The Piirissaare community of the Pomorian concord lives on Piirissaar Island on Lake Peipus, at the distance of 15 kilometers from the place, where the Emajogi River flows into Lake Peipus (Chudskoe) in Tartu County. The oldest settlement on the island is known from 1370 under the name of Zhelachek (Zhelachko). At the time of the Dorpat episcopate, Piirissar Island was divided between Dorpat and Pskov. After the Great Northern War, a part of the island was joined to the Province of Livland (Kastre manor), another part to the Province of Pskov.
The first archival evidence on Old Believers and worship house on the island, in Mezha village, are from 1802. In 1833, 144 Old Believers from different estates and 132 Old Believers, who were state peasants of Kastre manor, lived in the village. There were 30 Old Believers from different estates and 31 state peasants in Zhelachek (German 'Kaunapach'). There were in total 337 Old Believers on Piirissaar Island at the time. By 1836, the number of Old Believers in Mezha village increased to 347 people and in Zhelachek, on the contrary, decreased to 13 people, apparently, due to the conversion to the Orthodox or unified faith. The worship house was in Mezha. Despite the great distance, persecutions under Nicholas I's rule had an impact on the life of the Old Believers of Piirissaar Isalnd, too. In 1856, the Mezha Old Believer V. P. Korotkova's children were separated from their mother and re-baptized into the Orthodox church by force. In 1861, Old Believers opened two worship houses on the island without permission. The first was in Mezha village at peasant's Yemelyan Vasilyev's house, another was at Kaster manor's pier, at Leonti Petrov's house. Trofim Lavrentyev was the preceptor at the time. As soon as the province government found out about the worship houses, the latter were closed. Y. Vasilyev and L. Petrov received an official reprimand. Nevertheless, the wooden worship house (for 400 persons and with area of 120 square meters) under the iron roof was built in Zhelachek in two years.
In the turn of the 20th century, the Piirissaare community consisted of about 300-400 members. A peasant of Kavastu district Saveli Akityevich Remets (1855) served as the preceptor without province government's permission. Y. M. Antropov, Y. Y. Grishakov, P. L. Kozlov were the members of the community council, Sergei Ivanovich Kozlov was its chairman.
In May of 1914, the plan of a new worship house in Mezha village on Piirissaar Island with the initial capital of 4510 rubles was adopted by the Livland Province government. Sidor Leshkin and Nikifor Grishakov initiated the building.
The population of the island at the time of the first Estonian Republic was about 1200 people, a quarter of them were Estonians and the rest were Russians, mostly Old Believers. Two Old Belief churches, an Orthodox and a Lutheran church functioned on the island. Two Piirissaare Old Believer communities were registered as societies. The first, whose centre was in Mezha, was headed by the chairman S. P. Leshkin and preceptor S. L. Babushkin and was registered in 1924. Another was registered as the Saarekula (Zhelachek) community in 1926. F. Feklistov was elected the chairman and T. A. Penkin the preceptor of the latter. There were 354 parishioners in the first and 460 in the second community by 1930. In 1935, A. P. Mironov was the preceptor of the Mezha community.
The 8th Old Believers' Congress took place on Piirissaar Island on July 12-13, 1931. The Old Believers of the Mezha and Zhelachek communities took part in it. The sessions of the 9th Old Believer Congress (July 12-13, 1933) were held in the worship house of the Mezha community. The representatives of 7 Estonian communities, guests from Riga and the famous figure of the Old Belief I. N. Zavoloko participated in the Congress.
During World War II, the Germans deported the residents from the island. The worship house was dismantled. After the war, Old Believers made an attempt to restore it, but did not succeed.
In the post-war time, on August 10, 1945, the Old Believers of Piirissar Island registered the Zhelachek community. Mikhail Kirillovich Vavilov was its preceptor. Trofim Kobylkin was the chairman of the community in 1949, D. T. Ilyin in 1958 and later. In 1951, the general meeting of the Zhelachek community decided to join the Mezhi community and to conduct the religious rites in both Mezha and Zhelachek village by turns. Since the Mezha worship house was not restored yet, the community life concentrated in Zhelachek. In 1952, up to 400 parishioners visited church in feast-days.
According to a Prichudye fishermen's tradition, Piirissar Island was always the place to celebrate St. Peter's day. In 1999, the Society of Old Believer Culture and Development restored the tradition. Vasili Petrovich Amelkin, Karp Stepanovich Karzubov, Kirill Alekseyevich Smirnov served as preceptors of the Piirissaare community. For some time, Fedor Yakovlevich Noyev from Kallaste held divine service.
Y. I. Romanenkov, T. I. Romanenkov, D. T. Ilyin, T. S. Kobylkin and Z. S. Romanenkova held the post of the chairman of the Piirissaare community. Matryona Grigoryevna Yershova has held divine service from 2004, F. L. Kuznetsov has been the chairman of the community from 2005.
Sources: EHA, f. 291, series 8, record 1222 (Акт и переписка с МВД о ремонте раскольничьей молельни на о. Пийрисаар 1848-57); f.330, series 1, record 1959; LSHA, f. 3, series 1, record 1376; f. 1524, series 10, record 296.
References: М.н. на остр[ове] Пирисаар, Русский свет, 19 июня 1929, № 19, с. 4; Мурников А., Остров Пийрисаар и старообрядцы-поморцы (в Эстонской ССР), СЦК 1959, с. 117. Памятные даты в июне //.Старобрядческий церковный календарь на 1971 год. Вильнюс. 1970. С. 27.