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Sectarians active east of the Urals

INCIDENTAL TRAVEL NOTES OF THE MISSIONARY TRAIN
strana.ru, 15 August 2001

And so, the celebrated  missionary train of the Russian Orthodox church is continuing its trip, having bypassed without stopping the Urals and a substantial portion of Siberia. It most likely will arrive by the evening of 17 August at the station of Taishet, the first planned stopping point. Beyond that the missionary itinerary will go along local railroad lines through the Kemerovo, Irkutsk, Chita, and Amur provinces and Krasnoiarsk territory and Yakutia. As is known, the train is traveling about those placed where there are no Orthodox churches.

Shouldn't one pity those regions where there already are Orthodox churches that the occupants of the train did not drop in on them? In the past decade both Siberia and the Urals have possessed qualities that make one see red in the preachers, adherents, and founders of new religions, movements, and factions, more commonly known as sects. Such a wide open expanse gives plenty of places and flocks for everybody.

And there really are plenty. They, the sects, that is, manage to coexist rather peacefully, without disputes and squabbles, departures and divisions (clearly an impossible dream of the basic confession of the contemporary Russian state).

Indeed the people here are thankful for everything; they latch onto any talk about God with such sincere openness that one just has to preach. Among the first to come, of course, were protestants and all the people, as one man, became active followers of Luther. But such an opportunity did not last long for those religious teachers inasmuch as their evangelistic program did not provide for such long term projects. Just as soon as the protestant brothers and sisters crossed the mountains, lo and behold the Pentecostals arrived, and in one gush everybody cheerfully became Pentecostals.

And, you know, how right Kornei Ivanovich seemed to be: "Such nonsense all day long. First a clod will call, and then a whiz." I can't promise you anything about clods, but here's the Moonies, Scientology, and Jehovah's Witnesses; they passed through this long-suffering territory several times each.

One thing is for sure: in the characteristics of the spread of sects in the Urals and Siberia rather widespread historic roots are displayed. In the historiography devoted to the problem of the relations between the builders of the bright future and various confessions in the first years of the soviet regime there has arisen the concept of a rather tolerant position of the government toward all confessions except for Orthodoxy. "The principal task of the regime was the destruction of the national church specifically, the spiritual foundation of the nation's life. In order to facilitate this task that government, inter alia, tried to secure something like an alliance with other confessions or at least to ensure neutrality on their part," writes D.V. Pospielovsky.

There exists incontrovertible evidence that among these confessions preference was shown to various sects. Already in prerevolutionary bolshevism there existed the interpretation of "the development of sectarianism as an expression of the disorder of the official religion." Persecution on the part of the Orthodox church made sectarians their allies in the eyes of the bolsheviks. On 8 September 1921 "Izvestiia VTsIK" wrote: "Peasant communist groups, like the Dukhobors, Molokans, New Israel, and others assimilate soviet civil laws and charters quite painlessly." And, you know, they did assimilate.

However let's return to the time of our train. Not far from Cheliabinsk is the little village of Shushenki, where four elderly women life. They are protestants. Why? They cannot answer. It is possible they have gotten tired of the plethora of suggestions and decided to become something. And after all in Cheliabinsk there is not a single Orthodox church.

Newspapers of Sverdlovsk province write that "sects have attacked the information space of the Urals." Even more, they have subjected it "to genuine expansion." Mayors complain that sectarians call young people to refuse service in the army and promote political passivity.

The Department for Affairs of the Press and Mass Information of the Ekaterinburg province is alarmed over the volume of print publications that are being produced with the participation of totalitarian religious associations in the cities of Asbest, Nizhny Tagil, and Serov. In Asbest, a weekly "Utranniaia zvezda" [Morning Star], registered as a publication of Pentecostals, has a 50,000 copy circulation. Similar activism is displayed by the prohibited sect "Great White Brotherhood Yusmalos," and the adherents of Ron Hubbard, otherwise known as Scientology. Around ten print publications belonging to sectarian organizations are being published in the province.

According to an approximate calculation, in Ekaterinburg the Jehovah's Witnesses have around 1,000 followers in the city and up to 5,000 in the province. In general the Jehovists are the fastest growing sect, increasing the number of their members by 1.5 to 3.5 times per year. The sect rigidly controls the informational publications that can fall into the hands of its devotees, forbidding them to read "the words of satan," listen to the radio, and watch television. All members of the sect are evangelist preachers and therefore the scope of their activity is extremely pervasive.

There is no doubt that they have a large data base. Jehovists canvass a multitude of homes and apartments, distributing their magazines and books and recording in special notebooks information about their reception. In those places where the reception is hospitable they begin classes and where it is reserved the visit is postponed, but it must be repeated. In Ekaterinburg the sect is self-supporting. Two issues are especially dangerous socially, the antigovernmental stance and attitude toward blood transfusion. Recently a case became known where a Jehovist physician delayed for a long time in prescribing a blood transfusion for a patient who needed it. The patient died. Jehovists are anti-Christian, from their religious positions.

In the local diocese it is thought that the religious sects flooding the province undermine not only Russia's culture but also the state system as a whole. According to information from the hierarchy, several satanic churches are operating in the city along with a number of aggressive sects who are alleged to be responsible for explosions at the church on the site of the shooting of the imperial family and for provocations during the time of the liturgy.

The leader of the occultic, unregistered sect "School of cosmic philosophy," M. Shumova, filed a suit in court directly against three newspapers of the Urals region, "Moskovskii komsomolets Ural," "Komsomolskaia pravda Ekaterinburg," and "Vechernie vedomoste," since in October and November 2000 these papers published materials exposing its true activity. At the same time sectarians sued their own victims who figured in the contents of those articles. As a result open division of families occurred; one sectarian sued his mother and sister and a sectarian girl sued her mother. Thus the question whether the sects break up families or not has become at least laughable.

The society "In defense of Orthodox morality" of Tiumen organized a "Telephone of trust for those who suffered from the activity of various nonorthodox religious organization." The project is supported by eight Orthodox public organizations of the city and the ecclesiastical board of Muslims of Tiumen province. At the present time Tiumen is a propitious field as a base for the spread of various confessions. On a dedicated pager of the "Vessolink" company every victim can leave any information. Each report is checked and reviewed. The "Orthodox Siberia" movement has already reviewed a complaint with regard to the "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization.

The "Cradle of Siberia" association, located in Novosibirsk, is a syncretistic sect with an occultic orientation. The founder and leader of the sect, Tolgat Akbashev, presents himself as a "messenger of God" and "disciple of Jesus." The "Cradle of Siberia" association was assigned to the category of totalitarian sects by experts of the Novosibirsk Center for the Struggle with Sectarianism.

Akbashev's teaching relies on modernist occultic doctrine and the practice of religious cult, prayers, meditation, and rituals. There is a strict multilevel hierarchy of ordained and unordained persons. The teachings of the sect almost entirely repeat the ideas of the Theosophy society mixed with elements of anthroposophy and yoga. A "theory of race" has been developed. Traditional myths about Shambal and the future kingdom of people possessing paranormal occultic capabilities are used.

It is taught that the establishment of the new kingdom of the "sixth race" will precede a world war in which everybody who does not embrace the ideas of occultism will perish. The goal of the sect is the formation of a superman of the "sixth race" possessing a number of supernatural abilities, especially clairvoyance, healing, and telepathy. Although it does not have a license for conducting educational activity, the "Cradle of Siberia" association persistently attempts to penetrate the system of education.

The "Church of the Last Covenant" or "Society of United Faith" has its headquarters in Minusinsk, Krasnoiarsk territory. The founder and head of the Church of the Last Covenent, who also is its supreme spiritual figure, Sergei Anatolevich Torop, was a former police officer of Minusinsk, better known under the name Vissarion. According to data of the leadership of the church itself, it has around 50,000 followers in 83 population centers of Russia and abroad. However the true number of its adherents is substantially less, around 10,000. S. Torop maintains that in January 1991 he received baptism from the heavenly father and received a new name, Vissarion. Supposedly having a blessing for the creation of a united faith representing an incarnation of all existing religions, he composed the last covenant, consisting of 61 commandments. Without the unification of all religions and before the appearance of Vissarion, union with God was impossible since only he has genuine revelation. Apparently in the near future nothing good awaits us; the earth will be covered with sand, Minusinsk will disappear under water, and Moscow will be fall into Tartary.

Vissarion acquired for himself an apostle, a showbusiness person and former stage singer, Vadim Redkin. However the former policeman was undone when in his inner circle appeared Maria Karpinskaia, who was immediately pronounced Mary Magdalene. "A reporter known in many countries of the world and a member of the European Parliament, she was one of the first settlers to arrive in Siberia.  She financed Vissarion's first foreign tour with money from the sale of her apartment.  Using her connections, Karpinskaia at first led the inseparable trinity abroad. Later Maria Karpinskaia' departure from Vissarion's sect produced a very great impression on his followers."

In the summer of 1996 information that the death of State Duma deputy Vitaly Savitsky could be connected with the activity of followers of Vissarion dissolved into nothingness. He has been a part of an inspection commission that went to the society's territory in 1995. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 August 2001)

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Putin visits church historical sites

PUTIN VISITS VALAAM, PLANS TO GO TO KIZHI
Interfax, 17 August 2001

President Vladimir Putin spent the first day of his holiday on Valaam island in Lake Ladoga 42 kilometers off Sortavala, Karelia. An official report of the Karelian government says, quoting Karelian president Sergei Katanandov, who accompanied Putin, that the Russian leader "expressed his admiration of the beauty of this unique northern landscape, in which he had been for the first time."

The report says that on Thursday Putin visited several hermitages on the territory of the Monastery of Transfiguration and attended a church service in the main cathedral of the monastery.

According to Katanandov, Putin walked along the roads and paths of Valaam, flew over the island in a helicopter and in the evening went for a boat ride on the lake.

The next item on his holiday agenda is Kizhi, an island in Lake Onega housing a unique museum of ancient wooden buildings from northern Russia, the press service says. (Copyright 2001 Interfax News Agency, posted 19 August 2001)

PRESIDENT PUTIN ARRIVES IN KIZHI
by Vladimir Zlobin
ITAR-TASS, 18 August 2001

An unusually warm and sunny weather has set in the Russian northern Republic of Karelia in August. The local folks are joking that it has been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin who is spending his annual vacation in the region.

On Saturday morning Putin's motor ship arrived at the famous island of Kizhi in the Onega Lake which is renowned for its museum of old wooden architecture. Karelian Prime Minister Sergei Katanandov, who will accompany Putin on his tour of the museum, told Itar-Tass that the president would spend the whole of Saturday on the island. He will tour the sights and see how the island's historical and architectural landmarks are being restored. President Putin will also be treated with a traditional Karelian lunch, including its main dish - a rich fish soup or "ukha" made of Onega pike perches and sigs. The museum's employees have also heated a bath-house for Putin where the president will be able to take a traditional Russian bath and even beat himself with birch twigs.

Putin is expected to return to Petrozavodsk on Saturday evening from where he will go to his country residence Shuiskaya Chupa.

A record number of 90,000 tourists has visited Kizhi this year.

Museum's Director Elvira Averyanova told Itar-Tass that the growing interest in the island and its 70 wooden architerctural landmarks is a clear signal that the Russians are being drawn by desire to learn the history of their country and to get acquainted with its invaluable cutlural heritage.

A 22-dome Church of Transfiguration is Kizhi's main attraction. Its magnificent beauty is impressive. The 300-year-old church, as tall as a twelve-storey building, consists of thousands of small pieces none of which replicates each other. The church was made only by an ax without a single nail. The Church of Transfiguration is protected by the UNESCO, which has included it in its list of outstanding cultural landmarks. (Copyright 2001 ITAR-TASS News Agency, posted 19 August 2001)

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Estonian church worse off than in soviet times

ALL WAYS OF SETTLING CONFLICT WITH STATE OUTSIDE COURT HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED - ESTONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Interfax, 16 August 2001

The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate "has exhausted all means of settling the dispute with the state out of court," its leadership told a Thursday briefing in Tallinn. It is convinced that the refusal of the Estonian authorities to register the church is political. Archpriest Leonti Morozkin said: "The discrimination against the church has continued for over eight years, and its current position in independent Estonia is in fact even worse than it used to be in Soviet times."

"The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has fallen victim to crude judicial violence," he said, adding that at the beginning of July, it filed a suit against the Estonian state to appeal the seventh refusal in eight years to register the church as a legal entity. Court hearings are slated to begin on October 9, and "our opponents intend to drag out the beginning of the hearings," he said. (Copyright 2001 Interfax News Agency, posted 19 August 2001)

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Orthodox church with power elite

CRUSADERS
by Alexander Kolpakov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 13 August 2001

Fearfully far from the people

The latest events in the "Orthodox" field make one think that all the most interesting things are happening not in our country but outside the borders of Russia. There, where by force of circumstances churches are forced either to take the defensive or attack. Such a situation forces opponents to sharpen their arguments, attracting to the problem the people, government, and press. I am talking about the situation of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, Estonia, and Central Asia. This is a "forced" interest, but it is there. In Russia the situation is different. In Russia, it seems, Orthodoxy has no future. And when you go for the pulse of church life, it can hardly be felt. And this is in the context of the revitalization of Islam and the attempts the provinces to take revenge on Moscow.

The answer is simple. The religious renaissance in the country has been turned into nothing other than a restoration of clericalism.  Alas, it is not the church, as the body of Christ that has been reborn; it is not the people of God but a brahman caste. This is confirmed by the multistoried cottages beyond the two meter limit in which parish fathers "huddle," park their foreign-made cars, and also frequently by their rudeness and pretentiousness in relations with parishioners. And indeed, why not be pretentious when not a single government ceremony can take place without a priest. And as regards the people, a good half of whom do not at all believe in God, the church simply does not condescend to them.

Once a single provincial priest happened to be a part of a delegation to the Kremlin for a reception with his highness. Yeltsin glanced at him with a frown and pressed the button for "first assistant." Iliushin took the phone. "Say, Viktor Vasilich," the president of Russia growled, "I just now remembered that it's been a long time since I was in church. Take a look at the next months and find some big holidays and put them down in the schedule. So that I can be with the people. . . ."

Everything could have turned out differently. The church could have not tried to ingratiate itself with caesar but go to the people with an open message, a Christian smile, and a desire to share with the least, the principle on which protestants, Catholics, and Krishnaites "work." But the hierarchy, in the person of its robed feudal lords, struck a pose: after all, we have been severely offended, bruised by "bolsheviks, Jews, and such monsters," and we should get everything. Power--in the first place! And from the government and communards, "pressed down by a weight of guilt" before the robes, come pouring fourth apologies, money, and humanitarian aid. Well, it's fair. . . . However, when in the ten democratic years the dependency of the church has been made into its form of existence, parishioners have raised their dissatisfaction: why aren't we prospering, seeing how our church "has risen from its knees"?

RPTs lost its chance to become "beloved and popular," transforming itself into a closed brahman order. As society has developed it has moved toward goals given from above, but our Russian church hasn't moved. Digging itself in at the turn of the sixteenth century, it bristled with hostility toward those who believe differently, admitting only "our own." Besides it fights in panic against the competition in the form of parallel religious structures, whether in the State Duma, with the president, and elsewhere, on the principle: "God forbid that anybody have power who is informed in theology other than us. Alas! Anathema!" And what about the people? The people endure. . . (tr. by PDS, posted 16 August 2001)

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Patriarch attends to new churches in company of power elite

PATRIARCH PRAYS FOR "SLAVNEFT"
by Pavel Korobov
Kommersant-Daily, 15 August 2001

Patriarch Alexis II's three-day visit to the Tobolsk-Tiumen diocese ended yesterday with a visit to the city of Megion and the capital of gas producers, Yamburg. On the same day the head of the Russian Orthodox church returned to Moscow.

The reason for the patriarch's visit to the little-known small city of Megion across the boundaries of the petroleum region (60,000 inhabitants) was the completion of the construction of the only Orthodox church here. Along with the patriarch there arrived in Megion the associate governor of the Russian president for the Urals Federal District, Mikhail Ponomarev, the governor of Khanta-Mansiisk autonomous region, Alexander Filipenko, the governor of the Tiumen province, Sergei Sobianin, and the president of the "Slavneft" company, Mikhail Gutseriev. Before the arrival of the distinguished guests there was a general clean-up of the city. Near the newly completed Pokrov church men in camouflage smoothed the earth and laid the curbs, and women in orange vests swept the asphalt. Work bustled in the church itself, too; doors were scrubbed, the carpeted aisle was cleaned.

Alexis II's airplane arrived thirty minutes late. He had barely reached the ramp when young boys and girls in Russian national costumes struck up a folk song and as soon as the patriarch, exhausted from endless flights, reached the ground, singing youth presented him bread and salt, and small children, flowers. After greeting the local leadership, the head of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) told reporters that he was happy to arrive again in Nizhnevartovsky territory, where he had been seven years ago, and to meet with local residents "who are performing in harmony and peace their enormous labors of providing Russia with petroleum."

From the airport the patriarch rode to see the Nizhnevartovsky church of the Nativity of Christ and the birthplace of the petroleum industry, the so-called shrubbery square #103, where, of course, he was presented a helmet as an honorary petroleum worker and a crystal vase with petroleum.

By this time a huge crowd had gathered at the Pokrov church in Megion; it seemed the whole city had come out. Already a half-hour before Alexis II's arrival no free places remained not only on the grounds around the church but also on the balconies of neighboring buildings. Surely the people would have climbed onto the roofs but police were stationed there. Only the cream of local society, provincial leadership, and several reporters from the capital had managed to get into the church itself, with invitations.

After serving a prayer service for the completion of construction the patriarch, clergy, and VIPs went out onto the porch where he bestowed church awards on the initiators of the construction of the church. The Order of St. Daniel of Moscow was given to the president of "Slavneft" company, Mikhail Gutseriev, and the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh, second degree, to the general director of "Megionneftegaz," Vladimir Ignatko; Megion Mayor Anatoly Chapaikin was granted the medal of Daniel of Moscow. Other petroleum executives also received awards. But the public's real enthusiasm was evoked by only one award: the rector of the new church, Priest Rostislav, received a gold pectoral cross. The patriarch presented the church a tabernacle and altar cross, and the people were given small icons of the Vladimir Mother of God. Addressing the assembled people from the porch, Alexis II said: "I hope and believe that many residents of this city, looking upon this church, will find the path to it and derive strength for this life's course."

Mr. Gutseriev said to the K-D reporter that "Slavneft" had collected around two million dollars for building the church. The president of the company claimed that such construction was for him not a concession to current fashion but the call of the spirit, and he also reported that his name is on the honor roll of sponsors of the Moscow church of Christ the Savior.

In the evening the tired patriarch flew to Yamburg on the "Slavneft" airplane, in order to visit the church of St. John the Divine, the northernmost Orthodox church. After that he left for Moscow.  (tr. by PDS, posted 16 August 2001)

ALEXIS II SENDS LETTER TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
by Alexander Meshkov
Komsomolskaia pravda, 13 August 2001

Last week in the Moscow suburb of Dzerzhinsky, a memorial capsule containing a letter was placed in the foundation of the chapel-church of St. Pimen Ugreshsky on St. Nicholas Square.  The grounds of the church are like a large recreational park. Age-old trees, an old overgrown pond, neat benches on walkways. Along the walk amble pensive monks and quiet novices. Around the church they meet Father Ioann, slender and very young, and Dzerzhinsky Mayor Viktor Drokin. Viktor Ivanovich deliberately, like an experienced tour guide, informed us about the complex history of the Nikolo-Ugreshsky monastery since the time of its founding down to our days, including its destruction and revival. A general atmosphere of calm rules on the grounds of the church.

From somewhere out of the air suddenly comes the peeling of bells mixed with a multivoiced church choir. A procession of monks and priests in robes and cowls, with crosses, standards, and other sacred objects in their hands, moves from the church to the place for the laying of the foundation of a new church-chapel.

Right then Minister of Justice Yury Yakovlevich Chaika arrived. Young girls in national frocks brought him bread and salt. Yury Yakovlevich broke off a piece and put it into his mouth.

"Thank you very much for coming," city mayor Viktor Drokin said to the minister of justice.

"Thank you," the minister answered through his chewing. Then he walked along the carpeted aisle laid directly on the ground toward the foundation of the church. There he stood for about thirty minutes, shifting from foot to foot, awaiting Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. But the patriarch didn't come and didn't come. The sun beat down mercilessly.

"Hey, take the censer and swing it. And you, light the candles and stand alongside. You all will get busy," an elderly father firmly gave instructions to young weary priests.

The large flock that surrounded the construction site in a tight circle patiently awaited the start of the ceremony of blessing with unconcealed curiosity (what's to hide?). Everybody looked at the actual, living minister of justice like some kind of panda.

Finally the patriarch arrived, too, and took a golden staff and started the ceremonial service. Candles burned in the chandeliers, incense and oil wafted. After the solemn divine worship the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus took a trowel and spread cement on a red brick and, like a master mason, laid a capsule in the foundation of the church, containing a letter to the future. Minister of Justice Yury Chaika and the commander of GUINA, Vladimir Yalunin, did the same.

Many thousands of years will go by, and our distant descendants, feeble mutants with bald heads, with wonder and excitement will decipher and read these sacred lines:

"By us, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, in the eleventh year of our patriarchal ministry, along with Russian federation Minister of Justice Yury Yakovlevich Chaika, director of the Chief Administration of Punishment, Vladimir Yuvenalevich Yalunin, as well as with the participation of city governor of Dzerzhinsky, Viktor Ivanovich Drokin, during the administration of Father Superior of the Nikolo-Ugreshsky monastery, Veniamin, have laid the foundation of this church in honor of St. Pimen Ugreshsky in the Nikolo-Ugreshsky monastery in memory of those who perished in the performance of the duties as officers of the enforcement of criminal punishment system of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation, in the 2001st year from the birth of Christ, on the seventh day of August."

Signatures follow.

The Nikolo-Ugreshsky monastery was founded in 1380 by Dmitry of the Don at the site of the appearance of the icon of St. Nicholas, who predicted the victory of the Russian people in the Kulikovo battle.

For bravery and gallantry displayed in the performance of service responsibility in the course of military actions in the northern Caucasus, more than 900 officers of the criminal enforcement system [UIS] have been granted state awards. The title of Hero of the Russian Federation has been bestowed on seven soldiers of the special division of UIS, five of them posthumously. During the counterterrorist operation in the northern Caucasus [i.e., Chechnia] 27 officers of the criminal enforcementt system have perished. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2001)

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Prayer aids criminal  investigation

ADMIRAL SAINT HELPED POLICE AGENTS
Mir religii, 16 August 2001

Officers of the criminal investigation division of the Temnikov district OVD (Mordovia) appealed in prayer to the holy warrior Feodor Ushakov for help in solving a murder at his relics in the Sanaksar Nativity of the Mother of God monastery. The crime was committed on 4 August not far from the cloister, exactly on the eve of the canonization of the admiral of the Russian navy as a local saint.  The agents acted on the advice of the father superior of the monastery, Archimandrite Varnava, three days after the crime, when the investigation had hit a dead end, according to the Blagovest-info news agency.

The next day the case moved off dead zero; officers of the Temnikov criminal investigation division arrested the murderer in the city of Sarov. Later they said in an interview with local newspapers that the recently glorified saint helped them in solving the crime.

The successfully completed investigation gave residents of the monastery reasons to maintain that the first miracle on the basis of a petition to the holy righteous warrior Feodor Ushakov had thus been accomplished.

The body with a knife wound in the neck was discovered by children in the evening of 5 August at the edge of the forest by the village of Alekseevko. Investigation established that the slain person was a fifty-five-year-old former officer of the Russian army assigned in the city Volsk-18 (Saratov province). It was discovered that the victim spent the entire past winter in the Sanaksar monastery and then moved to the Saint Serafim Diveevo monastery, from where he was returning for the canonization of Admiral Ushakov. Here he became acquainted with a thirty-two-year-old countryman, Yury Kokh, who had frequently been convicted of robbery. Having drunk a good deal of alcohol they got into an argument. Yury Kokh delivered the mortal blow to his victim with a pocketknife. This happened near a spring 1.5 kilometers from the monastery on the eve of the admiral's canonization. It was difficult to establish a list of suspects because, according to the calculations of law enforcement agencies, up to 8,000 pilgrims from many regions of the country had come for the ceremony. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 August 2001)

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Reporter investigates satanists in Petersburg suburbs

AMAZONS OF THE DEVIL
by Margarita Mokhel
Moskovskii komsomolets, 7 August 2001

In Tsarskoe Selo satanists and monarchists are waging war.

I crawled through the fence, skirted a pile of broken glass, and carefully examined the burial vault. Inside diabolical faces and mysterious signs had been painted. I touched the black inscription with my finger; it seems it was made in "Kuzbass-lak." An opening gaped in the floor. I looked carefully and pulled back: down below, in the darkness, were the graves! They were shifted and opened.  "Viva Satan! Come. We are here almost every day. May Satan save us. Astarot, Baal, Samael, Messir Leonarde. . . ."

On Friday night, 13 July, around 100 graves in the old cemetery in Pushkin (the former Tsarskoe Selo) were desecrated. Tsarskoe Selo is near the northern capital, only 25 kilometers, and is the country estate of the Russian tsars. Catherine II especially loved it. The empress gave to the palaces and columns the names of her favorites--Orlov, Zubov, Potemkin. Here Lanskoy, her penultimate lover, met ill fate. There are two versions of his death associated with the name of the poor fellow. Supposedly the adjutant was going hunting in the direction of Pavlovsk when suddenly his horse was frightened by a rabbit that jumped out of the bushes and it threw the rider. Lanskoy died from his injuries. According to a second, unofficial version, the empress' lover got sick and died from an overdose of aphrodisiacs, substances increasing the sex drive. Apparently the sovereign mother seemed too old to the officer! Catherine ordered to build a church and establish a city cemetery at the place where Lanskoy supposedly collapsed. And thus the Kazan cemetery appeared. Besides Lanskoy, lots of famous people are buried there. The church was built to the plans of architect Giakomo Quarenghi.

Under the bolsheviks, the resplendent Tsarskoe Selo was turned into the dull Detskoe Selo and then into the city of Pushkin. The adults have to go to work in Petersburg and the youth do drugs. Only the tremendous linden walkways and oaks in the old parks recall the former splendor. The palaces are falling into decay, the buildings are collapsing, and Quarenghi's church stands in ruins.

And now devil worshippers have appeared at the Kazan cemetery besides.

* * * *

A carved stone cross lies at the grave's fence. It has been broken into several pieces by a direct blow. A small gathering of women encircles the cross:  "How could the perverts do such a thing; this is the grave of Rachinsky himself. He was the best gynecologist; he attended every birth."

Moving about the defiled cemetery accompanied by the tears and curses of the women, I examined the traces of destruction. Shattered and broken tombstones marked the path. Others had been pulled up, the iron rods on which they earlier had rested stuck up from the ground like stumps. What kind of strength had it taken to move the stones weighing a ton? The fences were crushed. The crosses were thrown around. All graves had been damaged alike, without regard to nationalities. The evil, unreasoning whirlwind had broken out from somewhere and gone through, breaking everything in its path.

The traces were increasing and I understood that I was going in the right direction. And soon I found the place from where the whirlwind had come. From a broken burial vault, in a gothic-style hut. Take a look inside and it became clear--the rumors about satanists are not fantasies.

The walls and floor of the vault bore the marks of persistent work. They had been created with knowledge of the matter and secret meaning: the names of the devil were enumerated by which, as is known, his suite is identified--vampires and were-wolves. They did not forget Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who even before Eve had succumbed to the wiles of the serpent. Black overturned crosses, the symbol of Satan. (This is why they overturned the crosses on the graves.) Triple sixes. On the floor some signs had been drawn--pentagrams. Proper place for a party.

From a dark hole in the floor a carcass protruded. Dead skin was rolled up there. Looking more closely I realized that the victim had not died by itself; its belly had been ripped open.

Cemetery workers, as quietly as guerillas, hinted at the existence of a cleaning woman who customarily spends the night in the graveyard. I went to find her. I tried to shake her but the woman only mumbled, giving off a stench, and she turned away.

"Satanists? Have you heard of them. Those who desecrated the cemetery? They are guarding them already. They have been ambushed, with a dog. They promised. If they are caught, their heads will roll." The flower sellers explained to me in the line where colorful paper flowers caught your eye.

"Who will catch them, the police?"

"No, the guys with the armbands. RNE, that's who."

Barkashovites will catch the satanists? That's interesting. What did this mean?

* * * *

I went to the office of the local "Tsarskoselskaia gazeta." An assistant editor, a real newspaper wolf, wrinkled up his face with disgust when he heard about the sect of devil worshippers: "Where do our satanists come from? True, at the beginning of the eighties I was shown diplomas of 'Masters of Black Magic'--unpleasant folk, you know. But a lot of water has flowed since then. . . "

During the conversation I mechanically leafed through a file of papers. Suddenly I came across a recent note written by the district prosecutor. The case was in Pushkino (in Tsarskoe Selo). In February 2000 citizen Balakirev killed his close friend, citizen Voznesensky. First he choked him and then stabbed him with the help of two knives and a fork.

"Both, the victim and murderer, were members of the 'Black satanists' sect," the prosecutor wrote, "but Voznesensky had left the sect and reported its existence."

A suggestion was made that the murder was committed out of revenge and in accordance with magical rituals. True, the investigation belied this supposition. A psychologist in court drew the conclusion that, judging from the weapons used for the crime, tableware, and the nature of the wounds, the murder was not ritualistic. The murderer got ten years. . . .

It turns out, there are sectarians in Tsarskoe Selo. Colleagues in time pointed out a witness, the watchman of the cemetery chapel: "That's Vitia Panov, our volunteer."

The gaunt volunteer Panov, expert on the region and watchman, had barricaded himself for the night in the chapel, but he let me in. In an ordinary notebook he had written a note for the district paper about the ghastly Friday the thirteenth:

"After March, when the snow had melted and puddles had begun drying up, strange girls showed up at the cemetery, real metalists. Black scarves, with skull and bones, jeans vests, black jerseys, camouflage trousers. . .  They came towards nightfall on the city bus. They made themselves at home; nobody drove them away. The drank port wine and soda; I found the bottles later. And recently I happened to look into a burial vault, and I saw that they had drawn diabolical designs in it.  Some wreaths stood in the corner, taken from the graves, and in the middle was an Orthodox cross, painted black. . . ."

This vault was the clan grave of the German Frandlichs. Their descendent, Liza, a cook, lives in Pushkin. Liza's great grandfather, Konrad, was a gardener of the royal family and then he worked with Academician Vavilov. The watchman told the descendent; she just passed it off: "Let it be; it will fall down soon."

"In the summer the company grew-- many fourteen to sixteen-year-old girls. On 12 July they assembled earlier than usual, awaiting midnight. Then I heard a loud laugh, a noise, cries from the vault. It rumbled throughout the cemetery and got louder. I called the police:  the satanists are at it! But the police were late. At three o'clock I heard an authoritative female voice: 'Everybody, leave!'"

And so, was a band of Amazons reveling at the Kazan cemetery?

From "MK" file:

Satanist cults active in Russia include "Southern Cross," "Black Angel,"  "Black Dragon," "Russian Church of Satan," "Blue Lotus," "Green Order," "Society of Satan," and several others. Contemporary satanists continue to follow traditions of medieval wizards and witches. They serve black masses in churches, where rotated crucifixes hang; instead of white candles they burn black ones, a naked virgin lies on a table covered with a black cloth or in a grave, and they commune with urine or menstrual blood. In suburban Moscow there is a sect of lesbian "Rats." The ritual of consecration into the "Rats" begins with the murder of a cat (enemy of rats), and then rats, and concludes with group sex.

* * *

As soon as people discovered that the graves of their loved ones had been damaged, they filed a statement with the police. They are still waiting. A criminal case has been begun. But the participants in the witches' sabbath, involving around 20-25 girls and 5 fellows, still have not been found.

The police as well as reporters do not consider that the hooligans are members of an organized sect but just a group of teenagers who are "playing" satanists. If this is so, they are disgusting games. Even earlier, slashed cats, birds, and rats and drawings of pentagrams have been found in vacant lots in Tsarskoe Selo. But these discoveries did not violate public order and thus the police did nothing with them.

A criminal investigator named Nikolai, who at first received the reporter from Moscow with a cold "I cannot know," gradually revealed some secrets. In part this was helped by drinking together some cheap apple wine called "bourbon."

Nikolai promised to solve the crime in a week. And not because the vandalism had already been reported on Petersburg TV and Interfax, and there was a phone call from the New York Times. Exactly eight hours after the investigator received the case, his sister was severely wounded by a knife in the stomach. Nikolai is sure that this was not a coincidence.

The investigation has shown that several real satanists took part in the devil's holidays and the others were curious teenagers from Tsarskoe Selo. The investigators, it seems, are new. Seven women have been identified. All of them are athletes. Kolia [Nikolai] spent last night in the hut in the cemetery. The satanists did not show up.

* * * *

In the cool basement of St. Fedor's church are rough-hewn tables. The priests and singers are eating tomato soup and sausages at them.  The kindly deacon began telling me many examples before he sat down to eat.

"Father, what are Barkashovites doing in your church?"

"They are praying. They are not fascists any longer, but Orthodox monarchists, the 'Union of Russian National Regeneration.' A Russian regime for Russia. They quarrelled with Barkashov; he called them traitors. In our city they are a force. They provide order. They have restored the memorial to the heroes of World War I."

"And where, father, is this memorial?" (I already had guessed.)

"Right by Kazan cemetery."

The fuss at the memorial cemetery (it is not the only one in Pushkin) simply had to mean something. The sect came to the cemetery soon after the appearance of the "Orthodox monarchists" there.  Recently the head of the local administration established a lot near the cemetery for "monarchists," at the memorial to the heroes. We assume that the uproar was organized by someone who wants this land quietly cut off. Or are the former Barkashovite traitors getting revenge against people of RNE [Russian National Unity]? And perhaps it was not at all satanists with supernatural goals who destroyed 100 graves?

The criminal investigator is still lost in suppositions. But it is clear that the sleepy vaults and leaning angels were disturbed for a reason. Some earthly powers are not letting the dead rest in peace and they are hovering over the cemetery and Tsarskoe Selo.

Nevertheless I found one of the persons who desecrated the graves. Her name is Anzhela. She has not been worshipping the devil for long and she is just a school kid.

"Didn't you yourself like horror stories when you were a child? It's fun to go into the cemetery at night. It's romantic."

. . . Walking around Tsarskoe Selo "liberated" from satanists, the first thing you see is the categorical inscription on the fence:  "Vampires forever." (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2001)

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