Russian witches

After looking more in depth at the history of witchcraft, geographically, it's clear that the paranoia was spreading like wildfire. Much to my surprise, the Russians and Italians handled the outbreak of witchcraft much more mildly than one would expect. In comparison to Germany and Spain, witchcraft was barely punishable.

The Russian Church and State had its' ups and downs handling witchcraft. The earliest records of interactions with witchcraft go back as early as 1024. Then, and for several hundred years following, incedents with witchcraft would happen at random with only a few people being accused or killed in the process. And, similarly to everywhere else in Europe, witchcraft was under the jurisdiction of the Church.

Throughout different leaders, the stakes rose and fell when being an accused witch. During the reign of Laroslav the Wise, most people were simply fined when accused. During the 16th century, Ivan IV was Czar of Russia and was the first to implement a law saying that witchcraft was illegal. Through years of political unrest, the severity of being an accused witch only escalated. By 1716, witchcraft and cult practices were punishable by death.

Knouting was the most common form of Russian torture. This included 3 or 4 sessions of being whipped usually 30-40 times a session. If the torturers were not satisfied after the first few times, the torture would only escalate.

The biggest changes towards witchcraft happened during the reign of Catherine II (photo below). She believed that these punishments were far too severe and thought witchcraft should be charged as fraud rather than heresy. In 1775, she implemented "Courts of Conscience" where the criminally insane and juvenille's could be tried.

A few things really set Russia apart from other European countries and their interactions with witchcraft. Most notably, only one case was related to the Devil and only one case had a child abduction. Unlike most other places, more men than women were tried for practicing witchcraft. Another huge difference is that there are no socioeconomic patterns we can trace for those accused.

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