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Kazakhstan: Russian Old Believers Cling to Faith amid Uncertain Future

Valentina Murzintseva sits inside the church she built for her community's dwindling congregation of Old Believers. (Photo: David Trilling)

Valentina Murzintseva shuffled to the door of the small white church, unbolted the padlock and stepped inside. “True faith existed in the past,” she said, gesturing around the icon-filled interior with a flourish, “and it still does!”

Murzintseva, 75, knows something about the power of faith – she built the Peter and Paul Church herself a decade ago in Korobikha, a village in eastern Kazakhstan’s Altay Mountains. The project was an affirmation of her religious beliefs after recovering from an illness.

Murzintseva belongs to the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church, which emerged from a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-17th century. She is the descendant of Don Cossacks sent scattering to the outer reaches of the Russian state by the divisive split over religious rituals.

“We are Old Believers,” Murzintseva told EurasiaNet.org as she perched on a bench beside a plastic green bowl used for baptisms. “When Patriarch Nikon was there, he started to involve everyone in his innovations. …Everyone started fleeing in different directions.”

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: Russian Old Believers Cling to Faith amid Uncertain Future

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