Old Believers v New Style Orthodoxy

Contrary to what many believe, there are in fact a great number of differences between old believers and post-Nikonian Russian Orthodox believers. This is something which I want to explore briefly today and in order to do so I simply want to point out some small, but clear differences between the two types of believers. Throughout the years things have changed and these are some of the key differences.

Sign of The Cross

Old Believers use two fingers while making the Sign of the Cross (the pointer finger straight, middle finger slightly bent, two fingers joined with thumb, held at point, three folded) while new-style Orthodoxy uses three fingers for the sign of cross (three fingers (including the thumb) held together at point, two fingers folded). You will also find that old ritualistic say the prayer of Jesus with the sign of the cross.


Older believers reject the changes and edits which are made to liturgical texts with the view of modernizing or correcting them. The original Slavonic translation of Greek texts is the version which they will always use and anything that veers from that is ignored.

Approach to Baptism

Old believers will only recognize a baptism through a triple immersion process. The original Greek practice was that the baptism would require immersion three times and they will not budge on any process which doesn’t include this, considering the person to not have been baptized if it was performed in this way.


Old Believers perform the Liturgy with seven prosphora, instead of five as in new-rite Russian Orthodoxy or a single large prosphoron, as sometimes done by the Greeks and Arabs.

Singing Practices

And finally the old believers do not use the polyphonic singing ( new-style Russian) and instead prefer to practice a variety of traditional chants such as Pomorsky Chant and Znamenny Chant, amongst others. In this respect it represents a tradition that parallels the use of Byzantine chant and neumatic notation.

These are just some of the fundamental differences between the two beliefs systems here in Russia.