In the wilderness of Siberia, thousands of people have flocked to a group of small towns named Petropavlovka.
What would drive people to drop everything and move to a cottage in one of the coldest and most remote parts of the planet? The chance to meet the Son of God in the flesh. Petropavlovka is home to almost 5,000 “Vissarionites,” who worship a man who claims to be Jesus reincarnated.
Vissarion, a.k.a. the Teacher lives in a private compound nearby, but his followers get to hear him give sermons where he discusses topics like vegetarianism, reincarnation and the coming apocalypse, which he says will be a “great flood.” Before that day comes, Vissarion hopes to unite all the world’s religions.
His followers also study the Last Testament, Vissarion’s 10-volume “sequel” to the Bible which includes philosophy, descriptions of aliens and warnings about the future. His followers are also forbidden from drinking and smoking or using the money.
So who is Vissarion? And how did his Church get started?
The man who calls himself Vissarion was born Sergey Anatolyevitch Toro, and while he claims that his mother is Mary he admits he had a biological mother as well.
Toro, now 56, was a soldier in the Red Army before the Cold War ended, and worked as a traffic policeman until 1989. That’s when Vissarion lost his job, and coincidentally started to have visions revealing his “true nature.”
He moved into the Siberian wilderness in the 1990s, when Petropavlovka was just a group of huts in the forest. Now, it’s a huge, self-sufficient community with solar power, satellite TVs and organic vegetable gardens.
A worker in Petropavlovska Zpravy