Kondraty Selivanov was an 18th century Russian peasant, with enough charisma to amass a large following, successfully finding the Skoptsy in the Tsarist Russia around 1771. The Skoptsy is a sect of Christianity that believed that castration would bring them into the Kingdom of Heaven. But, there’s a catch: They needed to castrate 144,000 people in order to bring about the end of the world, the last judgement, and the resurrection.
The Skoptsy believed that not only did Jesus die on the cross, but that he was also castrated. This movement derives from the Gospel of Matthew 19:12 that reads “There are castrates who were castrated by others and there are castrates who castrated themselves for the Kingdom of God.” In fact, Skoptsy means The Castrated!
The castration was done by both men and women, in a ritual ceremony called “the seal”. Men and women would remove parts of their sexual organs as a way of sealing their faith in God. They believed that this was the way to live in true imitation of Jesus Christ.
For men there were two seals that could be done: the lesser seal and the great seal. In the lesser seal, only the scrotums and testes would be removed, while the great seal removed everything including the penis. The removal process happened in one swift motion, as the operator seize the parts to be removed with one hand and struck them off with the other hand. Instruments used in the castration were pieces of glass, razors, and knives, and a red-hot iron rod or poker for cauterizing the wound, thus naming it the fiery baptism.
For women, their breasts were cut off and their external genitalia was mutilated.
Selivanov lived during Catherine the Great, who thought of the Skoptsy as “simpletons who believed in irrational nonsense.” However, she thought of herself as enlightened, and sent several of the Skoptsy people, including Selivanov, to colonize in Siberia.
During the 2 decades that he was exiled in Siberia he Claimed that he was the Messiah and also Catherine’s later husband, Peter III. This claim won him an audience with the new Tsar, Pavel I, after Catherine’s death. Pavel I was curious to meet the man who claimed to be his father, however, the meeting was cut short when Selivanov tried to urge the Tsar to get castrated, he was then send to a mad house.
Luck came to Selivanov in 1801, when Pavel’s son, Alexander, took the throne. He found himself to be a welcomed guest at the mansions in the capital, and even Alexei Elyansky, a Royal Chamberlain, believed in the Skoptsy cause. Elyansky had prepared and given to Alexander a detailed proposal to convert all of Russia in 1804.
Alexander refused the Elyansky plans to have the army and state institutions be guided by a “holy eunuch” and to be advised by Selivanov. Elyansky was then sent to a monastery. However, in 1820, Alexander became aware that members of the military had undergone the castration, and just how persuasive Selivanov is. Alexander expelled Selivanov, and confined him to a monastery outside of Moscow where he died in 1832 at the age of 112.
The Skoptsy had regarded their 20-year period in the capital as their “golden-age. However, after the death of their leader, they had to come up with excuses for their missing genitals after self-castration was made illegal in 1816. Those found guilty of having self-castrated were sent once again to Siberia under the orders of the Tsar to help settle the frontier.
The Stalinist Regime
It was Karl Marx who predicted the end of the existing order, and believed that it was not the castrated who would inherit the Earth, but the proletariat. Vladimir Lenin, a successful Marx’s interpreters, seized power in 1917, and dispatched agents to accelerate the world revolution.
Originally, the Skoptsy were in agreement with the new regime, believing that Bolsheviks meant about religious tolerance. However, they found themselves having to lie in order to protect their mission of 144,00 castration.
It was the Stalinist regime that eventually marked the Skoptsy for extinction, using anti-religious propaganda. After a century, they were successfully wiped out by a rival sect.
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