He is known variously as Vissarion, The Teacher, and Jesus of Siberia and his followers believe that he really is the Messiah.
Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop (Russian: Сергей Анатольевич Тороп), (born January 14, 1961) known by his followers as Vissarion (Виссарион), is a Russian mystic. He founded and heads a religious movement known as the Church of the Last Testament with its head church in the Siberian Taiga in the Minusinsk Depression east of Abakan, in the southern Siberia Kuraginsk district of Krasnoyarsk territory. He has around 4,000 followers (called Vissarionites) in around thirty villages in the immediate vicinity of his base at Sun City, while having approximately 10,000 followers around the world.
Vissarion claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus. He teaches reincarnation, veganism, and the impending end of the world, or at least of civilization as we know it. In May 1990, aged 29, Vissarion claims to have experienced a mystical revelation. He first spoke publicly in Minusinsk on 18 August 1991. He founded the "Church of the Last Testament" (Церковь Последнего Завета Tserokvy Poslednego Zaveta), also known as "Community of Unified Faith".
He was born in Krasnodar; after service in the Red Army, he settled in Minusinsk. He worked as a traffic policeman before losing his job in 1989. In 1991 he was "reborn" as Vissarion, the returned Jesus Christ. In his system this does not make him God, but instead the word of God. His religion combines elements of the Russian Orthodox Church with Buddhism, apocalypticism, collectivism, and ecological values. His followers observe strict regulations, are vegans, and are allowed no vices such as smoking or drinking alcohol. Money is banned. The aim of the group is to unite all religions on Earth.
Vissarion is also a painter.
Tiberkul, the settlement in the Taiga, was established in 1994 on a territory of 2.5 square kilometres, and today counts some five thousand inhabitants, largely living autochthonous and on ecological principles. It is centered around the villages of Petropavlovka and Cheremshanka, at ca. [show location on an interactive map] 53°53′N, 93°45′E. The settlement is now also called Ecopolis and has a three-tiered structure: the Town itself (Abode of Dawn), the Heavenly Abode, and the Temple Peak.
Vissarion's sect is estimated to have some ten thousand adherents, with claims of up to 50,000 adherents in eighty-three communities spread over 150 square kilometers.
Since 1992, biographer Vadim Redkin (born 1958) has published an annual volume detailing Vissarion's activities. Vissarion has attracted a number of followers from Germany's esoteric subculture, and seven volumes of Vadim's account have been translated into German.
- Official Russian-language website
- English-language website
- Audiovisual journalism piece about the movement
- 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
- THE COMMUNITY OF UNIFIED FAITH
- ABC Nightline video and article