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(self-castrators), a religious sect in Russia akin to the Khlysty (Flagellants). The sect was founded in the late 18th century, apparently by K. Selivanov. The doctrine of the Skoptsy is based on the assertion that the sole condition for the “salvation” of the soul is a “struggle with the flesh” by means of castration. Communities of Skoptsy were called ships, and their prayer meetings radeniia (rites culminating in a state of religious ecstasy). In the second half of the 19th century there were about 6,000 Skoptsy, mainly in Tambov, Kursk, and Orel provinces and in Siberia. In the Russian Empire, membership in the sect was punished by exile to Siberia.

In the USSR, fanatic sects like the Skoptsy are forbidden. Very small groups of Skoptsy remain in some regions of the Northern Caucasus. These are the “spiritual” Skoptsy, who do not practice self-castration. The members of this sect are required to observe certain religious rites and to maintain an ascetic way of life.


Volkov, N. Sekta skoptsov, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1931.
Volkov, N. Skopchestvo i sterilizatsiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.
Fedorenko, F. I. Sekty, ikh vera i dela. Moscow, 1965.
References in periodicals archive ?
Living in areas of high mobility, these groups experienced a long history of cross-fertilization (Zhuk focuses on one of these connections, between the Shalaputs and the Skoptsy, who were also a branch of the Khlysts).
Earlier historical accounts written by outside observers emphasized revulsion at the destructiveness of Skoptsy actions.
This book gives a detailed history of the Skoptsy from their initial discovery by tsarist officials in the 1770s until their disappearance during the Stalinist revolution of the 1930s.
When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, the Skoptsy experienced a short period of freedom from official persecution.
The Skoptsy believed in ongoing divine incarnation, a tenet they shared with the sectarian group known as the Christ Faith (in Russian, the Khristovshchina), from whom they emerged.