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Molokan and Jumper Song

In-Progress, Updated June 3, 2010.

As for most religions, song is essential for the religious services performed by all Russian Spiritual Christian sectarians, including Molokans and Jumpers. The origin and composition of their Old Russian singing got attention from ethnomusicologists in the 1980s. A few scientific papers have been published, listed below, some are online. Many songs are now online.

Molokans and Jumpers comprise 3 different religions and several sub-groups which are too often confusingly lumped together under the one label "Molokan". Each claims to be the real "Molokan" faith. Molokans and Jumper-S&L-users view each other as heretics, with Spiritual Jumpers in the middle. In the U.S., some Jumper-S&L-users claim Reformed are heretics. All conduct prayer services and song in Russian, except Reformed which primary uses English. Each faith mainly uses different songs with some shared:
  • Molokans do not sing hymns derived from Russian folk songs or borrowed from other faiths during worship. Molokans focus directly on Bible verses.

  • Jumpers, who split from Molokans in the 1850s, adapted folk dance melodies for the fast beat needed for jumping and spiritual dance. Jumpers use adapted folk songs and borrowed songs from other faiths during the second part of worship after prayer.

  • Jumper-S&L-users and Maksimists, who split from Jumpers officially in the 1900s, depend more on theatrics of jumping and prophesy. They sing much louder than Molokans, and louder than Jumpers. They insist the Book of Sun: Spirit and Life is a Third Testament to the Bible, indispensable, place it next to the Bible, sing verses from it, and some use it for blessing instead of the Bible.
Research has been skewed by the faith and territory of origin of the faith encountered. Singing styles differ markedly by pre-perestroika population location which has never been studied, or noted. In the U.S., Molokans only hold services in San Francisco, while Jumper S&L-users dominate all of California, Arizona, and Oregon except for one reverted congregation of Reformed, which changed their name to Molokan. All self-claimed "Molokans" now in Australia are Jumper-S&L-users resettled from America, since an authentic Molokan congregation in Sidney has dissolved. Researcher access to services has varied and is noted in the time line below.

Here is an overview summary of accomplishments and plenty of work to be done.

Time Line

Late 1800s — A young Molokan in Siberia with a talent for singing is sponsored by his congregation to study in Europe. He returned and began notating their psalms. Dr. O'Brien-Rothe was going to persue this history but did not. The location of the notations is not known.

1906 — First audio recording. Linyova records Molokans other sects in the Caucasus and notates some verses and publishes.

1915 — First published songbook in U.S.

1939 — Second audio recording. San Francisco

1992  — Filimonov, Centre of visual Anthropology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, produced a half-hour
video ""Molokan spiritual chants/singing"

2005 — 1200 verses in comperhensive Jumper songbook published in Yerevan, Armenia by Telligin. Unpublished Armenian Jumper hymns were combined with published Jumper and Molokan hymns in America.

Major accomplishments and findings

  • 100+ years of sample recordings, 1906-present.
  • Many recordings online, links
  • __ + papers published.
  • __ songbooks published
  • Dr. O'Brien-Rothe shows American Jumper hymns adapted from Russian folksongs and melodies.
  • Total Jumper hymns documented, 1200+

Unanswered questions

  • What is the origin of Molokan psalm singing? O'Brien-Rothe hyphthesized it evolved from the Orthodox liturgy permitted when no priest was present, which subjects could perfom themselves.
  • Where is the first songbook? In Siberia?
  • Where are the 1800s notations? In Siberia?
  • How have Molokan and Jumper styles diverged?
  • Do other early recordings exist? Far East, China, elsewhere?
  • What caused the regional differences?
  • Are the north Azerbaijan psalm melodies adapted from Moslem stlyes?
  • Is the Tambov style the most original?
  • Add your question here. Email to administrator@molokane.org

Molokan and Jumper Songs Online