American charged with archive theft driven by religious zeal, says Russian TV

BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom/August 13, 2001

[Presenter] A detective story with a religious flavour keeps unfolding in St Petersburg. A US citizen of Russian descent, James Pivovarov, was trying to steal from the Russian State Historical Archive documents on Russian Dukhobors, a religious sect which does not recognize Russian Orthodox sacraments and rites. Vyacheslav Gulyayev reports on the criminal activities of the American offspring of a Russian noble family.

[Correspondent] The staff of the State Archive believe that the theft of documents from the archive may have been carried out by a religious fanatic. The documents found near James Pivovarov at the time he was detained are of no particular historical value. Nevertheless, the pages and photographs ruthlessly torn out from the files which were given to the US citizen to read, form part of Russian history and are protected by the Russian law.

Pivovarov was born in California. His parents belonged to the nobility, which is confirmed by the family's coat of arms found among his papers when Pivovarov was detained. There is evidence that James's parents were sent into exile to Solovki [islands in northwestern Russia] for religious schism. Therefore the history of the Dukhobors was of the most interest for the American with Russian roots.

[Olga Amosova, captioned as acting director of the State Archive] For him these documents are of immense value. They deal with the history of sectarianism in Russia and of course they are simply a treasure for him.

[Correspondent] The Archive's rules allow for some of the photographs and documents to be photocopied. However, the felon decided to steal them instead. The investigation has reports of thefts from other archives in Russia, where documents on religious sects also went missing. The investigators do not rule out James Pivovarov's possible involvement in those offences.

The American may also belong to the Dukhobor sect or the sect of Pryguny which was founded by Maksim Rudometkin in 1859 and has ever since been persecuted by the authorities. The members of the sect refuse to accept the Russian Orthodox church with its sacraments and rites and its adoration for icons and relics. These sects still have many followers in the West today.

Among them, the theft of archive documents about one's religion and about the sufferings of their co-believers may be considered a heroic deed.

The Californian Dukhobor James Pivovarov is now being questioned at section one of the Admiralteyskiy interior directorate. The investigators are hoping he will confess to all the thefts of documents on the history of Russian sectarianism.

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