Old Believers

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The Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church
Detail of the painting Boyarynya Morozova by Vasily Surikov depicting a defiant Old Believer arrested by Tsarist authorities in 1671. She holds two fingers raised: a hint of the "old" way of cross-signing oneself: with two fingers, rather than with three.


In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the "Old Believers" (Russian: старове́ры or старообря́дцы) separated after 1666-1667 from the hierarchy of the Church of Russia as a protest against reforms in church liturgy introduced by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow.

Russian-speakers refer to the schism itself as raskol (раскол - etymologically indicating a "cleaving-apart").

Many of the reforms were minor alterations in liturgy. Because the Old Believers maintain the older liturgical practices they are also known as 'Old Ritualists. Some of the changes include the following:

Old Practice New Practice
Spelling of Jesus Ісусъ [Isus] Іисусъ [Iisus]
Creed (And in the Holy Spirit, the True Lord and Giver of Life) (And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life)
Sign of the Cross Two fingers, straightened Three fingers, straightened
Number of Prosphora in the Liturgy Seven Prosphora Five Prosphora
Direction of Procession Sunwise Counter-Sunwise
Alleluia (Alleluia, alleluia, glory to Thee, o God) (thrice alleluia, glory to Thee, o God)



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