A Note on the Old Believers

Starovery, or “Old Believers,” are Russia’s version of the Amish – and there aren’t as many of them as there used to be. A joint Russian-American research team is working to preserve a folk legacy that predates Peter the Great.

Of particular interest to me, naturally, is the fact that Old Believers dress in a distinctive fashion. “The woman’s dress is always a full dress which fits over a long-sleeved blouse and full-length slips. An apron is then fitted over the dress and the “poyas” (belt) is tied around the waist. Unmarried women wear their hair in a braid down the back, married women use two braids and scarves. The total garment is known as a “sarafan,” and is usually very brightly colored when colorful fabrics are available.” ( Paul J. Wigowsky, Collection of Old Believer History and Tradition) Even today, after some changes have been made, their clothing is unusual.

Some Old Believers are found in Oregon and a few other places outside Siberia, including Canada and Estonia. The Oregon Old Believers were written up in 2001 by the Associated Press and here are a whole bunch of links about them, though alas, some of them no longer work.

There’s a rather nice photo here by Michael Ziegler of Old Believer girls in Woodburn, Oregon.

(the pics? A Starovery woman in Siberia and a sarafan formerly worn by a Starovery woman in Alaska…note how the sarafan is so very similar to the aprons and jumpers that currently fascinate me)


One thought on “A Note on the Old Believers

  1. Just yesterday I was assisted by a very nice Old Believer young lady at the Eddie Bauer outlet in Woodburn. When I see them, I am always curious and I feel like mentioning, “Hey, I’m Orthodox.” But their piety is humbling… I am very much impressed with those who reflect their faith in not-of-this-world clothing.

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