The Birch-bark Book


This book was handwritten in October 1991 on 18 sheets of finely worked birch bark by Afanasii Gerasimovich Murachev, an instructor of the Old Believer schismatic sect. It consists of a collection of previously unknown compositions by Old Believer peasant writers, including Murachev himself. Most of the compositions concern the history of the Enisei (or Yenisey) monasteries. The latter were Old Believer monasteries that in 1937‒1940 secretly relocated from the Ural Mountains to the left bank of the Lower Yenisey River and the Dubches River and its tributaries. In 1951 the monasteries were spotted from the air by the Soviet authorities and subsequently demolished by a punitive detachment. The hermits associated with the monasteries and the peasants who had supported them were arrested, and all the buildings, icons, and books were burned. This birch-bark book primarily contains religious poems on the themes of the destruction of the Enisei monasteries, the trial of the monastery residents, and the subsequent death in prison of the head of the Dubches monasteries, Father Simeon, in 1953. The book is enhanced with a few small instructional compositions in verse by Murachev. Some of the compositions are of a personal nature, while others are addressed to the congregation as a whole. Exhorting his religious flock to a righteous life, Murachev seeks to embrace all aspects of human existence and create a unique code for the God-fearing Christian. The birch-bark book is from the collections of the Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (II SO RAN). It was digitized in the early 2000s as part of the Meeting of Frontiers project of the Library of Congress and partner institutions in the Russian Federation, the United States, and Germany.

Last updated: July 31, 2017