Accepted paper:

"Podpolniky" (the underground ones) in the Vyatka Region: ritual murder charges, rumors and propaganda

Author:

Natalia Komelina (Institute of Russian Literature)

Paper short abstract:

The present report deals with a case of capital prosecution against a religious community of Wanderer Old-Believers in the Kirov region, Russia, in the 1920s-30s. Stories about the "podpolniki" ("the underground ones"), that included a motif of human sacrifice, were collected during expeditions of 2010-13.

Paper long abstract:

The present report deals with a case of capital prosecution against a religious community of Wanderer Old-Believers in Kirov region in 1920-30s and the ritual murder narrative that originated from the reports in local anti-religious literature and periodicals, announcing the murder of a Soviet pioneer by sectaries. Stories about the "podpolniki" ("the underground ones" - a popular name for Wanderer Old-Believers), that included a motif of human sacrifice, were collected during expeditions of 2010-13. The report will focus on the following aspects of the accusations against the sectaries or their religious practices as presented in the following narratives: 1. The legend of ritual murder of a young Soviet pioneer girl Marusya Pestrikova. 2. The alleged ritual practice of strangling the dying "podpolniki" with a red cushion (the so called "red death" or "the stranglers' belief"). The informant's narratives also reflect real practices of the Wanderer Old Believers (deathbed baptism and secret burials) along with the alleged ones (strangling the dying podpolniki by the co-religionists, secret pathways between the houses of the podpolniki). 3. The preaching of suicide by the community leader Khristophor Zyryanov and the issue of Old Believer mass suicides in 18th and 19th centuries. The panic rumors and social fears aroused by the podpolniki trial influenced the propaganda and are still reflected in the informants' narratives. Khristophor Zyryanov was executed on charge of religiously motivated mass murders.

panel P003
In search of concealed truth: revealing, unraveling and debunking