Leader of the Last Testament Church Vissarion arrested

Alexander Panchenko

On September 22, 2020, Sergey Torop (also known as Vissarion Christ), Vadim Red’kin, and Vladimir Vedernikov, the leaders of the Last Testament Church (the LTC), were arrested in the Krasnoyarsk region by police officers. The LTC, also known as the “Vissarion movement” (see Joseph Kellner’s post on this blog), was founded in 1991 by an amateur artist Sergei Torop (b. 1961), who claims to be a new incarnation of Jesus Christ and who has now come to the people under the name of Vissarion. Despite the Christian entourage of the “Fulfillment,” as Vissarion’s followers call it, his activities, ideology, and the practices of the LTC are directly related to the culture of the late-Soviet New Age, and the movement itself appeared due to channeling sessions.

LTS settlement Petropavlovka, Kuraginskii district, 2007
© Alexander Panchenko

In the early 1990s, Vissarion and his closest followers founded an isolated community in the Western Sayany Mountains in the southwestern part of the Krasnoyarsk region. Here, on Sukhaia Mountain, near Lake Tiberkul’, they began to build “the Solar City”. Some of Vissarion’s disciples lived with him in “the City,” while others lived in surrounding settlements of the Kuraginskii district. Until 1995, the majority of the LTC members migrated to the Kuraginskii and neighboring Karatuzskii districts. Today, the approximate number of Vissarion’s followers in the Kuraginskii and Karatuzskii districts is about 4,000.

The religious culture of the movement has inherited a broad range of beliefs and practices related to contemporary urban and New Age spirituality. These include the notion of “bio-energies,” which influence and determine the whole universe; alternative healing beliefs and practices; “extra-sensory” powers and perception, as well as UFOlogy and spiritual contacts with extraterrestrial civilizations.

LTS settlement Petropavlovka, Kuraginskii district, 2007
© Alexander Panchenko

Although the ideology of the LTC has undergone some changes during its nearly 30-year history, its main goal was always the creation of a new society free from violence and aggression and living in harmony with nature. The practical steps to achieve the goal are, as declared by the LTC leaders: (1) moral and spiritual perfection of the movement’s members; (2) the establishment of new social and economic relations within the community; and (3) attempts to give up modern technology and all activities leading to the “pollution” of the natural environment and the human body.

Although the LTC was repeatedly accused of being a “totalitarian sect” or a “destructive cult” by journalists and Orthodox activists, its members were never charged of any criminal offences in this context. Now, according to Russian officials the leaders of the LTC are accused of “psychological violence” and “doing harm to health” of the church members. This obviously false accusation is directly related to the “anti-sectarian” propaganda that goes back to late-Soviet times. There can be various reasons for the ongoing persecution of the LTS in present-day Russia. On the one hand, it can be explained by the overall growth of religious and political xenophobia among the officials of president Putin’s regime. On the other hand, the persecution can be related to the planned development of copper mining deposit in Tuva. The plan involves the construction of a motor road that will pass along the LTC settlements in Kuraginskii district.

LTS settlement Petropavlovka, Kuraginskii district, 2007
© Alexander Panchenko

Below you will find reports from the arrest:

Radio Svoboda

BBC (EN)

BBC (RU)

Cite this article as: Alexander Panchenko, “Leader of the Last Testament Church Vissarion arrested”, in New Age in Russia, 22/09/2020, https://newageru.hypotheses.org/4863


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