Sergei Anatolyevitch Torop (Russian: Серге́й Анато́льевич То́роп, Sergej Anatolʹevič Torop; born 14 January 1961 in Krasnodar, Russian SFSR), known as Vissarion (Russian: Виссарио́н, IPA: [vʲɪsərʲɪˈon], "He who gives new life" or "life-giving"), is a spiritual teacher and founder of the non-profit, religious organization “Church of the Last Testament”, described by many organizations as a cult.
Sergei Anatolyevitch Torop
14 January 1961
|Parent(s)||Anatoly Torop and Nadia Malashenko|
|Church||Church of the Last Testament|
According to the followers of Sergei Torop and some of his own explanations, on 18 August 1990, at the age of 29, Sergey had some sort of a “spiritual awakening”.
He gave his first public teaching after awakening in Minusinsk on 18 August 1991.
He founded the "Church of the Last Testament" (Церковь Последнего Завета Tserkov Poslednego Zaveta), also known as the "Community of Unified Faith", with its head church located in the Siberian Taiga in the Minusinsk Depression east of Abakan, in the small settlement called "Abode of Dawn" (official name) or "The Sun City" (unofficial name) near Petropavlovka. Since then, the Christianity-based religious movement has amassed more than 10,000 followers around the world with around 4,000 living in the few settlements in Siberia near Vissarion.
From 1991 till the present time, on the basis of Vissarion's meetings, speeches and teachings, a multi-volume text was written that is called “The Last Testament,” a text outlining a set of principles, focused on self-improvement, self-governance and community.
In September 2020 Vissarion and two of his close students were arrested and taken away from homes by a helicopters during a dramatic operation empowered by Russia’s Investigative Committee. The Russian authorities accused them of “creating a religious group whose activities may impose violence on citizens”. Nowadays after more than a year Vissarion and two others are still being kept in prison in Novosibirsk city, despite the fact that there is no evidence that can somehow confirm the prosecution and with no proper criminal indictment. No trial has been scheduled.
Sergei Anatolyevitch Torop was born in Krasnodar to Anatoly Torop and Nadezhda (née Malashenko). At 18, he began compulsory service by enlisting in the Red Army, becoming a sergeant working on building sites in Mongolia, followed by three years as a factory metal worker in Minusinsk, Siberia. In the town, he worked as a patrol officer before losing his job in 1989. Reported to have gained nine commendations during his five years of service, he was made redundant.
Torop claims that in 1990 he was "reborn" as Vissarion (meaning "he who gives new life"), claiming to be a returned Jesus Christ. In his system this does not make him God, but instead the word of God. His religious beliefs combines elements of the Russian Orthodox Church with Buddhism, apocalypticism, collectivism, and ecological values. Torop founded the Church of the Last Testament in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia in 1991 just before the fall of the USSR. He predicted the imminent end of the world with only his followers being saved.
His followers observe strict regulations, including abstaining from meat, smoking, drinking alcohol, swearing and the use of money. The aim of the group is to unite all religions on Earth. He replaced Christmas with a feast day on his birthday (14 January) and claimed to possess an ability to heal cancer and AIDS with a touch from his hand. The calendar runs from the day in 1961 of Vissarion's birth; the biggest feast day (August 18) originates from his first sermon in 1991.
Tiberkul, the settlement in the Taiga, was established in 1994 on a territory of 2.5 square kilometres (620 acres), and expanded to several nearby villages, such as those of Petropavlovka and Cheremshanka, at ca. ecological principles. The central settlement, also called The Town and The Mountain, has a three-tiered structure: the Town itself (Abode of Dawn), the Heavenly Abode, and the Temple Peak. The churches and houses are built from wood by hand, most of the energy used originating from windmills or solar panels.. It has some four thousand inhabitants, following
Since 1992, biographer Vadim Redkin has published an annual volume detailing Vissarion's activities. Vissarion has attracted followers from Germany's esoteric subculture, and seven volumes of Vadim's account have been translated into German.
In May 2012, the Vice YouTube channel released "Cult Leader Thinks He's Jesus (Documentary Exclusive)", containing a report by Rocco Castoro, a reporter for Vice in Petropavlovka, and his interview with Vissarion. This was the first time Vissarion had granted an interview in three years.
In 2018, the Japanese show Hyper Hardboiled Gourmet Report visited the City of the Sun, but did not interview the founder (Vissarion). They were able to interview multiple adherents, including children and a sub-founder.
On 22 September 2020, Russian authorities arrested Vissarion on charges of running an illegal religious organisation, possible physical harm to others, and extortion. He was apprehended by the FSB and Russian police, and taken to Novosibirsk central district court, along with two aides, Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov.
Torop repudiated his first wife and married a nineteen-year-old who had lived with him since she was a girl of seven. He has six children from the two marriages.
- "Vissarion: Is this Russian cult leader a fraud?". BBC News. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- Walker, Shaun (22 September 2020). "Cult leader who claims to be reincarnation of Jesus arrested in Russia". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
- Obscura, Atlas (16 July 2013). "Russian Cult May be The Largest Religious Reservation In The World". Slate. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
combines elements of the Russian Orthodox Church with Buddhism, apocalypticism, collectivism, and ecological values. ... Vissarion has predicted the end of the world several times. He teaches reincarnation and civility and requires his adherents to live a life free from vices.
- Hopkins, Valerie (24 October 2021). "Long Arm of Russian Law Reaches Obscure Siberian Church". The New York Times.
- Hopkins, Valerie; Gelman, Mary (24 October 2021). "Long Arm of Russian Law Reaches Obscure Siberian Church". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
- "Уголовное дело в отношении основателей Общины - Община Виссариона сегодня". vissarion.org (in Russian). 30 November 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
- Traynor, Ian (24 May 2002). "Jesus of Siberia". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
- Сибирский Иисус Христос - бывший гаишник
- Ward, Clarissa (24 June 2008). "Ex-Traffic Cop Says He's Jesus". ABC News. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
- "Sergei Torop: Russian religious sect leader arrested over allegations of harm". BBC News. 22 September 2020. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
- Bennetts, Marc (23 September 2020). "Cult leader Vissarion held in armed Siberia helicopter raid". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 September 2020. (subscription required)
- The Vissarion Cult in Russia - Lermanet, November 6, 2003
- 'Reborn' Jesus Leads Vegans in Russia - Newser, August 29, 2009
- "Cult Leader Thinks He's Jesus (Documentary Exclusive)". VICE News. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- Cult Leader Thinks He’s Jesus
- Hyper Hardboiled Gourmet Report, TV Tokyo, Season 1 Episode 3
- Семён Максимов."Позови меня в даль светлую" или сказки дядюшки Виссариона//Миссионерское обозрение, № 3,4,6, 1998
- Последний Завет. Т.1, СП-б, Фламинго, 1996, вопрос 24.
- Official website (in Russian)
- Russian-language Last Testament
- English-language website
- English-language Last Testament
- Vissarion Community International Portal
- Vissarion's Personal page (Russian)
- Orthodox church and Vissarion
- Film of BBC A Long Weekend with The Son of God (Filmmaker George Carey).
- Stanislav Krupar's photos of Vissarion community
- Globe and Mail: Jesus Lives
- The Washington Post: Novel Faiths Find Followers Among Russia's Disillusioned
- The Guardian on him
- Section in news about religion in Russia listed under "Sect in Siberia
- Sydney Morning Herald article
- ABC Nightline video and article
- Vice Guide to Travel: Jesus of Siberia
- Russian-language profile and critique
- Cult Leader Thinks He’s Jesus
- Reincarnated Jesus' Secluded Siberian Sect
- NY Times Long Arm of Russian Law Reaches Obscure Siberian Church