Prugavin Aleksander (1850–1920) – specialist in the history of Old Believers and Russian Sectarianism, ethnographer, journalist, revolutionary Narodnik.
He was born in Arkhangelsk; in 1869, he enrolled to the Moscow Petrovskaya Agrarian and Forest Academy. In 1871, he was arrested in the frames of the ‘Nechaev Affair’ and sent to exile to the Arkhangelsk Region, to Kem’, where he me Old Believers of various groups and started to study that religious phenomenon. In 1879, the period of the police surveillance finished, and P. was able to return to St. Petersburg. He published articles in numerous media: ‘Golos’, ‘Nedelya’, ‘Novoe Vremya’, ‘Russkie vedomosti’, ‘Russkyi kurier’, ‘Strana’, ‘Russkaya mysl’, ‘Vestnik Evropy, ‘Istoricheskyi vestnik’.
In 1877, in the ‘Nedelya’ Newspaper, there was his first article ‘Do We Know the Dissent?’. Later, he wrote much about Russian Sectarianism, its reasons and its role in the Russian life. He put a special attention at the position of Old Believers in the Arkhangelsk Region, at the history and functioning of Old Believers sketes, and at the monastic prisons as an instrument of struggle against Sectarianism. The wrote a book: ‘The Dissent and Sectarianism in the Russian Folk Life’. Two of his other books – ‘The Dissent Downstairs and the Dissent Upstairs: Essays in Contemporary Sectarianism’ (St. Petersburg, 1882) and ‘Renegades. Old Believers and New Believers. Essays in the Field of Religious and Common-Day Movements of Russian People’ (St. Petersburg, 1884) – were not available for readers, they were completely destroyed on the order of the Censorship Committee.
He interpreted the phenomenon of old Believers as mass opposition movement and stressed its social reasons; he worked out a method of its studying – collecting field materials in the process of personal communications. He criticized the state policy in the legal regulation of the religious life in Russia, spoke about cases of despotism of authorities and oppressing Old Believers in the pre-revolutionary Russia, and highly evaluated the role of Old Believers in the development of the Russian North; he argued for regular and in-depth research of the ‘character and dissemination of the Dissent’, and worked out a program of ‘collecting data on the Russian Dissent and Sectarianism’.
In 1917, he went to Ufa, where he published articles in the White media. In March 1920, he was arrested by Soviet authorities and died in the Krasnoyarsk prison of typhus.