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The 1850s Prosecution of Gerasim Fedotov for Witchcraft

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The article examines a detailed case involving an accusation of witchcraft against the serf Gerasim Fedotov, which was heard before the Moscow Court of Equity in 1853. In comparison with other cases of witchcraft in the four decades between the 1820s and 1850s, the one involving Fedotov provides a window onto popular beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery intertwined with Russian Orthodox practices, the medical profession’s rationalist arguments against the power of quotidian magic, and the state’s intent on maintaining law and order without infringing upon serfowners’ rights. Ultimately, the autocratic state’s seemingly more enlightened prosecution of witchcraft as a superstition turned out to be unsuccessful in combating popular beliefs in sorcery, witchcraft, and divination.

Affiliations: 1: Northern Illinois University,


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