Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church

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The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church (or Russian Orthodox Oldritualist Church, Russian Orthodox Old-Ritualist Church, Russian Русская Православная Старообрядческая Церковь) is an Eastern Orthodox Church of the Old Believers tradition, born from a schism within the Russian Orthodox Church following the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in the second half of seventeenth century (Old Believers). It is one of the two Old Believers churches that belong to the Belaya Krinitsa Hierarchy—the other being its "Mother Church", the Orthodox Old-Rite Church, sometimes also called Lipovan Orthodox Oldritualist Church.

Since the 18th century until the Council of 1988, the official self-designation of this Church was the Old Orthodox Church of Christ (Древлеправославная Церковь Христова) which should not be confused with Russian Old-Orthodox Church, another church of the Old Believers. Drevlepravoslavie ("Old/Ancient Orthodoxy") was the common self-designation of the Old Believers and their cause since the seventeenth century.

The head of the Church carries the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia (since 1988), with residence at the Rogozhskoye cemetery in Moscow. The current head of the Church, Metropolitan Korniliy (Titov) (formerly, the archbishop of Kazan and Vyatka was elected by the Most Holy Council on October 18, 2005. He was installed as Metropolitan on October 23, 2005.

History (Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy in Russia, end of 19th century - Present)

The conversion of Met. Amvrosii caused a bitter reaction of Russian Imperial authorities and he was soon pressed to leave his see, but not before he consecrated another bishop for his new Church - archbishop Kiril (Timofeyev). The activity of the Bielaya Krinitsa Hierarchy on the territory of the Russian Empire met with numerous obstructions from Russian imperial authorities, as well as with an internal schism. The situation was radically changed with the publication in 1906 of the Emperor's Ukaz "On Religious Tolerance", soon followed by the "unsealing" of the altars at the important religious and cultural center of Old Believers, the Rogozhskoye cemetery.

After the coming of the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 and the Civil war, the Old-Rite Church was subjected to innumerable sufferings and persecutions, just as its former rival, the "Nikonian" Russian Orthodox Church. In 1940, the only bishop who was not imprisoned by the Soviet atheistic authorities was Bishop Sava of Kaluga who, in the same year, single-handedly elevated another bishop - Irinarch - to the see of the Archbishop of Moscow. The period of persecution was followed by the period of relative stability, under a tight control from the Soviet secret services. However, the time of perestroika and subsequent changes in the country's political, cultural and economic life had a little effect on the position of the Old-Rite Church in the Russian society - the 17-year tenure of Metropolitan Alimpiy (Gusev) is usually considered a time of "stagnation".

The situation began to change with the election of Metropolitan Andrian (Chetvergov) in the February 2004. The new leader of the Old Believers quickly showed himself as a charismatic and talented leader, concerned with formulating and propagating the cultural and religious "message" of the Old Believers for the modern Russian society. While declaring himself as traditionalist and conservative in his public statements, Andrian took a significant step forward in initiating some form of a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian political establishment. Unfortunately, many such plans were cut short with the unexpected death of Metropolitan Andrian on August 10, 2005 during pilgrimage in one of the remote regions of Russia (he had a chronic heart condition). Many questioned the willingness of the church leadership to continue on the "new course" chosen by Andrian. However, the new Metropolitan Korniliy, elected on October 18, 2005, confirmed that he will continue on the path of an openness to the Russian society, started by his predecessor.


The head of the Church is the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia (archbishop in 1846-1988), residing at the Rogozhskoye cemetery in Moscow. He is elected by the highest representative body of the Church - the Holy Council (Освященный Собор). The Council also appoints the members of the Council of the Metropolia.

The Church has four local bishops and more than 250 parishes in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Since several years ago, there have been attempts to restore theological schools for training priests for the Old-Rite Church.

The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church belong to the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy and is - naturally - in full ecclesiastical and canonical communion with her Mother Church, the (Orthodox Old-Rite Church).

First Hierarchs of the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy, 1846- present

In Hungary and Romania (Belaya Krinitza, temporarily in Brăila, Romania):

Ambrosios (Pappa-Georgopoli), Metropolitan of Belaja Krinitza 28.10. 1846- 26.07. 1848 (+ 30.10. 1863)
Cyryl (Timofeyev), Archbishop of Belaja Krinitza
and Metropolitan of All Old-Rite Orthodox Christians
04.01. 1849- +02.12. 1873
Athanasius (Makurov) 09.05. 1874- +01.10. 1905
Macarius (Lobov) 10.09. 1906 - 1921
Silouyan 1936- +c. 1941
Innoсent (Usov) 1942
Tikhon (Kachalkin), Metropolitan of Belaya Krinitza 1943- +04.03. 1968
Joasaph 1972- 1982 (+ 02.01. 1985)
Timon (Gavrilov) 1985- 21.08.1996
Leontous (Izotov) 24.10.1996- present

In Russia

Sophronius (Zhirov), Bishop of Simbirsk 03.01.1849 - 1853SOPHRONY
Anthony (Shutov), Archbishop of Vladimir 1853- 1863; Archbishop of Moscow and all Russia 1863- +1881
Sabatius (Levshin), Archbishop of Moscow 10.10.1882- 1898SAVATY
John (Kartushin), Archbishop of Moscow and all Russia 16.10. 1898- +24.04. 1915
Meletius (Kartushin), Archbishop of Moscow and all Russia 30.08.1915- +1934
locum tenens: Vincent (Nikitin), Bishop of Caucasus 1934- +12.04. 1938 (in prison)
locum tenens: Sabas (Ananyev), Bishop of Kaluga, Smolensk and Bryansk +1943 SAVA
Irenarch (Parfenov), Archbishop of Moscow and all Russia 1940- +07.03.1952
Flavian (Slesarev) 16.03. 1952- +25.12. 1960
Joseph (Morzhakov) 19.02. 1961- +03.11. 1970
Niсodem (Latyshev) 24.10. 1971- +11.02. 1986
locum tenens: Anastasy (Kononov) 14.02.- +09.04. 1986
locum tenens: Alimpy (Gusev), Bishop of Klintsy 13.04.- 06.07.1986
Alimpius (Gusev) 06.07.1986- +31.12.2003 ALIMPY
Andrian (Chetvergov), Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia 09.02.2004- +10.08.2005
locum tenens: John (Vitushkin), Archbp. of Kostroma & Yaroslavl 11.08.-18.10.2005
Kornelius (Titov) 18.10.2005- present
  1. SOPHRONYDeposed and excommunicated in 1853, repented in 1858, defrocked in 1863.
  2. SAVATYRetired; + 08.09. 1898.
  3. SAVAThe only Old-Rite bishop who was not imprisoned in the beginning of 1940s;
    single-handedly elevated bishop Irinarch of Samara and Ufa to the Archbishop of Moscow in 1940.
  4. ALIMPYIn 1988 elevated to the rank of the Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia, enthroned 24.07. 1988.

External links


  • S. G. Vurgraft, I. A. Ushakov. Staroobriadchestvo. Litsa, predmety, sobytiia i simvoly. Opyt entsiklopedicheskogo slovaria [The Old Believers: Figures, Subjects, Events and Symbols. An Encyclopedic Dictionary] Moscow: Tserkov, 1996.