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In the Shadow of Antichrist

In the Shadow of Antichrist: The Old Believers of Alberta

David Scheffel
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    In the Shadow of Antichrist
    Book Description:

    Written in an accessible style and treating a fascinating subject,In the Shadow of Antichristis ideally suited for inclusion on textbook lists of courses in cultural anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0268-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    David J. Goa

    The Old Believers present us with a set of issues and themes central to human culture. These have been embodied in their historical and contemporary life in a most unusual way.

    The author of this book has two goals: to provide a detailed “thick description” of the cultural life of a contemporary Old Believer community, its actions and their meaning; and to show, as the best field work in the still quite young discipline of anthropology has done, that careful attention to the details of culture and experience in a living community has consummate value because it deepens our appreciation...

  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    This diary entry sums up my first impressions of the people described in this book. I had first heard of their settlement in 1979, but it took me two years to identify the exact location of this recently founded community. Despite my exhaustive enquiries of government agencies, newspapers, and universities, it seemed that the arrival of a group of Old Believers in Canada had gone entirely unnoticed. By the fall of 1980, I had been admitted to a doctoral program in anthropology, with the Old Believers as my planned dissertation topic. Needless to say, I had to locate the people...

  8. Prelude in Muscovy
    (pp. 12-54)

    Unquestionably the most difficult thing about introducing the Old Believers is an explanation of their origins. This is not because their past is devoid of fascinating and illuminating episodes or because it remains undocumented; although there are few English-language introductions to the subject, Russian scholars have compensated for the dearth of western interest with dozens and dozens of reputable treatises. What, in fact, makes the emergence of the Old Believers so hard to explain is not a lack of reliable material, but rather the absence of shared reference points between the commentator and the reader.

    Anybody writing about Russian history...

  9. Berezovka
    (pp. 55-81)

    Starting in the late nineteenth century, groups of Old Orthodox immigrants took up residence in the northeastern United States and Canada. Post-revolutionary chaos brought numerous refugees to North America, one group of which established what is now the oldest existing Old Orthodox congregation in Canada, near Hines Creek in northern Alberta (Scheffel 1989a). But the largest influx occurred during the 1960s when the United States admitted over a thousand Old Believers from China who arrived via South America. Soon after the settlement of this group in Oregon, some of its members branched off to Alaska, and still others decided to...

  10. Community and Family
    (pp. 82-101)

    It should now be clear that the driving force behind the migrations undertaken by Berezovka’s founders during the last sixty years has been the search for autonomy and freedom. Old Believers place tremendous value on the notion of freedom, and they assess entire countries, epochs, and national characters on the basis of how much freedom, orvol’nost’, they stand for. It is their unquestioned assumption that Russians require more freedom to thrive than other peoples, especially the regimented Chinese and Germans, but one must be careful to take into account the context in which this freedom is defined. As it...

  11. Orthodoxy and its Interpretation
    (pp. 102-130)

    Despite the tensions and conflicts that rock Berezovka more or less permanently, it survives as a community because its residents share a purpose of such momentous significance that its defence overrides all the petty divisions created by history, geography, and kinship. This purpose is born out of the drive to lead a truly Christian lifestyle whose boundaries are so removed from the dominant North American culture that its perpetuation requires a determined effort by the entire community. As long as this sense of purpose endures, Berezovka and its sister congregations can be expected to weather the obstacles described in the...

  12. Symbols of Orthodoxy: The Church
    (pp. 131-162)

    The acephalous authority pattern characterizing Berezovka’s political domain is contrasted with a well-defined and binding power structure in the religious realm. Here too, decisions are taken collectively by the members of thesobor,striving to preserve the spirit of unanimity or, as it is called locally,sobornost.However, unlike secular deliberation, the conclusions of which community members may choose to disregard, decisions reached concerning the conduct of religious affairs must be heeded by the entire congregation. Dissenters face temporary or even permanent excommunication (otluchenie), the latter of which can amount to genuine banishment and the loss of Christian status.


  13. Symbols of Orthodoxy: The Home
    (pp. 163-189)

    This chapter continues the description of Berezovka’s symbols of orthodoxy, but focuses now on the context of the home. It has been shown that proper baptism establishes a person’s Christian status, which is then upheld by continued adherence to ritual orthodoxy. However, there are several other criteria that must be fulfilled in order to maintain orthodox status. Foremostly, an Old Believer is required to observe numerous standards of correct diet, appearance, and sexual expression, which could be said to certify his or her bridging of the abyss between nature and culture.

    Because these norms are designed to regulate the contact...

  14. Old Belief in Context
    (pp. 190-232)

    What are we to make of all the ethnographic details amassed in the preceding chapters? What, if any, relevance do the people of Berezovka have for the study of society and culture? I attempt to provide several answers to such questions in this concluding chapter. My concern here is still to grasp the essence of the beliefs and values embraced by “my people”, but instead of looking at them from within, I now modify my perspective to observe them from afar.

    The widened angle of my analysis invites comparison with other societies that share some of the Old Believers’ principal...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 233-236)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-252)