Secret Societies #7: Skoptsy - Castrators of Russia [One Bizarre Tale]

in history •  last year

This is some crazy shit. If you only read one of my articles on secret societies this is it. A tale of peasants and strange beliefs. Of government officials and masochist rituals. A strange mix of people from all classes of society being conned into a belief of a greater mystical power. The Skoptsy. The Castrated. So get a drink, sit back, and enjoy some insane history.

THE BEGINNING

They began as a splinter faction of a group of flagellants, those religious guys that flog themselves on the back. Later in history Rasputin was a flagellant. This Skoptsy sect goes all the way back to 1757, but their existence wasn’t found out about until 1771. It was too late. For some awful reason by that time it had spread too fast and too much and was to continue, somehow, for over a hundred years.

'C' is Siberia

The official record begins then with a guy named Andrei Ivanov. He was arrested, charged, and convicted with convincing 13 people to castrate themselves. During his trial in the city of St. Petersburg people were astonished and confused that people would voluntarily do this to themselves to just become part of some underground masochistic group. It became quite a topic of conversation in the day, as I bet it still would in our society. Ivanov was sent to Siberia for the rest of his life.

But not before he had already converted a deep believer though. Or maybe Ivanov took all the blame and confessed in place of his master because he was a deep believer. Nobody knows for sure anymore.

The Skoptsy said they were mystics, they told converts that they knew the key to salvation. They used a combination of Christian beliefs and mystic pagan rites to spin the tale. They said that evil in the world is because of human sexuality - lepost. That the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden became part of our bodies in the form of the male genitals and female breasts. If these body parts were removed you would be reinstated to a pristine human being, as Adam and Eve were before the Original Sin. That if you removed them then you would then be given a great secret, the supreme power over other humans and other people could not have any power over you. If you removed these forbidden fruits from your body you would then be capable of divine healing, divination, mesmerism, telepathy, and deep trances. Thousands of people believed the story and performed the ritual ceremony.

THE RITUAL

The ceremony, or radenyi, was designed to create a sort of religious fervor and ecstasy and is said to have happened something like this. They would be dressed in long white robes. Mystic invocations and hymns were spoken while the members swayed and whirled around. The dance would build up in fervor until the members were spinning ever faster. If someone stopped or slowed down, they would be whipped by the master of the ceremony until they resumed. When the Master thought they participants had been induced into a suitable ecstatic state they would collapse into a non-sexual orgy of fits and convulsions.

At the start it was called it the Baptism of Fire. Later it was known as the greater seal. For women, the breasts were cut from the body and sometimes genital mutilation would be done too. For men they had two levels, the lesser seal and the greater one. The former required that the testes be removed, the latter – both the testicles and the penis were hacked off.

It was done without any type of anesthetics or proper medical procedures. In the early days it was said that it was done with a blazing hot poker (the fire part of the baptism)– later on they did it with pretty much whatever was at hand: knives, razors, hatchets, even shards of glass. A nail was placed in the urethra tube to keep it from healing shut. Some members with children would also have their children be ritually castrated.

THE STORY

Anyways, this new guy that took over for Ivanov was named Kondrajti Selivanov. The heat was on where they had been living, and now it was just Selivanov spreading the word. So he escaped south, over to a city called Tambov. From there he was able to build a congregation of believers by preaching his doctrine. One converter became his disciple, by the name of Alexander Shilov. Together they convinced hundreds to join the cult.

Selivanov, now chubby and hairless because of his own castration, moved to Moscow to further the cult by converting people there - leaving Shilov in charge. He had moved too close to the seat of the government though, and was arrested and sent to Siberia while any converts were beaten by the police. That didn’t work out that well because even though the converts were warned to not preach the belief, they did so anyway. The cult continued to grow, astonishing the people and the authorities.

Unlike Ivanov, eventually Selivanov was able to escape Siberia and returned to Moscow.

In 1797 he was somehow granted an audience with the Tsar who, upon hearing the beliefs of the Skoptsy, had Selivanov sent to an insane asylum. Later around 1815, when Alexander I of Russia was on the throne he was under the spell of a lady called Baroness von Krudener, known to be a religious mystic – a prophetess by some. She considered Selivanov a saint and had the new Tsar order his release. She would bring Selivanov along to all the high gatherings and parties of the countries elite. Many of these people were convinced and became converts by his preachings, undergoing the Baptism of Fire.

The most influential was a man named Alexie Jelanski – a State Councillor and as such he had the power to keep the police and other authorities away from the Skoptsy. Selivanov now called the faith The People of God and set up his ‘church’ at a house called Heavenly Zion, and was funded by the donations of all the believers. Remember that he now had converts consisting of the big money elite.

Skoptsy people

Selivanov’s claims became grander and more outlandish. He was now telling everyone that he was the reincarnation of Christ. That Shilov, his initial disciple, was John the Baptist reborn. That he had castrated himself as soon as he reached adulthood, and told believers about all these miracles he learned to perform because of that. He claimed that he was the true Tsar of Russia, Peter III (1728-1762) and when he had married Catherine II she was repulsed of his lack of manhood and tried to have him assassinated. So he had to flee and swapped identities with a common soldier. He ‘proved’ this by the fact that numerous Russian elite had joined, because they knew who he really was. And his believers ate this Whole. Plate. Of. Shit. Up.

He even wrote a book to spread the word called The Book of the Passion of Peter(really Selivanov) the Redeemer. Where he explained all his grandiose claims of his history. He secretly had this plan to convert people in enough powerful places in politics and the military to overthrow the government and place himself in power. In 1818-1819 there were reports of mass castrations of military garrisons.

The Baroness, meanwhile, had a look alike take her place and joined the cult full time taking the assumed name of Akulina Ivanovna (The last name of the guy that started this whole thing). She was said to be like an oracle and transferred the divine powers to the converts.

THEIR END

A few powerful leaders in the Russian hierarchy got together in 1820 and were able to use their combined power to take Selivanov away. They brought him to the monastery of Suzdal where he stayed until he died in 1832 at a claimed age of 100. But not before saying that he will live forever and return to being the ruler of all Russia.

Skoptsy people in Yakutsk

Even after his death Skoptism continued to draw new converts. No matter how many were caught, they would keep spreading, new groups springing up all over the place. The government would exile many of the ones they caught to Siberia and Yakutsk. To escape prosecution, some moved to Romania where they took up jobs as horse cab drivers and moneylenders. The rules were modified too, so that converts could have up to two children before undergoing the Greater Seal.

It is estimated that Skoptsy numbered as high as 100,000 at the height of the movement in the early to mid 1800s, with around 1000-2000 believers still around in Soviet Russia in 1930. There are rumors that the Soviet Party leader from 1953-1955, Georgy Malenkov, had been castrated by his parents when he was a child. The last Soviet Skoptsy were thought to have finally come to an end in 1962. Some people seem to think that there could still be a few remaining in the deep pockets of Romania.


To promote cross-community relations I have reached out to @rusteemitblog a great group doing dual language posts. @xanoxt has kindly volunteered to translate it for our Russian friends. So big shout out to them. @xanoxt should have his post up for them in a day or two.


My moment of honesty:

I would like you to follow me. I usually make one post per day. I strive for quality work, check my blog for proof. My interests vary but if you read and like one of my posts then at some point I will be writing a post that you will like again. I have roughly tracked my posts over the last 3 weeks and it takes me about 8-9 hours of work per post, some more some less. I will not fill up your feed with crap. I can't guarantee you will be interested in every single one of them, but they will all be quality work on the subject they cover. I will also reply to all your comments if they warrant any reply. These things I promise to you. So follow me, or don't. I want you to do what you want to. Thank you for reading.

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Oh man just reading this I get mixed feelings. Amazing use of these descriptive images, too. Perfectly blended into together a beastly post!

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I am pleased that my writing made you feel it. Thanks for the encouragement to post more like this!

That was an interesting and weird read, some peole will believe anything they are told. The pain must have been agony.

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Thank you Karen! The more I read about this whole crazy cult the more my mind just went, "What!? Why?"

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He must have been so convincing to get people to mutilate themselfs. That power is dangerous

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Definitely. It wasn't just peasants, it was people in high places. People that would have had the best education that was possible back then.

He must have been one of those rare people with that charisma that you just feel, ya know. But he used it for evil, well maybe not so evil - I mean he wasn't mass murdering anyone - yet. (who knows what he would have done once in power)

But not good.

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He sounds like Hitler a very small man with so much power, the things that man could do and people would jump at his orders , scary .

Interesting, I have never heard of this before. And it goes to show how much of an impact just an idea, even a twisted one like this, can have on people and stay alive over time! Follwed :)

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I hadn't heard of them either before I started to research secret societies for this series. This one was pretty hard because most of the info on these guys is in Russian. I know a bit of Russian, but not enough to do anything like this. I made do with what material there was in English, and @xanoxt gave me some more info on them.

Thank you for the follow! Hope to see your name down at the bottom of my future articles.

Interesting article about a subject I never knew.

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Thank you, I got many more stories to come. I would wager there are at least a few that will surprise you.

Wow, hell of a way to start this post, @getonthetrain! Truly haunting photos and very memorable indeed! Makes me glad we all live in the age we do!

Hit another one outta the park, buddy! Descriptive and exceptionally well written. You're on a serious roll here and I hope you keep going from strength to strength.

Fantastic post yet again! :)

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You know that's my plan @ezzy !

Love seeing your name down in my comments. :)

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Ummm.... the age we live in has it's hidden and not so hidden atrocities as well. Don't think today is more evolved. It ain't.

That is fucked.

Really.

Like...he hacked his sack and shaft off, felt bad about it and then decided to convince people they'd receive divine gifts if they did it too...for what? So he wouldn't be lonely in his misery?

Whaaaaaaat the actual fuck?

Great article though, very well composed and formatted. Thanks for sharing something so...fucked... lol

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I feel ya there. I can't quite figure out where the lopping off came in. Maybe to make sure that his followers were totally committed to the cause? But I would think that it would turn away too many, some would go I like what this guy is saying but I have to cut my johnson off? Pass. So he never did get enough to start a coup.

There are some pretty crazy things that have happened in history, and I hope to cover the most interesting ones at some point. Thanks for taking the time to read this one. :)

A story like this is so outrageous and over the top! I almost didn't see your links, you disguised them so well. I recommend you edit those to make it more clear you provided a few references so others can fact check and pursue their own research if so inclined.

All I can say is wow. Creepy!

Totally scary to think such evil walks the Earth in human form!

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I have made my links more obvious in my earlier posts, but I felt that they disturbed the 'flow' of the article. So instead I have been either hyperlinking my sources into the words themselves and/or just adding a listing of sorts near the bottom.

I think it works out pretty well this way but am open to suggestions. How should I make my links more clear, but also keep the flow of the story professional and nicely edited?

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Why do you feel that hyperlinking the words inline with the story isn't a good approach? People that don't care about sources or their own research or fact checking can just read on without bothering to click, while those who are interested in your sources are free to do so.

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That has been my approach, in this article and past ones.

IF the hyperlink is just about that person or sentence. To me, it doesn't make sense to link a full article about the entire subject to just one sentence, in that case the link goes to the bottom.

The hyperlinked subjects get their direct page, if you check the story, the hyperlinks direct to the exact subject mentioned. While at the bottom of my post is the general overview of other sites I gained information from that don't fit exactly into one word or sentence. :)

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I see, that makes perfect sense. In that case the only improvement I'd offer is to make the links at the bottom more descriptive so they command more attention.

Thank you very much surprising information

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You know jlufer, for a long time I thought you were just a bot. But it seems that you are actually using steemit as a person now. So thank you for checking out my tale of the Skoptsy.

Thanks for the interesting history. It just shows what power some people have over others. It is scary. Will follow you for more updates.
I have also posted a history ARTICLE on Saladin's siege of Jerusalem. Let me know what you think.

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Hey thanks for the follow, your post is good too! I left you a comment. :)

There were a lot of religious experiments around that time, many in America, and many almost that crazy. Shakers were celibate, which you would also think would limit the appeal of the sect. At their max they only had 6,000 members, though. How sure are you about that 100k number for this group?
http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/shakers/shakers/

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When I dig into these groups there is rarely any hard info. Most of the time they were active they had to hide from the authorities, so that normally keeps information about them somewhat hidden as well. This one was more difficult because most of the main info is still in Russian. Luckily I had a bit of help with some info by @xanoxt . The highest estimate that I found during my research was the 100k number, now any number that is rounded like that is most likely not accurate.

In your example were there exactly 6,000 Shakers, or did someone estimate somewhere? Probably an estimated number. Record keeping back in the day was usually never fully accurate, just because of the times and all that. So I put a disclaimer of estimated that Skoptsy numbered as high as. I agree that it was probably not 100k, but that is a plausible number. What was their total number really? No one knows. They sent thousands to Siberia and areas like that to get rid of them. Others left to Romania. Both continued to convert others.

Thanks for taking an interest in my article, and I hope to have further discussions with you again. :)

Also some of the Heaven's Gate cultists castrated themselves. I had forgotten about that. Thanks for reminding me. http://heavensgate.com

There are lots of other weird links between these Christian cults and the UFO world. I wrote a short review of David Wilcock's The Ascension Mysteries. https://steemit.com/scifi/@plotbot2015/the-accidental-shaman-or-there-are-too-many-coincidences-to-be-ignored

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The issue of sexuality has been a part of religious groups for a long time. Many groups want celibacy like the Shakers you mention. Others go full bore into castration, like the Skoptsy here. It seems to me that Heavens Gate wanted full devotion from the members. Maybe they had heard about this group here and thought to try it out? It is an idea.

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It's possible. Cultural evolution isn't exclusively tree-like. There's a lot of borrowing, what biologists call "horizontal transfer," the way viruses and bacteria do it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer

Of course, there's also the mutation analogue, independent invention. There's plenty of evidence for that, too, across traditions.

That was such a crazy interesting read! That'd make for an awesome horror movie

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Yea, call your hollywood friends and you might collect a finder's fee! :)

Wow that is some messed up cult right there, however quite interesting :D
I thought I followed you, well now I am anyways.

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Thanks! I try to keep it interesting around here. :D

This is wild!! It has given me a thought right enough?.. do you think Selivanov did come back and ... he is Putin?

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Quick, someone check and see if Putin has a ding-dong!

Hah! Good one, that requires more speculation than I am gonna give credit to that idea. You are more than welcome to write and article on it, I would love to read it. :)

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I don't think I could give it the justice that you could! Lol!

Very creepy, interesting, content- following.

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I try to keep it entertaining, thanks! :D