In the tiny village of Nikolaevsk, Alaska exists a people carrying on a religion lost to time. Called the Old Believers, this sect of the Russian Orthodox church carries on long-forgotten traditions abandoned when the church enacted reforms. Red Alaska follows the Old Believers of Nikolaevsk as they prepare for the thaw of winter and the start of salmon fishing season.
The Old Believers have a history of persecution and hardship, forced to flee persecution from the Russian Orthodox church in the 17th century, scattering the population that settled in places from China to Brazil to Alaska. This village encountered a split of their own, when dissident members left to establish a priestless community in the neighboring area of East End. Fishermen by trade, the Nikolaevsk villagers are forced to share the waters with their faithless rivals.
Maintaining their centuries-old traditions while surviving as commercial fishermen on Alaska’s rough seas is a challenge for the Old Believers. Unable to fish on Alaskan waters during the region’s winter slumber, the community has fallen on hard times, with the village’s priest Father Nik broke and unable to complete construction on his new church.
While their religion may be different, the community members’ struggles to find jobs and feed their families tell a universal tale of economic hardship and overcoming diversity.
Learn more about the Old Believers of Nikolaevsk on Red Alaska on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 10P.