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Among Armenia's Molokans

A few Armenian villages are home to communities of Russian Molokans -- a religious splinter group sometimes known as "Spiritual Christians." Having rejected the authority of the Orthodox Church, Molokans faced persecution for centuries under the Russian tsars. By the end of the 19th century, many had resettled in remote areas of the Caucasus, Siberia, and Central Asia. Others remained in southern Ukraine and Russia, or migrated to Romania's Danube Delta region or the western United States. Photographer Anthony Georgieff visited the villages of Fidosovka and Lermontovo in Armenia where Molokans continue to live an isolated and traditional way of life.

Russian-speaking Molokans in Armenia. The name means "milk-drinkers," possibly referring to sect members' refusal to obey the Orthodox Church's orders to fast on given days.
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Russian-speaking Molokans in Armenia. The name means "milk-drinkers," possibly referring to sect members' refusal to obey the Orthodox Church's orders to fast on given days.

Lermontovo, in northern Armenia, is populated solely by Molokans.
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Lermontovo, in northern Armenia, is populated solely by Molokans.

A Molokan boy greets any outsider who chances to pass through.
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A Molokan boy greets any outsider who chances to pass through.

Many Molokans live in brightly painted wooden houses. They generally avoid the use of modern conveniences such as TV sets and mobile phones.
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Many Molokans live in brightly painted wooden houses. They generally avoid the use of modern conveniences such as TV sets and mobile phones.

Molokan women prepare a traditional Sunday lunch. Members of the sect follow Old Testament dietary laws, refusing to eat pork, shellfish, or other "unclean" foods.
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Molokan women prepare a traditional Sunday lunch. Members of the sect follow Old Testament dietary laws, refusing to eat pork, shellfish, or other "unclean" foods.

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The "lord of the house" leads a prayer before a meal.
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The "lord of the house" leads a prayer before a meal.

Molokans are sometimes compared to the Amish or Mennonites in the United States for their pacificism and rejection of modern amenities.
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Molokans are sometimes compared to the Amish or Mennonites in the United States for their pacificism and rejection of modern amenities.

Sixty-year-old Kolya explains that believers should emulate, rather than worship, Jesus Christ. Molokans reject icons and other Russian Orthodox symbols of faith.
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Sixty-year-old Kolya explains that believers should emulate, rather than worship, Jesus Christ. Molokans reject icons and other Russian Orthodox symbols of faith.

A derelict building in this poor region of Armenia contrasts with the brightly colored homes of the Molokans nearby.
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A derelict building in this poor region of Armenia contrasts with the brightly colored homes of the Molokans nearby.

Molokan girls attend a wedding in Lermontovo.
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Molokan girls attend a wedding in Lermontovo.

Liquor is generally frowned on in the Molokan community, but the rule is somewhat flexible, especially at weddings.
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Liquor is generally frowned on in the Molokan community, but the rule is somewhat flexible, especially at weddings.

Weddings and other communal events are performed at the Molokan House of Prayer.
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Weddings and other communal events are performed at the Molokan House of Prayer.

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