Nikon n?k?n [key], 1605?81, Russian churchman, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (1652?66). He undertook an extremely vigorous reform of church discipline and ritual with a view to purging accretions and eccentricities from the Russian rites. His reforms, particularly his correction of service books from the Greek (1654), created a schism in the church and inspired the formation of a major opposition sect, the Raskolniki, who retained the older usages banned by Nikon. Heterodox sects such as the Dukhobors formed and attached themselves to the Raskolniki to avoid persecution. By 1658, Nikon had aroused sufficiently powerful opposition to bring about his banishment, and in 1666 he was deposed and degraded. He was a figure unique in Russian church history, for he opposed any interference by the state in church affairs and considered the two institutions to be distinct and separate. His reforms were maintained after he was deposed.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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