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Ethnic Russian Sect Struggling to Survive in Azerbaijan

Molokans from the villages of Kirovka and Chukhuyurd gather to bury Ivan Varonin at the cemetery between the two villages.

When Ivan Varonin passed away in late June at the age of 81, he was the oldest member of the Russian-speaking Christian community of Molokans left in the tiny Azerbaijani mountain village of Karinovka, some 125 kilometers west of Baku. The night before Varonin’s burial, it was unclear if there were even enough men available to dig his grave.

Molokans – known as “milk (moloko) drinkers” for their refusal to honor Russian Orthodox Church fasts -- settled in Azerbaijan sometime in the mid-19th century, after being expelled from Russia for refusing to wear the cross and to practice any ritual, such as fasting or venerating icons, not explicitly stated in the Bible. Molokans are also known for their pacifism and their communal tendencies in social organization.

Like Karinovka, the Molokan settlements of Qizmeydan, Chukhuyurd, Khil’milli and many others in this area of Azerbaijan now face the same question -- how to preserve a 400-year-old way of life when the community that nurtures it starts to dissolve?

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Ethnic Russian Sect Struggling to Survive in Azerbaijan

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