The Molokans (Молока́не) are a religious sect, among Russian peasants (serfs), who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1550s. Molokans denied the Czar's divine right to rule and rejected icons. They also reject the Trinity as outlined by the Nicene Creed, the Orthodox fasts, military service, the eating of unclean foods, and other practices, including water baptism. They claim to be the direct descendants of the ancient Armenian "Paulicians", who became known as the "Bogomils" of Thrace, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Serbia. Molokan means "milk drinkers" in Russian, as they drank milk instead of fasting from it on Orthodox Fasts.


During the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1547-1584 A.D.), Matthew Simon Dalmatov, the first martyr of the Russian Molokan faith, began to evangelize his family, his master, and local village members in and around the city of Tambov. Dalmatov carried this sectarian belief into Moscow, where a group of Mordvins heard his message and embraced it. Dalmatov was later martyred by Orthodox priests in a monastery prison by wheeling. Molokans were ostracized from Russian society in the 1600s for their refusal to bear arms and for their refusal to assist in any form of military service.

The name "Molokan" was used for the first time in the 1670s, in reference to the people who ignored the 200 fasting days, drinking milk (moloko = "milk" in Russian). Molokans themselves did not completely reject the name—even adding words like "drinking of the spiritual milk of God" (according to I Peter 2:2, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation").

Heretics were punished in Czarist Russia. Beatings, torture, kidnapping, imprisonment, banishment, dismembering, killing, and other forms of punishment were inflicted upon those called "Spiritual Christians", as Molokan's called themselves. In the 1800s, the government's policy was to send the heretics away from the center of the country into Caucasus, especially Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, central Asia, and Siberia. In 1833, there was a reported outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon a number of Molokans in the Transcaucasus region. This created a schism between Constants (Postoyaniye) and the newly evolved Molokan Jumpers and Leapers. With what the Molokans believed to be an additional manifestation of the Holy Spirit, this new smaller sect began a revival with intense zeal and reported miracles that purportedly rivaled that of Christ’s Apostles. Condemnation from the Constant sect led to betrayals and imprisonment for many of the Jumpers and Leapers, now called New Israelites by their anointed leader Maxim Rudometkin.

Maxim Rudometkin, while he was in prison, wrote a spiritual book that was smuggled out by close friends and relatives who came to visit him that later become the basis for a sub-sect of the Molokan faith. This book, is used as a companion to the Holy Bible, it is known as the Book of Spirit and Life. Which also includes the writings of other Molokan leaders. Namely Lukian P. Sokolov (Anikei Ignatievich Borisov), David Yesseyevich (Feodor Osipovich Bulgakov)and the boy Prophet Efim G. Klubnikin, who at the age of 12 was enveloped by the Holy Spirit and drew plans, songs and prayers for the Molokans (Jumpers and Leapers). In these plans he says that God has chosen lamb like unto Jesus Christ. This man, he says is Maxim G. Rudometkin who writes "The writer of this new revelation is a man, by birth a resident of this world, whose name is Ulesar, King Ures, New Judean Messiah; or in Russian: An Angel clothed in the flesh by the Spirit. Molokans who accept this book and who follow Maxim's interpretations of the Bible are known as Maximisti, which make up most of the Jumper and Leapers sect. The Count Dmitry Tolstoy visited Russia's second most sacred religious site, Solovetsky Monastery (near the White Sea), in 1869 where he found the prison conditions to be repulsive. After having spoken to Maxim Rudometkin, Tolstoy found no basis for his life imprisonment, and so by favor of the Grand Duke, had him reassigned closer to his home at the Sudzal Monastery prison where he remained for 9 years.

At the end of the 19th century, there were about 500,000 Molokans within the Russia empire. Before World War I there was a well-known colony of Molokans that had been exiled to the Caucasus (an area long within Russian hegemony), mainly to what is now Armenia, Azerbaijan, and eastern Turkey (Kars plain). As a 12-year-old boy, Efim G. Klubnikin became known as a "seer", or prophet, depending on one's viewpoint. As a young boy, it is said that he was divinely inspired to prophesy about a coming time that would be unbearable and that the time to leave Russia was now. For "Soon the doors will close and leaving Russia would be impossible." he later wrote in his memoirs in his elder years.

During the early 1900's under his fellowship, about 2,000 Molokans (mostly of the Jumpers and Leapers Sect) left for the United States and settled in the Los Angeles area near the area of {{Azuza]]. It is there that they influenced in practice and doctrine a later American Revival called "the Pentecostal Azuza Street Revival" at the turn of the last century. The founder of The Full Gospel Business Men's Association associates this Pentecostal Revival to the child prophet of the Molokan Jumpers. When they arrived in Los Angeles, California, they were befriended by local settlement house director Dana W. Bartlett ) and some other parts of the West Coast and Canada. The Klubnikins continued to be involved in cattle and groceries, as they probably had done in the area of Tambov prior to exile. Others received a land grant from the Mexican government and settled in the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, Mexico. An even smaller number of Constant Molokans fled Russia and settled mainly in the San Francisco, California and Sacramento, California areas.

Presently there are about 20,000 people who "ethnically identify themselves as Molokans." There are also approximately 200 Molokan churches, 150 of them in Russia and Azerbaijan. Approximately 25,000 Molokans reside in the United States, of which only about 5,000 "ethnically identify themselves as Molokans;" most of which, reside in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Wyoming. Recent settlement of Molokans in southern Alaska during the 1960's was well-documented. Molokans are said to be numerous in Canada, mainly over 1,000 reside in the province of British Columbia and hundreds more in Alberta with their traditional communal lifestyle remains intact today.

Significant numbers of Molokans live in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine and throughout Russia. To a lesser extent, Molokans can also be found in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, and in northwest China. In 1995, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured Molokans as one of their peoples.

Molokans adhere to the Old Testament kosher dietary laws and do not eat pork, shellfish, or other "unclean" foods. Some refuse to serve on juries or file lawsuits against fellow church members. Church services are conducted predominantly in the Russian language, men and women sit apart, and services are usually quite active–comparable to Pentecostal activities. Molokan families encourage endogamy.

See also

Present day Molokans are unlike those of the past.

External links

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