By SHARON K. GILBERT
April 3, 2008
WHAT DO an electrical engineer, a former policeman, and Vladimir Putin have in common? They are all three revered as icons by the wide-eyed believers of Russia’s whirlwind cult machine.
According to Russian tradition, St. Andrew first brought the message of Jesus Christ to Sythian and Greek colonies along the Black Sea (future home of the proto-Russian, medieval state of Kievan Rus’ ) in the first century AD, proclaiming that a great church would one day grow from the very spot where he literally planted a ‘cross’.
Andrew’s earliest Greek teachings soon blended with Byzantine political and spiritual influences, forged together through wars, both internal and external. Although not considered ‘infallable’ like the Catholic Pope, the Russian Orthodox church’s leader, known as The Patriarch, wielded a mighty sword in both spiritual and governmental theaters. This supreme religious leader played king maker (or tsar maker in this case) while dictating doctrine to an uneducated peasantry eager for salvation through works.
Enter Peter the Great.
This magnificently tall (nearly seven feet!) modernist abolished the Patriarch’s office, effectively nationalizing the church. Peter then set himself up as Supreme Bishop (a pattern not unlike that created by Henry VIII in 1534). From Peter I onward, each Tsar stood both as governmental and spiritual head for all Russians until Nicholas II in the early 20th century. Nicholas’s restoration of the Sobor (council) to elect a Patriarch failed to truly restore the Orthodox Church.
Within weeks of his decree, revolutionaries stormed the churches and government offices and captured Russia’s last Tsar (presumably the last — more on this in Part II). Orthodox religion, considered an ‘opiate of the people’ shattered beneath the iron fists of Marxist-Leninists, Stalinists, and finally systemic Communism, the core belief of the new, post-Tsarist USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
Then the USSR fell.
Rising from the ashes the world beheld a new creature — the Russian Federation, complete with her new (actually an old, revived) emblem, the Phoenix, a firebird with two heads. I bring this up because, like ancient Janus, the god for whom January is named, the Phoenix can look in two directions at once, and two heads can rule two worlds, secular and religious.
So far, you’re probably wondering why I’ve even bothered to recount Russian religious history (albeit in a most scant fashion) for an article supposed to center on Russia’s cult phenomenon. Surely, you might think, historical background bears no influence upon peoples predisposed to believe a lie. Wouldn’t this happen anywhere?
While the answer to that question is yes, I put it to you that Russia’s history of isolation, both political and religious, have precipitated a superstitious, dependent people, who are desperate for someone to lead them. In Matthew 12, Jesus tells the story of a wandering demon looking for a home. After finding no rest, the ‘unclean spirit’ returns to his former human host (his home) and finds it nicely swept and clean. In other words, no other spirit (read Holy Spirit here) has taken up residence. The banished demon gathers up his buddies, and they all move into the ‘clean house’, and the poor man (the human house) is worse off than before.
Russia found herself in a similar, cleaned state with the fall of communism. While, some heard and received the true gospel message of Christ, most Russian people remained swept and empty. All that is now changing — and the unclean spirits are having a field day.
ITEM ONE: Pyotr Kuznetsov, 43, leads an apocalyptic cult called the True Orthodox Russian Church (also called ‘Heavenly Jerusalem’). Last October (2007), Kuznetsov’s faithful followers (mostly women and children) abandoned their Novgorod compound to await the end of the world (predicted for May 2008) in an elaborate cave Kuznetsov had constructed. The ‘cave’ lies beneath a snowy mountain, and is now leaking due to water damage caused as the snow and ice melt. Kuznetsov, who did not join his followers in their underground home, has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and is currently being treated for what appear to be self-inflicted head injuries, perhaps from a failed suicide attempt. Although some of the cult followers have left the collapsing cave, others remain, insisting they must await the end to come in May.
ITEM TWO: In the far north reaches of Siberia, a former police traffic officer named Sergei Torop claims he’s the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. While you may smile at such a notion, 5,000 people in Abakan, Siberia and a reputed 80,000 worldwide have not — in fact, they worship Torop as the new Messiah (Propaganda Video at Link). Note in the linked video, that the narrator claims this region of Siberia is the ‘heart of the planet’ where the Aryans first populated the Earth; note also the claim that the Aryans will return to this same place. Torop’s ‘Abode of Dawn’ community appears idyllic, but their misplaced belief in a false Messiah reveals the true spiritual inhabitants of the region — relatives of that ‘unclean spirit’ Jesus spoke about in Matthew 12.
ITEM THREE: Among the 700 or so cults thriving in Russia’s recently cleaned ‘house’ is one even I didn’t expect to find — the cult of Vladimir Putin. No, this isn’t a bunch of Nashi youths wearing Vlad t-shirts (although that group will be explored at length in Part II of this article). The small but potent Putin cult believes Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the reincarnation of not only the Apostle Paul but also King Solomon. Adherents pray to a Putin icon that mysteriously appeared one day.
“We didn’t choose Putin,” Mother Fontinya told the Moskovsky Komsomolets paper, expounding on the first time she laid eyes on the “holy one.” [She goes on] “It was when Yeltsin was naming him as his successor [during a live New Year’s Eve TV broadcast in 1999]. My soul exploded with joy! ‘An ubermensch! God himself has chosen him!'” I cried.
“Yeltsin was the destroyer, and God replaced him with his creation,” claimed Fontinya. (Read the entire article at RIA Novosti)
What’s most interesting to me is the juxtaposition of King Solomon with St. Paul — Government with Faith. The Putin followers claim Putin knows of and approves their adoration. We’ll explore the ramifications of this possibility in Part II of this series, The Rise of Russia’s Cults: Legion Heir’s Disease.