The Fedoseyan village of Rayushi (Rayusha, 'Raja' in Estonian) is situated in Tartu County, in the Lake Peipus area. The community was founded in 1860. The first wooden Old Believer worship house emerged as a result of re-building of a private house in 1879.
Re-building of the church in 1902 was financially supported by the famous icon painter and Prichudye icon school founder G. Frolov, who came here together with his brother Tit by invitation of the Tikhotka village residents in the late 1880s. In 1905, after the law on religious tolerance had been ratified, the Rayushi residents decided to turn the worship house into the church. The preceptor (nastavnik) G. Frolov undertook responsibility for its building and decoration. The building was complete in 1910; the decoration was finished in the 1920s. Several icons were painted by G. Frolov's famous pupil P. Sofronov. 15 ancient icons of the Novgorod school and 6 of the Old Pomorian school were organically incorporated into the multi-tier iconostasis that comprised images of about 200 saints and episodes of the Old Testament, painted by G. Frolov and his pupils. The five-domed Rayushi church on the shore of Lake Peipus was justly considered the most beautiful in Estonia. G. Frolov also taught the kriukovoe ('hook') chant to several generations of Rayushi inhabitants. He founded the school of Church Slavonic literacy for children.
Yet the most important achievement of the Rayushi community was the school of icon painting guided by G. Frolov. Among his pupils were P. Sofronov, F. Myznikov, D. Polyakov, N. Glukhov. Rayushi became a place of pilgrimage for the most famous Old Believers of the Baltic countries. I. Zavoloko repeatedly visited Rayushi and learnt spiritual songs from G. Frolov, T. Berezin and K. Glukhov. G. Frolov, whose life style was ascetic, had no family. Yet the people devoted to God always lived in his house. The well-known Estonian philologist P. Ariste, who visited Rayushi with a scientific expedition, recorded that five men and two women lived in Frolov's house at the time. Frolov's reputation was so high that about 2,5 thousand people gathered to his funeral on October 2, 1930.
P. Sofronov and Y. Kekishev were sent as the deputies from the Rayushi community to the 5th All-Estonian Old Believers' Congress in 1928. The community joined the Union of the Old Believer Communities of Estonia. After Frolov's death, D. Glukhov, T. Berezin and A. Pisarev (from 1939) were community preceptors.
The Rayushi church burnt down on August 30, 1944, yet the unique library, where the books were kept from 1718, survived. The Rayushi inhabitants managed to save all icons, too.
On August 10, 1945, the community was registered on the basis of the new rules. In 1946, it had 444 members, who were residents of Rayushi, Kikita and Tikhotka villages. The community used a small wooden worship house built in 1903 and employed only as a winter worship house before. Akinf Feodorovich Pisarev performed the functions of the preceptor. After his death, Paramon Timofeevich Annikov was elected the preceptor (1946-1957). From 1957 to 1975, Akim Georgievich Malyshev was the preceptor. The community chairmen were Guri Mikhailovich Venchikov, Yefim Yegupovich Kekishev, Anani Maksimovich Krivonogov, Zosima Sampsonovich Yetkin and Osip Samsonovich Yetkin.
In 1990, the 50-meters church bell tower was restored. In 2003-2004, the repairs were undertaken and the burnt worship house's foundation was renovated.
From 1995 to 1998, Z. Yetkin was at the head of the Union of Old Believer Communities of Estonia. During the re-registration of 2004, the Rayushi community did not join the Union. At present, Ivan Ivanovich Lunin, acting as the preceptor Filippov's deputy, is the chairman of the community.
Sources: EHA, f. 296, series 6, record 5212. References: Похороны Г.Е. Фролова. Причудье, Старый Нарвский листок, 7 октября 1930 г., № 112; Заволоко И.Н., Светлой памяти Гавриила Ефимовича Фролова, Родная старина, 1931, № 10, с. 241-242; Петров А., Старообрядческий храм в дер. Рая, Русский вестник, 14 января 1939, № 4; Памяти В.С. Дорониной, Старый Нарвский листок, 29 января 1940 г., № 12; Бегунов Ю.К., Древнерусская книжно-рукописная традиция Причудья (Обзор), Рукописное наследие Древней Руси. По мат-лам Пушкинского дома. Ленинград, 1972, с. 371-389; Исаков С. Г., Гавриил Ефимович Фролов, in Русские Эстонии. 1918?1940. Тарту, 1996, с. 363-366; Аристе П., О русских Причудья, Радуга, 1998, № 2, с. 85-88; Erikson K., Ikoonimaalija Gavriil Frolov (1854-1950) ja Peipsiaarse Rajakula ikoonimaalijakoda. Magistritoo. Tartu, 2003, 115 lk., ill. 64 lk.
G. Ponomaryova, T. Shor