The article analyzes the customs of overcoming “desecration” (self-isolation from the modern world), actualizing among the Siberian Old Believers of different religious trends (accepting and not accepting the priesthood) during the spread of the new viral infection COVID-19. These interviews show that the Novosibirsk Old Believers have a firm conviction about the sinfulness of the “world” and its inhabitants as the root cause of the spread of the dangerous epidemic, but there is a difference in views between supporters of different directions, as well as on the acceptability of vaccination. Social upheavals throughout the history of mankind were accompanied by many concomitant factors, one of which was an appeal to the patterns included in the ethnocultural memory of peoples. At the beginning of the 21st century, the ideas and customs of the Old Believers were updated, which helped them to survive earlier during periods of epidemics (for example, the plague of 1771). As in the 18th – 19th centuries this is the observance of the tradition of eating exclusively from “their own dishes”, minimizing communication with the worldly (atheists, infidels, etc.), greeting each other with a bow at a distance, etc. New original materials (interview in 2021) on the actualization of the customs of avoiding contacts and the traditional self-isolation of the Old Believers of Siberia, collected by the author, testify to the existence of a living connection between times and their transmission from generation to generation, even if there was a gap between two or three generations during the existence of the Soviet Union. This allows us to speak about ethnocultural memory as that part of knowledge, cultural practices and ideas of peoples that is not subject to state indoctrination. “Useful” knowledge and practices are actualized at certain periods of life, which are labeled by the citizens themselves as “important” or “critical”. It is important that modern Old Believers emphasize the fact of the acceptability of a lifestyle that excludes gatherings and entertainment, without any protest or depressive moods.

Keywords: customs of non-desecration, ethnocultural memory, Old Believers, Siberia, viral epidemic

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2021.3.118-124

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About the author

Elena F. Fursova – DSc (History), Leading researcher, Head of the Department of Ethnography,
Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS;
17 Academician Lavrentiev ave., Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.