Old Believers - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. While the Old Believers are scrupulous in paying taxes and strive to obey laws, they are not interested in becoming involved in local or regional affairs. Many seek U.S. citizenship out of a sense of respect and a desire to belong. Citizenship also allows them easier travel to overseas kin and the ability to register commercial equipment, such as fishing boats. Children attend public school but rarely finish. Only a few have chosen to go on to higher education.

Political Organization. The congregation of the prayer hall or church remains the central focus of community Organization. The lay leader ( nastavnik or nastoiatel' ) and his assistants are chosen by unanimous consent of the congregation. Leaders from all the congregations counsel on larger questions that affect the overall Old Believer community.

Social Control. Improper social behavior automatically violates one religious sanction or another. The violator is "separated" from the congregation and must ask forgiveness to Return. This entails a penance and a forty-day period of purification to rejoin "in union." A person not in union is prohibited from eating or praying with those in union. Unrepentant or serious violators can be excommunicated. At death, those not in union are buried in the Old Believers cemetery separately from those in union. In recent cases where the religious sanctions were slow or ineffective, Individuals turned to the agencies of the host society for more immediate help.

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