The Old Believers here, as well as in Russia, were called raskolniks and later they became known as Onion-Russians. They themselves prefer the term Old Believers (staroverõ). Old believers are recognised as hard-working and skillful fishermen, builders but also (or even especially) as onion cultivators.

New times for the Old Believers Estonia began in the 1990s, when The Union of Old Believer Communities of Estonia was restored. Today, there are 11 congregations with approximately 15,000 members. Old Believers are clearly distinguishable from other Russians in Estonia due to their unique traditions and religion.

For example, they use two fingers for making the sign of the cross, while the reformed Orthodoxy uses three fingers. They continue to use the older Church Slavonic translation of the sacred texts and do not use polyphonic singing. Old Believers use only old Byzantine style iconography and they perform many bows and prostrations during their religious services that last for several hours.

Some stricter Old Believers consider shaving one's beard a sin and prohibit smoking or drinking coffee. The Old Believers of Peipsi are almost all relatives, neighbours or acquaintances because mixed marriages are rare. They clearly distinguish between the "own" and the "alien". Not only Estonians but also Orthodox Russians or atheists are aliens too.

If you are interested in the history and traditions of the Old Believers, pay a visit to the museum in Kolkja village on the coast of Lake Peipsi, where you can see traditional clothes, crafts, tools, household items and religious items of the Old Believers - and don’t forget eat out at the local fish and onion restaurant.

You can even take part in the religious services but then please respect two things: The church rooms are segregated by sex and woman have to cover their hair.