This paper explores the processes of transformation of a religious revival centred on the relics of a local holy man into a so-called ‘sectarian movement’ rejected by the Orthodox Church. Inochentism took shape in the first decades of the 20th century in Bessarabia (today’s Republic of Moldova) under the charismatic leadership of the Orthodox monk Inochentie. By tracing the various ways in which Church and state authorities attempted to regulate and control Inochentie and his followers, this paper draws attention to the dialectic relationship between the experience of persecution and the articulation of diverging beliefs and practices. As a long period of repression at the hands of Tsarist Russian, Soviet and Romanian regimes unfolded, the Inochentite movement accumulated a repertoire of narratives of suffering and redemption that could be deployed in order to strengthen group identity and reinforce emerging beliefs about the identity of Inochentie and the impending End of Days. Through its focus on creative agency and innovation under persecution, this paper highlights the dynamics of change within Orthodox Christianity that draw on both local vernacular and national political imaginaries.