August 19, 2007, 12:07
Old Believers' faith carried by younger generation
It may have one of the harshest climates on the planet, but the
Siberian taiga forest has been a sanctuary for one of Russia's most
reclusive religious groups for centuries, the Old Believers.
They are a group of Russian Orthodox Christians who broke away from
the main Church nearly 350 years ago over doctrinal differences.
Old Believers teach that only a life of hard work and self-sacrifice
will lead to the kingdom of heaven, and its demands start early.
Children are expected to help their parents at home and in the fields
starting from a young age and that means there's often little time
Old Believers generally finish only four grades - most can read or
write but higher education is virtually unknown and many are already
raising families of their own by their mid-teens. It's a traditional
way of life which the modern world is only just starting to have an impact on.
Driving a car, or even just using electricity, things which most
people have taken for granted all their lives are only beginning to
make a difference to the Old Believers in taiga.
Most still live simple lives of faith like their fathers and none of
them expressed a wish to change their existence there for any of the
comforts that the city has to offer.
Nina is 19 years old but has been married for two years and is
expecting her first baby. Her husband Semyon has just finished the
first grade of school and has no plans to bring up his child differently.
"I believe there's no need to graduate from universities. If
children study too hard, they become just loafers; they lose their
time, doing nothing," explained Semyon Romashov.
And most of his peers hold similar views.
20-year-old Tonya lives with her husband Foma and their 3-year-old
son. Both visit the region's capital city Krasnoyarsk regularly, but
say they'd never want their son to move there when he grows up.
"Why does he need to be so smart? He is smart enough to live in a
village without college. Even I am affected when I have to travel to
the city. These days young people are learning fast, he could become
a drug addict," commented Foma Romashov.
But there are some small aspects of city living that have reached the
village. Tonya owns the community's only washing machine but has
drawn the line at buying a television.
"When we go to a city people ask us, "How can you survive without a
TV set?" When people come home from work in a city there's nothing to
do except watch TV. Here, you have plenty of things to take care of.
You need to tend the garden, feed your animals, milk your cows. We
don't have time for things like TV," said Tonya Romashova.
She and her friends are content with an existence which has barely
changed in centuries and they're ready to make sure the Old
Believers' traditions live on through the next generation.