Skoptsy

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Related to Skoptzy: eunuch, Old Believers, Doukhobors

Skoptsy

 

(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.

REFERENCES

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.