New religious movement surfaces in Moscow

by Olgda Kuznetsova

Sobesednik, 22 June 2019


In the early 1990s, Maria Devi Khristos inspired fear. Thousands of people gave to her religious organization all of their property, left their families, and were ready to die for the sake of paradise, which the "goddess" from Donetsk promised. After four years of prison, Maria Devi Khristos is back in business. To be sure, now under a different name.


Ten abortions of the Mother of the World


The tenth of November 1993 entered into the history of Ukraine as the day of the seizure of the Holy Wisdom cathedral in Kiev by followers of Maria Devi Khristos. On that day, several dozen persons gathered to conduct a prayer service and then to set fire to themselves in order to reach paradise and build a new kingdom there. The "goddess" herself with her assistants, according to one account, did not at all intend to die in the flame and they prepared a path of escape from the cathedral. The self-immolation of the fanatics was prevented by police officers. They arrested Maria Devi Khristos and her accomplices.


Marina Tsvigun (the real name of Maria Devi Khristos) began preaching and attracting devotees in early 1990. In the late 1980s, Tsvigun was a quite ordinary woman with pronounced leadership qualities. She worked in the radio of the Donetsk Textile factory and was a deputy in the district soviet. Marina was no angel. According to investigator Viktor Shokin, who conducted her criminal case at the time, during her tenth abortion Tsvigun experienced clinical death and received a revelation: she was the Mother of the World, a new prophet, a messiah, who was supposed to save humanity.


At the same time, Marina met her future husband, Yury Krivonogov. This cybernetics engineer, a former science worker, went into religion during perestroika, became a Krishnaite, and traveled about Ukraine with lectures about spirituality. It was Krivonogov who proclaimed Tsvigun a goddess and himself as a prophet, and he created the Great White Brotherhood Yusmalos.


"This was eschatological teaching (about the end of the world—author)," according to religious studies scholar Roman Lunkin. "It was a mixture of Christianity, theosophy, the teaching of Elena Blavatskaia, and life ethics. The organization had strict submission to the leader, Maria Devi Khristos, who possesses a very strong character and an extremely charismatic personality.


"White brothers" (her followers) donated their property to the organization, lived in large groups in rented apartments, and slept and ate little, gaining energy from "their Maria." They believed that they should be saved from the end of the world and become a new, sixth, perfected race.


Egyptian force


The events in the Holy Wisdom cathedral were the beginning of the end of the Great White Brotherhood Yusmalos. Tsvigun and Krivonogov were arrested. The "goddess" received four years in a penal colony and her prophet and husband Krivonogov, seven years. Behind bars their paths parted. Krivonogov repented and acknowledged the brotherhood to be a mistake, and Tsvigun declared him a Judas, divorced him, and married another as her prophet, a young assistant, Vitaly Kovalchuk.


After leaving the colony, Tsvigun tried to revive the Great White Brotherhood Yusmalos and even to register it as a religious organization, but she was rebuffed in Ukraine. In these four years the ranks of her followers thinned, and the "goddess" lost her former glory and influence. But despite the decline, Tsvigun followed her former path.


In 2006 Marina moved to Moscow. Now she has a different name: Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia. She presents herself as an artist, thinker, dancer, musician and . . . an Egyptian goddess. She replaced her white robe with colored outfits and elaborate jewelry. She put on weight, but at her age she looks beautiful. Tsvigun continues to maintain that she also is the same Maria Devi Khristos and that Preobrazhenskaia is one of her essences.


Seeking followers on the internet


Now Marina calls herself the founder of the cosmic art of the third millennium, and she draws pictures in an abstract spirit. Her drawings and she herself in bright outfits can be seen in various exhibitions in Moscow and other cities. Marina Tsvigun, a.k.a Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia, does not disdain small sites. Recently she had an exhibit in a library in the Moscow suburb of Odintsovo and in the Gaidarovets House of Culture of Moscow. The organizers are not aware that Preobrazhenskaia is the same Maria Devi Khristos of the 1990s. For them she is an ordinary bohemian of the capital.


"The genre in which Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia draws is called Russian Cosmism," explains Sergei Zagraevsky, an academician of the Russian Academy of Art. "Smirnov-Rusetsky, Rerikh, and Amaravella painted in it."


In general, there is nothing new and original. The academician thinks that Preobrazhenskaia has good technique and she owns the brush with assurance. But for Zagraevsky it is obvious: painting for her is far from first place. And really, Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia is again talking about her spiritual mission of transforming the world and how through pictures and other creations she is transmitting her energy. Anyone who wishes can download from Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia's website magazines and books that she publishes and music she composes, and also send the "goddess" money.


"Maria Devi Khristos is an example of the evolution of a new religious movement from an ascetic and totalitarian one to an artistic cultural movement. The time of the strictly constructed religious organizations has passed and now it is easier to attract followers through the internet with the help of art," Lunkin says.


It is difficult to be a goddess, but to renounce this status is yet more difficult. The religious studies expert notes that many contemporary prophets, who created their religious movements out of a mix of other religions and esoteric teachings, subsequently believed themselves that they were elect. The expert avers: if one speaks with Viktoria, it surely seems that she herself believed in her sanctity.


However it is impossible for a mere mortal to approach the "goddess" and to conduct an interview with her or communicate on a social network. Viktoria Preobrazhenskaia is out of reach, tightly surrounded by a ring of accomplices from Kiev.  We were promised an interview with her on the condition of agreement to the least detail, but they cancelled the conversation when they saw our questions.


It is probably better not to approach people like Preobrazhenskaia. They change their names but they do not change themselves. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2019)

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