Russia Plagued By Cults

Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a troubling mysticism is emerging in Russia, attracting up to 800,000 followers, experts say

To the people in this snowy Russian outpost, Piotr Kuznetsov was a pious Christian man who brought life to their dying village.

From across Russia and beyond, Mr. Kuznetsov's spiritual followers flocked to Nikolskoye to worship in the movement he founded called the True Orthodox Church.

They grew their own food, prayed outside in meadows and socialized with the village's lonely old women.

Then last November, the streets and yards fell silent. Mr. Kuznetsov's 35 followers, including four children, vanished.

When police came to Mr. Kuznetsov's blue wooden cottage, he told them his people had all retreated to a man-made cave he designed, where they will await the apocalypse, which he said will occur in May.

Three months later, his followers are still holed up in their tunnel beneath the snow, about 600 kilometres southeast of Moscow. Mr. Kuznetsov has been held since mid-November in a psychiatric hospital where doctors are trying to determine his mental health status. Under Russian law, a person can't be held for more than 30 days without being charged, but the criminal medical examiners asked the prosecutors' office for more time because they said the case was "so unusual." The prosecutor agreed. Continued...

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