Bytko S. S., Solodkin Ya. G.

«Epistolar» anthology of old believers and formation peculiarities of cyrillic compilations at the turn of the 19th century


The article deals with the topical issue of modern archeography i.e. the problem of structural «arrangement» of compilations composed by Priestless Old Believers. The research on how old believers compiled their books has been done since the middle of the 19th century. Despite this fact there are still no comprehensive works that would precisely describe the «organisation» rules of compilations; the alternation of individual chapters as well as their interrelationship within the composition as a whole. An attempt is being made to establish links between the «architectonics» of the compilations and the time they were formed as well as the religious affiliation of their compilers. For this purpose a Cyrillic manuscript with unclear dating and attribution was chosen for analysis from the collection of the National Library of Russia. The article shows that the book comes from the communities of Old Believer pilgrims and appeared in 1910–1917. The book was intended for internal use within the communities of Old Believers and, instead of the doctrine debate with other factions, its aim was to encourage religious enthusiasm in «runaway» Old Believers. It has been determined that the structure of the compilation was greatly affected by the social and political processes of the early 20th century. Thus, some texts were included in the set with the aim of «scientification» of the religious tradition of Old Believers. For more powerful effect on the audience, the compiler skillfully combined texts which used various forms of narration (literary-emotional and rational).The structure of the compilation was to illustrate the best model of religious life which would guarantee the Old Believer not only personal salvation but also the survival of their faith.

About the autors:

Sergey Stanislavovich Bytko (1), graduate student at the Department of Russian History, Nizhnevartovsk State University; Yankel Gutmanovich Solodkin (2), Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Chief Researcher of the Scientific Research Laboratory of Regional Historical Studies

Place of employment:

Nizhnevartovsk State University (2)


e-mail: (1); e-mail: (2)

Key words:

Old Believers faith; structure of Cyrillic compilations; debate; religious doctrine; Bespopovtsy (Priestless Old Believers); Nemolyaki (those who do not pray); pilgrims