Moscow in 1666: New Jerusalem, Third Rome, Third Apostasy

Maureen Perrie


In this essay the author examines the disappearance from official Russian discourse of the idea of Muscovy as the New Israel. She suggests that it may partly be explained in relation to his opponents’ accusations of blasphemy against Patriarch Nikon for naming his monastery on the River Istra as New Jerusalem. These accusations were made in the context of apocalyptic rumours about Nikon as the Antichrist, and about the imminent appearance of the Antichrist in Jerusalem in 1666. The decisions of the Church council of 1666–1667 – including its repudiation of the idea of the Third Rome – seemed to many Old Believers to confirm prophecies about 1666 as the date of a third and final apostasy from the true faith, after the Great Schism of 1054 and the Union of Brest of 1596. The ideas of the Third Rome and New Israel persisted among some Old Believers; but unlike the idea of the Third Rome, which was re-interpreted in the 19th and 20th centuries as evidence of Russian messianism and imperialism, the idea of the New Israel has been comparatively neglected.


1666; Moscow; New Jerusalem; New Israel; Third Rome; apocalypse; apostasy; Patriarch Nikon; Old Believers.

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