The literature of Transbaikalia’s Old Believers defines the identity of the Russian population in a multicultural and polyconfessional region. The preservation of this material is crucial for the study of mutual influence of oral and written tradition and the regional folk culture.
The Old Believers, a branch of the Orthodox Christians, are known for their distrust of strangers and detachment from mainstream society. The book culture in this community finds its roots in the spiritual culture of the Russian Middle Ages, and reflects the "state of spiritual enlightenment" in the Old Believer movement from its foundation to the present day. The unique Old Believer literature of Transbaikalia is the main custodian of the entire system of traditional worldview, social and cultural life, ethical and social principles of the community.
Starting from the 1920s the Old Believer temples were destroyed and closed, the priests were persecuted, and the Old Believers' books were either destroyed, or perished as a result of natural disasters, local conflicts and fires.
The project discovered many texts in the districts of Tarbagatai and Mukhorshibir, as well as the libraries of Ulan-Ude. The project digitised 73 books in five collections. The materials remain in private collections, but are ow accessible to the wider audience online. The project team was trained in digitisation, metadata and management of digital archives, and gained experience of fieldwork and research.