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Modern hermits: Russian Old believers restore settlement in West Siberia

July 13, 2012, 15:42 UTC+3

‘Starovery’ from Russia and the USA keep their traditions and religious practices alive, as they settle in the Altay Region.

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3,500 kilometers from Moscow, the Altay Region lies in the magnificent Altay Mountains, the land where Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan come together. It’s a destination off the beaten track, where some explore the wilderness, and others search for a remedy or a new life.Russian Altay became the place where old belief meets natural spirituality. In abandoned village of Anamas Old Believers, or Russian ‘starovery’, restore a settlement, founded over a hundred years ago.Alexandr and Daria Popovy became the first to stay in the village of Anamas. They have five children. The oldest is 15, while the youngest is just several months old. They start their life from scratch: there are no facilities in an abandoned settlement; the closest school is 10 kilometers away. Popovy started their vegetable garden and mastered bee keeping. For centuries the Altay Mountains were home to hermits and shamans. But now there are only few families left. You can recognize them by broad and thick beard. Old Believers consider shaving it a severe sin: Christ had a beard and men ought to have one too. They use two fingers while making the Sign of the Cross, their religious procession moves clockwise, and the cross is eight-pointed. But Old Believers’ desire to separate is due to the sturdiness of their belief – in terms of cloths they wear and prayers they say. More people are heading for Altay, looking for a place to settle and find a peace of mind. Families from Barnaul, Kursk, Republic of Buryatia will visit the village of Anamas this summer. In spring, the village has already seen the guests from American state of Oregon, home to the community of more than 10,000 of Russian old believers. The communities are scattered throughout the USA, Canada and South America. And even abroad they managed to preserve their customs and belief. Many of them now want to come home and see recovering village of Anamas as their Shambhala.

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