Old Believers - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Old Believers are principally oriented toward agriculture but are also interested in marketable activities to earn money to buy materials, needles, and other essentials, now including homes and automobiles. The commercial activities vary widely from area to area. While living in China, groups of Old Believers learned how to catch live tigers for zoos. They also hunted deer and sold the horns to the Chinese. These activities alternated with farming. In Oregon, the farms are devoted to the Commercial growing of berries, fruits, and nuts. Individual farms also keep beehives and cattle for their own use. During the off-season, they form teams of workers to do preindustrial thinning in the woods. Others take jobs in furniture factories, men serving as carpenters and the women applying their sewing skills. When they found that factory work paid well, they decided to keep their jobs while continuing to operate their farms full time as well. In Alaska, Old Believers learned the trades of fishing and boat building and in a few years began building boats for themselves and others. Their off-time is spent in maintenance of equipment, some farming, and hunting. Old Believers are normally diligent and hard-working folk. All members of the family assist in the domestic chores as well as gathering the harvest.

Industrial Arts. Many people engage in part-time craft work, either sewing or carpentry, as stated above.

Trade. Old Believers prefer to be self-sufficient in terms of food products and domestic items, but during scarcities, they buy fruits and vegetables in stores. As the traditional ways give way to convenience, more and more items are bought from stores, and they are not reluctant to acquire technological items that make work lighter and more efficient. The Communities in Oregon, Canada, and Alaska trade among themselves, sending berries and nuts north to Alaska and fish and caviar to Oregon. Also, the white honey produced in Canada is highly prized in the other locations.

Division of Labor. Labor is divided in accordance with traditional patriarchal family rules, with domestic tasks done by women. They prepare all meals, keeping track of the church calendar to ensure that fasting is observed. They also produce, through skills in sewing and embroidery, much, if not all, of the clothing for the family and decorations for the home. Girls are encouraged to begin sewing and weaving while young, in order to accumulate a trunkful of decorations and presents for their wedding dowry. Older children look after the younger. Women also do many of the chores on the farm like milking and feeding cattle. The men farm, build, and work outside the home. Young boys usually accompany the older men to learn what is to be done.

Land Tenure. Each family strives to own its own home or farm. In several of the remote settlements in China and Brazil, the land was free. On this land they built their homes and considered it their own. Today, kin groups often pool money to assist a family in purchasing a home or farm in order to become self-sufficient.

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