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The Molokanes

A sect of considerable importance, that of the _molokanes_, owed its
origin to the _douchobortzi_. It was founded by a sincere and ardent
man named Oukle´ne, about the end of the eighteenth century. _Moloko_
means milk; hence the name of the sect, whose adherents drank nothing

Improving upon the principles of liberty professed by the
_douchobortzi_, the _molokanes_ taught that "where the Holy Ghost is,
there is liberty"; and as they believed the Holy Ghost to be in
themselves they consequently needed neither laws nor government. Had
not Christ said that His true followers were not of this world? Down,
then, with all law and all authority! The Apostle Paul states that all
are equal, men and women, servants and masters; therefore, the Tsar
being a man like other men, it is unnecessary to obey him.

The Tsar has ten fingers and makes money; why then should not the
_molokanes_ make it, who also have ten fingers? (This was the reply
given by some of them when brought up for trial on a charge of
manufacturing false coinage.) War is a crime, for the bearing of arms
has been forbidden. (It is on record that soldiers belonging to the
sect threw away their arms in face of the enemy in the Crimean War.)
One should always shelter fugitives, in accordance with St. Matthew
xxv. 35. Deserters or criminals--who knows why they flee? Laws are
often unjust, tribunals give verdicts to suit the wishes of the
authorities, and the authorities are iniquitous. Besides, the culprits
may repent, and then the crime is wiped out.

The _molokanes_ have always been led by clever and eloquent men.
Uplifted by a sense of the constant presence of the Holy Ghost, they
would fall into ecstatic trances, fully convinced of their own divinity
and desiring only to be transported to Heaven.

Of this type was the peasant Kryloff, a popular agitator who inflamed
the whole of South Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Intoxicated by the success of his oratory, he grew to believe in his
own mission of Saviour, and undertook a pilgrimage to St. Petersburg in
order to be made a priest of the "spiritual Christians." Poor
visionary! He was flogged to death.

Another _molokane_ leader was one Andre´eff, who long preached the
coming of the prophet Elijah. One fine day, excited by the eloquence
of his own discourses, he set forth with his followers to conquer the
"promised land," a rich and fertile district in the neighbourhood of
Mount Ararat, but accomplished nothing save a few wounds gained in
altercations with the inhabitants. On returning to his own country, he
was deported to Siberia for having hidden some dangerous criminals from

As the number of _molokanes_ increased, they decided to emigrate _en
masse_ to the Caucasus. Their kind actions and enthusiastic songs
attracted crowds of the poor and sick, as well as many who were
troubled by religious doubts. At their head marched Terentii
Bezobrazoff, believed by his followers to be the prophet Elijah, who
announced that when his mission was accomplished he would ascend to
Heaven to rejoin God, his Father, Who had sent him. But alas, faith
does not always work miracles! The day being fixed beforehand, about
two thousand believers assembled to witness the ascension of their
Elijah. By the prophet's instructions, the crowd knelt down and prayed
while Elijah waved his arms frantically. Finally, with haggard mien,
he flung himself down the hillside, and fell to the ground. The
disillusioned spectators seized him and delivered him up to justice.
He spent many years in prison, but in the end confessed his errors and
was pardoned.

Many other Elijahs wished to be transported to heaven, but all met with
the same fate as Bezobrazoff. These misfortunes, however, did not
weaken the religious ardour of the _molokanes_. A regular series of
"false Christs," as the Russians called them, tormented the
imaginations of the southern peasantry. Some believed themselves to be
Elijah, some the angel Gabriel; while others considered themselves new
saviours of the world.

One of these latter made his dÚbut in the r˘le of Saviour about 1840,
and after having drained the peasants of Simbirsk and Saratov of money,
fled to Bessarabia with his funds and his disciples. Later he
returned, accompanied by twelve feminine "angels," and with them was
deported to Siberia.

But the popular mind is not discouraged by such small matters. Side by
side with the impostors there existed men of true faith, simple and
devout dreamers. Taking advantage of freedom to expound the Gospel,
they profited by it for use and abuse, and it seemed to be a race as to
who should be the first to start a new creed.

Even as the _douchobortzi_ had given birth to the _molokanes_, so were
the latter in turn the parents of the _stoundists_.

Next: The Stoundists

Previous: The Douchobortzi

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