Moscow. Early morning. The sentinel archers boast a recent massacre of the hated boyars. Boyar Fyodor Shaklovity - a protege of Princess Sophia - dictates the clerk a denunciation of the head of the Strelets order, Prince Ivan Khovansky, who planned to seize power and put on the throne his son Andrew.
Ivan Khovansky, surrounded by archers and people greeting him from the people, enters the square. The prince and the archers are going around Moscow. Emma appears on the square - a girl from the German settlement. She is trying to hide from pursuing her, possessed by the passion of Andrei Khovansky. The splitter Martha, the former lover of Andrew, stops the violence.
This scene is caught by the returning Ivan Khovansky. He gives the girl to the mercy of archers, but Andrew is ready to kill her rather than admit it. The knife brought over the girl powerfully stops Dosifey, the head of the schismatics. The Old Believer gives Emma his blessing and thereby saves him from desecration: the father and son of Khovansky retreat before the will of his powerful ally. But in a girl, a thirst for revenge is born.
The Cabinet of Prince Vasily Golitsyn, a favourite of Princess Sophia. The prince is immersed in heavy meditation, he is overcome by fear of the future.
In the princely chambers enters Martha. Under the guise of divination, she puts Golitsyn's vigilance to steal an important document and pass it on to the Petrovites.
The prediction of opals terrifies the superstitious prince. To keep the prophecy in secret, he tells his servant to kill the fortuneteller, but Martha has time to escape.
Ivan Khovansky enters the office. The conversation between Golitsyn and Khovansky - hidden rivals who hate each other - turns into a quarrel, which Dosifey stops appearing. He urges them to subdue pride and think about saving Russia.
Martha runs in. She tells about Golitsyn's order to kill her and that the soldiers of the “funny troops” of the young Peter helped her escape. The conspirators react with alarm to this. But even worse is the news that the boyar Shaklovity brings: the king learned about the conspiracy, "he called Khovanshchina and ordered to find it."
Marfa prepares Emma for the rite of passage. But, overwhelmed by doubts about the correctness of her decision, she resists. In desperation, she runs away.
Shaklovity appears, immersed in thoughts of the long-suffering Motherland. Emma, who hid nearby, hears these words and penetrates the boyar’s trust. Shaklovity, deciding to take advantage of a successful case, puts a knife in the hands of the girl. Emma is ready to serve her new “defender” faithfully and unaware that she has again become a pawn in the struggle of those in power.
Wrangling songs of drunken archers.
The clerk resorts to the square. He talks about the attack of soldiers Peter on Streletskaya settlement. This news stuns the archers. They appeal to their boss, Ivan Khovansky.
However, Khovansky himself was at a loss: an archery case on the eve of his death.
Khovansky, who had taken refuge in his estate, indulges in gloomy thoughts about his own fate. In order to distract himself, he orders the serf girls to entertain him.
Included Shaklovity. On behalf of Tsarevna Sophia, he calls the prince to the state council. Flattered Khovansky orders you to present yourself ceremonial clothes. However, the prince’s rainbow dreams did not come true: Emma, who had entered the chambers with Shaklovity, delivered a deadly blow to Khovansky. Revenge happened.
Other conspirators are also dying. Prince Golitsyn was sent under guard to exile, and the reiter was given the order to surround schismatic sketes. Only Andrei Khovansky is unaware of the collapse of the conspiracy. He does not believe Martha, who reported the murder of his father, and tries in vain to convene his regiment. However, seeing the archers that are being executed, Andrei realizes that everything has perished, and in fear asks Martha to save him. Sagittarius are preparing to accept death, but the messenger of Peter at the last moment announces a decree of clemency.
The schismatics are hiding from Peter’s troops. Dosifey wants to test his flock and appeals to her to burn in a cleansing fire. But in the holy fire burns the sinful old world, giving the long-suffering people hope for a new, better life.