ABC News’ Nightline did a 10 minute spot on a 5,000 person Russian commune of followers of Vissarion, a spiritual leader who claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Deep in the heart of Siberia’s birch forests lies one of the largest and most remote religious communes of the planet. More than 5,000 people have left their families and their homes to move here and join the Church of the Last Testament, which has more than 10,000 followers worldwide. The church centers on one man. He is known simply as Vissarion, meaning “he who gives new life,” or simply as the teacher, and he claims that he is Jesus Christ.
Life here is very basic. Vissarion’s followers are strict vegetarians and they don’t smoke or drink. The houses and churches are built from wood by hand and most of the energy comes from windmills and solar panels. At the followers’ school, little boys are taught how to build model ships and young girls learn crochet and singing.
The villagers in the Abode of Dawn follow an almost entirely vegan diet, largely based on what they can grow themselves. When they move here, they give the church their pensions and whatever possessions they may have. In return they receive basics such as sugar, buckwheat and flour. No money is used within the community but they are given an allowance of 300 rubles, about $12, a month.
The piece has a fairly skeptical tone but the images of the community members show them as happy. Whether you agree with their spirituality or not, the images of a remote 5000 person community are striking and I’m sure it would be fascinating to seehow things work day to day.