The Christian Science Monitor

Once banished by czars, a centuries-old sect finds new life in modern Russia

A garden grows outside a typical log 'izba' in Tarbagatay, Russia, an Old Believer village of about 5,000 people. Source: Fred Weir

This sprawling village, set in a green mountain valley in southern Buryatia, is an unmistakably Russian place.

It’s noticeably different from nearby communities of cattle-breeding, mostly Buddhist ethnic Buryats. Solid Siberian-style izba log houses are framed by large garden plots and dirt streets, with a small white Christian church at the center. The houses have brightly painted gables and fences, the gardens are laid out in military-straight rows, and everything looks freshly repaired.

Tarbagatay, Russia, is one of the largest surviving communities of Old Believers, religious dissenters who were violently repressed and twice exiled by the czars. They finally found refuge amid the wilds of Siberia 250 years ago. They survived by keeping to themselves, stubbornly maintaining their faith – which, to an outsider, doesn't look too different

Exiled by the czarsA return to Russia's fold?

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Christian Science Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor2 min readSociety
It Takes A Village To Stop Mass Shooters
A new federal focus aims at supporting citizens and communities to keep guns away from troubled individuals. Short of banning guns, local efforts may be the best prevention.
The Christian Science Monitor2 min readPolitics
How Tom Perez Plans To Keep Democrats United
At a Monitor Breakfast, the DNC chair said every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has pledged to support the eventual nominee – despite the melange of personalities and ideologies remaining.
The Christian Science Monitor4 min readPolitics
‘My Dear Friend’: Why Trump-Erdoğan Ties Endure
In a controversial White House visit, President Trump called Turkey’s authoritarian leader a “friend” but also exposed him to U.S. Senate critics.