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Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/chp

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2005

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal

Affiliated ISCAR

 

Historical Suicidology: Investigating Self Immolation of the Old Believers 1219

Pulkin M.V.
PhD in Psychology, старший научный сотрудник института языка, литературы и истории Карельского научного центра РАН, Moscow, Russia

Abstract
The paper reviews the main stages of suicide preparation and suicidal acts of the Old Believers. Historical discoveries and psychological research outcomes are combined in this investigation in the attempt to understand mass ritual suicide of the Old Believers in the 17th—18th centuries, an essential phenomenon in the church's past. It was mentors (monastic elders) who played a leading role in these self-immolations and possessed all necessary knowledge, including the technology for building special self-immolation constructions ('zgorely dom') as well as military skills necessary for defending these constructions. But even more crucial were their techniques of psychological indoctrination of peasants gathering around the self-immolation constructions. These techniques involved creating an atmosphere of utmost pessimism, restrictions on food, executing various rites. Special units that were sent to stop self-immolation were perceived as the invasion of hostile power (the world of Antichrist) and almost inevitably expedited the tragic end. All this finally prolonged the epidemic of mass self-immolations and led to the emergence of other types of ritual suicide.

Keywords: suicide, eschatology, Old Belief, preaching, isolation

Column: Empirical Research

For Reference

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