Manuscript. [N.p.], 1863. 100 pp. 21x17 cm. Contemporary half leather. Near ne. Minor soiling of the pages.
The book was called ‘The Russian Book of Mormon’ as well as ‘Skoptsy Gospel’. This is the main text of the sect of ’Skoptsy’ (the name comes from Russian ‘oskoplyat’ - to scour). Skoptsy was one of the most powerful and mysterious sects of the late 18th-19th century in Russia.
Ideologically they had little in common with mormons, and were linked to them only by the historian of the Raskol and sects Vladimir Anderson (1880-1931), who famously stated that mormons and skoptsy are the last expression of the two religious worlds, Western and Eastern.
Skoptsy believed in suppressing the esh for achieving the spiritual progress. They were cutting out the parts of their bodies for that matter. The ‘white doves’ as they called themselves were surprisingly popular in the European parts of Russia, and unsuccessfully persecuted by the police and local authorities. The first open trial was held in 1772 but the sect successfully existed throughout the 19th cent. and on, which is outstanding giving the fact that the members could not give birth or have children.
One of the reasons for that popularity was the charisma of Kondraty Selivanov (1720(?)-1832), the founder of the sect, who written this book that consisted of the story of his life. Selivanov gathered the rst group of followers from another sect ‘Khlysty’ (e.g. whips, also practicing self-harm, but Selivanov decided that they were not severe enough), proclaimed himself the son of God who came back to bring people a ‘ ery baptism’. He was caught by the police in 1770s and spent some time in Siberian jail. Then he went to Moscow and supposedly met with tsar Pavel I whom he tried to convert into his faith after which he was sent to mental asylum. However Selivanov had his followers in the aristocratic circles of Russia as well and in 1800s-10s he was active in Saint Petersburg masonic circles which resulted in the spreading of the sect in the of cer circles as well. In 1820 Selivanov was secretly sent to the monastery where he remained locked until his death in 1832.
‘The Travels and Sufferings of Kondrati Selivanov’ were probably written in 1810s, dictated by Selivanov to one of his literate followers. It was reproduced in manuscripts and orally and soon this became the usual reading on skoptsy services (which were called ‘boats’).
The rst mentioning of this text was made by Vladimir Dal in his secret report ‘On the Skoptsy’s Heresy’ printed in 1844 in 25 copies. ‘The Travels and Sufferings’ was rst printed in 1900s, but the different variants of the text exist. For example in our copy, the colophon mentions that the original manuscript was found on Afon mountain by famous Old Believer traveler Grigorovich-Barskiy.
Nowdays several of existing copies are held in Russian institutional collections. Extremely rare on the market.