The Cyrillic books and manuscripts of Old Believers in the Kostroma region capture tradition and spiritual culture of the Russian Middle Ages and Modern Time. The digitisation of these items allows the study of these traditions, as well as research on the Old Believers' contribution to the region’s book culture.
The Old Believers represent a religious group distinguished by its high level of spiritual culture and interest in books. The centre of the Old Believers community is the Kostroma region, where the books and manuscripts of the religious movement are kept in family archives, museums and churches. The material is dated between the 17th and 19th century, a period during which Old Believers maintained the culture of a pre-industrial society.
In the past, church collections have been systematically stolen, leading to the disappearance of books and manuscripts. Moreover, the temperature and humidity in private homes and churches are not ideal for the preservation of these documents.
The project aimed to digitise 200 books and manuscripts. However, there was resistance from the churches and the descendants of the Old Believers to let the team take the manuscripts for digitisation, as theft is common in the region. The project also realised that many of the manuscripts and books were no longer with the descendants, but were sold to third parties and their location is currently unknown. Nevertheless, the project digitised 170 items and some of the material was rehoused at the Kostroma Museum-Reserve, where they will be kept in more suitable conditions.