The Skoptsy and Skoptic Syndrome

NOTE: Skoptic Syndrome is derived from the name and castration practices of the Russian Skoptsy sect (or cult).

The Skoptsy distorted two of the most abused, misused, and misunderstood scriptural passages in the history of Christianity:

  1. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:12)
  2. Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Matthew 18:8-9)

Since the time they were written, the above passages have led to the creation of many sects and heresies, as well as countless unnecessary self-amputations and castrations.

Kondratii Selivanov (aka,  Christ; aka Peter III)
Kondratii Selivanov (aka, Christ; aka Peter III)


The Skoptsy were Russian Christians who split in the 18th century from a group called the “People of God” – came from the Khlysts. Executing Christ’s commandments lead followers to castration, which was called “baptism of fire” and “bleaching”. The founders of this movement were Andrey Ivanov Blokhin and (or Trofimov (Selivanov). The Skoptsy were persecuted by the imperial government and later by the Soviet Union, but enjoyed substantial growth before fading into obscurity by the mid-20th century.

They believed that after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had the halves of the forbidden fruit grafted onto their bodies forming testicles and breasts. Thus, the removal of these sexual organs restored the Skoptsy to the pristine state before the Original Sin.


First came the “lesser seal” which was the removal of the testicles for men and the amputation of the nipples for women.  The second stage of the initiation, or “great seal”, followed two years later and involved the removal of the male penis and for women the total removal of the breast and labia minora, and sometimes removal of the labia majora and clitoris.  Once followers had the second seal they would be able to mount “the white horse of the Apocalypse” and escape the flames of hell.

The Christian gender ideology understands women’s nature as weakness and vice and consequently some women were subjected to a third, and extremely painful, purification which involved cutting a triangle of flesh in the chest muscle.

All of these mutilations represented the five wounds of Christ.

Devices for emasculating.
Devices for emasculating.

Men who did the “greater seal” used a cow-horn when urinating. The castrations were done without anaesthetic and using primitive tools such as a hatchet or scissors.

The Skoptsy maintained that they were fulfilling Christ’s counsel of perfection in Matthew 19:12 and 18:8-9.

The Skoptsy were millenarians, and believed that the Messiah would not come until the Skoptsy numbered 144,000 (Rev. 14:1-4). The Skoptsy may have had as many as 100,000 followers in the early 20th century.  After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 genital mutilation was suppressed under the new penal code.  Communism did not tolerate superstition and by the 1950’s they had faded into obscurity.

The first mass castrations were committed in 1770-1771.  As a result of “Skoptsy Process” (1772), Blokhin was sent to eternal servitude. Kondraty Trifonov escaped and was caught in 1774 then exiled to Siberia.

In popular literature, Fyodor Dostoevsky mentions Skoptsy tenants in a boarding house in the book, The Idiot,. Dostoevsky also mentions Skoptsy in the 1872 novel, Demons.



Skoptic syndrome is a condition in which a person is preoccupied with or engages in genital self-mutilation (e.g. castration, penectomy). The definition of skoptic syndrome is a gender dysphoria found under the DSM IV section 302.6: Gender Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Skoptic syndrome can sometimes be motivated by intense sexual guilt, in which the genitals become identified as the source of the guilt-inducing sexual desire. This leads to desire for removal of or damage to the genitals.

In most sufferers, mutilation will begin on a small (almost harmless) scale immediately before the onset of puberty (usually about 12-14). By the late teens it is common for the self-harm to become more extreme, integrated with masturbation routines, and dependent on arousal.

In adulthood, some individuals seek castration from an “underground cutter” (an unqualified person with enough knowledge to perform the surgery in the home), or from a professional urologist.

Female birth-control pills such as Cyproterone Acetate (Brand name: Androcur) or Depo-Provera can be used to block the effect of androgens on the body, thereby cutting testosterone production and causing atrophy of the testicles. This method is often favoured by prospective eunuchs and their supporters as a first step, because it is largely reversible and non-invasive.