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Polish community    EN


Lipovan (Russian) Community

The Lipovans (Lipoveni) were descendants of the Russian Old-Believers (Old Ritualists/Raskolniki/staro-obreadţi), who, persecuted by the Russian imperial authorities, had migrated to the Ottoman Dobrogea during the late 17th-early 18th century. They constituted one of the most populous ethnic-religious communities in the wider region of Brăila, which despite their isolated way of life, contributed significantly to the development of fishing and agriculture.[i]

Lipovans had probably settled in the Ottoman reaya (province) of Ibrăila since the 18th century, but their number increased significantly only after the incorporation of the city and its environs in the Wallachian Principality in 1828-1829. According to some sources it was during that period that many Lipovans from Southern Bessarabia settled nearby at Brăiliţa, founding probably around 1830 the community of Pisc. By 1835 a number of Lipovan families, some of them quite prosperous, had moved to the city.[ii]

Excluding the village of Pisc, 271 Lipovans inhabited Brăila proper according to the 1838 census. They lived mainly in the neighborhood Roşie (the Red Quartier) constituting, in numbers, the fifth ethnic community of the city and accounting for about 4.2 percent of its total population (6.387).[iii] In 1860 they numbered 643, still c. 4% of the city’s inhabitants (15.601).[iv] Nevertheless, the 1899 census counted only 29 Lipovans in a population of 56.630, though this probably was a considerable underestimation.[v] Moreover, by 1929 more than 600 families, around 3.000-4.000 Lipovans lived in Brăila, which now included Pisc, whose population was predominantly Lipovan.[vi]  

Despite their, at times, significant number, the Lipovans’ involvement in Brăila’s economy was not conspicuous. Following traditional patterns of living, most of them worked mainly as fishermen and secondarily as peasants. Among the minority which had settled in the city a few managed to acquire notable wealth, chiefly by engaging in large scale fish trade. Although our information is limited, it seems that many of these merchants had leased huge areas of the Wallachian and Dobrogean Danube and transported, usually with the help of their coreligionists, fish to Bucharest, other cities of Wallachia and Moldavia and even to Transylvania (Braşov). During the inter-war era they were active also in Bassarabia.[vii]

The ecclesiastical/communal organization of Brăila’s Lipovans is also inadequately known. It seems that relatively early, probably in 1835, they had built a wooden church in the city centre, on a lot donated by Sava Ivanof Rucasinicov, an eminent and prosperous member of the community. Some decades later, in 1880, this church was replaced by a much more imposing stone building (Holy Protection of the Theotokos/Acoperământul Maicii Domnului).[viii] Moreover, in 1895, a philanthropic association was founded, under the auspices of the community, with the aim of supporting its poor members, promoting religious books and the publishing of a monthly journal titled Slavo Pravda (Cuvântul Adevarului/Word of Truth). The publication of the latter was suspended in 1899, after the intervention of the Russian consul, who considered the dissemination of information concerning the persecution, in the Tsarist Empire, of the Old-Believers offending.[ix]

Schooling in the Lipovans’ mother tongue, Russian, never developed, since Lipovans were Wallachian/Romanian subjects and the vast majority of their offspring were enrolled in state schools. It is noteworthy, nevertheless, that in the first decade of the 20th century, probably since 1904, at the nearby village of Pisc, efforts were undertaken to teach the Russian language and fundamental elements of the Old--Believer religion in the state primary school.[x] The Lipovans’s popular culture, in particular poetry, was varied and rich, while a flowering of written culture took place in the second half of the 20th century.  

[i]The bibliography on the Old-Believers in general is very rich. See amongst many Robert O. Crummey, The Old Believers & the world of Antichrist: the Vyg community & the Russian State 1694-1855, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970). For a general view on the Lipovans of Romania see Pavel Tudose, Rușii lipoveni din România - istorie și actualitate, (Bucureşti: Editura CRLR, 2015).

[ii]Andrei Antipov, “Monografia lipovenilor (staro-obreadjilor) din oraşul şi județul Brăila”, Analele Brăilei, I:1 (1929), 21; Constantin C. Giurescu, Istoricul oraşului Brăila din cele mai vechi timpuri până astăzi, (Bucureşti: Editura ştiinţifică, 1968, second edition, Brăila: Editura Istros, 2002), 163-164; Maria Stoica, Brăila. Memoria oraşului-Imaginea unui oraş românesc din secolul al XIX-lea, (Brăila: Muzeul Brăilei-Editura Istros, 2009), 218.

[iii]Data according to Spiridon Cristocea, Oraşul Brăila în catagrafia din anul 1838, (Brăila: Muzeul Brăilei-Editura Istros, 2012).

[iv]Anale Statistice pentru cunoştinţa partei Muntene din România, 1:II (1860), 98-99.

[v][v]Leonida Colescu, Recensământul general al Populațiunei României, (Bucureşti: Serviciul Statisticei Generale, 1905), 378-379.

[vi]Antipov, “Monografia lipovenilor”, 19.

[vii]Antipov, “Monografia lipovenilor”, 21; Ilie L. Mirea, “Monografia satului (lipovenesc) Pisc. Importanţa acestei monografii”, Analele Brăilei, XI/1 (1939), 27. For the importance of fishing among Lipovans see also Aurel Ștefan Suvac, Termilogia pescuitului la Lipovenii din Dobrogea (Brăila: Editura Istros, 2008).

[viii]Stoica, Brăila. Memoria oraşului, 218-219. At Pisc the Lipovans had built a number of churches, see Antipov, “Monografia lipovenilor”, 21-22.

[ix]Ibid., 22. The journal was printed at the Typo-Lithography Pericles M. Pestemaltzioglou and its editor was Teodor Efimov.

[x]Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale/Ministerul Cultelor şi Instrucţiuni Publice, dos. 1682/1908, ff. 2r-3r.


Archival Sources:

Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale [ANIC]/Ministerul Cultelor şi Instrucţiuni Publice [MCIP]: dos. 1682/1908.


Anale Statistice pentru cunoştinţa partei Muntene din România [Statistical Annals for the Knowledge of the Muntenian Part of Romania], 1:II (1860), 44-109

Antipov Andrei, “Monografia lipovenilor (staro-obreadjilor) din oraşul şi județul Brăila” [A Monograph on the Lipovans (Old-believers) of the City and County of Brăila], Analele Brăilei, 1/1 (1929), 19-22.

Colescu, Leonida, Recensământul general al Populațiunei României [General Census of the Population of Romania], (Bucureşti: Serviciul Statisticei Generale, 1905).

Cristocea, Spiridon, Oraşul Brăila în catagrafia din anul 1838 [The City of Brăila int the 1838 census], (Brăila: Muzeul Brăilei-Editura Istros, 2012).

Crummey Robert O., The Old Believers & the world of Antichrist: the Vyg community & the Russian State 1694-1855, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970).

Giurescu, Constantin C., Istoricul oraşului Brăila din cele mai vechi timpuri până astăzi [The History of the City of Brăila from the Earliest Times until Nowdays] (Bucureşti: Editura ştiinţifică, 1968, second edition, Brăila: Editura Istros, 2002).

Mirea, Ilie L., “Monografia satului (lipovenesc) Pisc. Importanţa acestei monografii” [The Monograph of the Lipovan Village of Pisc. The Importance of this Monograph], Analele Brăilei, 11/1 (1939), 25–28.

Stoica, Maria, Brăila. Memoria oraşului-Imaginea unui oraş românesc din secolul al XIX-lea [Brăila: The Memory of the City-The Image of a Romanian City from the 19th Century], (Brăila: Muzeul Brăilei-Editura Istros, 2009).

Suvac, Aurel Ștefan, Termilogia pescuitului la Lipovenii din Dobrogea [Fishing Terminology among the Dobrogean Lipovans] (Brăila: Editura Istros, 2008).

Tudose Pavel, Rușii lipoveni din România - istorie și actualitate [The Russian-Lipovans of Romania-History and Present Realities], (Bucureşti: Editura CRLR, 2015).