‘Jesus of Siberia,’ cult leader Sergel Torop was detained last week by special forces in Russia based on allegations that claim to expose him as a sex-obsessed sham
Torop founder and leader of The Church of the Last Testament is an ex-traffic cop who declared himself the Son of God
The self-acclaimed messiah who rose to prominence in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, has been accused of ‘mesmerizing’ his 50,000 followers, using ‘psychological violence’ and causing ‘serious harm to their health’
Torop, 59, also known as Vissarion, was arrested by Russian heavily armed Russian secret police during a dawn raid on his home in a remote part of Siberia
Police in four helicopters and busloads of heavily armed troops descended on the hamlet of Petropavlovka, 2,600 miles east of Moscow to take him away in handcuffs
Torop is not the Messiah authorities said this week after his arrest, after he was accused of exploiting his 5,000 Russian followers, 200 of whom lived with him in the City of Sun
Torop, who believes women should serve men, just as men serve God, has fathered six children of his own
To boost the commune’s birth rate further, he insisted women should share their husbands in polygamous ‘Triangles’, it is alleged
Tropov has countered that his accusers have ‘mental disorders’
Critics of the Russian authorities suggest that he has been targeted as reprisal for becoming involved in a dispute with local business interests.
Torop faces up to 12 years in prison, if convicted
The self-declared ‘Siberian Jesus’, SergeI Torop got a rude awakening this week when the Russian secret police in four helicopters and dozens of heavily armed troops in a fleet of vans and buses descended on the hamlet of Petropavlovka, 2,600 miles east of Moscow, for a dawn raid on his home in a remote part of Siberia.
Handcuffed, Torop who goes by the name Vissarion, was shorn of his usual Messianic long flowing robes, in a tracksuit was seen being bundled into a waiting chopper by masked men in camouflage gear as others with machine guns kept his followers at bay.
The former Red Army conscript, who morphed into Russia’s self-styled Messiah, has been accused by Russian authorities of exploiting his 5,000 followers, using ‘psychological violence’ and causing ‘serious harm to their health’. 200 of his adherents live with him in the City of Sun.
Torop who regularly preaches via Skype, is said to have a following of 50,000 around the world.
The mystic has countered that his accusers have ‘mental disorders’ while other critics of the Russian authorities suggest that he has been targeted as reprisal for becoming involved in a dispute with local business interests.
His arrest prompted comparisons with that another infamous Russian mystic, Grigori Rasputin, who wormed his way into the affections of Russia’s imperial royal family in the early 20th century. There are striking similarities between the men, not least in their sexual liberalism.
Rasputin, who was dubbed ‘Russia’s greatest love machine’ by pop group Boney M, contrary to the Christian moral code, claimed that by sleeping with a woman, he took on her sins and thus helped her find ‘the grace of God’.
Rasputin, aka the Mad Monk, was also known for his for orgies with nuns. Fast forward a century later, the Siberian Jesus it appears, shares similar views of morality
Following a visit in 2009, a French journalist describes the annual gathering to celebrate the anniversary of Torop’s first ‘sermon’ in 1991: ‘The crowd parted in a human tunnel to allow the approach of the man they know as The Teacher.
‘The mood was a throwback to the hippy fervor of the Sixties with a dash of apocalyptic fanaticism,’ she wrote.
In an interview three years ago, Torop’s who holds the view that women should serve men, just as men serve God, said: ‘We have a school of noble maidens here. We’re preparing girls to become future wives, future brides for worthy men,’ he told the BBC.
‘The Teacher’ has fathered six children of his own. To further boost the commune’s birth rate, insisted women should share their husbands in polygamous ‘Triangles’. While men have to wait for their wife’s permission before bringing a new partner home.
His own marriage did not survive the experiment, which saw his first wife leaving him after he married a 19-year-old who had modelled for his paintings.
The Church of the Last Testament appears to have been shaped very much around Torop and what suited him. Indeed, it set its calendar by the years since his birth in 1961, putting us in the year 59.
The recorded journey of the son of a construction worker from Krasnodar, southern Russia, begins after Tropov was conscripted into the Red Army.
He went on to work in a factory before his stint as a traffic policeman. A career choice, he later admitted, was a strange choice for the Son of God.
‘My behavior was very different to other officers,’ he said. ‘I wanted to forgive people and free them too easily.’ This may explain why he lost his job in 1989, the year before his ‘Awakening’.
The awakening initially involved believing Jesus was watching over us from close to Earth, and that the Virgin Mary was ‘running Russia’.
He later proclaimed ‘he was reborn the Son of God’.
With the fall of the Soviet Empire bringing an abrupt end to 70 years of official atheism in 1991, Torop travelled to Moscow announcing to crowds in the capital, ‘Our heavenly Father sent me here today’.
Proclaiming the end of the world was nigh, Vissarion promised disciples salvation as long as they surrendered to him their money and possessions and followed the strict rules in The Last Testament, his nine-volume ‘sequel’ to the Bible.
Feeling disenfranchised, a segment of the Russian public were hungry for something to believe in, flocked to Torop’s message including former Red Army brass and professionals who left their jobs and followed ‘Vissarion’ to the wilds of Siberia in the hundreds, living by a surprisingly granular set of codes such as what brand of laundry detergent they should use.
Though assimilating many Orthodox rituals, Vissarion also prohibited alcohol and tobacco, enforced veganism, and banned money. Dissent was not tolerated.
Not surprisingly the teacher himself seemed not to abide by many of the tenets himself.
While his followers endured freezing winters in the thin-walled huts they built, he rarely appeared among them. Instead, he was ensconced in the warm and well equipped modern three-story chalet followers constructed for him on a mountain peak.
The sect did not recognize Christmas or the New Year, that was abolished in favor of a feast day on his birthday, January 14.
Accounts have emerged of followers being ‘enthralled’ as they lit candles, sang songs and watched Vissarion blessing loaves of bread. However on one occasion, as the temperature dropped to minus 50c, a female devotee slumped unconscious into the snow before being carried away.
Some devotees, in the Nineties, allegedly died either due to a lack of conventional medical care, or by suicide. A practice allegedly, endorsed by Vissarion.
The authorities have released photographs of a suicide note and a noose as evidence against Vissarion, believed to be related to the complaints of ‘psychological abuse’ made by former followers.
Torop faces up to 12 years in prison, if convicted.