Ground Crumbling under Feet of Last Testament Church

Ground Crumbling under Feet of Last Testament Church

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Adherents of Sergey Torop, a Russian mystic and spiritual leader known as Vissarion, are bombarded by lawsuits for misuse of land and forests. Chances are a large part of the community will lose their homes and kitchen gardens.

While Vissarion himself and two of his followers are under investigation, the Prosecutor's Office is going to disband his Church of the Last Testament as a legal entity. The Khoroshev and Partners, a law firm that represents the defense of the church, told wek.ru that this was not the first attempt to close down the community. The first one was done back in 2000. However, the court then turned down the prosecutorial petition.

“Now, the prosecutor said that in that dispute, the grounds for the suit were different,” the lawyers said. “However, in the present dispute, they appeared after 2000. Claims against the church are based on the period from 1994 to the present. The Ministry of Justice supported the Prosecutor's Office.”

Theoretically, if the church loses its registration with the Ministry of Justice, the community might continue to exist. After all, if people of similar views just live in the same village, what kind of claims might the law have against them? However, there are also property violations. This option is also in the works. At the end of October, reports came on a lawsuit of the Federal Agency for Forestry (Rosleskhoz) against the local village council concerning the land plot on which Vissarion’s adherents were doing construction works. The federal agency said that the general plan of a rural settlement dating back to 2012 was executed with breaches. The border of some settlements was unduly expanded in it. As a result, Vissarion’s community had taken about 100 additional ha of land that belongs to the state forest fund. Today, Rosleskhoz demands they be vacated. According to the estimates of Vissarion’s followers, they are inhabited by about a half of the community members who officially registered the land and buildings in their ownership unawares about the time-bomb in the form of a land-use error.

Interestingly, the situation is similar to that of the unhappy residents of communities near gas pipelines. It is noteworthy that for several years now, a campaign is underway in various Russian regions to demolish those who enter the sanitary zone of these industrial facilities. Although people were officially granted construction permits, they got into trouble because of the municipal authorities' muddle-headed recklessness. The officials simply missed the moment with the gas pipelines.

Another claim was made directly to the Dawn Holiday, an eco-village and intentional community, which was built around Vissarion’s dwelling. It concerns the discrepancy between forest management and geodesic maps. Therefore, they are illegal. Accordingly, six more households have fallen into the error category. Finally, the Ministry of Forestry of the Krasnoyarsk territory announced the claims to the Church of the Last Testament, too. It demands termination of the 2015 agreement on the free use of the forest area. According to the officials, it was provided for religious activities. In reality, residential and non-residential buildings that are not intended for religious activities were built on the land plot. Along with that, there is garbage. As the Ministry of Forestry told wek.ru, the disputed plot is located far from the settlement on the territory of the State Forest Fund on the bank of the Tabrat River. Namely, the Tabrat Forestry of Kuragino District. Its area is almost 9 ha. The community’s members know this place as the Svetly farm.

“There is an involuntary feeling that such a large-scale work of the security agencies is based on the willful decision of top-ranking officials,” said Mark Denisov, the Krasnoyarsk Commissioner for Human Rights. “Apparently, they want to find any damaging information to initiate a criminal case by all means, to put the leaders behind bars, and to liquidate the organization. For 30 years, the community has existed in 24 villages. The third generation of community members has been born here. The state has always kept an eye on what was happening. There were both inspections and strict requirements which were mostly fulfilled. Eventually, the community became part of diverse and complex life in one of the most expansive Russian regions. At present, some very important people in uniforms have decided to destroy all this.”

According to Mark Denisov, there is a version that the ongoing defeat of the Church of the Last Testament might have been triggered by a business conflict. For several years, the community has been suing a certain businessman because of economic disputes. His business is related to elite log constructions made of premium-class Kuragino cedar. Today, it is a real gold mine. The community members also are in this business. As known, there are a lot of real experts among them. The entrepreneur lost the cases at the territorial level. However, he is an assistant to a State Duma deputy. That is why he could enmesh officials in this dispute.

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