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The Stoundists

This sect believed that man could attain to perfection of life and
health only by avoiding the fatigue of penance and fastings; and that
all men should equally enjoy the gifts of Nature, Jesus Christ having
suffered for all. Land and capital should belong to the community, and
should be equally divided, all men being brothers, and sons of the same
God. Wealth being thus equalised, it was useless to try to amass it.
Trade was similarly condemned, and a system of exchange of goods
advocated. The _stoundists_ did not attend church, and avoided
public-houses, "those sources of disease and misery." The government
made every effort to crush them, but the more they were persecuted, the
more they flourished. The seers and mystics among them were considered
particularly dangerous, and were frequently flogged and imprisoned--in
fact, the sect as a whole was held by the Russian administration, to be
one of the most dangerous in existence. It originated in the year
1862, and from then onwards its history was one of continuous martyrdom.

Like the _molokanes_, the _stoundists_ refused to reverence the ikons,
the sacraments, or the hierarchy of the orthodox church, and considered
the Holy Scriptures to be simply a moral treatise. They abominated
war, referring to it as "murder _en masse_," and never entered a court
of law, avoiding all quarrels and arguments, and holding it to be the
most degrading of actions for a man to raise his hand against his
fellow. All their members learnt to read and write, in order to be
able to study the Scriptures. They recognised no power or authority
save that of God, refused to take oaths, and protested against the
public laws on every possible occasion. Their doctrine was really a
mixture of the _molokane_ teachings and of Communism as practised by
the German colonists, led by Gutter, who settled in Russia about the
end of the eighteenth century and were banished to New Russia in 1818.

Strengthened by persecution and smacking of the soil, it was no wonder
that _stoundism_ became the religion _par excellence_ of the Russian
_moujik_, assuming in time proportions that were truly disquieting to
the authorities.

Next: The Merchants Of Paradise

Previous: The Molokanes

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