Old Believers are descendants of a group that rejected Russian Orthodox Church reforms enacted in 1654 to reconcile differences between Russian and Greek Orthodox texts. They broke away from the Orthodox Church because it objected to changes in Russian Orthodox traditions, such as ceremonies, icon painting, and book writing. Shortly after the schism, the Old Believers were persecuted; some were imprisoned and others were burned alive. Many Old Believers fled to remote villages in northern Russia or to Siberian wastelands and established tiny settlements. In these areas, they remained isolated from greater Russian society until Tsar Nicholas II proclaimed the Edict of Toleration in 1905, releasing the Old Believers from exile and persecution. Their actions in the 17th century was vindicated in 1971 when the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church completely rescinded all the anathemas of the 17th century and recognized the full validity of the old rites.
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