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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Skoptsy project was the only one that involved deep archival work, and here I owe everything to the archivists in the Museum of the History of Religion, which at the time was still located under the cupola of the Kazan Cathedral.
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).
Calling oneself "tsar" in Russia therefore signified a claim to sacred status, and in that respect it resembled the practice of calling oneself a saint, a prophet, Christ, or the Mother of God--a phenomenon that was also found in early modern Russia, especially among sects such as the khlysty (flagellants) and skoptsy (castrates) (115-16).
Laura Engelstein has written a masterful and engaging history of the Skoptsy, the strangest Russian sectarian group in the modern era.
So too was one of the inhabitants of the Korean quarter of the town, who much to the chagrin of the local women, volunteers for public castration when a group of skoptsy (members of a religious sect which practised self-castration) arrives in town.
We can only guess what he meant, but here Pestel''s proscription of Muslim polygamy and forced segregation of women may be examples of what Murav'ev had in mind; so might an aversion to Russian castrati (skoptsy).
Yet the book makes no attempt to do so, even though it was another philologist, Aleksandr Panchenko, who a decade ago managed to connect Russian sectarian texts to a description of "popular Orthodoxy." (25) Beglov uses Panchenko's works on the "Christ faith" (khristovstvo) and the skoptsy when he seeks to refute the connection between Soviet "sectarianism" and its prevolutionary variant (though he does this unconvincingly).
Ransel, "Enlightenment and Tradition: The Aestheticized Life of an Eighteenth-Century Provincial Merchant," and Laura Engelstein, "Personal Testimony and the Defense of Faith: Skoptsy Telling Tales," in Self and Story in Russian History, ed.
Although the Reformation, which transformed the religious landscape through much of early modern Europe, did not come to Russia directly, the 18th century did see the emergence of various small groups (including the Khlysty, Skoptsy, Dukhobors, and Molokans) who questioned whether religious rites were necessary for spiritual fulfillment and, in the case of the Molokans, encouraged individual reading of the Bible (Russkii protestantizm, 21-22).
(8) Aleksandr Etkind, "Russkie skoptsy: Opyt istorii," Zvezda, no.
Just a small number of their publications have been cited here, but many topics remain to be investigated, such as Siberia's communities of Old Believers, Poles, and Skoptsy; the maritime ports of Okhotsk, Vladivostok, and Petropavlovsk; Grigorii Skorniakov-Pisarev's picaresque career; the lucrative gold-mining industry; the Sibiriakov merchant family; the BAM; Primor'e's Asian immigrant population; Siberian monasteries--to name but a few.