(born 1605, Veldemanovo, Russia—died Aug. 27, 1681, en route to Moscow) Leader of the Russian Orthodox church. Born a peasant, he rose through the ranks of the priesthood to become patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in 1652. Granted sovereign power during the absence of Tsar Alexis on military campaigns, he purged Russian religious books and practices of what he considered corruptions, and he exiled his opponents. His reforms troubled many believers and led to a schism in the church (see Old Believers) as well as to widespread disaffection (see Doukhobors), and his high-handedness alienated Alexis. In 1666 a council of Greek patriarchs convened by Alexis stripped Nikon of all priestly functions but retained his reforms.
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