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Today I've learned that there exists a term for thief who is specializing in stealing icons and church plates - клюквенник.

I just wonder when this term had been adopted and why does it actually "клюквенник". I mean, a форточник is self descriptive, щипач after a bit of thought is also quite explainable term, but клюквенник.

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Many online dictionaries (including this one, that is dated as being printed in 1912) say that клюква is a word for a church:

КЛЮКВА - церковь, часовня
КЛЮКВЕННИК - церковный вор; церковный карманщик

However it is hard to tell which word was "the original one" and which is "derived".

On this forum I found an interesting version why the thieves are called this way:

давным-давно заинтересовался, почему воров, специализирующихся на краже церковной утвари из храмов, называли "клюквенниками" (во времена до "без царя")- так вот, эти специалисты в темноте, не зажигая свечу, на язык и на зуб определяли, серебрянный оклад у иконы или нет! Серебро кислит, как клюква.

So, the thief could tell if the icon setting (icon cover) was made of silver without using the light or candle. He tasted it with his tongue. If it had an acidic taste (as cranberry has) then it was silver.

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  • On "церковь" - "клюква" see also here at the bottom of the text. But the ideas here are not convincing to me. – Artemix Nov 21 '13 at 8:30
  • Version about "grapes" is here. – Artemix Nov 21 '13 at 8:39
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The one of the version is the following: A bunch of grapes is the most famous decoration for the icon. It is symbol of church papacy. The grapes looks just like cranberry. That’s why thief, how stole icons is cranberry man = клюквенник

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