The Molokanes

A sect of considerable importance, that of the _molokanes_, owed its

origin to the _douchobortzi_. It was founded by a sincere and ardent

man named Oukleïne, about the end of the eighteenth century. _Moloko_

means milk; hence the name of the sect, whose adherents drank nothing


Improving upon the principles of liberty professed by the

_douchobortzi_, the _molokanes_ taught that "where the Holy Gho
t is,

there is liberty"; and as they believed the Holy Ghost to be in

themselves they consequently needed neither laws nor government. Had

not Christ said that His true followers were not of this world? Down,

then, with all law and all authority! The Apostle Paul states that all

are equal, men and women, servants and masters; therefore, the Tsar

being a man like other men, it is unnecessary to obey him.

The Tsar has ten fingers and makes money; why then should not the

_molokanes_ make it, who also have ten fingers? (This was the reply

given by some of them when brought up for trial on a charge of

manufacturing false coinage.) War is a crime, for the bearing of arms

has been forbidden. (It is on record that soldiers belonging to the

sect threw away their arms in face of the enemy in the Crimean War.)

One should always shelter fugitives, in accordance with St. Matthew

xxv. 35. Deserters or criminals--who knows why they flee? Laws are

often unjust, tribunals give verdicts to suit the wishes of the

authorities, and the authorities are iniquitous. Besides, the culprits

may repent, and then the crime is wiped out.

The _molokanes_ have always been led by clever and eloquent men.

Uplifted by a sense of the constant presence of the Holy Ghost, they

would fall into ecstatic trances, fully convinced of their own divinity

and desiring only to be transported to Heaven.

Of this type was the peasant Kryloff, a popular agitator who inflamed

the whole of South Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Intoxicated by the success of his oratory, he grew to believe in his

own mission of Saviour, and undertook a pilgrimage to St. Petersburg in

order to be made a priest of the "spiritual Christians." Poor

visionary! He was flogged to death.

Another _molokane_ leader was one Andreïeff, who long preached the

coming of the prophet Elijah. One fine day, excited by the eloquence

of his own discourses, he set forth with his followers to conquer the

"promised land," a rich and fertile district in the neighbourhood of

Mount Ararat, but accomplished nothing save a few wounds gained in

altercations with the inhabitants. On returning to his own country, he

was deported to Siberia for having hidden some dangerous criminals from


As the number of _molokanes_ increased, they decided to emigrate _en

masse_ to the Caucasus. Their kind actions and enthusiastic songs

attracted crowds of the poor and sick, as well as many who were

troubled by religious doubts. At their head marched Terentii

Bezobrazoff, believed by his followers to be the prophet Elijah, who

announced that when his mission was accomplished he would ascend to

Heaven to rejoin God, his Father, Who had sent him. But alas, faith

does not always work miracles! The day being fixed beforehand, about

two thousand believers assembled to witness the ascension of their

Elijah. By the prophet's instructions, the crowd knelt down and prayed

while Elijah waved his arms frantically. Finally, with haggard mien,

he flung himself down the hillside, and fell to the ground. The

disillusioned spectators seized him and delivered him up to justice.

He spent many years in prison, but in the end confessed his errors and

was pardoned.

Many other Elijahs wished to be transported to heaven, but all met with

the same fate as Bezobrazoff. These misfortunes, however, did not

weaken the religious ardour of the _molokanes_. A regular series of

"false Christs," as the Russians called them, tormented the

imaginations of the southern peasantry. Some believed themselves to be

Elijah, some the angel Gabriel; while others considered themselves new

saviours of the world.

One of these latter made his début in the rôle of Saviour about 1840,

and after having drained the peasants of Simbirsk and Saratov of money,

fled to Bessarabia with his funds and his disciples. Later he

returned, accompanied by twelve feminine "angels," and with them was

deported to Siberia.

But the popular mind is not discouraged by such small matters. Side by

side with the impostors there existed men of true faith, simple and

devout dreamers. Taking advantage of freedom to expound the Gospel,

they profited by it for use and abuse, and it seemed to be a race as to

who should be the first to start a new creed.

Even as the _douchobortzi_ had given birth to the _molokanes_, so were

the latter in turn the parents of the _stoundists_.