The Dorpat Old Believers founded their community in 1740. Already in the late 18th century, there were rich and respectable people among them, such as merchants of the 3d guild F. Grebensh'ikov and M. Rundaltsov. There were 145 Old Believers (70 men and 75 women) in Tartu in 1826 and 157 (67 and 90 respectively) in 1833. According to the data of 1846, there were 296 registered Old Believers in Dorpat, who did not recognize the prayer for the Tzar, and 10 Old Believers, who recognized priesthood. The parish had a small wooden worship house and an asylum, where up to 10 elders lived.
Under Nicholas I, the Dorpat Old Believers were subjected to the strict police control and repressions. In 1835, the Old Believer school for children was closed. Next year, the 79 years-old preceptor Abram Danilov and Makar Vasilyev were sent to the monastery for re-baptizing of Orthodox believers into the Old Belief. Ivan Fadeyevich Ptichkin was elected the preceptor, later Nikolai Mosharov replaced him. In 1849, Mosharov was exiled to Vesenberg (Rakvere), from where he was permitted to return in 1857.
Not only preceptors were sued for their belief. In 1847, a Dorpat resident Agafya Fedorova, who wanted to educate her children in the spirit of the Old Belief, was brought to trial. Old Believers were sued for evading of recruitment, illegal handing over of residence permission documents, etc. In 1851, the authorities made an attempt to introduce a church attendant of the unified faith into the Dorpat community to persuade parish members to adopt the unified faith and to baptize children into the Orthodox Church. In 1859, the Dorpat Old Believers were prohibited to elect preceptors. They were allowed to pray only at home. The authorities planned to close the Old Believers' cemetery.
Soon the government, being busy with reforms, left Old Believers in relative peace, however. In 1862, the community built the wooden worship house without a bell tower and any specific distinctions at the Pyik street. The plot for the building was donated by Anastasi Korablyov's widow. A merchant Semen Petrovich Rundaltsev sponsored building.
There were about a half thousand Old Believers, who settled mainly at the territory of the 3d police department, in Dorpat in the late 19th century. There were people who cared of education of the 'middle class' of city dwellers, to whom they belonged themselves. A Dorpat merchant Petr Yakovlevich Shamayev bequethed his capital to the city. In 1872, percentage of the capital was used to establish the Shamayev scholarship for students from the middle class. Gustav Suits, an Estonian poet, was a fellow of the Shamayev scholarship, when studying in Helsinki University. In the independent Republic of Estonia, the scholarship was granted by the Tartu city government to both Estonian and Russian poor students. The portrait of the patron of education hang in the assembly hall of the Yuryev Alexander Gymnasium, the oldest one in the Baltics. The Dorpat Old Believers had close connections with their fellows- in-faith from Prichudye. Family ties were often established between them. Due to this, the Old Believer population migrated from the countryside to the city and vice versa.
In the 19th century, besides abovementioned A. Danilov, M. Vasilyev and N. Mosharov, Prokofi Ivanovich Kondratyev and Ivan Kharlampievich Bondarev served as community preceptors. According to the census of 1897, the number of Old Believers reached 456 (202 men and 254 women). 167 of them (115 men and 52 women) were literate.
On the basis of the edict of October 17, 1906, the Tartu community was registered as "The Society of the Priestless (bespopovtsy) Old Believers of the Pomorian Concord (soglasie) in the City of Yuryev of the Province of Livland" on September 20, 1907. The council of 9 members, elected for 3 years, was at the head of the community. In 1913, Ivan Sysh'ikov (chairman), Ivan Sokolov (vice-chairman), Fedor Orlov, Pyotr Belobrov, Ivan Koloshenkov, Ilya Nikolayev, Ivan Annushkin, Ivan Polin and Fedot Peklevkin were the members of the council. Gavriil Yakovlevich Sysh'ikov (born 1866) was the preceptor as well as the elder (starosta), responsible for the metric books.
After Estonia claimed independence in 1918, the community was re-named the Tartu (instead of Yuryev) community. It was re-registered three times (in 1924, 1926, and 1936) according to the law on societies. In the early 1920s, members of the Uspensky church parish attended the Old Believer service since the church held divine service in accordance with the new calendar time.
The Tartu Old Believer community actively participated in the establishment of the Old Belief Church of Estonia. In accordance with the decision of the 5th All-Estonian Old Believers' Congress, the Center of the Old Belief Church of Estonia headed by Y. Grishakov was situated in Tartu for several years (1928-1932). In November of 1929, the 6th All-Estonian Old Believers' Congress, where the representatives of 8 parishes participated, took place in the Tartu worship house.
The Tartu community consisted of 450 members by the early 1930s and 500 members in 1939. There were a library at the church. In 1930, Andrei Yakovlevich Kabatsky was elected the preceptor. I. Sokolov, Z. Kuznetsov and others were council members. In the 1920-30s, Yefrem Yakovlevich Grishakov was famous as an organizer of the community life. He was repeatedly elected the chairman of the Central Council of the Old Belief Church of Estonia and of the Union of the Old Believer Communities of Estonia (1938). As the chairman of the building committee, he initiated the building of the church bell tower. The project was made by the architector A. Podchekayev (1931). In 1931-1935, a well-known Old Believer figure Lev Sergeyevich Murnikov was a member of the community.
From 1932 to 1940, the Old Believer circle of youth, founded by Y. Grishakov, I. O. Anushkin and Z. A. Kuznetsov, functioned in Tartu. Z. A. Kuznetsov and L. Y. Grishakov guided its work. The circle organized spiritual-educational activities for adults and children as well as children feasts. There was the foundation to support poor communities. In April of 1940, the branch of the circle, directed by K. A. Malyshev, started its work in the village of Kikita. There was an excellent choir in the community.
Under the Soviet rule, the normal development of the community life was disrupted. The youth circle was closed. During a bomb attack of World War II, on July 12, 1941, the bell tower, library and iconostasis were burnt down. In 1942, Y. Grishakov died, and the community life fell into decline.
After the war, the Tartu Old Believers did not registered themselves as a community. Later it became more difficult. In 1948, a part of the worship house was restored, yet a house-management office occupied it. The Tartu Old Believer community was registered only in 1955. After multiple petitions, the building of the worship house was returned to the community. To organize its work, icons and divine service books were collected from all over Estonia. Part of icons were painted by G. Frolov's pupil M. Solntsev. The Old Believers had an intention to restore the worship house completely, yet the authorities did not give a permission
In the Soviet time, Samson Timofeyevich Kobylkin (from 1955), Ignati Grigoryevich Rodionov (1980), Aleksandr Lvovich Murnikov, Lavrenti Yefremovich Grishakov, Lavrenti Vasilyevich Grishakov (from 1988), Ivan Savelyevich Kulev and Potapi Yermilovich Savostkin served as preceptors.
During the census of 2000, 483 people, older than 15, claimed themselves as Old Believers. At present, there are about 140 registered members in the Tartu community. The residents of Berezye village (70 kilometers from Tartu) also belong to the Tartu community. There are some well-known people among the Tartu Old Believers, such as the chairman of the Council of the Old Believer Communities of Estonia P. G. Varunin, a candidate of physical-mathematical sciences F. A. Savikhin, a historian of Old Believery V. L. Grishakov. The scholar of Tartu University, dialectologist T. F. Murnikova (1913-1989), preceptor A. L. Murnikov's wife, was also a member of the Tartu parish.
Sources: EHA, f. 291, series 8, record 1725, 1743; f. 297, series 1, record 9873; f. 1865, series 2, record 98-1; f. 2111, series 1, record 14699; LHA, f. 3, series 5, record 2093, 2094, 2102, 2116, 2119; LHA, f. 3, series 10, record 243, 266, 267, 269, 270, 288, 312, 313; f. 3, series 1, record 1478, 1524. References: Протокол 5-го Старообрядческого съезда в Эстонии 17, 18, 19-го июля 1928 года. В посаде Красные Горы. Б.м., б.г.; На съезде старообрядческих общин, Вести дня, 5 ноября 1929 г., № 301; Л.М., Юрьевский старообрядческий храм, Русский календарь, 1933. [Таллинн, 1932], с. 82; В старообрядческом кружке молодежи, Русский Вестник, 30 сентября 1939 г., № 77; Гришаков В.Л., О. Лаврентий Ефремович Гришаков, СЦК 2001 (Даугавпилс); Гришаков В.Л., Прошлое, настоящее и… Тартуского старообрядческого прихода, Меч духовный, 2002, № 5; Vanausulised lopetavad puhadepidamist [Tartus ligi 500 vanausulist], Postimees, 1939. 19. Jaanuar, Nr. 18; Berendsen V., Margus M., Esimene ulevenemaaline rahvaloendus Tartus 28. jaanuaril 1897, Tartu: Eesti Ajalooarhiiv, 1999, lk. 121-122; Ponomarjova G., Arhiivimaterjalid Nikolai I ajastu vanausuliste kohta eesti ajalooarhiviis, Akadeemia, 2001, Nr. 11.э
G. Ponomaryova, T. Shor