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Russian dissenters who refused to accept liturgical reforms imposed on the Russian Orthodox Church by Nikon in 1652–58. Numbering in the millions in the 17th century, the Old Believers endured persecution for years, and several of their leaders were executed. They split into a variety of sects, of which the two main groups were the Popovtsy (priestly sects) and Bezpopovtsy (priestless sects). In 1971 the council of the Russian Orthodox Church rescinded all the anathemas of the 17th century and recognized the full validity of the old rites.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Old Believers, visit Britannica.com.
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