Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom: A Russian Folktale

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9780801488795: Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom: A Russian Folktale

Of the many sects that broke from the official Russian Orthodox church in the eighteenth century, one was universally despised. Its members were peasants from the Russian heartland skilled in the arts of animal husbandry who turned their knives on themselves to become "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." Convinced that salvation came only with the literal excision of the instruments of sin, they were known as Skoptsy (the self-castrated). Their community thrived well into the twentieth century, when it was destroyed in the Stalinist Terror.In a major feat of historical reconstruction, Laura Engelstein tells the sect's astonishing tale. She describes the horrified reactions to the sect by outsiders, including outraged bureaucrats, physicians, and theologians. More important, she allows the Skoptsy a say in defining the contours of their history and the meaning behind their sacrifice. Her deft handling of their letters and notebooks lends her book unusual depth and pathos, and she provides a heartbreaking account of willing exile and of religious belief so strong that its adherents accepted terrible pain and the denial of a basic human experience. Although the Skoptsy express joy at their salvation, the words of even the most fervent believers reveal the psychological suffering of life on society's margins.No foreign tribe or exotic import, the sect drew its members from the larger peasant society where marriage was expected and adulthood began with the wedding night. Set apart by the very act that guaranteed their redemption, these "lambs of God" became adept at concealing their sectarian identity as they interacted with their Orthodox neighbors. Interaction was necessary, Engelstein explains, since the survival of the Skoptsy depended upon recruitment of new members and on success in agriculture and trade.Realizing that some prejudices have changed little over the centuries, Engelstein cautions that "we must not cast the shadow of our own distress on the story of the Skoptsy. Their physical suffering was something they willingly embraced." In Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom, she has produced a remarkable history that also illuminates the mysteries of the human heart.

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From the Inside Flap:

"Laura Engelstein’s Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom adds significantly to the literature on Russian sects and to the field of sociosexual behavior. Exploiting unique Russian judicial sources, she gives us these sectarians in their own words as they move from secrecy in the early nineteenth century to self-advertisement in the early twentieth century. Engelstein’s tales form a lush tapestry of a traditional sect awkwardly coming to terms with modernity."--Richard C. Trexler, Binghamton University

"This book tells a fascinating story of the most stigmatized religious dissidents in Russia and, in doing so, illuminates important current debates on identity, group solidarity, the maintenance of cultural boundaries and norms, and the consequences of social and cultural transgression. Laura Engelstein's authorial voice, thorough contextualization of her sources, and framing of her arguments leave no doubt about her mastery of the issues driving the most fruitful social and literary theory."--David Ransel, Indiana University

About the Author:

Laura Engelstein is Henry S. McNeil Professor of History at Yale University. She is author of The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle Russia and coeditor, with Stephanie Sandler, of Self and Story in Russian History, also from Cornell.

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Of the many sects that broke from the official Russian Orthodox church in the eighteenth century, one was universally despised. Its members were peasants from the Russian heartland skilled in the arts of animal husbandry who turned their knives on themselves to become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven s sake. Convinced that salvation came only with the literal excision of the instruments of sin, they were known as Skoptsy (the self-castrated). Their community thrived well into the twentieth century, when it was destroyed in the Stalinist Terror.In a major feat of historical reconstruction, Laura Engelstein tells the sect s astonishing tale. She describes the horrified reactions to the sect by outsiders, including outraged bureaucrats, physicians, and theologians. More important, she allows the Skoptsy a say in defining the contours of their history and the meaning behind their sacrifice. Her deft handling of their letters and notebooks lends her book unusual depth and pathos, and she provides a heartbreaking account of willing exile and of religious belief so strong that its adherents accepted terrible pain and the denial of a basic human experience. Although the Skoptsy express joy at their salvation, the words of even the most fervent believers reveal the psychological suffering of life on society s margins.No foreign tribe or exotic import, the sect drew its members from the larger peasant society where marriage was expected and adulthood began with the wedding night. Set apart by the very act that guaranteed their redemption, these lambs of God became adept at concealing their sectarian identity as they interacted with their Orthodox neighbors. Interaction was necessary, Engelstein explains, since the survival of the Skoptsy depended upon recruitment of new members and on success in agriculture and trade.Realizing that some prejudices have changed little over the centuries, Engelstein cautions that we must not cast the shadow of our own distress on the story of the Skoptsy. Their physical suffering was something they willingly embraced. In Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom, she has produced a remarkable history that also illuminates the mysteries of the human heart. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780801488795

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Of the many sects that broke from the official Russian Orthodox church in the eighteenth century, one was universally despised. Its members were peasants from the Russian heartland skilled in the arts of animal husbandry who turned their knives on themselves to become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven s sake. Convinced that salvation came only with the literal excision of the instruments of sin, they were known as Skoptsy (the self-castrated). Their community thrived well into the twentieth century, when it was destroyed in the Stalinist Terror.In a major feat of historical reconstruction, Laura Engelstein tells the sect s astonishing tale. She describes the horrified reactions to the sect by outsiders, including outraged bureaucrats, physicians, and theologians. More important, she allows the Skoptsy a say in defining the contours of their history and the meaning behind their sacrifice. Her deft handling of their letters and notebooks lends her book unusual depth and pathos, and she provides a heartbreaking account of willing exile and of religious belief so strong that its adherents accepted terrible pain and the denial of a basic human experience. Although the Skoptsy express joy at their salvation, the words of even the most fervent believers reveal the psychological suffering of life on society s margins.No foreign tribe or exotic import, the sect drew its members from the larger peasant society where marriage was expected and adulthood began with the wedding night. Set apart by the very act that guaranteed their redemption, these lambs of God became adept at concealing their sectarian identity as they interacted with their Orthodox neighbors. Interaction was necessary, Engelstein explains, since the survival of the Skoptsy depended upon recruitment of new members and on success in agriculture and trade.Realizing that some prejudices have changed little over the centuries, Engelstein cautions that we must not cast the shadow of our own distress on the story of the Skoptsy. Their physical suffering was something they willingly embraced. In Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom, she has produced a remarkable history that also illuminates the mysteries of the human heart. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780801488795

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Book Description Cornell University Press. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 304 pages. Dimensions: 8.5in. x 5.6in. x 0.7in.Of the many sects that broke from the official Russian Orthodox church in the eighteenth century, one was universally despised. Its members were peasants from the Russian heartland skilled in the arts of animal husbandry who turned their knives on themselves to become eunuchs for the kingdom of heavens sake. Convinced that salvation came only with the literal excision of the instruments of sin, they were known as Skoptsy (the self-castrated). Their community thrived well into the twentieth century, when it was destroyed in the Stalinist Terror. In a major feat of historical reconstruction, Laura Engelstein tells the sects astonishing tale. She describes the horrified reactions to the sect by outsiders, including outraged bureaucrats, physicians, and theologians. More important, she allows the Skoptsy a say in defining the contours of their history and the meaning behind their sacrifice. Her deft handling of their letters and notebooks lends her book unusual depth and pathos, and she provides a heartbreaking account of willing exile and of religious belief so strong that its adherents accepted terrible pain and the denial of a basic human experience. Although the Skoptsy express joy at their salvation, the words of even the most fervent believers reveal the psychological suffering of life on societys margins. No foreign tribe or exotic import, the sect drew its members from the larger peasant society where marriage was expected and adulthood began with the wedding night. Set apart by the very act that guaranteed their redemption, these lambs of God became adept at concealing their sectarian identity as they interacted with their Orthodox neighbors. Interaction was necessary, Engelstein explains, since the survival of the Skoptsy depended upon recruitment of new members and on success in agriculture and trade. Realizing that some prejudices have changed little over the centuries, Engelstein cautions that we must not cast the shadow of our own distress on the story of the Skoptsy. Their physical suffering was something they willingly embraced. In Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom, she has produced a remarkable history that also illuminates the mysteries of the human heart. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780801488795

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