Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine have a long tradition of witchcraft. But this history has some striking differences from witchcraft in Western Europe. First and foremost is the lack of Satan, satanic pacts, or witches’ covens in the Russian and Ukrainian tradition. Another is that most Russian witches were men. How can we explain this? We now have an entry into the complexities of witchcraft thanks to a new sourcebook of witchcraft laws and trials in Russia and Ukraine from medieval times to the late nineteenth century. This never before published and translated material details some of the earliest references to witchcraft and sorcery, secular and religious laws on witchcraft and possession, full trial transcripts, and a wealth of magical spells. What do all these sources of magic say about Russia and Ukraine? Here’s the collections editors, Valerie Kivelson and Christine Worobec on their new sourcebook Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000–1900 published by Cornell University Press.


Valerie A. Kivelson is Thomas N. Tentler Collegiate Professor of History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of many books on early modern Russia including Autocracy in the Provinces: Russian Political Culture and the Gentry in the Seventeenth Century, Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia and Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia.

Christine D. Worobec is Distinguished Research Professor Emerita at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of numerous books on Russian peasant life and women’s history including Peasant Russia: Family and Community in the Post-Emancipation Period and Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia.


Nina Simone, “I Put a Spell on You,” The Best of Nina Simone, 2020.