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The Brothers Of Death





From time to time this thirst for the ideal, this dissatisfaction with
the actual, gave rise to a series of collective suicides. We may
recall the celebrated propaganda of the monk Falaley, who preached that
death was man's only means of salvation. He gathered his unhappy
hearers in a forest, and there expounded to them the emptiness of life
and the best method of escaping from it. His words bore fruit, and the
simple peasants who heard them decided to have done with "this life of
sin."

One night eighty-four persons congregated in an underground cavern near
the river Perevozinka, and began to fast and to pray. The peasants
gathered round their improvised camp, built of straw and wood, ready to
die when the signal was given. But one woman, taking fright at the
idea of so horrible a death, fled and warned the authorities. When the
police arrived, one of the believers cried out that Anti-Christ was
approaching, and the poor creatures then set fire to the camp and
died--as they thought--for Christ.

A few fanatics who were saved received sentences of imprisonment and
deportation, but one of them--Souchkoff--succeeded in escaping, and
continued to spread "the truth of God." Whether it was his own
eloquence or the misery and despair of the people that helped his
doctrine, it bore at any rate such fruits that soon afterwards sixty
families in one locality made up their minds to die _en masse_,
believing that simple murder--the murder of the faithful by the
faithful--would hasten the day of supreme deliverance. A peasant named
Petroff entered the house of his neighbour, and killed the latter's
wife and children, afterwards carrying his blood-stained hatchet in
triumph through the village. In the barn of another a dozen peasants
gathered with their wives, and the men and women laid their heads upon
the block in turn, while Petroff, in the r˘le of the angel of death,
continued his work of deliverance. He then made his way to a hut near
by where a mother and three children awaited his services, and finally,
overcome with fatigue, he laid his own head on the block, and was
despatched to eternal glory by Souchkoff.

But the kind of death recommended by Chadkin about the year 1860 was
even more terrible. In this case it was not a question of a wave of
madness that came and passed, but of the prolonged torture of death by
voluntary starvation.

Chadkin's teaching was that as Anti-Christ had already come, there was
nothing left to do but escape into the forests and die of hunger. When
he and his adherents had reached a sufficiently isolated spot, he
ordered the women to prepare death-garments, and when all were suitably
arrayed, he informed them that in order to receive the heavenly grace
of death, they must remain there for twelve days and nights without
food or water.

Frightful were the sufferings endured by these martyrs. The cries of
the children, as they writhed in agony, were heartrending, but Chadkin
and his followers never wavered. At last, however, one of the
sufferers, unable longer to face such tortures, managed to escape, and
Chadkin, fearing the arrival of the police, decided that all the rest
must die at once. They began by killing the children; next the women
and the men; and by the time the police appeared on the scene there
remained alive only Chadkin and two others, who had forgotten in their
frenzy to put an end to themselves.





Next: The Divinity Of Father Ivan

Previous: The Non-sectarian Visionaries



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