It was only in 1905 that the last tsar Nicolas II finally granted them officially freedom from persecution. In the early days of the Soviet-Union, the communists were quite friendly towards the Old Believers, as they admired the way they lived, which resembled the communist ideal, and their fierce resiliance towards the severe tsarist persecution which lasted more than 2 centuries. It was only later during Stalin’s Great Purges that the persecution started all over again for them, officially because they refused to renounce their religious ways in a way which could potentially endanger the communist ideal.
Unfortunately the incense and accolades were only short-lasting, and it wasn’t long before this touted Brotherhood-in-Arms was completely forgotten, and a whole different tune became heard: namely that the religious opposition against the czar from the side of the Old Believers merely side-tracked the Working Class and kept them from their revolutionary struggle!
Having embraced Christianity, Solzhenitsyn began to sympathize more than ever with those who had been persecuted for their religious faith. At Ekibastuz, he rubbed shoulders with many devout men who had been imprisoned for their beliefs and began to feel a deep affinity with them. The Old Believers, the traditionalist recusants of the Orthodox Church, were no longer the strange anachronism they had seemed to Solzhenitsyn in his days as a Marxist. Now they were the “eternally persecuted, eternal exiles”, the ones who three centuries earlier had “divined the ruthlessness at the heart of Authority”. He heard with a sense of growing admiration about the struggle of these Old Believers to retain their faith and way of life in the hostile environment of Stalin’s Russia.
In The Gulag Archipelago, he recounts the story of the Yaruyevo Old Believers who had fled from the oppression of Soviet collectivization. A whole village had literally uprooted itself and disappeared deep into the remoteness of the Russian wilderness. For twenty years, these uncompromising Christians had lived a self-sufficient existence in the vast basin of the Podkamennaya Tunguska, living in secluded isolation from the prying eyes of the outside world. The end came in 1950 when the previously unknown settlement was spotted from a plane and its position reported to the authorities. When Soviet troops arrived, they found a small but thriving community that had enjoyed “twenty years of life as free human beings among the wild beasts, instead of twenty years of … misery“. They were all wearing homespun garments and homemade knee boots, and they were all “exceptionally sturdy”. The whole village was arrested on a charge of “anti-Soviet agitation” and for constituting a hostile organisation and found themselves in the same labour camps as Solzhenitsyn.
In 1946, four years before the Yaruyevo Old Believers were discovered, another group of Old Believers was arrested in a forgotten monastery somewhere in the backwoods. They were then floated on rafts down the Yenisei River bound for the camps. “Prisoners still, and still indomitable – the same under Stalin as they had been under Peter!” – they jumped from the rafts into the waters of the Yenisei, where our Tommy-gunners finished them off.
Excerpt from: Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile, by Joseph Pearce
- It does not matter if you are not interested in politics. Politics are interested in you.
- You can run. Maybe you can hide for some time. But they will find you. And they will bring you under their control. Even if you live 20 years peacefully in the woods, they’ll still come for you when they find you. With modern tech, you won’t make it 20 years.
- Do something before it gets too late. Do something before you are an Old Believer. An apolitical person is only apolitical until they come for them. But then there is no one left to fight alongside.
Either you fight back or you will be pushed into the corner until you have no choice but to submit.
There is no such thing as someone that “doesn’t care about politics” or is apolitical. There are only people not intelligent or aware enough to recognize that their time holding those beliefs are limited.