The Stoundists

This sect believed that man could attain to perfection of life and

health only by avoiding the fatigue of penance and fastings; and that

all men should equally enjoy the gifts of Nature, Jesus Christ having

suffered for all. Land and capital should belong to the community, and

should be equally divided, all men being brothers, and sons of the same

God. Wealth being thus equalised, it was useless to try to amass it.

ade was similarly condemned, and a system of exchange of goods

advocated. The _stoundists_ did not attend church, and avoided

public-houses, "those sources of disease and misery." The government

made every effort to crush them, but the more they were persecuted, the

more they flourished. The seers and mystics among them were considered

particularly dangerous, and were frequently flogged and imprisoned--in

fact, the sect as a whole was held by the Russian administration, to be

one of the most dangerous in existence. It originated in the year

1862, and from then onwards its history was one of continuous martyrdom.

Like the _molokanes_, the _stoundists_ refused to reverence the ikons,

the sacraments, or the hierarchy of the orthodox church, and considered

the Holy Scriptures to be simply a moral treatise. They abominated

war, referring to it as "murder _en masse_," and never entered a court

of law, avoiding all quarrels and arguments, and holding it to be the

most degrading of actions for a man to raise his hand against his

fellow. All their members learnt to read and write, in order to be

able to study the Scriptures. They recognised no power or authority

save that of God, refused to take oaths, and protested against the

public laws on every possible occasion. Their doctrine was really a

mixture of the _molokane_ teachings and of Communism as practised by

the German colonists, led by Gutter, who settled in Russia about the

end of the eighteenth century and were banished to New Russia in 1818.

Strengthened by persecution and smacking of the soil, it was no wonder

that _stoundism_ became the religion _par excellence_ of the Russian

_moujik_, assuming in time proportions that were truly disquieting to

the authorities.