The Skoptsy believed that Jesus Christ was castrated

The Skoptsy, also known as the Skoptzy, Skoptzi, Skoptsi, Skopzi, and Scoptsy, were a heresy sect that emerged within the larger Spiritual Christianity movement in Tsarist Russia.

They gained notoriety for their radical beliefs and practices, which included the castration of men and the mastectomy of women as a means of renouncing sexual lust.

Emergence in the Late 18th Century

The Skoptsy movement originated in the late 18th century as a splinter group of the flagellant sect known as the Khlysty. It was founded by a peasant named Kondratiy Ivanovich Selivanov, who had previously been part of a Khlysty sect led by Akulina Ivanovna in the Oryol Governorate. Selivanov started his own sect in the village of Sosnovka near Morshansk.

Unconventional Beliefs and Practices

The Skoptsy believed in the perfection of the individual by eradicating Original Sin, which they believed originated from the first sexual intercourse between Adam and Eve.

They considered human genitals as the true mark of Cain and sought to remove them to restore themselves to a state before Original Sin.

The Skoptsy believed that Jesus Christ, the apostles, and early Christian saints had been castrated and that it was essential for achieving spiritual purity.

Growth and Persecution in the 19th Century

Despite facing persecution from the imperial government, the Skoptsy gained popularity in the 19th century.

Their radical beliefs and practices attracted followers from various social backgrounds.

However, their activities drew the attention of authorities, and Selivanov, the sect’s founder, was convicted of persuading peasants to castrate themselves and was exiled to Siberia.

Selivanov’s Influence and Confinement

After his release from exile, Selivanov moved to Saint Petersburg and proclaimed himself to be Tsar Peter III and Christ Returned.

Despite the eccentricity of his claims, he managed to attract followers, even among the upper classes of Saint Petersburg.

However, Governor General Mikhail Miloradovich intervened and had Selivanov arrested and confined to the Evfimiev monastery in Suzdal, where he spent the remainder of his life.

Continued Existence and Decline

Even after Selivanov’s death in 1832, the Skoptsy sect continued to exist.

Despite spreading to cities such as Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Morshansk, and Odessa, the Skoptsy faced continuous repression and ridicule from the authorities.

Some members sought refuge in Romania, where they interacted with other exiled religious groups.

Despite the challenges they faced, the Skoptsy managed to maintain a significant following.

By the turn of the 20th century, they reached the peak of their popularity, with an estimated 100,000 members.

However, increased repression under the Soviet Union led to a decline in their numbers.

By the mid-20th century, the Skoptsy had faded into obscurity. Reports suggest that the sect mostly disappeared by the 1970s.

However, small groups known as “spiritual Skoptsy” who abstain from castration have survived in the North Caucasus region.