Table of contents:

Settlement of sectarians in the taiga: "Church of the Last Testament"
Settlement of sectarians in the taiga: "Church of the Last Testament"

The sect "Church of the Last Testament" and its leader, who declared himself Jesus Christ, had been known in Russia for a long time. During this time, their community built a city in the taiga and turned the lives of its members into a nightmare.

“Lyuba-Buryatochka from the Chita region decided to live in harmony with nature and left in the early spring naked for the taiga, three days later she was found frozen. Ira Goldina refused treatment and died of advanced breast cancer. Kapitolina suffered from cancer and was treated with hunger, died of exhaustion. Nina Mikova committed suicide under the portrait of Vissarion. Arkasha Drozdov died a year and three months from pathology, which they began to treat late."

This summary of tragic deaths is not crime news. This is just a small part of the list that former followers of the New Testament Church and its "savior" Sergei Torop, nicknamed Vissarion, reproduce from memory on the forums.



For almost 30 years, the Toropa-Vissarion community in the middle of the taiga existed as a separate state - it lived quietly according to its foundations and orders, fenced off from the whole world by a barrier, security and dense forests. What happened in this settlement - broke out into the outside world mainly together with people who left the community, those who became disillusioned with the synthetic faith of the former traffic cop Torop and wanted to return to society. But such people were few.

Hermits from the taiga carefully guarded their isolation and tried not to make noise, even when they realized that something was going wrong. Now their utopia is over.

Incest, pedophilia, incitement to suicide, murder - and other crimes suddenly surfaced. Outside observers shrug their shoulders and wonder: how for so long as a part of the Russian Federation, in territories the size of ⅔ Belgium, there was a community in whose life no one interfered?

Jesus Seeks UFO Contact

After being fired from the traffic police, Sergei Torop became a regular at the Siberian UFO club and for some time was looking for "contact" in the so-called anomalous zones. But the search for UFOs did not become his fix idea. Torop turned his attention to methods of psychological influence on a person, attended several courses popular in the 90s in Moscow and for the first time went on the air with a sermon in a small Siberian television studio.

It was 1991 when the former locksmith, district police officer and traffic cop felt a "spiritual awakening" and proclaimed himself Jesus Christ. “If I don’t become known to the whole world, I won’t be able to live on Earth,” he wrote in one of his letters home at the age of 18. And the popularity found him.

Against the background of economic collapse, the collapse of the USSR, collapsed hopes and landmarks, the ideas of the 30-year-old "Jesus" about universal happiness in the remote taiga and the proximity of the end of the world found their audience. In his early sermons, he corrected the New Testament and told about the "true story of the first coming."



In the next two years, he traveled around half of Russia, the union republics and several European countries with money from donations, gathering around him a faithful flock and incredible rumors. Elena Melnikova listened to all of Vissarion's sermons, but could not understand him. But her husband became obsessed.

“I was especially enraged by the way of delivering information. Repeated walking around the bush. As in gypsy hypnosis, when you are touched, they make noise and your consciousness is scattered. All sermons are verbose, stupid. The suggestion was aimed at cutting off from the outside world, at pulling out of family, kinship ties. And the more stress a person was, the more susceptible he was to suggestion. I knew right away that my husband was leaving. With or without me,”Elena said.

In May 1994, they, with two children, waiting for the third, sold an apartment in Novosibirsk and moved to the south of the Krasnoyarsk Territory.There, near Lake Tiberkul and Mount Sukhoi, declared saints by Vissarion, he founded a commune, and his "Church of the Last Testament" officially registered the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation as a religious organization.



“To my surprise, Vissarion seemed a reasonable person, he did not ask for anything. On the contrary, he advised me to build my own destiny on my own, and most importantly, not to commit bad deeds,”recalls another former follower, a resident of Samara, Mikhail Ilyin. And Vissarion really didn't ask for anything.

Then about 5 thousand people went to settle in the taiga and build the "City of the Sun" on the sacred mountain. Like the Melnikov family, many have sold their real estate and other property, investing in the common fund. Allegedly on their own. But very soon Vissarion began to impose bans.

Banning food and polygamy

The "Church of the Last Testament" could justify any way of life and dogma. If only because she combined together a whole bunch of world religions and practices - from Hinduism and Buddhism to apocalypticism and the atheistic teachings of Karl Marx. Therefore, when Vissarion "lowered" another ban down, no one doubted the correctness of his decision.


Alexander Ryumin / Sputnik

Almost immediately, food restrictions began in the community. Meat is not allowed, like all animal protein: milk, eggs, etc. Followers believe that after killing an animal, "aggressive energy" remains in its cells. Vissarion's driver traveled to the villages where the followers settled, and reported: "Since August 1, sugar is a poison."

In September 1994, there were bans on vegetable oil, tea, semolina and a number of cereals. Then on yeast bread. Only pregnant women were entitled to concessions. By 1995, people could only talk about food. The diet included potatoes, honey, cereals, vegetables, mushrooms, bread cakes. The Vissarionists suffered, but they endured.



Vissarion himself did not appear in public often, in a specially designated Place of Confluence - at a distance. Together with the closest ones, the "apostles", he lived on the mountain. All newcomers to the community were greeted and decided whether they would be accommodated in the village or on the outskirts - if there was no blessing from Vissarion. Salvation is his key idea.

Only the "Savior" predicted the end of the world, set specific dates, and when the end did not come, he literally made a helpless gesture with the words "but I did not promise you anything," and prophesied a new apocalypse.

In August 1999, he preached, "I want to show you how to love beautifully." And he said that a man can have as many wives as he wants, "for the humility of women." From that moment on, triangles began to appear in the community, men were allowed to swap wives. Some families could not stand such a psychological onslaught and disintegrated. Then Vissarion himself parted with his wife and took for himself a new one, from 16-year-old girls.

Violinist Dimitar Khetemov, 42 years old, a follower of the religious movement Church of the Last Testament, with his wife Natalia, daughter Sophia, 6 years old, and their son Alexander, 9 years old

Violinist Dimitar Khetemov, 42 years old, a follower of the religious movement Church of the Last Testament, with his wife Natalia, daughter Sophia, 6 years old, and their son Alexander, 9 years old. - Alexander Ryumin / TASS

All this was intertwined with the established practice of not seeking medical help and not allowing children to attend rural school. “I remember very well this commandment number 37, the meaning of which is that all our diseases are from mental disharmony. Therefore, the unbeliever does not need to be cured yet, and the believer does not need to be treated,”says Elena. With education - the same logic, believers do not need a lot of knowledge.

However, this was not always the case. Vissarion knew that time was passing, people were changing, and the community also needed to change. Even in the taiga.

Transformation and curators from the FSB

Once the “Church of the Last Testament” was already close to being banned - at the turn of the century, when “all toughness” began. Doctors and teachers of the district have come up with the initiative of litigation. But the prosecutor's check on one such statement suddenly stopped.

Photographer Yuri Kozyrev, who has repeatedly visited the community in different years, believes that then the security forces were seriously afraid that during the arrest, mass suicide could occur: “Vissarion also understood everything: after that, the sect suddenly transformed into an ecovillage Tiberkul and the topic was closed - vegans live for themselves, let it go".

However, in fact, they never took their eyes off the community.According to Vadim Redkin, one of the first followers of Vissarion, who was responsible for "public relations" and the official Facebook of the community, from the very beginning a "curator" from the regional FSB department was assigned to the Church. However, this never turned into serious trouble for the followers. With the FSB, he says, there was a "working relationship." “A lot of curators have changed over the years. I've been here since 1992,”says Redkin.

Local authorities hardly had any questions either. Moreover, since the beginning of the 2000s, the rules in the community began to be relaxed. Vissarion allowed mobile phones, televisions, satellite dishes to go to doctors. For children, they opened their own schools, ensembles, recording studios, football and hockey teams. All this has become more like ecovillage than sectarianism.


Alexander Ryumin / TASS

In addition, the composition of the Vissarionites became less homogeneous over the years: fewer and fewer followers believed in the end of the world, more and more those who simply liked to live in the community according to its canons - in an ecological settlement, where everyone is “family”. Even those who were very skeptical about Vissarion continued to live in the community: “They told us to get away from money, and he himself went to Israel, then to Taiwan for treatment. Why would Christ need to be treated ?!”said one of the“disappointed”residents of the community, Tatyana Kholyavko.

Strangers began to enter the territory of the City of the Sun, which was not the case before, and the Vissarionites began to actively penetrate the local authorities and integrate with the local elite - they cut down excellent beautiful houses from a solid bar, so people with money liked to hire them. Vissarion himself began to go out to his flock not every month, but every four, and he always said about the same thing - that the world will die, and you will be saved.

Views of the village of Petropavlovka in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, where followers live

Views of the village of Petropavlovka in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, where followers live. - Alexander Ryumin / TASS

Vyacheslav Osipov, head of one of the rural settlements in the Kuraginsky District, says he sees no problems with the community. On the contrary, they were happy: the Vissarionites work a lot, are engaged in farming, they are raising the economy; thanks to them, the nearby villages did not die out, the land rose in price, the population increased. Some pluses.

However, in the past two years, the attention to them has become steadfast on the part of the security forces.

Assault with special forces and helicopters

It is believed that it all began with the negligent death of two babies in the families of the followers. In the summer of 2018, a search came to the Nezemtsev family, whose ten-month-old son had died. At the same time, they came to the Karmanovs, their child died of pneumonia. Later, the federal television channel REN TV will show a story where the found baby's body will also be called the reason for the development of the community.

Then a whole string of cases followed. According to Redkin, the community found itself under "open pressure." Checks went along all lines: from psychological violence against people, fraud with property, ritual sex with minors and childbirth at home to illegal land use and cedar felling. A year after the first searches, more than 300 followers were questioned.


Followers of the "Church of the Last Testament" are sent to the service in the settlement "Abode of Dawn" 2020. - Alexander Ryumin / TASS

“In 2019, when it all began, the investigators, when they arrived, said:“That's it, your roof has burned down.” This means our defense. "And in the fall, the entire leadership will be arrested." It was the FSB investigators who said such things to the foresters. The foresters just told us this,”Redkin recalls. The Novaya Gazeta edition also writes about the existing roof: “Perhaps the recent resignation and arrest in Krasnoyarsk of the Regional Minister of Forestry Dimitriy Maslodudov are connected with the searches and detentions in the City of the Sun”.

But there are several more versions of why the City of the Sun has been tackled just now.For so many years the district has become the center of the production of elite log cabins in Russia, and now the Vissarionovites believe that they are being “squeezed out of business”. Another factor could be the protest of local residents against deforestation and the laying of a road through their untouched places by civilization - to places of gold mining.


Alexander Ryumin / TASS

In mid-September 2020, the FSB special forces arrived in the Krasnoyarsk taiga in helicopters and cordoned off the territory of the City of the Sun. Torop, Redkin and another organizer of the community, Vladimir Vedernikov, were arrested, and the prosecutor's office demanded to ban the religious organization "Church of the Last Testament", which, according to the latest data, had 4,500 members. The decision will be made by the court.

Popular by topic