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The Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church

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Russian Lipovans – Old-believers in Romania

Lipovans are descendants of the Old-believers who fled from Russia in the 17-18th centuries. They agreed to tolerate social disorders for the ability to freely conduct the Divine services and occasional religious rites, which were prohibited in Russia on par with the law at that time. Old-believers, who migrated from Russia, settled along the Danube, in Transcarpathia, founded their villages, built churches in them, observed church feasts, talked to each other in Russian, preserved traditions in lifestyle, clothing, family structure, and developed folk crafts.

Russian Lipovans – Old-believers in Romania

Professor F. Chirila notes that the emigration of Russian Old-believers to Romania took place in stages. One of the first Russian settlements on the territory of Romania was the village of Lipoveni, which is near the city of Suceava. Here, in the dense linden tree (lipa) forest, the Old-believers took refuge from the persecution of the Russian authorities. Hence, according to some scholars, the term “lipovans” originated [2]. According to another version, the term is derived from the words “Philippovtsy”, “Philippons” – after the so called representatives of one of the Old-believers’ denominations.

In 1743, the village of Manolea was founded (in Lipovan – Manylovka, in Russian – Manuylovka). It has long become the spiritual center of the Old-believer emigrants. Here to this day, there are female and male monasteries. In the male monastery, the famous Russian dogmatist Feodor Evfimovich Melnikov spent his twilight years and wrote the final works of his life. He is still remembered by the old residents of Manuylovka; monks carefully tend to his grave, located on the territory of the monastery.

Later, in the second half of the 18th century, settlements appeared in regions of the country’s southern border: Slava Rusa, Carcaliu, Jurilovca. Over time, Romania officially recognised the Russian Lipovans as its citizens, allowing them to enter their name given at baptism into their passport almost invariably, changing the Russian name to the Romanian style: the Mironovs received the last name Miron, the Filippovs – Filip, etc.

Today in Romania there are more than one hundred thousand Russian Lipovans. On the territory of Romania there are more than 70 villages in which the Russian Lipovan (Old-believer) population predominates. They are located mainly along the northeastern and southeastern territories of Romania (in Bukovina, Moldova, Dobrudja and Muntenia (Wallachia). In a number of cities, entire quarters are populated by Russian Lipovans: these are cities such as Bucharest, Tulcea, Constanza, Braila, Galati, Iasi, Suceava, Botosani and others.

Spiritual life

Old-believers in Romania recognise the Belokrinitskaya hierarchy and the legitimacy of the accession to the Church in 1846 of the Bosno-Sarajevan Metropolitan Ambrose. Metropolitan Cyril (Timofeev) was ordained by Metropolitan Ambrose.

Metropolitan Cyril, in turn, ordained Archbishop Anthony (Shutov), who went to Russia and laid the foundation of the Belokrinitskaya hierarchy’s Moscow Metropolitanate. Romania

forms its own Metropolitanate, isolated from Russia due to the persecutions of the Old-believers, the bishops of which have always been in the rank of metropolitans.

Primates of the Orthodox Old-Rite Church in Romania [2]:

• Cyril (Timofeev) (January 4, 1849 – December 2, 1873)

• Athanasius (Makurov) (May 9, 1874 – October 1, 1905)

• Macarius (Lobov) (September 10, 1906 – January 2, 1921)

• Nicodemus (Fedotov) (September 24, 1924 – October 15, 1926)

• Paphnutius (Fedoseev) (June 8, 1928 – April 8, 1939)

• Silvanus (Kravtsov) (July 9, 1939 – January 5, 1941)

• Innocent (Usov) (May 10, 1941 – February 16, 1942)

• Tikhon (Kachalkin) (April 12, 1942 – March 4, 1968)

• Joasaph (Timothy) (December 15, 1968 – February 16, 1985)

• Timon (Gavrilov) (June 1, 1985 – August 8, 1996)

• Leontius (Izot) (from October 27, 1996)

Existing within the borders of the Romanian Metropolitanate today are the following dioceses:

• Belokrinitskaya-Bucharestian Diocese – Metropolitan Leontius (Izot)

• Brailan Vicariate – Bishop Gennadius (Timofey)

• Tulcean Diocese – Bishop Paisius (Halkim)

• Slava Diocese – Archbishop Flavian (Fedya)

• Bukovino-Moldavian Diocese – Archbishop Nathanael (Ikim)

• The Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia – Archbishop Sofrony (Lipalit).

According to its administrative structure, the Old Believers Church of Romania is similar to the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church.

The main authority here is the Holy Council, consisting of the clergy and laity, which gathers once a year to solve the important problems of the Church. As required, an Episcopal Council is convened to resolve questions relating to the clergy.


One faith; different traditions

Russian Lipovans managed to preserve matters of dogma and acolouthia (arrangements of Divine Services) unchanged up to the smallest detail. As for customs and traditions, the Old-believers in Romania, isolated from the Old-believers of Russia, developed in an original way, and today their customs often differ from the customs of the Old-believers in Russia. Brightly coloured shirts are considered traditional clothing for attending churches in Romania. Women wear skirts adorned with ribbons, and bright head scarves, knotted under the chin. In Russia, monochrome sarafans (traditional, long Russian dresses) and white head scarves fastened with a pin are considered the most appropriate church attire.

Back in the early 20th century, night service was not uncommon in Old-Rite churches in Russia. Today, the custom to celebrate the Orthros (Matins) during the night and the Liturgy in the early morning is preserved only on the feast of Pascha, and, in some parishes, the Nativity of Christ. In Romania, night service is a familiar occurrence. In the period from the Exaltation of the Cross until Pascha, all all-night vigils are performed at night, as the Rules of the Church prescribe. Services in Romanian parishes are performed more often and requested services are commonplace. For example, in order to commemorate the departed on the ninth day, fortieth day, or first anniversary after their death, it is customary in Russia to order a panikhida (memorial service). In Romania, at the same time, even on a weekday, a full service is performed with a liturgy followed by a litiya (short memorial service) after it is completed.

Everywhere among the Lipovan parishes, it is common to give out Antidoron (the prosphora that remains after the Lamb is removed for the Eucharist) at the end of the liturgy. Christians who have stood though the entire all-night vigil service are deemed worthy to receive the ‘Gifts’, whereas in Russian parishes, after the end of the liturgy, as a rule, only prosphora are given out.

Among the Lipovans there is an opinion that an infant should commune no more than once every forty days. In this case, the infant should certainly be brought for communion prior to the singing of the Cherubic Hymn. During the Cherubic Hymn, all the communers, both adults and children, go to the middle of the church, and when the priest brings out the chalice, they prostrate themselves and remain so until the priest carries the chalice back into the altar.

Church reading and singing on the choir is considered in most parishes as a purely masculine affair; the right and left choirs in churches are occupied by men. Within the church during a service, they occupy the front half, the women – the back half. For men and women there are two different entrances into the church.

Many other customs associated with the church-ritual life of people were preserved, including: the custom to baptise early in the morning immediately prior to a liturgy; performing commemorations of the departed with the entire village in attendance; the accompaniment of the departed to the cemetery by a priest in full vestments, and; inviting a priest to one’s home to read the customary prayers at the birth of a child prior to performing the baptism ceremony.


To preserve culture

Today, Lipovans in Romania are considered a national minority and receive state support. Church communities have national registration; priests receive a minimum wage from the state. In 1990, the Non-Governmental Organisation “The Community of Russian-Lipovans” was created, which today consists of about 35,000 people, has 43 branches, publishes the newspapers “Zorile” and “Kitezh-grad” every month in Russian and Romanian and has a representative in the Romanian Parliament.

The creation of the Community was met with universal enthusiasm and supported by the spiritual authority. “The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church, led by its pastor metropolitan Timon and the Diocesan Committee, responded positively to our appeal, which was reflected in the minutes signed on February 6, 1990 in the city of Braila by members of the Initiative Committee and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church,” recalls Professor Feodor Chirila, one of the founders of the Community of Russian-Lipovans [3]. Today, the tasks of the Metropolitanate and the Community of Russian-Lipovans are decided in parallel; they intersect, but do not fully coincide. The Community views the preservation of the culture, traditions and native language of Russian-Lipovans in Romania among its goals, while the Metropolitanate concerns itself with tasks of a spiritual nature and, primarily, spiritual enlightenment.

Today, the Community of Russian-Lipovans has its own publishing and printing houses, and prints Russian textbooks. In almost all the main Old-believers’ villages there are Community Cultural Centres, where events are held aimed at preserving the Russian language. Since 1995, there have been festivals of song, dance and folk Lipovan costume. Since 1993, once every four years, international scientific symposia have been held on the theme of “The culture of Russian-Lipovans in the national and international context”. Since 1995, National Olympiads have been organised of Russian-Lipovan students in their native language and culture, and since 2014, a festival of spiritual singing. There are offsite courses for young people operating in the summer and much more.

The organisation managed to ensure that the teaching of the Russian language was allowed in Romanian schools, where Russian children study. Another unusual subject in the schedule of Lipovan schoolchildren is the Law of God. The law on education stipulated that, commencing from the second grade, for four hours a week, Lipovan children can learn Russian. Initially, it was difficult to find teachers for tutoring Russian. In order to overcome this complication, two graduations of Russian language teachers were organised in the teachers’ colleges of the cities of Iasi and Suceava.

In Lipovan families until recently it was customary to speak in Russian, or more precisely, the Lipovan dialect of the Russian language. However, since it is impossible to

isolate oneself from the public, the Romanian language continues to take a more predominant position in everyday conversations of Lipovans. Teaching in educational institutions and medical care being provided in Romanian; local media is broadcast in the national language. More and more each year, the Romanian language is supplanting the Russian language, which raises another problem: incomprehension of the liturgical language, Old Church Slavonic.


Relationship with the historic Homeland

Romania is a member of the European Union, and Russian-Lipovans, as citizens of the European Union, move freely throughout Europe. Migration occurs mainly for the purpose of employment. Lipovans, who left Romania, founded Old-believers’ communities and built churches in Turin (Italy) and Bilbao (Spain). Quite a large number of them live in other European countries. It is much more difficult to enter into Russia, even for tourism purposes, and it is necessary to go through a long, expensive procedure in order to obtain a Russian visa.

According to the programs of the Community of Russian-Lipovans, schoolchildren have the opportunity to spend time in children’s camps in Russia; by quotas, Russian-speaking students from Romania study in Russian Institutions of Higher Education. Since the Orthodox Old-Rite Church in Romania does not have its own educational institution, receiving spiritual education is possible only in Russia. In 1996, with the blessing of the metropolitan of Moscow and All-Russia Alimpiy, recruitment of students was organised for the education of church singing, rules, and the history of the Old-Rite faith. In addition to students from Russia, several young people from Romania attended the courses. Upon graduation, they returned to their homeland, where they attempted to apply their knowledge and adapt the Russian system of Old-believers’ Sunday Schools to the realities of the Lipovan parishes. In 2005, the Moscow Old-believers’ Theological School resumed work, and there are students from Romania among its applicants every year. The largest enrolment of Lipovan students was in 2017, when five people came to Moscow to study.

There is also interest in the Lipovans living in Romania from the Russian Old-believers, with a particular interest in the monastic life. The tradition of monasticism was not interrupted in Romania, in contrast to Russia, where the Old-believers’ monasteries were periodically destroyed and the tradition of monastic life almost fell into complete ruin. In Romania today, there are male and female monasteries in Manolea; male and female monasteries in the village of Slava Rusa; and a male monastery in the name of the Venerable Paisius the Great near the town of Piatra Neamt.