Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 09:34 UK

In pictures: Russian Orthodox Old Believers

Old Believers

On the shores of the River Dniester in southern Ukraine, a community of Russian Orthodox Old Believers sect has lived for some 300 years.

Old beleivers

When the Old Believers refused to accept the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in 1666, they were excommunicated and fled to the fringes of Russia's empire. Today, they continue the old practices.

Washing feet before church

The Old Believers say that on entering church, people should have clean souls and clean feet. They also cross themselves with two fingers, rather than three, and write the name "Jesus" differently.

Married woman

Married women always cover their heads to show their humility towards their husbands and God.

Little girl in Pilipy-Khrebtiyevskie

Unmarried women and girls wear traditional dresses and kerchiefs, which are always pinned into place and never tied.

Old Believer ceremony

The anathemas imposed on the Old Believers in 1667 were lifted by the Orthodox Church in 1971, but the schism has not been healed.

Child at ceremony

In Pilipy-Khrebtiyevskie, where most of the 700 villagers are believers, schooling is in Russian and children sometimes attend church instead of lessons. They are taught Church Slavonic for religious ceremonies.

Preparing dinner

At a funeral dinner, all the food is prepared on an open fire.

Funeral dinnter

All the villagers attend the funeral dinner. They eat from common plates while a preacher reads from scripture.


Unlike other faiths, gravestones - 8-pointed crosses - are placed at the foot of the grave so when they rise from the dead, true Old Believers will see their cross. Words and pictures by Taras Burnos.

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