Old Believers in North America

For young researchers...

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(Please read this if you are a high-school student or younger.)

Hello!
It looks like you are researching the Russian religious group known as Old Believers, maybe for a school project or just because you are interested. Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that lots and lots of articles and books have been written about Old Believers. (That's why this bibliography is so long.) The bad news is that most of them are written for adults, and lots of them are hard to find outside of a university library.

Now back to the good news. There are some good Internet sites for kids doing research. You'll find the links below. In addition, there are some books, magazine articles and even movies about Old Believers which work well for kids, and which are pretty easy to get hold of. You'll find a list of them below, too.

How to get those books and magazines and movies? If your school or your town have a library, then print off this page, take it to the librarian, and ask for help. If your local library doesn't have the things you want, ask the librarian to order them for you from another library. This may take a couple of weeks, but it usually doesn't cost anything.

One last thing. This bibliography only pays attention to Old Believers who live in Canada and the United States. There are millions of Old Believers in other countries, especially Russia, which is where they all started out. If you are interested in Old Believers in Russia, any good encyclopedia will have an article about them, mainly about their history from 1660 to now. But if you are interested in how Old Believers arrived in North America, and how they live here now, read on.




Six websites


http://wigowsky.com/products.html
Paul Wigowsky, a Russian-speaking schoolteacher with many years experience teaching Oregon Old Believer children, has put together an extensive site describing Old Believer faith, history and traditional ways. This is the place to start!


http://wigowsky.com/products.html
The same school teacher who put together the website 'Collection of Old Believer History and Traditions' (see above) also wrote a 181-page novel which describes the adventures of an Old Believer family fleeing from China to South America to Oregon. The characters are fictional, but the adventures are all real events which happened to real Old Believer families. You can read the whole thing on line.


"Old Believer Dresses." The Costumer's Manifesto. http://www.costumes.org/classes/uafcostumeshop/pages/costumehistcollect/oldbeliever.htm
Tara Maginnis is a professional costume designer in Alaska. When she found about 30 modern Old Believer girls' and women's outfits in a thrift shop in Fairbanks, she bought them all and put them on this web site with photos and descriptions.


Old Believers. (film) Portland, OR: Media Project, 1981 29 minutes.
Available online at Folkstreams.net (no charge).
Margaret Hixon's film documents a real-life wedding in the Old Believer settlements of Marion County, Oregon, in the years 1979 and 1980. The film briefly touches on a wealth of traditional arts (embroidery, clothing construction, weaving, architecture, folk song and foodways) and beautifully presents a whole series of rituals -- the "devichnik" (engagement party), "selling" the bride and her braid, the wedding feast, the bargaining over the dowry, and the ceremony of bestowing gifts and advice on the newlyweds. In English and Russian with subtitles or voice-over translations.


"Old Believers." In Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples, edited by Paul Magocsi.
Available online at http://multiculturalcanada.ca/Encyclopedia/A-Z/o1
David Scheffel neatly lays out the history of the Old Believer presence in Canada, starting with the 1908 consecration of a "bishop of Canada" (at a time when there were most likely no Old Believers in Canada), and continuing with the arrival of the first 100 or so Old Believers to arrive in Canada in the 1920s. A separate group arrived in the 1960s to found two more villages. Along with describing the lives of Old Believers in Canada, Scheffel pays a lot of attention to the Canadian government, which tried all along to keep the stream of Old Believer immigrants down to a trickle.


Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity http://www.churchofthenativity.net/index.html
This is the website maintained by the Old Rite Church of the Nativity (they are affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). This is a church which was founded by descendants of the Old Believers who came to Erie, Pennsylvania in the 1880s. The community has gone through a lot of changes over the years; this is probably the only Old Believer church where services are in English.


"Old Believers."Canadian Encyclopedia. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com
Here's a short encyclopedia article about the community of Old Believers which settled in the Fairview/Hines Creek area in Alberta, Canada in the 1920s.



Two really good magazine articles


"A Bit of Old Russia Takes Root in Alaska." National Geographic Sept. 1972, Vol 142 No 3, 401-424.
Although Jim Reardon wrote this more than 30 years ago, it is still a pleasure to read and has some of the best photos around (by Charles O'Rear). Reardon describes the Old Believer village of Nikolaevsk, Alaska only four years after the first homes were built there, and gives a short history of the settlers' lives before they got to Nikolaevsk, with stories of their adventures in China, Brazil and Oregon. He sketches the outlines of family, religious and economic life in the Alaska setting.


"The Russian Old Believers of Alberta. Can Prince Vladimir's Heirs Survive in the Canadian Mosiac'" Canadian Geographic 103, no.5 (Oct/Nov 1983): 62-69.
David Scheffel presents a short history of the Old Believer movement and outlines the various migrations that underlie the two Old Believer villages founded in Alberta in the 1970s and 1980s. His description of Old Believer life in Alberta deals mainly with how the people earn their livings. Detmar Schmoll's color photos provide an exceptional record of the dress and personal appearance of children and adults.



Two films


Old Believers. (film) Portland, OR: Media Project, 1981 29 minutes.
Available online at Folkstreams.net (no charge).
Margaret Hixon's film documents a real-life wedding in the Old Believer settlements of Marion County, Oregon, in the years 1979 and 1980. The film briefly touches on a wealth of traditional arts (embroidery, clothing construction, weaving, architecture, folk song and foodways) and beautifully presents a whole series of rituals -- the "devichnik" (engagement party), "selling" the bride and her braid, the wedding feast, the bargaining over the dowry, and the ceremony of bestowing gifts and advice on the newlyweds. In English and Russian with subtitles or voice-over translations.


The Old Believers. (film) Montreal, Canada: National Film Board of Canada, 1988.
57 minutes.
John Paskievich captures on film a year in the life of an Old Believer family in Alberta, Canada. The scenes on the farm and in the forest do a fine job of conveying the gritty feel of life on the land. Paskievich has a lot to say about the contrast between the traditional Old Believer way of life and the modern Western way of life. Much of his commentary sounds more like a sermon scolding Western society for making pollution and acting childish. He includes images and music which are Russian, but have nothing to do with the Old Believers in his film. I find this film not quite honest.



A good encyclopedia article


"Old Believers." In Encyclopedia of World Cultures, 272-275 Boston, Mass. G.K Hall 1991.
This article gives an outline of Old Believer settlement patterns, language, kinship systems, political organization, arts, medicine, and so forth. The description relates mainly to the Old Believers concentrated in Oregon, Alaska and Canada.
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