There is a man who was living in the forest of Siberia who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ – along with his at least 5,000 followers. Russian authorities arrested him and two of his right-hand men in September of last year. This is the story of Vissarion.
Vissarion: The Man Who Claims To Be The Reincarnation of Jesus Christ
In 1989, a man named Sergei Torop lost his job as a traffic cop in Russia. As the Soviet Regime began collapsing a year later, he claimed to experience an “awakening” in which God told him he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. With the Soviet religious controls out of the way, he changed his name to Vissarion and founded his new religion: The Church of the Last Testament.
Now located in the remote Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia, Vissarion has between five and 10,000 followers. They mostly live in what is known as The City of the Sun, but there are other settlements and other followers who live abroad.
What Are The Rules?
Vissarion writes all of his “teachings” or thoughts down in his own religious texts that he says are the follow-up to the New Testament. He has written several volumes now, claiming he is writing the word of God as it comes to him. In reality, the text is rather circular and quite vague.
Some rules to be a member of the Church of the Last Testament are (1):
- You must be vegan
- Monetary exchange is banned
- No smoking, swearing, or drinking
They worship Vissarion and work in their gardens, living in Yurts off of the land. Boys and girls are educated separately. At the girl’s school, they learn the “female role” and how to be with a man. Essentially, they learn how to be a wife and mother and to obey men. In the boys’ school, they learn the “masculine jobs.” Men are also allowed to have more than one wife to have more children. However, they must ask their first wife’s permission before allowing a second wife into their family.
Instead of celebrating Christmas, they celebrate Vissarion’s birthday, which is January 14. Their version of Easter is also on a different date, August 18, which is the day that he had his “awakening” that he is the reincarnation of Jesus.
When Vissarion founded the Church of the Last Testament, Russia was in a degree of turmoil. Thousands had lost their jobs and sought answers and Vissarion’s “teachings” provided them (at least if you can get behind their vague nature). He offered a place to live where certain parts of the Russian Orthodox religion did not apply and where money, career, and many of the stresses of modern society were not a concern.
Because of this, thousands of people abandoned their families and lives to follow him into the forest. His followers all seem very happy with their lives and don’t question his word or power, despite most of them never having actually met him outside of watching him give sermons from a distance.
Much of Vissarion’s texts focus on the impending demise of the modern world, but anyone who lives within his religion will be saved. Once everyone else is wiped out, the Church of the Last Testament will then populate the earth and live in harmony with one another and nature. He has predicted this “end” several times, however, when the specified date comes and goes, he simply tells his followers that he promised them nothing and sets a new one.
As you may have guessed, one can only run a religious cult for so long before authorities finally investigate and do something about it. Last September, helicopters descended upon Vissarion’s communities and officers arrested the “reincarnation of Jesus Christ” himself, plus two of his aides. They arrested him on charges of (2):
- Organizing an illegal religious organization
- Extorting money from followers
- Subjecting followers to emotional abuse
For years, no one really knew what was going on inside the confines of this cult. However, some people who have returned to society have openly shared on social media some of the terrible things that are happening inside its borders. According to these people, this includes (5):
People have also died of treatable illnesses and diseases simply because they don’t have proper medical care. Beyond veganism, very little other food was allowed as well. Potatoes, honey, grains, vegetables, mushrooms, and flatbreads were the only permissible foods. Some exceptions were made for pregnant women and infants. (5)
What’s Happening With the ‘Reincarnation of Jesus‘ Now?
The crimes I’ve already mentioned are just the start of terrible issues present in the community of this religious cult. Since the arrests were made, authorities now have to decide as to whether or not they should ban the religion altogether. No decisions have been made yet, and Vissarion and his aide’s detention is set until April 15.