The Old Believers from South America looking for land and brides in Russia
The delegation of the Old Believers from Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and the USA gets acquainted with the Russian regions where they can resettle under the program of voluntary resettlement of compatriots. A group of 21 people has already visited Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai, Jewish Autonomous District, and the Republic of Buryatia.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the Old Believers, who emigrated from Russia to China after the revolution, moved to the countries of South America. Now there are more than three thousand people there, making their living mainly with farming. The Old Believers arrived in Russia on September 12. 21 guests were representatives of communities from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the USA, New Zealand.
Tatyana Reutova, like all women of the delegation, wears shashmura - a headwear that should be worn by married women. Many of the Old Believers came to Russia to choose a place for possible resettlement with their wives. In Brazil, the family of Reutov has four children two of which have already started their own families.
“Everyone has his own understanding and preferences. I personally like the beautiful mountains," Tatyana told.
There are no mountains and hills in Mazanovo district of the Amur region, where the Old Believers came. But there are 14 thousand hectares of land — a decisive factor for the guests. The Old Believers need 300 hectares for one family. The male part of the delegation carefully examines the soil in the fields and tries it with their shovels; they examine the soybeans - the main crop of the Amur region.
The Old Believers from South America visiting the Amur region
Marya Kalugina came to Russia for the second time. She is surprised with the questions whether she is worried and plan to move.
“Why is it unknown? We're Russians. It seems to us we are at home,” the woman explains.
The desire to return home is one of the key for the Old Believers.
The Old Believers delegation in the Amur region
“They return home; it is a sacred word for them. From the phrases they said, I remember: “The Lord hears us better on the Russian land” “Our grandfathers died here, and we should be buried here too” and “The Russian land is Orthodox,” the head of the migration and demographic development department Ivan Yefimov, who received the delegation, said.
The Old Believers come to Russia in search of a soul mate. In South America, according to Efimov, it is difficult for a young man to find a bride who would not be his relative by blood. Religious kinship may also be an obstacle for starting a family.
“For example, a young man doesn't marry if his mother has some godfather from this family; it is also prohibited. Two guys from Brazil came with us. They came not as the delegation members but independently - to look for brides. They did not find them in Amur region, so they'll go further across the communities of the Old Believers. Two young women from Uruguay are planning to move to Amur region under the resettlement program, their goal is to find grooms,"
The Old Believers from South America examine soya fields in the Amur region
Yefimov said that out of the Russian regions that have been already visited by the Old Believers, Primorye got the greatest attention.
“They say they liked those spacious and free lands very much. And there is an opportunity and good prospects of selling, for example, soybeans to China, Japan, Korea. There are ten times more offers of land plots in Primorye than in the Amur region. But they are ready also to buy the land including land plots in the Amur region," he says.
The guests from South America appreciated proximity of the Amur region to China. The regional center of the Amur region, the city of Blagoveshchensk, and the Chinese neighboring city of Heihe are separated only by the Amur River. According to Yefimov, when they were on the embankment of Blagoveshchensk with the Old Believers they thought of how “their grandmothers crossed the Amur River on rafts.”
“It was during the persecution when they moved to the North Manchuria.
For them it is not just China — it is the homeland of their grandfathers.
In addition, there is a market for selling the soybeans across the river," Yefimov explained.
133 Old Believers returned to the Far East since 2009 under the program of voluntary resettlement of compatriots; in 2016, 27 people moved to the Amur region and founded a detached settlement near the town of Svobodny. Two young women from Uruguay are going to visit this community and search for their soul mates here. Residents of South America have also come here.
“What family do you come from?” — this question was often to hear in the settlement of the Amur Old Believers; many have recognized the guests as their remote kinsmen.
“In Svobodnensky district, many villages were founded by the Old Believers. The village of Bardagon was founded by the Old Believers too; there was the main Old Believers Cathedral of the Russian Old Belief Church here. The local Old Believers plan to bring all their relatives here," the ombudsman for the rights of the Old Believers in the Amur region Robert Kaminsky said.
There is more than a thousand hectares of free land including the land plots registered under “The Far Eastern hectare” program at disposal of the Old Believers. The farmers are engaged in animal husbandry and sell milk to Blagoveshchensky dairy plant. In 2017, they received almost six million rubles under the program of grants for farms development.
“Alexey Kilin, for example, has a lot of animals, turkeys, broilers. He agreed with the Vostochny space launching site (near Svobodny town) on supply of free-pasture poultry to Vostochny. Alexey's wife, the Brazil's champion in cheese production, is also planning to move here soon; currently she's drawing up the documents," Kaminsky said.
None of the Old Believers arrived from South America stated the final decision to move to the Amur region.
“We're eager to see Russia but the final decision should be well thought-out; all in all we had a positive impression. There is enough land to work on," Pamphil Pyatov, having six children in Brazil, shared his impressions.
After the Amur region and Buryatia, the Old Believers will visit the Republic of Karelia.
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