A millennialist and Charismatic Christian sect that diverged from mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy in the early 20th century.

Inochentism, occasionally referred to as Innocentism or the Inochentist church, is a charismatic Christian sect that emerged in the early 20th century, distinguishing itself through a significant departure from mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy. The movement was founded by the Romanian monk Ioan Levizor, who adopted the monastic name Inochenție. It first took root in the Russian Empire, later finding followers across the Soviet Union and into Romanian territories, where it continues to influence certain communities to this day.

The sect is characterized by its millenarian beliefs—prophecies foretelling a future, transformative event that would inaugurate an era of righteousness and peace. This belief system, coupled with charismatic practices and rituals, positioned Inochentism as a form of religious dissent against the established Orthodox Christian norms of the time. The movement’s founding was met with resistance and persecution from both religious authorities and later, governmental powers, notably during the Soviet era.

One of the most dramatic episodes in the movement’s history occurred in 1913 when its founder, Inochenție, and his followers were arrested by the Russian Army. The Holy Synod condemned Inochenție for allegedly spreading illnesses and even causing deaths among people, leading to his imprisonment. Inochenție was released in 1914, only to be exiled later. His teachings, however, survived, fostering a community that thrived even in his absence. A mythical retelling of his sufferings, which includes torture and martyrdom, has become a part of the sect’s lore, highlighting the perceived sanctity and martyrdom of Inochenție​​.

Inochenție’s leadership marked a period of growth and consolidation for the sect, as he and his followers established a commune in Ananiv raion, designed to be a utopian society with its own vineyard, orchard, garden, and religious facilities. The community, known as Rai or Raiu (“paradise”), included an intricate underground complex of galleries from which Inochenție would allegedly “ascend to heaven” every evening​​. However, following the founder’s death in 1917, the sect faced increased challenges, including division and schismatic infighting.

The Soviet takeover and subsequent anti-religious campaigns significantly impacted the movement. The sect suffered during the Great Purge, with many members, including all the Inochentist nuns at Rai, being executed by the NKVD. In Romanian territories, the government officially banned the Inochentist church in 1925 due to perceived conflicts with public order and societal norms. This ban was part of a broader crackdown on various religious movements deemed harmful by the state​​.

During World War II, the region of Bessarabia, where the sect was particularly strong, changed hands between Soviet and Nazi-allied Romanian administrations, further complicating the lives of its adherents. Many were deported to concentration camps in Transnistria upon orders from Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu. The post-war period under Soviet rule saw continued repression, yet the movement survived, albeit in a diminished capacity​​.

Today, Inochentism continues to exist in small communities within the general area of its historical stronghold in Bessarabia, now divided among Romania, Ukraine, and the Republic of Moldova.

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