The Lake Peipsi area



The Folk Culture Centre

The Integration and Migration Foundation Our People (MISA)


From the history of Prichudie Old Believers of the 19th century (by the data of the Estonian Historical Archive)

E. Ageeva

Prichudie (the Lake Peipsi region) and Tallinn Old Believers are the unique community, whose history and spiritual life have been little studied up to now. The Estonian scholars A. H. Moora [Moora 1964] and E. V. Rihter [Рихтер 1974] were the first to draw attention to this phenomenon. The work of the Baltic combined ethnographic-anthropological expedition played an important role, too [Материалы 1954] . At present more than 350-year long Old Belief tradition is subjected everywhere to new trials. Sometimes it cannot cope with them and becomes extinct. Yet the relics of the tradition being maintained from the ancient times as bequeathed by the ancestors demand a close investigation and careful preservation. Not everywhere does this seemingly obvious thought meet the due understanding. Precisely for this reason it is important to note that in Estonia there is a striving for comprehension of the ancient culture, which found a shelter during the age of trials, developed and flourished here.

In the framework of the present project, the study of the Prichudie Old Belief was focused on the materials of the Estonian Historical Archive, first of all on the fund 291 (the Livland Governor General 1783-1801; Livland, Estland and Courland (Kurland) Governor General 1801-1876). The earliest document of this collection, which refers to the Old Belief, is the Report of 11.01.1821 included into the file № 173, inventory 1 of the fund indicated. The main corpus of the documents from the EIA belongs to the 19th century, when the tendencies of the prohibitive and even punitive treatment of Old Believers are constantly perceptible. The situation slightly changes only at the turn of the 20 century. Our study aims at bringing to light the most important and distinctive historical documents, which mirror the life of Prichudie Old Believers.

The local authorities persistently struggled against the Old Believers' public rituals, for instance their public burials. The archive file № 4659 (fund 291, inv. 1) of 1828 on Davyd Nikitin's burial serves as evidence of these persecutions. The authorities were extremely attentive to smallest disagreements in the Old Believers' community.

The case of Sidor Kutkin, who was charged with dissemination of heresy in Voronja village, was the most notorious. The case lasted for 5 years from 1841 to 1846 and ended in the deportation of Sidor Kutkin, a Dorpat icon setting master, to Caucasia fund 291, inv. 8, file 639). We have published practically the whole file since the case is the most telling and tragic. Sidor Kutkin - a public fugire mentioned in many archival documents, a zealous Old Believer - felt some doubts about purity and righteousness of his village people's belief upon his arrival from St.-Petersburg. For this reason authorities claimed him a malicious criminal, a "misguided religious dreamer" and exiled him to Caucasia.

The majority of the documents published are introduced into scientific use for the first time. Some of them have never been touched by the scholar's hand. Thus, the uniquely full, detailed and rather exact list of all Old Believers' families and inhabitants of the western shore of Lake Chudskoe (fund 291, inv. 8, file 1650 of 1855 has never been studied or published before. Similar detailed lists of names of all Old Believers of all settlements make the most valuable basis for the present historical research, which casts light on many aspects of formation and development of the Old Believers' community of the western Lake Chudskoe region. Thanks to their existence descendants have an opportunity to restore or to verify family genealogy and to recall their ancestors who have maintained the Old Belief tradition.


A. Moora. 1964 - Peipsimaa etnilisest ajaloost. Tallinn.

Е. В. Рихтер. 1974 - Русское население Западного Причудья. Таллин.

Материалы 1954 - Материалы этнографо-антропологической экспедиции (1952 г.) Труды Института этнографии им. Миклухо-Маклая АН СССР. Новая серия. Т. ХХIII. М.