drawing the Old Believers back into the church hierarchy). On February 28, 1847, the Kikita worship house was dismantled.
In the 19th century, the authorities tried to strengthen the position of the Orthodoxy in Prichudye in every possible way. A new Orthodox church was built in Nos (Nina) village inhabited by members of the Orthodoxy. In the 1830s, its priest A. Orlov repeatedly wrote reports against Old Believers. Criminal proceedings were often instituted on the grounds of these reports. The following accusations were brought against Old Believers: their children were baptized in their faith, parents were not married in the Orthodox Church, and, finally, Old Believers blamed the Orthodoxy and its ministers. It was prohibited not only to baptize and marry, but also to bury by Old Believer custom. Thus, the Tartu police chief ordered to bury an Old Believer preceptor (nastavnik) at night. Orthodox priests took children away from their parents to baptize them into the Orthodox faith and to educate in Russian Orthodox families. There were also rich and influential people among Old Believers. For example, Old Believer merchants from Dorpat repeatedly bribed police. But forces were unequal. Worship houses were sealed in the mid-1840s. There remained only the worship house in Kasepae village.
Prichudye Russian villages repeatedly attracted attention of Russian writers. Thus Faddey Bulgarin happened to travel through Chernaya village (Mustvee). He liked village architecture and wealth of its residents. "Chernaya village is built perfectly well; there are mostly two-storey buildings with towers and balconies here. Shops, workshops, fishing equipment are visible everywhere; prosperity and merriness show from everywhere". The inhabitants themselves seemed likable to the writer: "The streets were crowded. Tall, healthy and strong men thronged in the middle; pink-cheeked beauties stood at the gates waiting for the cows. Children, nice as cupids, fluttered from place to place". While talking to peasants, Bulgarin found out that "they were all Old Believers and had moved here during the Swedish rule". Bulgarin was pleasantly surprised to see the Russian peasants not living in Russia but still remaining Russian. "They all know the Estonian language, but live in Russian way".
The woman essay-writer Ekaterina Avdeyeva, who stayed with her relative, professor M.P.Rosberg, in Dorpat (Tartu) in the 1830s, was also interested in Russian villages of Prichudye.
She was struck by Russianness of Prichudye inhabitants. She wrote in her book Notes on the Russian Old and New Mode of Life: "I have not seen such purely-Russian generation for a long time: they have preserved their language, customs, clothes; they are almost all tall, strong, with light-brown hair; children's hair are as flax; all their movements are agile thanks to active life". Both Avdeyeva and Bulgarin tried to inquire about the roots of Prichudye inhabitants, but the latter answered that their fathers and grandfathers already lived here. Avdeyeva noticed that Prichudye Russians were very honest. Thievery is unknown among them. Belongings remained in a boat for two days without surveillance and nobody touched them, while the owners were at fair. Fishermen remember poor people. There is a nice custom to throw the last seine for orphans. When fishermen come back from fishing, poor people gather on shore and get their share of the catch. Avdeyeva's notes, with her feminine interest in details of life, customs and language of Prichudye people, are extremely interesting.
There were the Orthodox Russians, however, who sympathized with Old Believers. One of them was the famous writer Nikolai Leskov who had been to Riga on instructions from the Minister of Education A.Golovin to investigate the problem of Old Believer schools. Leskov considered the schism a profound spiritual tragedy of Russians, the destruction of national unity. Leskov's report was written in defence of Old Believers. The writer presumed that the prohibition of Old Believer schools would bar the way to elementary education for thousands of people. The writer protested also against the devastation of worship houses. Leskov gives the examples of the oppression of Old Believers. Thus eight Old Believer preceptors from Dorpat (Tartu) uezd were exiled and died as martyrs for faith. Leskov wrote with indignation: "Dorpat Old Believers have neither legal preceptors nor a worship house, nor wives, nor children, nor rights, nor duties! Old Believers want to have their own schools. But they wish their own teachers to teach in these schools, Orthodox priests not to be allowed to intervene into the school life. As a result, secret Old Believer schools appear". It should be said that Leskov repeatedly turned to Old Believers' everyday life in his own works as well.
The school education of Old Believer children was one of the most painful problems in the 19th century. In the late 19th-early 20th century, Old Believers themselves taught Church Slavonic reading and writing skills to their children. For example, there was a school for Old Believer children at the Tartu worship house, where the education was free for poor children.
In the 1830-1840s, the first Russian parochial schools were opened in Chernaya (Mustvee), Lohusuu, Tikheda and Nos (Nina) villages. The teachers were Orthodox priests and psalmists. Thereby the Tsarist government pursued the double aim: the Orthodox children living in Dorpat (Tartu) uezd had to escape the influence of Old Believers, whereas Old Believers had to rid themselves of their "heresy" through the beneficial influence of the Orthodox church. While children mostly learned by heart chasoslov (a liturgical book) and catechism in such schools, they mastered also arithmetic and secular reading and writing. In 1832, the Old Believer schools were strictly banned by the government, however. Secret "auntie's" schools were organized in the second half of the 19th century. The teachers were mostly women with good knowledge of liturgical books. There was also an additional training in "kriukovoe" chant to prepare new worship house choristers. Girls from Prichudie were sent to Old Believer centres in Petersburg and Pskov to learn chant. In Pskov they were taught chant and reading at rich man Hmelnitsky's house and needlework at merchant Batov's house. Being back at home, they could sing in worship houses, teach children in secret schools and embroider icons. Old Believers spent large sums of money to purchase ancient manuscript books in Moscow and Petersburg. The books were copied out in Prichudye. There were a lot of people experienced in the 17th century script among Old Believers. One may draw a conclusion that Old Believers were not inimical to education in general, but wanted to give their children the education, which strengthened the foundations of their faith.
Let's talk a bit of Old Believers' religious life. Since public worship houses were officially forbidden, rich Old Believer merchants built worship houses as though for their families. Hence the name "worship house". The Old Believer hierarchy was destroyed by Nikon. Therefore the Old Believer spiritual leaders (preceptors) are chosen from parish members. They are usually the experts in the issues of divine service, most respectable and worthy men over 40 years. Old Believers have special worship clothes. It is an azyam, men's long wear with narrow sleeves, made of dark fabric. Not all parishioners had azyams, but a preceptor had it necessarily. Women-choristers of the krylos wore and still wear sarafans made of black material. They are not permitted to enter worship house bare-headed and therefore wear a large kerchief, often tasselled. The kerchief is pinned up under the chin. It was forbidden to enter a worship house in a knotted kerchief. Old Believers always use lestovki (ladders) and a podruchnik (a cloth put under the hands during the prayer) at worship. A lestovka was already used in the first centuries of Christianity, but only Old Believers have preserved it. It is a sort of beads: a wicker leather ribbon sewed in the form of a loop. The four piped triangular "lopastoks" ("small blades"), decorated with beads and embroidery, are sewed to the place of connection of the ribbon's ends: they signify the four evangelists. A lestovka is used to facilitate counting of prayers and bows. It helps to concentrate on prayers. A podruchnik is a rather small (40x40) rug which is put on the floor to keep hands clean while accomplishing down-to-earth bows or prostrations. Girls from Old Believer families competed in embroidering of lestovki and podruchniki. As a rule, men stand on the right and women on the left side in worship houses. Children always stand in front. The service is strict and solemn.
Easter is the greatest feast for Old Believers. It is the life's victory over death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated for three days. The most festive board is prepared for Easter. At Pentecost houses are decorated with birch-leaves, eggs are painted yellow. It is the time to visit the relatives' graves. After the Christmas service, the preceptor and the krylos (choir) go all round the village glorifying Christ in every house.
There were also local patrons' feasts of the church. Thus St. Peter's and Paul's day was celebrated on Piirissaar Island. All Prichudye inhabitants came there by boats and celebrated for several days. The day of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker was also important for fishermen: the saint was considered to be the fishermen's patron.
Family holidays like weddings or baptisms were also celebrated in Prichudye. Usually Old Believers married in the same or neighbouring village and certainly in the same faith. Usually one went to propose to a girl late in the evening to avoid the influence of a "bad eye". The bridegroom's closest relatives (mother, brothers) were sent to propose. A wedding was celebrated in several days after the proposal.
Old Believer families were large because the interruption of pregnancy was forbidden. Birth was given at home. Village old women were at help. If a baby was weak and ill, it was baptized as soon as possible. A healthy child could be baptized even in two month after the birth. A name was taken from the church calendar. There are a lot of archaic men's and women's names in Prichudye: Feofan, Filaret, Yelikanida, Khionia, etc. A godmother and godfather were chosen by baby's mother. She herself was considered unclean and could not be present at the baptism. A godmother, godfather (called "kum" and "kuma") and mother's relatives brought the baby to the worship house.
A burial was the most significant of rites. Before a burial, three or four men read in turns psalms beside the deceased. Usually all village residents and acquaintances of the deceased from neighbouring villages came to the burial. An icon was being brought in front of the coffin. The coffin was covered by cloth, and the preceptor with a censer followed the coffin. There was a commemorative feast for the preceptor, relatives and neighbours after the burial. There was a custom to worship, to hold commemorative services in the third, ninth and fortieth day after the death.
The Old Believer custom to use separate dishes for own and alien people was the most amazing for the representatives of other confessions, who came into contact with Old Believers. Having visited Prichudye in 1930, the young scholar, the future academician Paul Ariste wrote: "There are special dishes for people of other faith in every decent house since politeness demands hospitality". There was also a separate cup for a newly-made mother in Old Believer families. A man who returned home from other places used separate dishes until he was cleansed with prayer. Sharing the same dishes with Orthodox people was considered sin, but it sometimes happened while being away from home.
Besides the separate dishes, a samovar is a typical feature of an Old Believer home. Prichudye people drink a lot of tea. Water was taken only from the lake, off shore. It was usual to drink tea from a saucer with small pieces of sugar. A family used about 100 grams of tea per two days. Guests were always treated to tea. Love for samovar tea is usual for Russians in general, but the point is that tea is prohibited for Old Believers. This prohibition is broken everywhere in Prichudye. Local inhabitants explain the need for tea by the abundance of fish food that incites thirst. The usage of tobacco is also banned among Old Believers. This ban is connected with spreading of tobacco under the rule of Peter the Great, whom the Old Believers considered to be Antichrist.
Fishing, the main trade of Russian population of the western coast of Lake Peipus, has also its impact on local Russian speech. According to N. Burdakova's calculations, there are about a thousand names for fish in Prichudye Russian dialects.
The 20th century considerably changed Old Believers' life. The first Russian revolution not only evoked a wave of Russian peasants' political activity, but softened the treatment of Old Believers by the government. In 1917, some local Russian newspapers reported on the wish of Prichudie residents to join democratic Russia. Germans, Estonians and Russians, the Red and White Army passed through Prichudye during the civil war. A lot of blood was shed.
After the Tartu peace treaty had been signed, the problem of the border became the most important and painful for Prichudye population. Western and eastern shore inhabitants constantly communicated before the revolution. There were acquaintances and relatives on the both sides of the lake. The border, which passed along the lake, was marked with fir-twigs in winter and with buoys in summer. Sometimes Prichudye fishermen, who got lost in mist, were caught by Soviet border-guards, who took away their boats, fishing-tackles and fish. Unlucky fishermen had to stay under arrest in Gdov's prison. The situation got worse in the second half of the 1930s when the fishermen from Estonia were treated as spies. In the 1920-30s, only a narrow strip remained for fishing, although before the Prichudye fishermen came to fish not only on Peipus, but also on Lake Ladoga.
The second very painful problem was the lost of market. The major part of catch was sent to Petersburg, Pskov and Moscow. Now the whole catch had to be sold in the Baltic. In the 1920-30s, a number of Prichudye residents were engaged in building as well as market-gardening: they cultivated onion, chicory, cucumbers. Due to the loss of market, the level of life was lower between the two world wars than it was before the revolution, although Prichudye people certainly lived better than fishermen in the Soviet Russia. At this time, Old Believers of Estonia had close contacts with the spiritual centre of Baltic Old Believers, the Grebenshchikov community in Riga. The historian, writer, scholar and public activist Ivan Nikiforovich Zavoloko (1897-1984) founded the "Old Believer circle of zealots of Russian antiquities", whose task was to study and propagate Russian history and the history of the Old Belief. From 1927 to 1933, the magazine "The Native Past (Rodnaia Starina)" was published in Riga. It was supported by donations and by Zavoloko's personal means. It was devoted to issues of religious and national education. Considerable attention was paid to Old Believers' life in Estonia: Zavoloko himself regularly visited Prichudye. The magazine was completely re-printed in the Moscow publishing house "The Third Rome" in 1997, which is a testimony of its significance.
In the late 1920s, the articles of a famous Prichudye icon painter Gavriil Yefimovich Frolov were published in "The Native Past". Frolov worked in icon-painting studios in Rezhitsa (Rezekne) and at the Preobrazhenskoe cemetery in Moscow. Frolov was an Old Believer of the Fedoseyan concord; therefore his mode of life was severe and ascetical. He wore azyam from youth, never missed a divine service and had meals only twice a day, as supposed by the Old Believer regulations. He started to paint an icon only after the prayer and then consecrated it himself. He spent earned money on the needs of the community and on the purchase of religious books. G. Frolov gave much attention to children. He taught old "kriukovoe" chant to several generations. He founded the school to teach Church Slavonic reading and writing. There were Frolov's icons almost at every Prichudye home. He did not give up painting while being very ill. Frolov found the means to build the Old Believer church in Rayushi (Raja) and decorated it himself. He was a master of the Old Russian icon-painting style. The many-tier iconostasis included about two hundreds images of saints and Bible stories. Unfortunately, the church burnt down during the war. In 1990, the parish restored the 50 meters-high church tower.
The two Frolov's pupils are well-known: Pimen Sofronov (1898-1973) and Mark Solntsev (died in 1958). Pimen Sofronov worked in an icon-painting studio in Riga in the late 1920s. Then he moved to Europe and headed icon-painting schools and colleges in Paris, Prague and Belgrade. In 1939, he was invited to work in Vatican. After the war, Sofronov moved to the USA where he decorated churches and supervised painting courses. In 1968, not long before his death, he visited his native land Prichudye. He spent most of his life abroad, but always dreamt of returning home. The Sofronov's centenary was celebrated in Estonia and Latvia in 1998. The memorial table was installed on his former house in Prichudye.
In the 1930-40s, Yevdokia Yefimovna Dolgosheva from Kallaste was famous for artistic embroidery. She skilfully embroidered icons in silk. Having embroidered an icon, she consecrated it in church. She donated the embroidered icons to Old Believer worship houses in Tallinn, Tartu, Mustvee and Kallaste. A. Ulanova from Kallaste recalled how Moscow art critics from the Tretyakov Gallery came to Dolgosheva to ask her to sell an icon to Moscow. She queried: "Don't they smoke there?" Having found out that it could not be guaranteed, she refused to give them her work.
There were 10 thousand Old Believers, unified in 12 communities in Estonia. The Old Believer congresses were held regularly in Tallinn, Tartu, Kallaste and on Piirissaare Island. The Charter of the Old Believer Church was adopted, presentations on the most important current questions were made and the problems of administration were discussed at congresses. The congress elected the management board - the Central Council - for a period of three years. The Council was responsible for the administration and management. The Ecclesiastical Committee discussed the problems of Old Believers' religious life. Guests from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland attended the congresses. The question of celebrating of Old Believer feasts in accordance with old calendar style was the most painful one since schoolchildren's parents were fined for children's absence in school during the holidays.
A lot of attention was paid to the work with young people. There was an Old Believer youth circle supervised by Lavrenti Yefremovich Grishakov (1914-1991) in Tartu in the 1930s. Its main purpose was to strengthen religious devotion of Old Believer youth. Under supervision of Ivan Savelyevich Kulev, young people studied the famous kriukovoe ('hook') chant.
Church education courses, directed by L. Murnikov, were opened in Posad Chernyi in 1933. The Old Believer L. Murnikov attached great importance to learning of kriukovoe chant. In his book "Youth's Spiritual Rest. A Practical Manual for Studying Znamennoe (Solevoe) Chant" he wrote: "Church znamennoe chant is our sacred past, the precious symbol of antiquity, a live connection with the remote past. It is the chant of those days, when boyarynya Morozova was in chains, and people responded to the appeal of the great men and stood for the liberation of the native land and holy Christian faith" (znamennyi raspev, "chant by the signs", is an ancient form of Russian chant).
In the 1920-30s, new worship houses were built and restored. In 1930, the Old Believer church in Mustvee (Posad Chernyi) was consecrated. In 1931, the stone bell tower (the project by the architect Pochekayev) was built in Tartu thanks to donations of the parish and other Old Believer communities. The Yuryev (Tartu) church itself was built on the plot, donated by A. Korablyova, in 1863. The Tallinn Old Believer community was in the most difficult situation: it had not its own worship house up to 1930 and rented a room for prayer. It was a rich and big community at one time. At the time of persecutions and absence of legal rights it lost its members, church property and fell apart. According to parishioner Stefanida Maeberg's will, a new church was built. Following wife's will, her husband, a Lutheran, donated a plot, built a worship house there and gave it to the Old Believer community. It was consecrated on December 26, 1930.
There were active culture and education societies in Prichudye in the 1920-30s. Usually a local teacher was at the head of the society. An instructor from the Union of Russian Education and Philanthropy Societies helped them. There were People's Houses, mixed choirs and folk music orchestras in many villages.
Firemen were also of great importance for Prichudye life. There were mostly wooden houses standing close to each other in Prichudye: fires happened quite often. Almost all men were members of the voluntary firemen societies. Firemen had their own People's House in Kallaste. Performances and dancing parties were organized there.
In the second half of the 1930s, Stalin's dictatorship in the USSR had an impact on the Prichudye residents as well. Propaganda, aimed at the Russians, living in neighbouring countries, depicts the Soviet life as a paradise. At the time, radio was popular in Estonia. The families, which had crystal receivers, listened to the Soviet broadcasting. Several scores of teenagers, tempted with the broadcasts, fled to the USSR. At first they were returned to parents, but later some of them got into prison, being condemned to ten years of imprisonment on suspicion of espionage in favour of Estonia.
There was a great turn in quiet Prichudye life in 1940-41. The Soviet Army entered Estonia in summer of 1940. Local people have not seen such amount of tanks before. There were few meetings and demonstrations in support of the new power. First fishing collective farms (kolkhozes) were organized in Prichudye.
The hopes to see relatives and to visit Russia (some of them had not seen it for 20 years) did not come true. A special permission was required to visit Russia. Russian newspapers in Estonia were closed and "Soviet Estonia" and "The Soviet Village" appeared instead. Old Believers were unpleasantly struck by open atheist propaganda. The connections with the Grebenshikov community were lost. I. N. Zavoloko, a prominent Old Believer figure, was arrested. All local culture-educational societies were abolished. A number of local Russian leaders were subjected to repressions. At these troubled times, Prichudye people lost their spiritual leaders.
In a week after mass deportations of June 14, 1941, the war began. A part of men were mobilized into the Soviet Army. Since Tartu was very soon occupied by Germans, not many Prichudye inhabitants were mobilized. But they were mobilized into the German army instead. Food and kerosene were issued in exchange for cards. Germans forbade selling fish: it had to be exchanged for butter. Fishermen were compelled to exchange butter for necessary food and things. German soldiers and officers sometimes stopped by worship houses because of curiosity. German soldiers were quartered in Prichudye houses. Sometimes Germans mistook bearded Old Believers for partisans, but then, having understood the mistake, let them go. It is interesting that during the German occupation Russian villages and streets of Prichudye received back the names they had during the Tsarist time.
The war destroyed many houses in Mustvee and Raja. The worship houses in Raja and Kikita were burnt down as well as the worship house in Tartu - together with an icon by Andrei Rublev (as tradition tells) brought here from Piirissaar Isalnd.
After the war, the restoration of Prichudye began. Old Believers themselves restored their worship houses. Bricks and logs were brought by horses. There were a lot of skilful stone-masons in villages, who did the work of reconstruction. Icons by local masters were brought from homes. Thus the worship house in Kikita was restored and consecrated in 1949. In the end of the 1940s, collective farms were either organized or restored. The period of creating of kolkhozes coincided with the deportation of March 1949. A lot of people were deported from Prichudye Russian villages. Some of them died in Siberia, some returned home in the late 1950s.
The Soviet period was in many respects destructive for Old Believers, especially Khrushev's rule with its frantic antireligious propaganda and demolition of individual agriculture. Youth left for towns, schools got empty. The prominent researcher of Prichudye Russian dialects, Old Believer preceptor's wife Tatyana Filaretovna Murnikova (1908-1985) was almost dismissed, but thanks to Professor Y. Lotman's protection, continued her work as a university lecturer at the other department.
The religious life of Old Believers changed under the Soviet rule. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, became the main religious centre. Preceptors had to submit the lists of parishioners to the authorities. Old Believers tried to conceal their religious belonging: it could be harmful for their career. Houses of worship were attended mostly by women and old people.
The Old Believer renaissance in Estonia began in the 1990s. The Union of Old Believer Communities of Estonia was restored. At present, there are almost 15 thousand Old Believers by birth in Estonia. Old Believers' descendants willingly baptize their children in worship houses. Churches are crowded at Easter. There are 11 registered Old Believer parishes in Estonia: 9 in Prichudye, 1 in Tartu and 1 in Tallinn. The Old Believers of Estonia strive for the revival of the old traditions. For example, they started to celebrate church feast days together. The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of Lord was celebrated in Kallaste on August 29, 1998. Old Believers from all 11 parishes came together. The feast of apostles Paul and Peter was celebrated on Piirissaar Island on July 22, 1999. The tradition of christoslavy (glorifying of Christ) is being revived. After the Christmas night service, choristers (the krylos) go all round a village glorifying Christ. In Kolki Old Believer children have religion classes at school. It is planned to develop the work with Old Believer children. One of the most painful problems is robbery in worship houses. The Voronye and Kikita church were repeatedly robbed. There are empty spaces in iconostasis, where the stolen icons have been. The Prichudye population is mostly Russian. Only in Mustvee it is half Russian and half Estonian. Mixed marriages are rare. There are families, where either the wife or the husband is from Russia. Local Russians are almost all relatives, neighbours or acquaintances. E. Berg and H. Kulu in their article "Prichudye Russians" point out that Prichudye Russians clearly distinguish between the "own" and the "alien". Not only Estonians, but the Russians, who came from afar, the Orthodox Russians or atheists are alien.
The question arises: how could several thousands of Old Believers preserve their identity in the Estonian environment for 300 years? Will Old Believers remain in Prichudye? It seems that their local roots are deep and strong. Worship houses were burnt, closed and sealed repeatedly. But they were restored again. The worship houses in Kallaste and on Piirissaar Island are 200 years old. And the young Old Believers return to their roots, to the old tradition and attend worship houses.
Lake Chudskoye (Peipus) connects three cultures - Russian, Estonian and German. For Estonians, it is Lake Peipsi, which the hero of the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg swam while setting off for Pskov. For Russians, 'Lake Chudskoye' means Aleksandr Nevsky's victory over the German knights on April 5, 1242. Prichudye is associated not only with the appearing or disappearing state border, but with the two neighbouring cultures. Estonians and Russians, with their different languages, customs and faiths, lived here side by side for 300 years, not merging but peacefully getting on with each other.