A starets was an elder who acted as an adviser or teacher in an Orthodox monastery. He was usually a model of saintly virtue and asceticism, whose exemplary life of prayer and seclusion was believed to grant him special powers and wisdom. The tradition of staretsdom came to Russia from Greece and enjoyed a revival in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, mainly through the followers of schema-archimandrite Paisius (Velichkovsky). One of the strongholds of staretsdom in the nineteenth century was the Optina Hermitage.

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