Molokan

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The Molokans, or "Milk-Drinkers" in Russian, are a "Biblically-centered" religious movement, among the Russian peasants, who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1550s. Molokans denied the Tsar's divine right to rule and rejected the icons, Orthodox fasts, military service, the eating of unclean foods, and other practices, including water baptism. They also rejected the traditional beliefs (held by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians) in the Trinity, the veneration of icons, worship in cathedrals, the adherence toward saintly holidays, and the decisions of Synods and Ecumenical Councils. For these reasons the Molokans were considered heretics and persecuted in their homeland. In the 1800s, the government's policy was to send heretic like the Molokans away from the centre to remote areas in Siberia, the Altai, the Crimea and Central Asia. In Transcaucasia the Molokans were allowed to settle in the boundary areas only: those of Tiflis, Erivan, Elizavetpol and Shemakhi.

Before World War 1 there was a well-known colony of Molokans that had been exiled to the South Caucasus living closely with Armenians and others at the foot of Mt. Ararat in Kars, Anatolia. As a 12 year old boy, Efim G. Klubnikin became known as a "seer", or prophet, depending on one's viewpoint. As an adult he knew that the Ottoman Turks were heading for Armenia and Ararat, and was able to provide leadership in getting the Molokan community and others out of harm's way.

The communities of Transcaucasian Molokans had been fully flourishing as farmers until the 30s of the 20th century when the USSR started the policies of nationalizing the rural households. The ruination of peasantry entailed a massive migration of the Molokans to the cities. In today’s cities the Molokans are mostly active in public facilities and construction works. Among the city Molokans there is a small percent of intellectuals. Within the last decade a high level of migration was noted among the Molokans, although it is below the total Russian average. Migration in this case is both an economic and a cultural event and result also from the reduction of the Russian-language educational establishments following Independence.

The Molokans today reside in cities Yerevan, Vanadzor, Dilijan, Hrazdan, Sevan, as well as in villages Fioletovo and Krasnoselsk. The total Molokan population is ca. 5 000. They have virtually no mixed marriages. The Molokans of Armenia are educated at Russian-language schools or classes. Beside their native Russian, they are fluent in colloqual Armenian. Most Molokans, being sectarians, retain the communal mentality. That had allowed them for nearly two centuries to retain their cultural and religious customs and traditions. On the other hand, individual cases of active integration have always resulted in a departure from sectarianism, which did not necessarily cause the lost of self-awareness. That is traceable in the Molokans who had departed from traditional lifestyle by getting the higher education, doing research work, administration etc.




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