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

e peasants who heard them decided to have done with "this life of


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 rôle 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.