1. Who are the Subbotniki?

In the books and articles I have used as references to write this report, I noticed that the Subbotniki (soob-boht-ni-key} have been referred to by several other names including Subbotnichestvo, Subbotniks, Sobotniniki, Subbotnicki, Jew-Subbotniks, Judaizers, Sabbatarians, Molokan-Subbotniki, etc. Most of these names were derived from the Russian word СУББОТА (subbota, soob-boh-tah} meaning Saturday, the day on which Subbotniki observe the Sabbath. I believe historians have used descriptive terms that they felt best described this unique religious group.

Subbotnik has several meanings. In modern times, governments of cities in the Soviet Union used the word subbotnik (soob-boht-nick) as a patriotic call for a “voluntary” community-service day, usually on Saturdays. On these declared workdays, citizens were asked to clear trash from vacant lots, sweep sidewalks, plant trees, etc. There is an existing Jewish family name Subotnick (sue-baht-nick), but I do not know of any connection of this name to the Subbotniki. One Jewish friend had mistakenly confused the Subbotniki with Sabbatian Movement or the followers of Zevi Sabbatai, a Jewish mystic and pseudo-Messiah who lived between 1626 and 1676. Although they adopted many beliefs and practices from the Jewish faith, the Subbotniki people were predominantly ethnic Russians, not Jews. Louis Adamic in his 1944 book, A Nation of Nations1, supports the fact that they were a distinct group. He described the composition of the immigrant population of the Russian-town (or Flats as it was also known) neighborhood of East Los Angeles near Boyle Heights where many Molokans originally settled in the first decade of this century:

…With them {the Molokans} in Russian-town live all kinds of people: Mexicans, Italians, Armenians, Jews and Russians belonging to other sects — such as the Jew-Subbotniks who are Slavic converts to a mixture of Judaism and Molokanism, and who, arriving here just before World War I, are to be found in several other parts of the United States.

I find the last line of this excerpt intriguing, as I am not aware of Subbotniki living anywhere else in this country other than Los Angeles. Perhaps, I have some long-lost American-Subbotniki cousins that I have never met. What was the origin of the Subbotniki religion? Who were its members? How do they really relate to the Molokans? I will try to answer these questions.
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