History has preserved a number of stories regarding Stara Nekrasivka. The Very Good Legend narrates as follows: once upon a time, almost two hundred years ago, the Austrian Kaiser Ferdinand was traveling through his vast empire. Somewhere not far away from the Danube, in southern Bukovyna, in a very beautiful, but out-of-the-way locality, he was attacked by robbers. As it becomes in such cases, the Kaiser’s Life Guards cavalry, hung round with sabers and covered with leopard-skins, scattered in a bellicose manner. His Majesty would have had serious problems if Old Believers had not appeared in place of action exactly at that time. Bitter lot in the course of decades accustomed them to courage and justice. Thus, they saved the Kaiser. Filled with the feeling of gratitude to the strong bearded men, whom he took for some isolated people of his empire, he granted them special privileges. Austrian officials decided to find out who the Old Believers were, and received the answer: “We are filipovany,” after the name of one of the Old Believer spiritual leaders. “Ya, Gut, Lipofane!” the Austrians nodded their approval. Thus a new people with the beautiful name “lypovany” appeared in the Austrian empire. It seems southern Old Believers also liked the new name, and willingly call themselves so.
The Very Frightful Truth adds to this story a necessary introduction. It was the mid-17 th century. The little-known Muscovy was quickly turning into strong and militant Russia. The first Russian emperor Peter the Great had not been born yet – the throne was occupied by his father, czar Aleksey Mikhailovich who went down in history under the nickname “The Quietest.” However, Muscovy, to which Ukraine joined not quite of its own accord, was already warming up its muscles. The Patriarchy of Russian Orthodox Church Nikon, a vivid and extraordinary person, started a number of contradictory church reforms. An acute social conflict flared up: part of believers, mostly wealthy merchants and professional warriors – the riflemen, the Don and Kuban Cossacks, and many boyar families opposed Nikon’s innovations, putting forward a slogan of returning to the “eternal,” “Byzantine” ceremony. As a result they obtained the name of Old Believers.
Their movement was headed by no less convinced and talented leaders than Nikon, with the archpriest Avvakum at the head. At that time any theological discussion provoked slaughter. The irreconcilable Avvakum was faggoted; severe oppression of the adherents of Old Belief started throughout huge Moscow. “The Quietest” even issued an order by which he encouraged his subjects to kill Old Believes as his personal enemies without court and investigation.
In the early 18 th century an uprising of Cossack-Old Believers flared up in the south of Russia, the Don and Kuban territories. Defeated by czarist troops the rebels retreated more and more to the west, to the frontier with the Ottoman Porte. Those were the areas beyond the reach of punitive expeditions. The only things that the wealthy Cossact managed to retain were the icons of the 16 th -17 th centuries. Here, on the Danube, the Cossacks of ataman Nekrasov founded new villages, and laid the foundation of new churches on both sides of the frontier. Also here they met with the Ukrainian Cossacks of the defeated army of the Hetman Ivan Mazepa, their congenial companions with similar bitter historical past. There appeared an original undeclared Old-Believer-Cossack Danube republic where czarist officials did not show themselves. However, sometimes the fellow-sufferers fought with one another of czars’ and sultans’ will.
The wealthy and picturesque settlement of Stara Nekrasivka became an original Old Believer capital named in honor of the courageous Cossack chieftain.
In all times Old Believer communities were distinguished for severity of their rules, diligence, and orderliness of their believers, and, at the same time, for friendliness and hospitality with respect to travelers. Idleness and hard drinking were considered a deadly sin.
Old Believer churches are extremely interesting, and not only old temples, but new ones as well. The complex in the village of Stara Nekrasivka (from where resettlement of Old Believers in southern Ukraine began) can serve as an example. The main majestic Church of
St. John the Theologian built in the early 19 th century is adorned with numerous unique icons, which are much older than the church itself. Nearby, in the same church yard, there is a modern masterpiece of the local architect the Old believer, Oleksiy Sinelnikov, known far beyond the borders of Ukraine, where he also designs churches. It is a small stylized “winter” church, locally called warm church, and a building of Sunday Old Believer school attached to it. The local children willingly go to this school. Teachers of the state, “common” school, maintain friendly relations with their colleagues of Sunday school.