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)

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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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