Old Belief was Russia’s largest movement of religious dissent. It claimed to represent true Orthodoxy having split from the Church in the 1660s. Despite fierce persecution, Old Belief claimed millions of followers and, with increasing toleration, the movement grew. The extent of its growth became known in early nineteenth century. Faced with the prospect of national division, Old Belief became one of the most pressing problems for the Imperial regime. Unable to eradicate the Old Believers by a return to full religious persecution, but unable to reconcile itself to their existence, the government vacillated between repression and permissiveness leaving the problem unresolved at the time of its collapse. It had succeeded only in alienating a large proportion of the population whose conservatism made them natural allies. The changing policies towards the Old Believers from 1825 to 1917 reveal Russia’s political development. Their failure illuminates the failure of the tsarist regime.