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 Monitor12 min readPolitics
NRA Troubles: A Hunter Targets The World’s Most Powerful Gun Lobby
NRA corruption allegations have weakened the group. Plenty of gun rights advocates are ready to step in.
The Christian Science Monitor5 min read
Sea Levels Are Rising, So Why Is Coastal Construction?
Sea levels and flooding are on the rise, yet Charleston County, South Carolina, allowed 761 new homes in vulnerable areas over the past decade.
The Christian Science Monitor2 min read
Words That Ooze Superiority And Privilege
It takes a pricey education to understand classical tongues. That’s why Latin-based pleb and hoi polloi are choice barbs used by the “upper class.”