Old Believers´Trail

In 1652, Patriarch Nikon of the Orthodox Church carried out reforms in the Russian Tsarist state, which renewed many traditional religious practices. The adherents of the old customs were persecuted, declared heretics and put under curia. As a result, the Old Believers emigrated to Poland, Lithuania, Siberia and other outlying areas of the Russian Empire. On the western shore of the Peipsi River, settlements of Old Believers were established by the end of the 1730s. The villages of Raja, Kükita, and Tiheda are located in the municipality of Mustvee, the town of Kallaste in the municipality of Peipsiääre, and the villages of Kolkja, Kasepää and Varnja, as well as Piirissaar in the southern part of the lake. The old believers who settled on the shore escaped serfdom, but there was very little land along the lake for their use. Therefore, they started fishing, growing onions and cucumbers. The men of these villages were respected masons, who built mighty buildings in Tartu, Narva and St Petersburg.

Trail map

Museums and heritage centres along the Old Believers’ dialect trail

Peipsimaa Museum - In the Peipsimaa Museum you can get acquainted with different nationalities and cultures, the life of Old Believers, church and kitchen culture, picturesque coastal villages, sacred shrines, icon-paintings (a special exhibit belongs to the world-famous icon painter Pimen Sofronov, who is from this village), samovars and onion, cucumber and vendace food culture, Lake Peipsi, lighthouses, magnificent manors, and the traditional fair culture. The museum also has space for workshops (e.g. painting icons, making Ivan Chai, cooking sugar, making onion braids, reading the Church Slavonic).

Heino Lubi’s Museum of Scales - A unique museum in Estonia is located on the main street of Mustvee, founded by Heino Lubi, who was a master weigher for more than 30 years. The collection includes more than 120 different scales, half a hundred steelyards, as well as many metal and ceramic weights and other items related to scales. In addition to scales made in Estonia, Heino Lubi's collection also includes scales made in the Soviet Union and Poland. The museum also displays several modern scales, which provide a better understanding of the history of scales. Guided tours are available on reservation!

Mustvee Old Believers’ Museum - The Old Believers’ Museum in Mustvee is one of the 21 places of interest in Southern Estonia, marked with the National Geographic yellow window and recommended for culture and history lovers.

Its exhibits give an insight into the history of the Old Believers' culture. The collection includes samovars, irons, clothing, utensils, furniture and fishing gear. There are paintings by J. Kolpakov of churches in Mustvee, woodcarvings by P. P. Mikhailov and his sons and L. Korobova's paintings and drawings of Lake Peipsi.

Peipsimaa Visitor Centre - The Peipsimaa Visitor Centre is located in the heart of Peipsimaa, in Kolkja, an ancient village of Old Believers in Tartu County, in a house built at the end of the 19th century.

The visitor centre offers a chance to learn about the traditions of Old Believers' textile printing, and to take part in workshops on direct, plant and reserve printing and indigo dyeing. You can admire lubok, which is Old Believers’ folk art. You can take part in lubok printing workshops. You can also see the Ridaküla Blacksmith's Shop, the Chicory Museum, the Peipsimaa Handicraft and Art Shop, the Peipsimaa Art Gallery and have a meal at café Tädi Šura. The centre has bicycles, scooters and pushchairs for hire, a children's playhouse and a sandpit.


Other heritage sites along the Old Believer’s dialect trail

Kasepää Street Village - The villages of Kasepää, Tiheda, Kükita and Raja run along the shores of Lake Peipsi in Jõgeva County, forming a 7 km street village. Here, historical Orthodox traditions come together with a unique lifestyle, endless onion terraces, plastic buildings, a second language environment, etc. Onion brades hang from the garden gates, small stalls sell smoked fish – and in summer, all kinds of garden produce. On the tour you can get an insight into the life and traditions of the Old Believers by visiting the Peipsimaa Museum and the Rajaküla Old Believers' prayer house with its bell tower. The Lake Peipsi Living Room gives an insight into the lake. The tour can start from the Omedu bridge, or from Mustvee.

Permanent exhibition "The Lake Peipsi Living Room" - a permanent exhibition introducing the nature and culture of Lake Peipsi, with more than 10 hands-on exhibits, 35 fish mullages, a 4-meter model of Lake Peipsi, information posters in Estonian, Russian and English.

The Rajaküla Old Believers' Prayer House -Raja Old Believers' congregation can be considered to have started in the I quarter of 18th century. It was not until 1879 that the Raja Old Believers received permission to build their own church. The sanctuary was destroyed in World War II, only the bell tower remains. The present prayer house has 11 rooms. Between 1854 and 1930, Gavriil Frolovile, who taught children to write icons and to read and write in Old Slavonic, as well as to sing according to the Old Slavonic musical notation, settled in the house. The church is open on Sundays from 11 am to 1 pm during prayers and can be viewed from outside at other times.

Kükita Old Believers' Prayer House - Kükita Old Believers' Prayer House is an Old Believers' prayer  housein Kükita, Kasepää municipality. According to some sources, it was built in 1740 by Nikita, a Novgorod merchant who fled here, and one of the Moscow boyars, the Morozovs. The old prayer house in Kükita was destroyed in the Second World War. In 1949, with the help of the locals, the present prayer house was completed. The house was built of wood. In the mid-1990s a layer of brick was put around the house.

Kalevipoeg’s slingstone on the shore of the Peipsi in Mustvee - Kalevipoeg deals the most with stones. Not only does he throw stones for drawing lots, not only does he throw stones to the water and not only does he sling stones towards wolves, as in Kreutzwald's epic "Kalevipoeg", but the Kalevipoeg of folklore is involved in throwing stones far more than that. Nearly half of our known legends speak of Kalevipoeg as a stone-thrower. Kalevipoeg competes with the Old Devil in stone-throwing, sometimes fighting against the Old Devil with his own stones; quite often he also throws his stones at castles, manors and churches, or at unnamed enemies.

Mustvee Lutheran Church - Mustvee Church is a neo-Gothic Lutheran church in Mustvee. The church is used by the congregation of the EELC Mustvee. At the beginning of the 19th century, Mustvee grew rapidly in population. Although the majority of the population was of Russian nationality, there were also several hundred Lutherans, for whom it was difficult to go to Torma Church because of the long distance. It took some time to build the church, as there was a big fire in Mustvee in 1866, which almost completely destroyed the Estonian part of the village. By 1876, the necessary permits, the building site and the approved church plan were obtained from the government. The architect of the church project was Johann Maas (1825–1892).

St. Nicholas Parish of Mustvee -The St. Nicholas Parish of Mustvee is an Orthodox parish in Mustvee, Jõgeva County. The congregation uses the church of St. Nicholas in Mustvee. The congregation is part of the Narva and Peipsiveere diocese of Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate.

Mustvee Trinity Monotheistic Church - The congregation was active in the building until 1957, after which it became a flour and furniture warehouse. In 1980 the functions of the sanctuary were restored, but the building was given to the Baptist congregation instead of the Orthodox congregation. In 2004, the church was reopened as an Orthodox church. 

Mustvee City Old Believers' Congregation - The Old Believers' prayer house of Mustvee is an Old Believers' sanctuary in Mustvee at Lohu street 2. The house is used by the Old Believers' Congregation of Mustvee.

The first projects of the prayer house date back to 1927. The new building was built between 1928 and 1930 by engineer J. Jansen's project. The inauguration took place in June 1930. According to some estimates there were 3,500 people in the church on the day of the inauguration, but officially it is the largest Old Believers' prayer house in Estonia, with a capacity to accomodate over 1,000 people. The house was originally a wooden building. In 1933 the church was extensively rebuilt and plastered. In 1935 a cast iron fence was built around the building. A brick gate marks the entrance to the church.

Border stone in Mustvee - The Mustvee River was the border between the Livonian Order and the Tartu Catholic Diocese. A reddish ironstone with an inscription in Low German is thought to be one of the 15th century boundary stones found in the river. It marked the boundary between the lands of the Order of the Sword and the Bishopric of Tartu after the subjugation of the mainland Estonians by German crusaders in 1224. The stone was found near the right bank of the Mustvee River and was hauled to the bank in 1910. According to folklore, there was supposed to be a treasure under it. There was another stone nearby with a year and a key, but it had been broken.