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The Mahometan Visionaries

The flood of religious mania reached even beyond the borders of
European Russia, and its effects were seen as much among the followers
of other religions as among the Christians.

Mahometanism, although noted for its unshakable fidelity to the dogmas
of Mahomet, did not by any means escape the mystic influences by which
it was surrounded. To take one example from among many: in the month
of April, 1895, a case of religious mania which had broken out among
the Mahometan inhabitants of the south of Russia was brought before the
law-courts at Kazan. It concerned a set of Tartars called the
_Va´softzi_, which had been founded in 1880 by a man named _Va´soff_,
whose existence was revealed in unexpected fashion. A lawyer having
called at his house, at the request of one of his creditors, Va´soff
showed him the door, explaining that he did not consider himself under
any obligation "to repay what had been given to him." The other
returned later, however, accompanied by several policemen, and
Va´soff's adherents then attacked the latter, while chanting religious
hymns and proclaiming the greatness of their leader. They next
barricaded themselves into the house, which was besieged by the police
for some days, during which prayers issued from it towards heaven and
stones towards the representatives of the law. Finally the rebels were
overpowered, and sentenced to several years' imprisonment.

The police had a similar experience on another occasion when they tried
to arrest one of the _Va´softzi_, but in the end they got the upper
hand, and several Tartars were delivered up to justice.

After being judged and sentenced, they presented themselves before the
Court of Appeal, but when the usual questions were put to them, all
began to pray and sing loudly. Silence was at last reestablished, and
the judge again asked one of them for his name and profession. "Who
are you, that you should question me?" was the reply, and once again
all chanted together in chorus. The Tartars who had crowded into the
court seemed deeply impressed by this attitude, and the judge thought
it well to dismiss the prisoners while the case was considered. They
were brought back to hear the sentence, and again began to sing their
prayers and hymns, while one of them cried out: "I am the chief of the
heavenly regiment; I am the representative of Va´soff upon earth; and
you, who are you that you should take upon yourself the right to judge
me?" The others then calmly continued their interrupted song to the
Lord, but they were all condemned to a period of forced labour, and
their spokesman, in addition, to twenty-five strokes with the birch.

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Previous: Among The Miracle-workers

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