Russian TV Profiles “Aggressive” Religious Sect in Remote Village

[Presenter] Spiritual bidders for the electorate are also suffering defeats. The chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, has called on the authorities to ban religious sects in the country as soon as possible. As is known, the Orthodox Church has been actively calling for a ban on many sects for a long time. The number of new religious organizations in Russia has increased a hundred-fold over the past 10 years. According to different reports, there are currently up to 5,000 of them.

It is getting more difficult to count the sects. Many of them have become so secretive that even the Bolsheviks would have envied them. One of the most secretive and closed sects in Russia is the Oprichnoye Bratstvo Ivana Groznogo [Rus: Oprichnina Brotherhood of Ivan the Terrible]. It has branches all over the country. The centre is believed to be in the town of Lyubim in Yaroslavl Region. It is called so because it was the favourite hunting ground of the terrible tsar.

Our correspondent Dmitriy Yasminov has tried to penetrate the prohibited area.

[Correspondent] Clear skies and crisp snow. The track of sledges under your feet and the only village for several kilometres around. Strange stories are told about Koshcheyevo and the name has nothing to do with that. [Koshchey is a bad hero in a Russian fairy tale.] Get off the road, our guide tells us. The sledge passes by but we manage to catch a glimpse of the piercing look of a new oprichnik. The Oprichnina Brotherhood does not like outsiders.

[A police officer, knocking at a door] There is no-one. But there must be people in houses. I walk around and go back.

[Correspondent] Those who are called Orthodox Wahhabis for their aggressive religion lead a very quiet and plain life. It is said that there are about 40 of them in Lyubimskiy District. They buy and repair houses, most of which are empty. They are said to have their own religion and lifestyle. They themselves talk only to teachers at a school where their children go.

[Valentina Romanova, captioned as director of the Kintanovskaya secondary school] There is matriarchy here, women lead all and sundry. But according to their rules, girls do not usually do physical work, boys mainly do this.

[Correspondent] The director adds off the record that once bruises were found on the body of a boy, another boy made a slip of the tongue that every day early in the morning he was sent to the cattle yard. You can not see any men in the village. They are distributing religious literature all over the country.

Neighbours call this tidy farm heaven in the village. No-one smokes or drinks alcohol here. They grow cucumbers and tomatoes in greenhouses and give daily assignments to their children. Should someone decide to leave this heaven, he will be beheaded right on this log. Newspapers quote this statement allegedly made by a former female member of the sect. But no-one has seen former members in Lyubimskiy District.

[Priest Oleg Stenyayev, captioned as head of the rehabilitation centre for victims of untraditional religions] Oprichnina is a Slav equivalent of the Latin word of sect. Oprich means others.

[Correspondent over video of books entitled “Holy War”, “Last Tsar”, “Crusade”] Father Oleg has been working at the rehabilitation centre for former members of sects for several years. He has never seen oprichnina members here. It seems their internal discipline is stricter than in many known sects. Oprichnina members think of themselves as an army that will purge Russia of foreigners and bring to the throne a tsar from the Romanov-Ryurikovich dynasty.

[Oleg Stenyayev] A person who called himself a member of oprichnina depicted the future tsar for me. He said that the tsar would go through the whole of the Russian land with a sword in his hand, that he would destroy and establish order. I understand this as an image of some kind of an Antichrist.

[Passage omitted: a young member of the sect died last year of cirrhosis]

[Correspondent] By the end of the day, we managed to talk to the person who, as we were told, leads all the oprichnina members in Lyubim.

[Secret video of two men walking on the road]

[Correspondent] I am interested in this religion.

[Unidentified man] What religion?

[Correspondent] Oprichnina.

[Unidentified man] There is no such religion.

[Correspondent] Crouching tiger, hidden dragon – this is a new form of existence of Russian sects. But their behaviour does not mean they have no claws.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
REN TV, via BBC Monitoring, Russian Federation
Dec. 22, 2004
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 22, 2004.
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