Self-Professed ‘Siberian Jesus’ Arrested After Running A Cult For The Last 30 Years

Published September 24, 2020

Sergei Torop is known to his followers as Vissarion and has been running the Church of the Last Testament in small villages all across Siberia.

Vissarion In Jail

Kukhmar/Tass/Jonas BendiksenCult leader Sergei Torop, a.k.a “Vissarion” or “Jesus of Siberia,” was recently arrested by Russian authorities on charges of extortion and abuse.

Russian authorities have just arrested a cult leader who has been claiming that he is the reincarnation of Jesus for the last 30 years.

The 59-year-old man, a former traffic officer named Sergei Torop, had been leading several thousand followers in small communes across the remote Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia. The cult, which is called the Church of the Last Testament, espouses veganism and keeps track of time beginning on Jan. 14, 1961, the day Torop was born. He is known to his followers as “Vissarion,” which in Russian means “He who gives new life.”

According to the authorities, Torop is guilty of extorting money from and mentally abusing his followers. He was arrested with two of his right-hand men, one of whom is Vadim Redkin, a former drummer from a Soviet-era boyband.

A Russian investigative committee said that it would charge the “Siberian Jesus” with organizing an illegal religious organization and alleged that Torop had used “psychological violence” against some of his followers, resulting in “serious harm to their health.” Torop and his right-hand men are also being investigated on suspicion of “causing grievous bodily harm to two or more persons.”

Sergei Torop Arrest

Handout from Investigative Committee of RussiaFootage from the September 2020 arrest of Torop, who founded the cult in 1991.

Footage released by investigators showed Torop being ushered from a van into a helicopter. The operation, which involved masked soldiers storming the cult, were carried out by multiple government agencies including agents from Russia’s FSB security service.

Torop’s cult began in 1991 after he lost his job as a traffic officer and experienced an “awakening” just as the Soviet Union fell. He then founded the Church of the Last Testament and wrote a ten volume “sequel to the Bible.”

The cult now has thousands of followers across Siberia, mostly working professionals from the region including musicians, teachers, doctors, and even ex-Red Army colonels. Members also include foreigners from countries like Germany, Australia, Bulgaria, Belgium, and Cuba. Followers are compelled to wear an austere wardrobe and celebrate Christmas on Torop’s birthday.

“I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me,” the cult leader said during a 2002 interview. Torop originally claimed that Jesus was watching over them from an orbit close to Earth and that the Virgin Mary was “running Russia” before declaring that he was the reincarnation of Jesus himself.

Vissarion Cult Leader

Alexander Nemenov/AFP/GettyRussia’s Investigative Committee alleged that the cult leader extorted money from his devotees and subjected them to emotional abuse.

According to CBS News, some of Torop’s followers died by suicide or as a result of the harsh living conditions and lack of medical care they received while on his commune in the 1990s.

Torop has claimed that he has 5,000 followers, several hundred of whom live in wooden huts in the cult’s remote “Sun City” commune at Petropavlovka, Siberia. Authorities estimate that there were about 90 families living at the site they recently raided.

The official Russian Orthodox church has long condemned the group, but the cult has otherwise largely been left alone by local authorities. It’s unclear why exactly Russian officials decided to move in on the cult now, but it could have to do with business. Some Russian outlets have reported that the cult was involved in disputes with local business interests.

Woman Praying To The Siberian Jesus

Getty ImagesAn elderly woman places a candle under a picture of “Vissarion the Teacher” in the remote village of Petropavlovka, in Siberia, 2009.

This isn’t the first time a cult has made the news recently. Earlier in September 2020, a Colorado-based cult known as “Love Has Won” was kicked out of Hawaii after locals protested the group’s appropriation of a Hawaiian deity. “Love’s” leader, Amy “Mother God” Carlson, claimed to be the reincarnation of the Hawaiian god of fire known as Pele.

As for the members of the Church of the Last Testament, it’s unclear what will happen to them, but the Siberian Jesus is currently facing 12 years in prison if convicted.

Next, read the bizarre story of the Heaven’s Gate cult and their infamous mass suicide. Then, check out what life was like for the members of the Peoples Temple in Jonestown before the massacre.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.