Year: 1986 Source: Sociological Analysis, v.47, (1986), p.1-20 SIEC No: 19880949

This article compares the mass suicide of the People’s Temple followers at Jonestown in Guyana in November, 1978, with the suicidal activities of the Russian “Old Believers” in the late seventeenth & early eighteenth centuries. A short review of the Great Schism in the Russian Orthodox Church is provided, followed by a summary discussion of the “political theology” of the Old Believers & its relationship to their descent into apocalyptic despair. Tentative parallels with the Jonestown episode are then drawn. (27 refs)