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American Mormons Buy Russian 'Dead Souls' for Afterlife Polygamy

Please just stay in Utah. Please.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Why is the new US ambassador to Russia a Mormon? Probably so he can help his polygamist friends corner the "dead souls" market in Russia.

Please just go back to Utah:

Full transcript of this report from the Russian main evening news:


This news has aroused interest to another frightening story, also connected with Americans, Mormons, to be more exact.

It has turned out that they have been buying Russian "dead souls" since the early 90s. They literally buy them, for 7 cents per 5 names.

The rumor has it, 15 to 20 million Russians have become Mormons postmortem. Why do Mormons need that? Zinaida Kurbatova tried to find the answer.

Zinaida, good evening! Hello! Looks like a Gogol's story, doesn't it?


It does. A short answer is that polygamy is widespread among Mormons. I will explain.

Everyone remembers "Dead Souls" by Nikolai Gogol: Chichikov was planning to get a loan against serfs, purportedly alive, who were actually dead. Later, the fraud was exposed. So, why do American Mormons need Russian dead souls, when the sect's representatives claim not to be interested in money?

It turns out that their faith recommends that Mormon men have more than one wife. Even if the woman passed away a long time ago, she could become a Mormon spouse.

Roman Silantyev, religious expert:

"The Mormon elite, who get their own planets after death, constitute about 15% of the congregation. I mean, those who have gone through all the necessary ceremonies. So, the elite intends to solve the problem with polygamy somehow. They couldn't find any other way to do that but to marry the dead. They buy data in archives."

Vitaly Semyonov, genealogist:

"Every church member is obliged to conduct personal and community genealogical research."

In short, Mormons took Chichikov's wrong way, and they did it long ago. Since the early 90s, the visitors from Utah have tried to get the personal data of Russians who were born before the October Revolution, and they did that many times.

Mormons requested many archives for scanned birth certificates of Russian Empire subjects, in exchange for electronic equipment. In Yekaterinburg, their request was denied. Mormons were told that the relatives of the departed might be against that. What is more, the archive specialists found that the contract was no more than an audacious fraud.

Alexander Kapustin, chief archivist:

"When we read the contract, which we were supposed to sign, we found out that they were going to grant us the equipment only for the time to scan the papers. As soon as the scanning would have finished, they would have taken both data and equipment, and that's it."

It's a fact, that Mormons requested all Russian archives back then, but we don't know if all the archives denied the requests. Maybe, some of them finally acquired the equipment and provided the data. Anyhow, Mormons were turned away in Arkhangelsk, too. They requested 7,000 files dating from the 1780s to 1917.

Nikolai Shumilov, chief archivist:

"That insulted the feelings of the followers of the Russian Orthodox faith. They didn't want Mormons to proselytize all their ancestors, going back to 18th century."

Russians show great interest in their ancestry, in the history of their families. Some visit archives themselves, others hire specialists, private genealogy experts. Archives are mostly under-funded, they are left to self-sustainment. How can an archive earn money? Exactly, by drawing up genealogical trees. But in this case, archives will have to monopolize this market, keeping both amateurs and professionals away from the files.

Vitaly Semyonov, genealogist:

"That story about malicious Mormons has been around since 2005. It comes up every time when someone demands that certain archives should start working properly, that they should open the access to personal files for everyone, like other Russian archives have done at last."

Some say, that Mormons haven't become more active than usual, but regional archives want us to believe they have, for they can deny personal access to files on that ground, saying they doubt you came to work for yourself, and suspect you of working for the Mormons.

Since 2002, in Arkhangelsk, visitors have no other choice but to order the files and, at some point they get a printout, but not an original document.

Some time ago, the court ruled that, starting from 2020, the Arkhangelsk regional archive must start to operate like all other archives around the country. It's not clear whether they will adapt to the new rules.

So, genealogists assume that archives may benefit from "Mormon attacks."

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