The Stranniki (Russian for Runaways or Wanderers) are the strong Pomorsky Old Believers who rejected prayers for Tsar Peter and all government papers (identification, passports, money, etc). They would not wear clothing contrary to Old Orthodox Russia, nor eat with those of contrary Faith and Practice. Keeping themselves separate from the antichrist society they went far into the Siberian wilderness. This blog is about these people and my effort to conform my life to theirs.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

'they were made to wander' Hebrews 11:38

St. John Chrysostom, in his homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews makes this comment at chapter 11, verse 38 where it mentions those whom the world was not worthy, who went into caves and holes of the earth, “Elia (Elijah) was driven out, persecuted, and compelled to struggle with famine...But what is this that ‘they were made to wander’? They were made to wander like exiles and fugitives, as those caught and detected in shameless crimes, as those not worthy to see the sun. They found no refuge from the wilderness, but must always be fleeing, must be seeking hiding-places, must bury themselves alive in the earth, and ever be in fear.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Refusing to Serve in the Army or in Court

In an online article about The Culture of Old Believers of Baltic States, in the section called The Old Believers in the Society of the Grand Duchy, it explains how the Old Believers refused to serve in the army or in court. I know personally that one of the first reasons why Old Believers are not to join the army or serve in court is due to the taking of an oath, which Christ forbids in the Holy Gospels. One such reference is the commandment to "Swear not at all" Matthew 5:34.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Henry David Thoreau extracts

My arrangement of quotes from this poet who seemed to get more than a few things right.

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things
which he can afford to let alone.

Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself.

Men have become the tools of their tools.

Men and boys are learning all kinds of trades but how to make men of themselves.

Most men would feel insulted, if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.

Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.

The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man. You may raise money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to hire a man who is minding his own business. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not. The inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder, and are forever expecting to be put into office. One would suppose that they were rarely disappointed.

Those services which the community will most readily pay for it is most disagreeable to render. You are paid for being something less than a man.

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad,
and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.
What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Say what you have to say, not what you ought.
Any truth is better than make-believe.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

One cannot too soon forget his errors and misdemeanors. To dwell long upon them is to add to the offense. Repentance and sorrow can only be displaced by something better, which is as free and original as if they had not been.

To regret deeply is to live afresh.

Perhaps I am more than usually jealous with respect to my freedom. I feel that my connection with and obligation to society are still very slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood, and by which it is allowed that I am to some extent serviceable to my contemporaries, are as yet commonly a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful. But I foresee, that, if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure, that, for me, there would be nothing left worth living for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of the issues so important to Stranniki is the idea of honest freedom. Though the author of “in the shadow of Antichrist” is a Jew and many of his points are in error, he still gets at least one or two things right about Old Believers. Here are the lines from the first paragraph of the chapter “Community and Family”.

“It should now be clear that the driving force behind the migrations undertaken by Berezovka’s founders during the last sixty years has been a search for autonomy and freedom. Old Believers place a tremendous value on the notion of freedom, and they assess entire countries, epochs, and national characters on the basis of freedom, or vol’nost’, they stand for. It is their unquestioned assumption that Russians require more freedom to thrive than other peoples…vol’nost’ applies to what might be called “freedom of action”, examples of which are unhampered hunting, lack of government interference in local affairs, and abstinence of building restrictions. Significantly, this realm does not include “freedom of thought” as it is understood in a liberal democracy. An Old Believer is not free to think whatever he or she wants nor to read whatever seems interesting. Such tendencies are referred to as volnodumstvo (freethinking), and correlated with agnosticism. The mind, which is associated with the soul, belongs to God and must be receptive to the Holy Spirit. The body, on the other hand, is under direct personal control, and it is through this entity that one enjoys liberty. Even the cherished freedom of action is, of course, curtailed, owing to God’s demand for physical sacrifice, by means of fasts, sexual abstinence, prayers and similar demonstrations of obedience. But this sacrifice is limited to the religious realm, where it serves as a measure of individual piety. Secular authorities cannot expect to be treated in the same manner as God.”

We are able to see a preview of several pages from this book about the Old Believers that fled America for Alberta at Google Book Search.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Last of the Mountain Men

From the book, The Last of the Mountain Men, there is this short story of a man called Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks. He was an early Idaho recluse noted for never having bathed or removed an article of clothing: his infrequent new garments were put on over the old ones. Named for standing off a whole troop of Indians at his cave door in the Nez Perce’ War of ‘77, Johnny died in a hospital in 1935 from the shock of receiving his first bath.

The book is really about Buckskin Bill (aka Sylvan Hart) who says, “A lot of good culture was lost in the Civil War. Before that, everything that could be made out of wood was. Then came along all those cannon factories, and a lot of them converted to making ironware after the war.”

Speaking of living in the wilderness, in the Prologue it says, “Perhaps one can feel that this way of life might regerminate in some distant future when the population explosion has imploded and technology has been adapted to man’s requirements rather than man to technology’s.”

It also quotes Thoreau,
“Thank God, men cannot as yet fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth!”

Below is a picture of Hart's 4 acre getaway in the Idaho National Forest that decided not to evict him. That was about 40 to 50 years ago though.

Next is part of page 14.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quality, not Quantity

It displeases God when we attempt to number His people. When the devil tempted David to number Israel the prophet came with a choice of a few punishments from God. Recognizing his error David chose neither of them, deciding rather to throw himself on the mercy of God. The quality of repentance caused God to stay his judgment. How important is this teaching throughout Scripture. May we all make a good, wholehearted repentance.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Romanian Old Believer Staretz

I was just in contact with an Old Believer who spent time with those in Romania. They say, along with their Staretz, that all Old Believers will soon be Stranniki, or wanderers. Time is running out, if you ask me.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Differences Between Old Believers and Society

There is a pamphlet titled, “Old Russia in Modern America” (1998 revised edition) that offers this account.

...the influence of modern technologies and values of the United States and Canada has led to disobedience of the traditional ways of the Old Believers. Despite a value structure strongly favoring cultural persistence and stability, they have gradually institutionalized practical ideas and elements of modern technologies (e.g. telephones, automobiles, home appliances and even television among some families) into their social structures. In fact, the rate of change and its religious impact on religious life has appalled elders and middle age parents. ...the constant exposure to socio-technological changes taking place in the United States are quite rapid and unsettling. Although the oldest generation of Old Believers attempts to isolate its children from the temptations of technologically developed societies by not allowing television, radio, modern music and contemporary literature at home, and by controlling daily life within the community, elements of contemporary Russian and American cultures penetrates into their system...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Broad Way

There is a teaching from the tenth century about the Toll Houses (or Toll Booths), where we have explained for us the particular judgment that awaits us after, or at, death (either way we think of it our earthly life of repentance is then finalized). There is still waiting for us the general judgment at the end of time which will come afterward, unless we remain until the second coming of the Lord. I think this story helps us to reflect on what we do during this temporary life, I accept anything that is helpful to that end.

It was explained to me that one of the reasons for the 40 day funeral is due to such experiences that the soul must go through after departing this life. Since the world is coming so close to its end who of it can be confident of their own peaceful repose?

Russian Old Slavonic manuscripts dating to the 13th century still exist which explain the itinerary of our moral pilgrimage after, or at, the separation from this world, showing the penalties and sufferings that can be expected. These are quite similar to those found in the Apocalypse’s 21st chapter. They are a reflection on our faith and practice during the experience of this life. The Old Believers teach that the soul eventually finds a place where it waits till the final judgment.

There is a booklet published by Holy Trinity Monastery called A Journey Beyond Death which has an interesting sketch on the first page. It shows The Broad Way, that has so many people dressed in sensual clothing, smoking tobacco, busy working in industry, and all speeding their way along this wide path to destruction. There are passenger planes, cruise ships, cars, bicycles and all manner of people with their dogs and such all following in the way pointed down by the one demon, while the other sweeps them all into the flames. Let us all hope that we will be of the few who find the more hidden, narrow and difficult way that leads upwards and away from such terrible things.

More detail is in the larger photo