Manuscripts and Archival Documents of Russian Old Believers Skrytniks (Escapists) in the Russian Academy of Sciences Library

The Skrytniks were a social group of Old Believers in opposition to the Russian government. This community was rarely in contact with the outside world, and little was known about their practices. Through the digitisation of their manuscripts, researchers will be able to study Skrytniks’ traditions.

The Old Believers are a community opposed to the official religion and state of Russia. They maintained a pre-industrialisation way of living and retained the writing of manuscripts. Among the many sub communities of Old Believers, the Skrytniks (Escapists) were particularly distant from the state. They perceived the world as a kingdom of evil and any involvement with it led to the loss of the soul’s immortality. For this, all contact with the outside world was limited. The manuscripts, which deal with the tradition, religious rituals and law, will allow researchers to learn more about this particularly closed social group.

During the Soviet period, many Old Believers gave up their religion and moved to the towns. Manuscripts and rare books remained unclaimed in abandoned villages, where they were found and collected by the Russian Academy of Sciences. The manuscripts, dating back to the 15th century, are fragile and do not have proper storage.

The project digitised 150 manuscripts, which are in the digital archives of the RAS Library. The original material is now available to researchers in the Library’s reading rooms. The RAS staff are currently continuing the digitisation of Old Believers' manuscripts thanks to the training received during this project.

Project Details

Location: Russian Federation Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Russian Academy of Sciences Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £24,000 Commencement Date: 11/2018 Project Status: Completed
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