Edinoverie and Official Orthodoxy: the Failure of Unity in Ceremonial Practice (1900–1913)


  • James White




This article examines the way in which the Russian Orthodox Church used ceremonies between 1900 and 1913 to show unity with edinoverie, a century-old uniate movement for Old Believer converts. Edinoverie was a compromise movement that allowed these converts to keep their rituals in exchange for loyalty to the Orthodox hierarchy. The early twentieth-century ceremonies were spectacles which aimed to convince the edinovercy' that they were fully part of the Orthodox Church, to reduce tension and criticism, and defend the Church’s authority. However, Old Believers, secular journalists, and yedinoverie separatists appropriated the ceremonies to serve their own goals. In particular, the alternative vision of an autonomous and inviolable edinoverie offered by the separatists led to infighting during the ceremonies, disrupting any sense of unity. As a result, the ceremonies failed and edinoverie separatism remained strong until at least 1918. These ceremonies considered within this article include the centenary of edinoverie’s existence in 1900 in several cities, the opening of edinoverie congresses between 1905 and 1912, the canonisation of Anna of Kashin in 1909, and the visit of the Patriarch of Antioch to Russia in 1913. This article is principally based on descriptions of ceremonies found in a variety of articles and books from both edinovercy' and Orthodox believers. Old Believer and secular journals have also been examined to find interpretations of the ceremonies that were opposed to the messages that the Church intended to spread through the ceremonies. Some archival evidence has also been considered. The article employs semiotic analysis of the ceremonies in order to demonstrate their explicit and implicit messages. It also conceptualises the ceremonies as stages where the Church’s authority was confirmed through collective rituals. However, it also notes that these stages offered rival groups the opportunity to resist this demonstration of power, challenge the legitimacy of the Holy Synod, and appropriate the performances for their own ideological aims. In doing so, the article adapts recent insights from ritual studies to innovate the historiography surrounding edinoverie and provide a different perspective on the fate of religious compromise movements at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Author Biography

James White

Dr., Independent scholar


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How to Cite

White, J. (2015). Edinoverie and Official Orthodoxy: the Failure of Unity in Ceremonial Practice (1900–1913). Quaestio Rossica, (2), 201–223. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.2.104



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