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Armenia's Molokan Christians

Molokans are a Christian sect who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the late 16th century. The sect’s name, derived from the Russian for milk, refers to their refusal to give up milk and meat on the fast days dictated by the Orthodox clergy. Because of their doctrinal differences, Molokan believers were exiled in the 19th century to remote regions of the Russian Empire, particularly Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine. Today, Molokans in Armenia continue to preserve their beliefs and cultural identity in small rural communities. (13 PHOTOS)

Molokan farmers plow their land in the village of Lermontovo. Members of the sect settled here in the 19th century, having been driven out of parts of Russia by the Orthodox Church.
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Molokan farmers plow their land in the village of Lermontovo. Members of the sect settled here in the 19th century, having been driven out of parts of Russia by the Orthodox Church.

Children watch as a farmer plows his field.
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Children watch as a farmer plows his field.

Molokans describe themselves as "spiritual Christians." Members of the faith in tsarist Russia rejected the veneration of icons, as well as the tsar's divine right to rule.
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Molokans describe themselves as "spiritual Christians." Members of the faith in tsarist Russia rejected the veneration of icons, as well as the tsar's divine right to rule.

A villager hangs clean linen.
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A villager hangs clean linen.

Villagers arrive by bus to sell milk early in the morning.
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Villagers arrive by bus to sell milk early in the morning.

A student practices her lessons at the village's high school.
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A student practices her lessons at the village's high school.

Molokan communities survive today in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Smaller groups of immigrants have settled in the western United States.
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Molokan communities survive today in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Smaller groups of immigrants have settled in the western United States.

Molokans walk toward the cemetery to attend the funeral of a member of the community.
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Molokans walk toward the cemetery to attend the funeral of a member of the community.

Mourners wait to attend a memorial dinner following a funeral.
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Mourners wait to attend a memorial dinner following a funeral.

Samovars are prepared for the funeral dinner.
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Samovars are prepared for the funeral dinner.

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