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The Fugitives





The suffering of a people nourishes the spirit of rebellion, enabling
it to come to birth and to survive. There are some religious sects
based exclusively upon popular discontent. The _biegouny_, or
Fugitives, did nothing but flee from one district to another. They
wandered throughout Russia with no thought of home or shelter. Those
who joined the sect destroyed their passports, which were considered a
work of Satan, and adopted a belief in the Satanic origin of the State,
the Church and the Law. They repudiated the institution of marriage,
the payment of taxes, and all submission to authority. Their special
imagery included, among other things, the devil offering a candle to
the Tsar, and inviting him to become the agent for Satanic work upon
earth. Sometimes their feelings led them to commit acts of violence;
one, for instance, would interrupt divine service; another would strike
the priest. A peasant named Samarin threw himself upon the priest in a
Russian church, forced him away from the altar, and, having trampled
the Holy Sacraments under foot, cried out, "I tread upon the work of
Satan!"

When arrested and condemned to penal servitude for life, Samarin was in
despair because the death sentence had not been passed, so sure was he
that he would have gone straight to heaven as a reward for his heroic
exploit.





Next: The Souta¤evtzi

Previous: The Stranglers



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