FORUM FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND CULTUREANTROPOLOGICHESKIJ FORUM
RUS | ENG
Antropologicheskij forum, 2021, no. 49
National Research University Higher School of Economics
Abstract: In this article I review the corpus of newspaper materials related to the purported involvement a group of Saratov Old Believers in a ritual murder, which allegedly took place in late 1911. Taking into account the context of other high-profile cases of ritual murder of that time—“Multan’s case” and “Baelis’ case”—the paper considers the specifics of the charges against the ethnic majority to which the suspected ethnic Russian wanderers belonged. The analysis focuses on the discursive transformation of the majority / minority boundaries under the conditions of the nationalizing Russian Empire at the turn of 19th–20th centuries, reflected in the press materials devoted to a specific episode. The religious factor in determining the boundary as “the Self / the Other” turned out to be non-essential—compared to the ethnic factor—when it comes to the Saratov wanderers. Thus, we find evidence for a certain normalization of the wanderers, who begin to be thought of as Russians first—and sectarians second. Their ethnicity, according to the logic of some of the publicists who describe them, endows them with a certain set of qualities—among them the impossibility of committing ritual murder. Without questioning the homogenizing logic of the modern discourse about defining the boundaries of “the Self / the Other” and “norm-deviation”, the article argues that these boundaries, even in the conditions of a nationalizing empire, appeared to be flexible enough to carry out the inclusion of subjects that were outside the conventional norm, thus making the normative area a plastic and constantly changing space. The ambivalent position of the Old Believers (representatives of a dominant ethnic group and, at the same time, a religious minority) was reflected in the press reports on the Saratov incident, forcing journalists and readers to take a fresh look at the limits of majority and minority, and to redefine the place of religious outcasts in this system.
Keywords: ritual murder, religious minorities, Old Believers, wanderers, Russian Empire.
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, grant no. 19-59-22006.
To cite: Kuziner I., ‘Krasnaya smert Kabankina: staroobryadtsy-stranniki i russkoe ritualnoe ubiystvo v pozdneimperskoy Rossii’ [“The Red Death” of Kabankin: The Wanderers and Russian Ritual Murder in Late Romanov’s Empire], Antropologicheskij forum, 2021, no. 49, pp. 60–87.
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