Socio-political Accommodation and Religious Decline:
The Case of the Spiritual Christians Molokan Sect in Soviet Society

Christel O. Lane, London School of Economics. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 17, No. 2. April 1975. Pages 221-237.

Commentary in red by Andrei Conovaloff (Administrator @ molokane . org), updated March 12, 2013.

This paper is required reading in some college courses about Russian religion. Though Dr. Lane did a good job in summarizing the literature about Spiritual Christians (Molokane, Pryguny, Dukh-i-zhizniki and Dukhobory) in Russia in 1975, she often combined several faiths into one, as did her sources, too often collectively mislabeling the first three faiths above as Molokans. By using erroneous secondary sources, Dr. Lane could not report first-hand nor can she tell what changed over time.

See a critical review below by Stephen P. Dunn from Slavic Review, June, 1980.

"Spiritual Christians" is what most of these Russian sectarian faiths called themselves while the Russian government and Orthodox church used terms which described their heresies (spirit-wrestlers, milk-drinkers, jumpers, etc.). Major mistakes in most all histories and news reports about Spiritual Christians that migrated to North America in the 1900s is extensive mislabeling, and not recognizing that a group labeled 100 years ago is not the same today, and has divided. In Canada "Doukhobor" has become a catch-all term for anyone of Spiritual Christian heritage or similarity, while in the United States the general term is "Molokan." Sometimes these terms are interchanged, or confused with Orthodox faiths. The errors are so pervasive that most non-members of the mislabeled group have no idea which group they are discussing. Often different faiths live in the same or adjacent villages or neighborhoods. Most of the sources are useless without deciphering and properly naming each group or cluster of groups by time and location. 

The major error in Canada is that the new faith of Sons of Freedom (Сыны свободы : Cyny svobody), named in the 1940s, also called Freedomites (Свободники : Svobodniki), is too often assumed to be Doukhobor (Духобор : Dukhobor). More confusing is that Doukhobors divided into different groups in Russia and later in Canada. In the United States Molokane were a minority of the emigrants, clustering in San Francisco in 1906; and after 1928, most of the persistent zealous faiths, including the majority of Pryguny, were forced to transform into the new Dukh-i-zhiznik family of faiths by 1960. There were many other identifiable faiths among the immigrants and faiths learned in the new countries, which, along with intermarriage and abandonment of heritage faiths, caused most (~90%) descendants to disperse into their English-speaking host cultures. To label them all "Molokan" is non-sense. Reporters are mostly interested in those diaspora who managed to maintain vestigial Russian-language ritual meetings, of which there are many divided congregations in 3 Pacific states, most of which which are secretive, except for the authentic Molokane.

Several groups had more than one label. For clarity below, each separate Spiritual Christian faith reported by Dr. Lane is given one simple label. Corrections and notes are red. The data is updated, with links. Lane's spelling is British English.

The Spiritual Christians Molokan sect, one of were the strongest and most influential in pre-revolutionary Russia, is today moving towards extinction. The Orthodox church and government called them sektanti (sectarians, sects, heretics), a term used to describe ethnic Russians who do not comply with the mandatory Orthodox faiths, and gave them labels descriptive of their heresies (milk-drinkers, jumpers, spirit-wrestlers, etc.). Today they are becoming extinct. This process, however, has not gone equally far in different geographical areas of the Soviet Union. This paper puts forward an assessment of the extent of the Spiritual Christian sect's decline and attempts to explain both the general decline and its differential rate in different communities. It analyses their sect's development over a long period of time and under radically different socio-political conditions and it tries to systematize their Molokans' changing response to their different social environments, locating the Spiritual Christian sects in the typology devised by Bryan Wilson. It concludes that the severe decline in membership during the Soviet period is due to the fact that the Spiritual Christians Molokan sect are is no longer an organizations through which political dissent can be expressed but has have fully adjusted to and affirms the values of Communist society. [The same can be said for diaspora Spiritual Christians in 1975 who accepted the values of Capitalism in the west.] In the paper it is pointed out that although the sects can be typified in Wilson's terms during its early period, their its changed response in Soviet society was is not anticipated in Wilson's scheme. Existence in the exceptional social environment of socialist society has called forth an exceptional sectarian response. To illuminate this process we will consider both the Spiritual Christians' Molokans' historical development and their religious beliefs, as well as their social complexion today. A close examination of the socio-demographic characteristics of members in different parts of the Soviet Union and of the stance they adopted towards Soviet socio-political reality during the sixties throws light on the processes that are threatening to extinguish this old and enlightened sect.

By 1975 in Russia, most indigenous religious sects had become extinct God's People (
khlysty), New Israel (some survived in San Javier, Uruguay), Castrates (skoptsy), etc. Documented clusters of Spiritual Christians that survived in the Soviet Union (Molokane, Pryguny, Dukh-i-zhizniki and Dukhobory) are the subjects of this paper. Not covered here are surviving Subbotniki, Yehowists (Ilyintsy), Tolstoyan Movement, etc.; diaspora Spiritual Christians; nor imported non-Orthodox faiths (Mormon, Baptist, Jehovah Witness, Pentecostal, etc.) also called sektanti.

The emphasis of the paper is on the contemporary Spiritual Christians Molokan sect in Russia, and historical material is introduced only so far as it helps to explain their sect's present situation. As the paper has to rely almost exclusively on Soviet secondary sources, various periods and aspects of their Molokans' development can only be as adequately covered as these sources permit. Whereas the pre-revolutionary history of the Spiritual Christians are sect is well and extensively covered, description of their Molokans' development during Soviet time is very inadequate, being either highly ideologically biased of non-existent for long periods of time. Soviet studies of the contemporary sect, although more rewarding, are unfortunately very localized and, with one exception, do not go beyond 1966. "Contemporary sect" in this paper, therefore, does of necessity mean the sect in the early sixties.

Origins and Beliefs 

The Molokan sect evolved out of the pre-Doukhobor sect (the Iconobors) in the second half of the eighteenth century.  The name "the Milkdrinkers" was given to the sect as a nickname by the Orthodox as early as in 1765 because its members were said to have drunk milk during fast time. [See 1 Peter 2:2.] The Doukhobor name was assigned in 1785. The Molokans themselves deny this tale about the origin of their name and generally prefer to call themselves Spiritual Christians (Russian: Dukhovnye Khristiane). They grew up in opposition to the highly ritualistic, liturgy-orientated and strictly hierarchical Orthodox Church and the feudal social order associated with this Church. They were essentially a rural and peasant sect, although, unlike the very similar Doukhobors, a significant proportion of their members were also merchants, industrialists and townsmen (Russian: meshchane) [because the first Molokan leader, Semeon Uklein, aggressively evangelized people who did not live in the commune]. They first appeared in the heartland of the old Russian sects, the provinces of Tambov and Voronezh, but quickly spread into the Southern provinces [, Ukraine,] and Volga areas. The centres of the sect developed into strong, relatively wealthy and enlightened communities. Religious persecution in the 1840s drove large numbers of them out of these provinces to the periphery of the empire into the Caucasus and to the Far East. They were keen and active proselytizers. On the eve of the Russian revolution, although already declining, they were still the largest and most widely-spread Russian sect. One of their pre-Revolutionary leaders estimated their numbers to be over a million in 1913 (N. F. Kudinov, Dukhovnye Khristiane: Molokane, p. 4, quoted in Klibanov 1965, p. 181). This figure is also given by the well-known Bolshevik historian, Bonch-Bruevich, but A. Klibanov (1965), the most notable contemporary Soviet historian of sectarianism, regards this claim as far too high [~200,000 believers, with about half pretending to be Orthodox].

Internal dissent resulted in numerous schisms splitting the sect into a great number [~8] of [Spiritual Christian] branches. Some of the better-known ones are the Molokane Constant Molokans, the Pryguny Priguny or Leapers, the Communist Molokans [or, Communalists, Russian: obschie], the Molokans of the Don branch [Stundo-Molokans, New Molokans, Presbyterian Molokans] and, the most recent schismatic group, the Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty.

"Constant [original, unchanged] Molokans" was the name given to the main body of the sect after the Pryguny Priguny and Don Molokans had split off in the 1830s. Molokane Constant Molokans still adhere to the teaching of Simon Uklein, the sect's founder, and they form the largest part of the contemporary sect. [Miliukov reports that the "original (core) Molokans" split off earlier in Saratov when Dolmatov's judiazers (Subbotniki) joined.] The Pryguny Leapers owe their name to the fact that they work themselves into religious ecstasy during which they start leaping about. Like Pentecostalists, they place great emphasis on the Holy Ghost who descends on the chosen. [Pentecostalism and jumping to the spirit was imported to South Russia beginning in 1817 by German sectarian immigrants. Many Prygun immigrants embraced Pentecostals in Los Angeles in 1906.] While the Pryguny Leapers were thus more intensely sectarian than the Molokane Constant Molokans, the Don Molokans adapted themselves to the secular powers and religious establishment and became hardly distinguishable from the Orthodox Church. At the time when the Pryguny Leapers had abandoned some of their sectarian fervour and developed the same this-wordly orientation as the Molokane Constant Molokans, they were rent by schism and the Obschie Communist Molokans evolved. They are distinguished by their attempt to live communally, holding all property in common. The Communist and Don Molokan branches were already disintegrating before the revolution and are not mentioned in accounts of the contemporary sect.* Pryguny Leapers, however, are still numerous today. Maksimisty, named after the founder and charismatic leader of the Pryguny Leapers, Maksim Rudometkin, split off from the branch of the Pryguny Leapers during the late 1920s. After 1928, Makismisty in America founded the Dukh-i-zhiznik faith which they exported to Makismisty in Russia and Turkey.

* Obschie land ownership was achieved by the Prygun colony in Guadalupe Valley, Baja California, Mexico from 1905 to the 1950s; and for a few years in Arizona, about 1912. Today, eating obschie meals (like using a common bowl for soup) is a persistent divisive trait among many Dukh-i-zhisniki and one Prygun congregation. About half of the founding Baptists in Russia converted from the Molokane, many from the Don Molokans; and some may have immigrated to Los Angeles as Stundo-Molokane and joined the Russian Presbyterians there.]
The Molokan sect is very different both from the Orthodox Church, where some of its spiritual and cultural origins lie, and from the Russian sects of Western origin to which it is akin by virtue of the fact that it originated as a protest movement against an established religious organization and the social conditions that maintained it. From the Orthodox Church the Molokan sect differs radically in all aspects: in dogma, ritual, organization and secular ethics. The Molokans completely abandoned the Orthodox concern with liturgy and renounced nearly all ritual [, but retained the rug, some psalm melodies, many prayers, and a few holidays]. Their belief that faith must prove itself by good deeds led them to renounce sacraments and icons as useless for the achievement of salvation. They hold Meetings [sobranie] devoted only to prayer, singing and sermons on moral and spiritual themes. They have rejected a hierarchical organization and do not have any priests or churches [but do have presbyters (lay ministers) as congregation representatives; and buildings which can be called assemblies, meeting houses (sobranie), or prayer houses]. Their groups are led and generally administered by elders who evolve out of their midst. Any member of the community can address the congregation and put forward his interpretation of the Bible. This democratic sentiment flows from their idea that God's spirit enters every man equally. Their teaching is based on the Bible, though, unlike the Western sects on Soviet soil, they do not take its content literally but allegorically. Their conception of God is the most distinguishing feature of their faith, shaping, not only the other tenets of their dogma but also their whole outlook on man and society. They view God highly abstractly as a supreme spiritual force, as the highest form of reason, which can reside in any person. They believe in a trinitarian God but Christ does not appear to hold a very prominent place in their teaching. [These theological beliefs have broadened due to increased literacy and contact with other faiths. By 1975, most of the descendants of Spiritual Christians in Russia have become educated, intermarried with other Russians and left their faiths, many joining other sectarians, mostly the Baptists, which were more organized after the Revolution. Up to half of the Baptists in Russia have Molokan ancestry.]

The theology and liturgy (obriad') of Spiritual Christians is passed down mostly as oral history and has evolved over time mainly due to adaptions from the surrounding society. For example, jumping was adapted from neighboring zealous Germans in New Russia, and the unique psalm melodies of mountain Azerbaijan Molokans were adapted from surrounding Muslims.

The Molokan sect stands apart from most of the other sects in Soviet society by its different response to the world. While the sects of Western origin are, in Wilson's terms, either "conversionist" (the Baptists and Pentecostalists) or "revolutionary" (the Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses) and the sects of Soviet origin mainly "introversionist" (e.g. the Skritniki or Hiders), the Molokans [historically with Dukhobori, Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki] can be said to belong to the "utopian" type. Wilson stipulates the following characteristics for the "utopian" type of sect: belief in the possibility of salvation in society; the remaking of existing social relations by human efforts working out God-given principles; the withdrawal from society into spatially segregated communities to work out the social organization for salvation (Wilson 1970, p. 47). Molokans rejected the exploitative social relations of the feudal order and obeyed the Tsar only out of necessity, not from reverence. They believed that Molokans did not need worldly government and could best organize their communities themselves. In general, the Molokans do not express their hope for salvation in eschatological terms, but have a this-worldly orientation. Their belief that man can establish God's kingdom here on earth and their vision of the social conditions which would constitute such a kingdom, although based on the Bible, have strong political overtones. In fact, it is emphasized in the Soviet literature that Molokan groups are often more strongly united by their distinctive secular ethic than by narrowly religious orientations. But it is their conception of God which committed them to the socio-political values of equality, brotherhood, pacifism, the use and development of human reason, and self-perfection through work. Because the supreme spiritual force resides in every man, men must be equal, capable of good and thus all worthy to live and sinful to kill. Before Soviet policy made it impossible, Molokans formed their spatially segregated, though not isolated, communities in which they attempted to live according to their beliefs. These principles were rigorously applied only during the short-lived experiment in communal living of the Spiritual Christian Obschie Communist Molokans.

The Doukhobors were much more serious in their quest for social equality [because they more uniformly accepted a single leader who built an administrative center (Sirotskii dom), care for orphans and elderly, hospital, factories, and collective income from government contracts]. In most communities during the long history of the Molokan sect social equality remained just a cherished ideal from which their practice considerably departed. Social differentiation in Molokan villages was considerable, and the richer Molokans used their wealth to secure religious influence. [Compare to Doukhobors with a few rulers and many workers.] Nevertheless, when exploitation of economic and religious privilege by sect leaders became pronounced, the ideal of equality was invoked and attempts to restore the balance were made. Often conflict would break out over the violation of the equality principle, especially when the mood in the wider society supported it, such as at the time of the 1905 revolution. (See the rebellious words cited by Klibanov (1965, p. 174 [pages 213-214 in English translation]) from a 1906 Molokan journal.) Other sociopolitical values were more successfully realized, especially the "brotherhood" principle. No Molokan ever had to face economic ruin; help from fellow believers to those in material distress was always forthcoming. Their communities, although sometimes insulated from the rest of society (in the Caucasus, for example), were never isolated from it in the sense Wilson attributes to the words. This feature distinguished them from the otherwise very similar Doukhobor sect which corresponded more to the "introversionist" type. Although the Molokans naturally considered their type of social organization superior to that of their feudal social environment, the drive to impose their social principles on the rest of society does not appear to have been highly developed. In this respect they do thus depart somewhat from Wilson's type but one cannot, therefore, ascribe "introversionist" tendencies to them as they were an extrovert rather than an inward-looking sect. [Some Dukh-i-zhiznik congregations are now "introverted", though not communal, generally protecting their rituals by avoiding outsiders, photographs, even other Dukh-i-zhizniki whom they view as more worldly.]

The Molokan sect also had another significant attribute which Wilson does not single out in his description of the "utopian" type. It is, however, very congruous with the "utopian" type as it emphasizes its political leanings (i.e. reliance on human power in the re-organization of social conditions). Molokans have great faith in human reason. Unlike some of the other sects, e.g. the Russian Baptists, they do not believe that man is powerless by himself and has to put his fate entirely into God's hands, but exalt human power of reason. They are convinced that man can perfect himself morally and intellectually and shape his own environment. This conviction has turned Molokans into strong advocates of education and scientific and technological progress. This characteristic manifested itself in pre-revolutionary time in the founding of such Molokan ventures as the Society of Educated Molokans and Kudinov's Progressive Movement about the time of the 1905 revolution. The former sought to bring science and Molokan religion into harmony by disregarding the authority of the Bible in all matters conflicting with science. Among Kudinov's many progressive objectives was the raising of the educational level of all Molokans at a time when education was still the privilege of a few. (For details, see Klibanov 1965, pp. 175-79 [pages 215-218 in English translation].)  [Also: N.F. Kudinov. Stoletie molokanstva v Rossii, 1805-1905. 17 October 1905, Baku city.]

In contrast, historically Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki feared education, especially for women, because all should live an agrarian life. It exposes one to the sinful world and robs their spirit.

Such a short summary of a long and involved period of Molokan history is bound to be somewhat oversimplified. Changing social circumstances, schisms of some sections of the sect and embourgeoisement of others meant frequent deviations from dogma and secular ethic which cannot be adequately covered here. The above outline of the Molokans' belief system is thus best seen as that adhered to with varying degrees of fervour by the main stream of the sect.

State-Sect Relations From 1917-59 

With the assumption of Soviet power in 1917 and the subsequent radical restructuring of society, religious sects were suddenly faced with a completely different set of social circumstances than those which originally called them into existence. While under Tsarism the Molokans arose and functioned in hostile response to three different, yet closely related social institutions the Tsarist state, the landowning nobility and the Orthodox Church under Soviet rule worldly power became more concentrated, and the power of the established Church was destroyed. More importantly, the ideology of the new rulers was materialist and atheist and inspired anti-religious activity. This new social environment forced sectarians to readjust their response to the world. In the following section I shall describe what form the response took, how it was influenced by and, in turn, influenced state-sect relations, and how this readjustment affected the appeal of the Molokan sect to actual and potential followers.

The Bolsheviks, although opposed in principle to all religious currents, were very sympathetic towards the rationalist religious sects at the time of the Revolution. Some even admired the way they ran their communities and hoped that they would stimulate a general socialist transformation of the countryside. This sympathy on the part of some and toleration on the part of others continued for a number of years after the Revolution. In the euphoria and chaos of the immediate post-revolutionary period a number of new Molokan communes developed, and the sect in general flourished. This period of friendly to tolerant co-existence finished in the late twenties (Klibanov 1969, pp. 250 fit [pages 305-3-6 in English translation]) when the closing of Molokan communes began. What had caused this change in state-sect relationship? Even Soviet writers acknowledge quite widely that from the beginning the Molokan sect had had a very positive attitude towards the Soviet state and the socio-political transformation it had effected. Molokans did not regard socialism as a rival to their own belief but saw a great compatibility between the two. They hailed the new social order as an expression of the Molokan values of equality, brotherhood and intellectual progress. Leaders urged their followers to support the new regime with all their strength, communities gave generously of their funds and proceeds and bestowed on their communes high-sounding socialist names. The only friction between the political and the religious forces was the Molokan refusal to take up arms against the regime's enemies. But this friction was not serious enough to jeopardize relations to the extent they were impaired after 1926. The reason for the change has to be sought in the political leadership's new policy for the transformation of the countryside (Wesson, p. 76).

By the end of the twenties [1920s] the Soviet government had come to the conclusion that the only effective path of agricultural development lay in the setting up of collective and state farms. Communes, they had decided, were neither economically efficient enough nor did they create the brand of socialist consciousness the political leaders favoured. Sectarian communes, however economically successful individually, were now discouraged, and Molokans were urged to join collective farms. It becomes obvious from the sources that compulsion was used in certain cases to dissolve sectarian communes (Kozlova p. 306; Klibanov 1969, p. 250 [pages 305-3-6 in English translation]). It remains unclear whether compulsion was a consistent policy in all areas [yes], or whether some communes just died a natural death in the economic competition with collective farms [no]. Sectarian communities on the non-Russian geographical periphery gained a much longer respite from collectivization than those in the R.S.F.S.R. (Porakishvili, p. 113). One source (Tul'tseva, p. 207) intimates that the destruction of sectarian communes did not occur mainly for economic reasons but seemed to be directed against the ideological threat a consolidated Molokan community posed. Tul'tseva mentions a Molokan application to transform their commune into an exclusively Molokan collective farm. This was refused and communards were forced to merge with nonreligious peasants into a collective farm. Although many Molokans complied with the collectivization order, many others for the first time developed hostility towards the Soviet regime and put up stiff resistance. [A large productive cooperative dairy operation built by Molokane in Tselinskii raion, Rostov Oblast, was dismantled during collectivization.] They would rather leave the land and work in the towns than join collective farms (Bograd, p. II 6; Klibanov 1969, p. 10 [pages 8-9 in English translation]; Kozlova, p. 306).

A group in Armenia, for example, adopting a very intransigent attitude towards the Soviet regime, split off from the main body of the sect over this issue and formed a new schismatic group, the Maksimisty. [One congregation of Dukh-i-zhizniki in Fioletovo village divided over whether to join the kolkhoz or not. Two congregations resulted, named the Big and Small assemblies. The majority ~88% who joined the kolkhoz became the Big assembly (Bol'shoe sobranie, presbyter: A.S. Zadorkin); the minority who did not join the kolkhoz are called the Small assembly (Mal'enkoe sobranie, presbyter: I.P. Zadorkin).] But whether compulsory or voluntary, this driving of Spiritual Christians Molokans into collective farms dealt a grave blow to the sects.* To what extent the ensuing decrease in membership was due to geographical dislocation, with its attendant disruption of religious communities, and to what extent it was due to religious disillusionment caused by increased contact with the alternative world views offered by both the new Western sects and the Communist party is now impossible to determine.

* In Ivanovka village, Azerbaijan, the kolkhoz Nikitina is the only kolkhoz owned and operated by Molokane today in the Former Soviet Union.

Many writers point out that the revolutionary fervour and the class conflict in the wider society both at the time of the Revolution and of collectivization deeply affected the social climate in Molokan communities. The poorer strata in the community became aware of their inferior economic status, and class conflict disturbed communities everywhere. New Spiritual Christian branches were formed, or many left the sect entirely during this time, especially the younger sectarians. (See, for example, Bograd 1961, p. 115, Tul'tseva 1969, pp. 202, 205.) It has to be pointed out, however, that defecting Molokans did not all become unbelievers but, as many authors show, turned in large numbers to the Baptist sect which was coming into prominence after the Revolution. In Ryazan region (R.S.F.S.R.), for example, whole Molokan villages went over to the Baptists (Zlobin, p. 96). Many adherents were lost during this time although the process of decline had begun before collectivization. In Voronezh region, for example, where their number had been estimated to be 2,002 in 1901 (Tul'tseva, p. 198) and 1,600 in 1914 (Aleksandrovich, p. 59) it had sunk to 247 in 1928 (Tul'tseva, p. 204). In Tambov region, where Molokans had numbered 8,000 in 1915 (Malakhova, p. 80) their number had sunk to 4,500 in 1926 and to 300 by 1959 (Malakhova, pp. 93, 99; Bograd, pp. 115-17). The communities have continued to decrease drastically in post-war years. In the town of Rasskasov [Rasskasovo], one of the ancient Tambov Molokan centres, they were reduced by over 50 per cent between 1945 and 1949. A revolt against the narrow religious traditions by the younger members resulted in a mass exodus of 160 of them (Malakhova, p. 100). Between 1959 and 1971 they were again reduced by 29 per cent (Klibanov 1972, p. 54). In Novogaritovo, another ancient Molokan stronghold, the community had been reduced from 84 members in 1948 to only 15 in 1952 (Bograd, p. 117), while in Michurinsk they declined by 32 percent between 1959 and 1971 (Klibanov 1972, p. 54). In Amur region / Far East, where Molokans were estimated to have been nearly 30,000 in 1909 (from figures of the Tsarist Ministry of the Interior cited by Klibanov 1965, p. 147 ), a mere 212 were reported to be left in 1962 in Blagoveshchensk, their old Far Eastern stronghold (Sosnina 1962, p. 14). Although we have no comparable pre- and post-collectivization figures for the Armenian and Georgian communities, it becomes clear from the sources that the loss in numbers in these areas was not nearly so severe as in the Central Russian regions. The communities in Georgia's Northern Caucasus still had about 10,000 members at the end of the twenties (Klibanov 1969, p. 240  ). A Georgian community studied by Zolotov in 1962 had lost hardly any members during the preceding 25 years, but had even had a revival after the centenary celebrations in 1953 (Zolotov, pp. 151, 158). The Armenian communities studied by Kozlova in 1963/64, although alleged  to have been losing members, were all still viable in numbers. (The author does not put forward any evidence for this allegation.) There is no evidence to suggest that the continuing decrease in numbers since the period of collectivization is due to any policy of persecution by the political authorities. Because of the greater degree of compatibility of Communist ideology with the Molokan secular ethic than with other sectarian world views, there have been few areas of friction and consequently little need to interfere in the internal life of religious communities. The 1970 register of civil rights prisoners listing members from nearly every religious group, does not mention one Molokan. Why then, have they nevertheless continued to decline? An examination of the more detailed data on socio-demographic characteristic and socio-political responses of Molokan communities in the early sixties will provide us with an answer to this question. 

The Socio-demographic Structure of Spiritual Christians Molokan Groups

Information about contemporary Spiritual Christians Molokan groups is uneven. While there are detailed data about some Central Russian and two Caucasian centres, and more scanty data about other Caucasian groups and the Far Eastern community, there is none at all about the Volga communities. After giving a short general overview of Spiritual Christianity Molokanism in the Soviet Union today, the paper will focus on the Central Russian communities and the Caucasian groups in Tbilisi/Georgia and in an Armenian village. One author estimates the number of Spiritual Christians Molokans in the Soviet Union today to be about 13,000 (Malakhova 1968, p. 13). Only Molokane Constant Molokans, Pryguny Leapers and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty are mentioned in the literature, but the existence of small groups of other branches in some areas must not be excluded. Doukhobors are in southern Georgian S.S.R. Molokane Constant Molokans still seem to be the largest branch, and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty only a very small group [concentrated in Armenia and northern Stavropol'skii krai]. Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty have not only taken over the name of the legendary Leaper leader Rudomyotkin but also most of his early teaching (the Pryguny Leapers themselves have never accepted it abandoned it). They differ considerably from Molokane other Molokans, extolling suffering and emphasizing eschatological ideas. (See Zolotov 1962, p. 154.) Molokane Constant Molokan communities are registered with the Soviet authorities, while Pryguny Leapers and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty are illegal. The practice of leaping about during moments of religious ecstasy is regarded as a risk to health, while the Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty are held to be politically hostile.

[Some Dukh-i-zhizniki retain hatred for Molokane because (1) they maintain oral history that Molokane reported Maksimist and Prygun abuses to authorities more than 100 years ago, and (2) Rudomyotkin called them wayward / misguided / delusional. After 1994 several Prygun congregations registered with the Molokane to establish official religious status, but no Dukh-i-zhiznik congregations joined or registered.]

Besides the groups that form the main subject of this paper, there are large groups in the republic of Azerbaidzhan, the autonomous Northern Ossetian republic and smaller ones in Turkmenistan, the Far East, Siberia and Moldavia. In Azerbaidzhan the biggest community is in its capital, Baku. Its prayer meetings are said to attract between 200 and 300 Molokans. Besides this registered community there are also small unregistered groups of Pryguny Leapers and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty in Baku as well as many smaller groups of all branches outside the capital (Gladkov and Korytin, pp. 33-40). In the Northern Ossetian A.S.S.R. there is a large community of Molokane in the capital, Ordzhonikidze (Zolotov, p. 157), and a congregation of Pryguny on the east side. In Turkmenistan's capital, Ashkhabad, about 50 people attend prayer meetings, the overwhelming majority being female and old. A similar picture exists in the town of Mary (Chiperis, pp. 75-7). One Molokan is quoted as summing up the fate of Molokanism in Turkmenistan in the following words: "Our fathers and forefathers were Molokans and so are we. We have very little left, we are living out our last days. When we die, Molokanism also dies" (ibid., p. 79). Outside the Caucasus, the already mentioned community in Blagoveshchensk also consists mainly of old and female members (Sosnina, p. 15). We have no information about any other communities. [No Spiritual Christian directory exists.]

The four studies (three sociological, one ethnographic) of Spiritual Christian Molokan (probably Molokane Constant Molokans) communities in Tambov and Voronezh regions (R.S.F.S.R.) all show a similar picture of decline: small communities of predominantly elderly and female members with little renewal from within and none at all from outside the community's families. Thus in 1959 in the whole of Tambov district there were left only 330 Molokans spread over 5 rural districts and 2 towns (Malakhova, p. 99). In the Rasskasov [Rasskasovo] town congregation, for example, 80 per cent of members were elderly (Malakhova, p. 100), and in the Michurinsk town community of 28 members, 86 per cent were over 50 years old and only 2 members were under 40. All were hereditary Molokans (Bograd, p. 117). In Voronezh region, two typical communities studied in 1966 had only about 30 members each (Tul'tseva, pp. 209, 210). In both groups the majority of members were old and mainly retired. The rural group had not even any longer a preacher and had received no new recruits during the last 20 years (Tul'tseva, p. 210). Thus in terms of both structure and dynamics of membership the Molokan sect in its traditional homeland differs strongly from the newer sects of Western origin in this area. These all have a higher percentage of younger members and are more successful in recruiting new members both from within and outside the sectarian community. They have consequently been able to keep membership figures much more stable than Molokans in the R.S.F.S.R. (see for example, Klibanov 1969, pp. 61-75 and Bograd 1961, p. 121). Molokans of this area also differ from other sectarians in two other respects. A much higher percentage of their working members is employed in industrial production (Malakhova, p. 102), and, although they have a low formal educational attainment, members (especially male ones) have both an impressive informal education and high educational aspirations for their children. Some men in the Voronezh communities read and knew both the classical literary and political works (Tul'tseva, p. 216). In none of the numerous studies of the Western sects in Russia have such wide cultural attainment and high educational aspirations ever been attributed to members. On the contrary, the lack of them is generally bemoaned.

The two very thorough and detailed studies of the Spiritual Christians Molokan sect in Georgia and Armenia reveal stronger and more stable Molokan communities, although some socio-demographic trends are similar. Thus in Georgia there are still over 3,300 registered Molokane "Constant" Molokans and about 500 Pryguny Leapers, the illegal Molokan branch. In Tbilisi (Georgia's capital) alone there were 5 congregations with 1,742 members between them (Zolotov, pp. 156, 157). In Armenia there were still communities in 7 villages (Zolotov, p. 157). In the Armenian village studied by Kozlova there were in 1964 a community of Pryguny Leapers with 269 members, a 110-strong group of Molokane Constant Molokans, and a group of 55 Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty (Kozlova, p. 307). Unlike the Central Russian communities the Caucasian ones have managed to keep membership at a fairly stable level by renewing themselves from members' children (Zolotov, p. 157). But they, too, did not attract any outsiders into the community (Kozlova, p. 361). Since the average age of their members is lower than that of Central Russian Spiritual Christians Molokans, extinction is not an immediate threat. Renewal from within, however, is gradually becoming less reliable. Although Spiritual Christians Molokans have close extended families and live in tight-knit communities, the religious influence of the older generation over the younger one is waning. Marriage out of the community was becoming accepted in some of the Armenian groups (Kozlova, p. 310), and the relatively high educational achievement encouraged in Spiritual Christian Molokan children often estranges them from the traditional way of life of the religious community (Kozlova, p. 316). This process is very noticeable in the Tbilisi communities where over 70 per cent of members were over 50 years of age and those under 30 amounted to only 3.2 per cent (Zolotov, p. 156). In the Armenian communities the age structure was still much healthier with the middle-aged (between 30 and 50 years) and the young (up to 30 years) still predominating in numbers (Kozlova, p. 308). But the process was not uniform in the 3 Armenian communities studied. Kozlova's interesting comparison of Spiritual Christians Molokans of 3 different schismatic groups Molokane Constant Molokans, Pryguny Leapers and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty shows that the group of Molokane Constant Molokans has much less vitality than the other 2 and is similar in age structure to its Georgian counterpart. The Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty, with 41.9 per cent of their members under 30 years of age, were the most thriving group while the Pryguny Leapers fall half-way between the other two (ibid.). Kozlova's data on occupational position of Spiritual Christians Molokans reveal that there is a very high percentage of collective farmers in the communities of the Molokane Constant Molokans and Pryguny Leapers but none among the Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty (ibid.). Unfortunately Zolotov does not provide us with any data on occupation, but the largely urban character of his sample makes it unlikely that many are collective farmers.

On their own all these socio-demographic data give us little explanation of either the general decline of Spiritual Christianity Molokanism or the differential rate of decline in different geographical areas. The tempting hypothesis that Central Russian and Georgian communities have declined more than the Armenian ones because of their urban and non-agricultural character does not hold when confronted with the case of the Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty. In this most thriving community there is not a single collective farmer and 52.7 per cent of members work in industrial production in the town of Dilizhan (Kozlova, p. 308). To gain a feasible explanation we have to interpret these data in conjunction with information on socio-political responses of Spiritual Christians Molokans to their Soviet environment.

Responses To Soviet Society

As pointed out earlier, Spiritual Christian Molokan religious dogma, with its this-worldly orientation and its image of man as capable of moral and intellectual self-improvement, has spawned a secular ethic which is expressed both in the socio-political attitudes and the behaviour of sect members. The very similarity of their ethical postulates to some of the tenets of the Soviet Communist ethic has made it much easier for Molokans than for adherents of other religious beliefs to welcome the basic objective of a socialist society: the harnessing of man's powers to the creation of a society where equality, brotherhood and material and intellectual progress reign. How does all this manifest itself? Unlike adherents of many other religious beliefs, Spiritual Christians Molokans do not strive to withdraw from worldly affairs but are concerned to involve themselves actively in them. Despite their low level of formal education, Spiritual Christian Molokan men avidly read literary and political classics as well as newspapers, take a lively interest in the political lives of the Soviet Union and other countries, and in the progress of science and technology (Kozlova, p. 31 1; Tul'tseva, p. 216). Elders include information about current affairs in their sermons (Kozlova, ibid.; Bograd, p. 139). Parents try to give their children middle or higher education (Kozlova, p. 316). In interviews many Spiritual Christians Molokans stressed the great similarity between Communist and Spiritual Christian Molokan ideals and credited the Soviet state with having realized many objectives of Spiritual Christianity Molokans religion. (Bograd, p. II 8; Malakhova, p. 103.) The achievements of. Soviet society are praised in sermons, and Communist holidays are keenly observed. Spiritual Christian Molokan respect of Soviet power also manifests itself in observance of laws on religion. They do not proselytize outside their communities (Zolotov, p. 157), and usually do not deny the State the right to their children's moral education by keeping them away from youth organizations (Zolotov, p. 157) as many other sectarians do. Spiritual Christians Molokans have a positive work attitude and work for the good of society (Tul'tseva, p. 216). They are tolerant towards non-Spiritual-Christians Molokans (Tul'tseva, p. 215) and practice neighbourly help by giving material support to people both inside and outside their own communities (Tul'tseva, p. 217; Kozlova, pp. 317, 318).

All these attitudes and modes of behaviour are ascribed to Spiritual Christians Molokans both in the Central Russian regions and the Caucasian republics, but they do not characterize all the branches of Spiritual Christianity Molokanism to the same extent. As Kozlova shows very interestingly, this characterization applies most strongly to the Molokane Constant Molokans. Of them she says that "they try with all their might to adjust their religion to contemporary Soviet life" (Kozlova, p. 315) and that their children are just like any other Soviet children being represented among the town's party and scientific workers, teachers and engineers, etc. (Kozlova, p. 316). All this applies with less force to the Pryguny Priguny and not at all to the small and recent schismatic group of Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty. The Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty try to keep themselves completely apart from the political, social and cultural life of their Soviet environment. They have a much less favourable attitude to their worldly masters and concentrate all their energy on the internal life of their religious community. Here strict discipline is demanded from members and their children (ibid.).

These patterns of socio-political responses are accompanied in each community by definite patterns of religious vitality. The Molokane Constant Molokans the group most adjusted and attuned to Soviet life are facing an organizational decline reflected in the age structure, can rely only on a weak religious commitment and discipline in the community, and have become very flexible in the interpretation of their religious dogma. The Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty, however the group most hostile to Soviet values and practices have remained most vital organizationally (41.9 per cent of their members are under 30 years of age), can call on a committed and disciplined congregation, and are taking a completely orthodox stand on matters of Molokan dogma. The Leapers the branch taking a middle position between Molokane Constant Molokans and Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty in their secular life occupy also a half-way position as far as their religious life is concerned.

This definite pattern of an inverse relationship between positive sociopolitical involvement and religious vitality does offer us a clue to the understanding of the general decline of Spiritual Christianity Molokanism in the Soviet Union. It is the very progressiveness of the Molokan secular ethic, the very similarity between it and some postulates of the Communist ethic, which led to its failure as a religious ideology. By propagating the idea that the Soviet powers are putting into practice Molokan religious principles, Spiritual Christianity Molokanism has made itself superfluous. Spiritual Christianity Molokanism in general no longer presents an alternative to people who have rejected the dominant ideology. This is why Spiritual Christianity Molokanism flourished in Tsarist times when it provided the perfect alternative to both the dominant religious and secular ideologies, but now fails to attract any new members from outside its own communities. Those looking for an alternative world view will now turn to the sects of Western origin. Even as far as internal recruitment of new members is concerned, the sect's social and cultural progressiveness has had negative repercussions. By granting their children the opportunity for middle and higher education and by exercising leniency with regard to their extra-community activities in political youth organizations, they have lost many of them as community members.

Yet the sect has retained a large number of its old members and gained, with varying success, some new members from among their children. It has been able to do this because it still offers one thing to its members that cannot so easily be found in the wider society: community and a sense of brotherhood which manifest themselves in mutual material and moral support. A quotation from a Molokan elder sums up this community spirit very well: "Whether it is night or day, whether I am sleeping or awake, if some joy or misfortune happened (in the community), they call me, and I go to read to them [Bible words fitting the occasion]" (Kozlova, p. 318). Kozlova points out that this certainty of receiving brotherly help and sympathy keeps members in the community even when their faith has gone (ibid.).

But as was pointed out above, adaptation to the reality of Soviet life has gone equally far among the groups in the Central Russian regions as among the groups in the Caucasian republics, excepting only the Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty. How then is one to explain the differential rate of decline in the two geographical areas? An explanation for it must be sought in the type of community the groups in different parts of the Soviet Union were able to preserve. Spiritual Christians Molokans in pre- and early post-revolutionary years lived in compact, spatially segregated communities all over Russia. While none of them isolated themselves from the wider society, some were much more insulated from it than others and thus withstood the impact of sovietization much better. The Caucasian Spiritual Christians Molokans were situated in mountain-surrounded republics whose territory had been included in the Russian empire relatively late in its history. The groups in the heartland of Russia were not protected against disruption by barriers of an ethnic or geographical kind as those in the Caucasus must have been. Whereas Spiritual Christian Molokan communities in the Caucasus had been surrounded by ethnic groups of a different culture and language and, through years of isolation and intermarriage, became known as a separate ethnic group [also a "nationality"], Spiritual Christians Molokans in the R.S.F.S.R. must have found it much harder to keep their identity when they were merged into collective farms with other non-Spiritual-Christian Molokan Russians. This is confirmed by Porakishvili who points out that Doukhobor and Molokan communities in Georgia kept themselves completely apart from the surrounding Armenians and would not accept any propagandists from among them in their midst in the twenties (p. 113). Not only were the Central Russian Spiritual Christians Molokans more exposed to Communist ideology but also to the beliefs of other sects, notably that of the Baptists [led by N.I. Vorinin and I.S. Prokhanov]. Also the various decrees concerning collectivization were implemented more quickly and more effectively in the Spiritual Christian Molokan communities near the political centre than in those on the political periphery. Lenin himself advised that the following tactics be employed in the Caucasus: "A slower, more cautious and more systematic transfer to socialism is possible and necessary for the Caucasian republics in distinction to the R.S.F.S.R." (Lenin, quoted in Porakishvili, p. 113). This advice seems to have been heeded because authorities in these areas did not enforce the laws on religion for a long time and did not even like to propagate atheist ideas among the Spiritual Christians there. In a 1927 Georgian party document the following complaint appears: "Up to now the local administration has looked upon the sectarians (Doukhobors and Molokans, Pryguny, Subbotniki, Maksimisty) as a special kind of people and have not dared to go among them to conduct anti-religious propaganda" (quoted in Porakishvili, p. 130). Thus it seems likely that the communities in Georgia [, Azerbaijan] and Armenia managed to consolidate their communities again in the time space between the initial disruption caused by the Revolution and the full impact of Soviet economic and social policies in the middle thirties. When Russian communist propagandists did eventually enter the Caucasus in strength they managed to penetrate the Molokan communities much more quickly than those of the Doukhobors who tried to preserve their isolation. While sect and community were once conterminous for Molokans, religion now no longer dictates their whole way of life. Although compartmentalization has advanced furthest among the Central Russian groups, religious precepts are also rapidly losing influence in most of the Caucasian communities.


The conclusions of this paper are that the Spiritual Christian Molokan sects in Soviet Russia suffered an almost general decline because it provides no longer an alternative to that offered by their socio-political environment both on the ideological plane and on the level of community organization.

First, Spiritual Christians Molokans have not only ceased to protest against the political and social order but have also surrendered their claim to a distinctive philosophy of life. Spiritual Christians Molokans have declared most of the tenets of their religion to be conterminous with the socio-political and moral values of the dominant Communist ideology. The sect ceased to remain a haven for all those in search of an alternative belief system. In support of this conclusion is the fact that the most successful religious organizations (in terms of retaining old and attracting new, especially younger members) in the Soviet Union today are those which have not fully adjusted to Soviet reality or have even come out in opposition to some of its features namely, the Adventists, Pentecostalists, Mennonites, Jehovah's Witnesses and especially the Baptist schismatic group, the Initsiativniki [баптисты-инициативники] or Reform Baptists. It is to these sects that people in search of an alternative ethic turn now.

Sects of the "utopian" type can develop in two ways. Either they break up quickly because life in a sectarian community of this type is too exacting, or they turn to cultivate community for its own sake rather than as a model for the reorganization of the wider society, and thus adopt an "introversionist" response to the world. The Spiritual Christians Molokans, except for the small schismatic group of Dukh-i-zhizniki Maksimisty who have become as "introversionist" as Soviet society would permit, have followed neither pattern. They are gradually disintegrating, not because they have surrendered their faith, but because utopia, in their estimation, has been realized by political means. Because socialist society, for many Spiritual Christians Molokans, has put into practice most principles of their faith, they have abandoned their protest stance and are largely continuing their "sectarian" existence by the force of tradition.

Second, that principle of Spiritual Christian Molokan ethic which the sects have has not fully surrendered the provision of brotherhood and neighbourly love in a close-knit community has become more and more difficult to implement. This is happening partly because Spiritual Christians Molokans themselves have never isolated themselves but have accepted social values, e.g. involvement in the wider society, high educational achievement, which tend to work against the establishment of a tight-knit traditional community, and partly because the wider society does not tolerate communities based on other belief systems even if they are as sympathetic to the dominant ideology as Spiritual Christianity Molokan religion is. This loss of community has been much slower for the more remote and better-insulated groups in the Caucasian republics. But with time even these groups will have to give up their distinctive identities and become fully assimilated by their Soviet surroundings. Spiritual Christianity The Molokan sect is therefore likely to continue its slide towards extinction.

See a similar paper published in 1998 which examines the first decade after perestroika for Spiritual Christians in Russia and concludes: "The opportunity for a revival that history offered has been squandered."
Consider that several changes occurred by 1975 which diminished Spiritual Christian fears:

Bibliography  None of these authors are members of Spiritual Christian faiths.
  1. Aleksandrovich, I.A. el al, "Sektantstvo v Voronezhskoi oblasti i rabota po egop reodoleniyu" ("The Sects in Voronezh district and the work (done) to overcome them") in Ezhegodnik Muzeya Istorii Religii i Ateizma (Ezh. M.L.RiA) (Yearbook of the Museum for the History of Religion and Atheism), ed. 5, Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
  2. Bograd, E. Ya. "Opyt izucheniya sovremennogo sektantstva v Michurinskom rayone" (The Experience of a Study of Contemporary Sectarianism in the Michurinsk District") in Voprosy istorii religii i Ateizma VIRiA (Problems of the History of Religion and Atheism) IX, 1961.
  3. Bonch-Bruevich, V. D. Izbrannye Sochineniya. Vol. 1. 0 religii, sektantsve i Tserkvi (Selected Works). Vol. 1 (Religion, Sectarianism and the Church). Moscow, 1959.
  4. Chiperis, A. M. "Sovremennoe sektantstvo v Turkmenskoi SSR" ("Contemporary Sects in the Turkmenian SSR") in Izvestiya AN Turkmenskoi SSR. Seriya Obshchestvennykh Nauk. No. 5 (The Newsletter of the Academy of Sciences of the Turkmenian SSR. Social Science Series, No. 5). Ashkhabad, 1964.
  5. Conybeare, F. C. Russian Dissenters. Cambridge, Mass., 1921.
  6. Druzhinin, V. Molokane (The Molokans). Leningrad, 1930.
  7. Gladkov, P. A. and Korytin, G. Ya. Khristianskie sekty bytuyushchie v Azerbaidzhane (Christian Sects in Azerbaidzhan). Baku, 1961.
  8. Klibanov, A. I. Religioznoe sektantstvo i sovremennost (Religious Sectarianism and the Present Time). Moscow, 1969.
  9. , Istoriya religioznogo sektantsva v Rossii (A History of Religious Sectarianism in Russia), Moscow, 1965.
    , "Po tomu zhe marshrutu: 1959-71" ("On the Same Route: 1959-7l") in Nauka i Religiya (Science and Religion). 3, Moscow, 1972.
  10. Kozlova, K. I. "Izmeneniya v religioznoy zhizni i deyatel'nosti molokanskikh obshchin". (Changes in the Religious Life and Activity of Molokan Communities), in Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma (VNA) (Problems of Scientific Atheism), ed. 2, 1966, p. 305.
  11. Malakhova, I. A. "Religioznoe sektantstvo v Tambovskoy oblasti v posleoktyabrski period i v nashi dni" ("Religious Sectarianism in Tambov Region in the Post October Period and in our Time") in VIRiA IX, 1961, p. 77.
  12. , "O sovremennykh Molokanakh" (Contemporary Molokans). Moscow, 1968.
  13. Morozov, I. Molokane (The Molokans). Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
  14. Porakishvili, Z. I. Doukhobory v Gruzii (.The Doukhbors in Georgia) Tbilisi, 1970.
  15. Putintsev, F. M. Sekty i antireligioznaya propaganda (The Sects and anti-Religious Propaganda). Moscow, 1928.
  16. Sosnina, I. V. Pravda ob Amurskikh sektantakh (.The Truth about the Amur Sectarians). Blagoveshchensk, 1962.
  17. Tul'tseva, L. A. "Evolutsiya starykh Russkikh Sekt" ("The Evolution of the Old Russian Sects"), in VNA, ed. 7, 1969, p. 195.
  18. Wesson, R. The Soviet Communes. New Brunswick, 1963.
  19. Wilson, B. Religious Sects. London, 1970. Also see:
  20. Woodcock, G. The Doukhobors. London, 1969.
  21. Zlobin, N. S. "Sovremennyi baptizm i ego ideologiya" ("Contemporary Baptism and its Ideology") in VIRiA, ed. XI, Moscow, 1963.
  22. Zolotov, A. G. "Reaktsionny kharakter molokanstva" ("The Reactionary Character of Molokanism") in Ezhegodnik Muzeya istorii religiii Ateizma (Yearbook of the Museum for the History of Religion and Atheism), 1962.

Christian Religion in the Soviet Union: A Sociological Study. by Christel Lane
Review by: Stephen P. Dunn
Slavic Review, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Jun., 1980), p. 327

By Christel Lane. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1978. 256 pp. $25.00.

Given the current anemic condition of research on the religious situation in the Soviet Union, the publication of this book must be considered a significant and welcome event. The author has collected a large part of the available sociological information and reported it systematically in chapters dealing in turn with all of the major categories of religious organization: the Russian-Orthodox church, sectarian groups within the Orthodox tradition, non-Orthodox groups of native origin (Dukhobors, Molokans, Khlysty, and the like), non-Orthodox groups of Western origin (Baptists, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Pentecostals), and finally churches representing chiefly non-Russian ethnic groups (Lutherans, Mennonites, and Roman Catholics).

Any kind of estimate of the actual numerical strength of any religious group in the Soviet Union, or of the degree of ideological commitment of its members, is attended, as the author is well aware, by serious methodological difficulties. The frustration which the Western reader may feel in reading Lane's book because of her constant hedging and qualifications is not her fault, but it accurately represents the state of the field. It seems unfortunate, however, that the only theoretical framework which Lane felt able to adopt was a quasi-Troeltschian church-sect dichotomy, as developed by Brian Wilson and by Charles Glock and Rodney Stark, which is merely a first-order generalization with no explanatory power that I can see. It seems clear that the theoretical work on religion in the Soviet context still remains to be done and indeed, sociology of religion in general is at a very primitive stage of development.

At times, Lane shows herself to be rather naive, particularly in her repeated references to the Soviet regime as a militantly atheistic one. This is a commonplace of Western thought, but has not really been true, in my opinion, since World War II. There is a thriving cottage industry in the production of atheist pamphlets. People make money writing them, and therefore, as with anything else, there is a lobby supporting the proposition that they should be written, but there is very little indication that anyone reads them, and in general, atheist propaganda gets a low priority. It seems to me that in this sense and in some others, Lane has taken Soviet ideological pronouncements at face value.

It is unfortunate that, judging by her bibliography, Lane is not aware of the material on Soviet sociology of religion which is available in English translation, except in two minor instances.

None of these criticisms, however, substantially reduce the significance or value of Lane's contribution in the present context.

Highgate Road Social Science Research Station, Berkeley

Molokane, Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki Around the World