The article examines the changes in the image of the Old Believers in the governmental and intellectual circles of Russia in the mid-late 19th century. These changes were connected with the transformation of the main categorizations of the empire's population. Official religious and social categorizations were gradually losing their importance against the backdrop of strengthening of the importance of ethnic classification of the imperial diversity, and actualization of ethnic categories in governmental discourses and practices. The factor of the Old Believers' schism was becoming less of an issue in the new context. Ideas on the Old Believers as the most stable Russian ethnic element, ethnic-cultural "core" of the Russian people, and the ally of the empire in the implementation of integration policy in the outskirts were simultaneously strengthening. The new notions and persistence of traditional views defined a compromise nature of legislation in the 1870-1880s with regard to the Old Believers.
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