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5 Russian Witchcraft on Trial: Historiography and Methodology for Studying Russian Witches

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the major issues of Russian witchcraft and opens areas of methodological development for future research in need of assessment. The revival of interest in witchcraft in Western Europe and the US during the 1970s led to a new epoch in witchcraft studies, not only in the West but also in the Soviet Union. In addition, it produced methodological and conceptual issues around which contemporary scholarship is constructed, namely, the geography of witch-hunts and the problem of peripheral witchcraft, gender and witchcraft, the demonology issue and the use of court cases as a source for study. Many assumptions about the persecution of witches have been made on the basis of statistics derived from discovered court proceedings for the crime of witchcraft. The numbers of accused and executed in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Western Europe provide rich data for speculation about the authorities' attitudes to behavioral norms, including magic practices.

Keywords: demonology issue; magic practices; Russian Witchcraft; Soviet Union; Western Europe



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