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SRAS Cultural Exchange with Old Believers
Realizing that people are always more interesting than just buildings and places, SRAS leapt at the chance to arrange a tour of the Old Believers' spiritual center.
The Old Believers are a religious sect formed in 1666 after the Russian Orthodox Church instituted a series of reforms with which many church members disagreed. These members refused to follow the new practices and were officially excommunicated from the church. Afterwards, they lived mostly in compact, isolated communities to avoid persecution.
We were told all this by the administrative head of the Old Believer community at Rogozhskaya Zastava, the recognized center of the Old Believer faith, now located inside Moscow. Even more interesting was our round table discussion with high-school aged attendees of the local Old Believer seminary. All of these people made it clear to us how the Old Believer faith sees itself as very important to not only spiritual salvation, but also in preserving the Russian culture of the past. We told such details such as what youths in the community can and cannot attended in secular society (such as concerts, dances, etc.) and why they chose to join the seminary. We learned how the faith sees itself in relationship to current world events. We saw first hand the traditional Old Believer dress (pictured right). The seminary students also asked several questions about life in America and the opinions of American students on various subjects.
SRAS provided an interpreter for the occasion so that all students could participate in this cultural exchange. However, many more advanced Russian speakers chose to ask their questions and receive their answers directly in Russian, making the learning experience that much more profitable for them.
Note: this tour came about partially due a successful excursion SRAS arranged for a group in Siberia, where the Old Believers are equally as welcoming.
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