Who Is Sergei Torop, The Serbian Cult Leader Who Claims To Be Jesus?

In world history, there have been many dynamic and inspiring figures, especially when it comes to the concept of religion. Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are just a few examples of some of the world's most popular faiths, but the world's largest is Christianity, which reportedly has over 2.3 billion followers (per WorldAtlas). Those who subscribe to this particular faith believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God and follow his teachings.

Jesus is a fascinating figure who lived a life that billions across the world now try to emulate. Though Jesus walked the earth more than 2000 years ago, there are some today who take that emulation to the extreme, believing that they are Jesus Christ himself, walking amongst us. According to The New Zealand Herald, there are at least seven men who claim to be Jesus. One of those is a man named Sergei Torop, who also goes by the name Vissarion.

Life Before His Awakening

Sergei Anatolyevitch Torop was born in Krasnodar, Russia, in January of 1961, per The Indian Express. At the age of 18, he joined the Russian military and served his mandatory two years before moving to Minusinsk. Once there, he worked as a traffic officer until he lost his job in 1989. Shortly after losing his job, the Soviet Union also fell.

In his late 20s at the time, Torop was dealing with a lot. The only country and government he had ever known collapsed completely around him, forcing him and millions of others to reevaluate their lives. As with the disintegration of any government or society, there was ensuing chaos in different areas. One of these areas was religion, as atheism had been the policy of the previous regime. As such, a ton of new religious movements were born, including Torop's.


Following the loss of his job, Sergei Torop had a revelation. According to Mel Magazine, Torop became the Second Coming of Christ on August 18, 1990. Torop claimed the Holy Spirit paid him a visit in his studio apartment to inform him that he was, in fact, the Son of God. He subsequently decided to change his name to Vissarion.

Within a year of his revelation, Vissarion founded his new church, called the Church of the Last Testament (per ABC News). As it was still a chaotic time in this part of the world, people were searching for answers. Folks resonated with Vissarion and his teachings and began to flock to him in large numbers when he started giving lectures across the Soviet Union, according to The New York Times. In fact, over the last three decades, his followers have grown into the thousands. Those who decided to follow him left behind their lives in pursuit of his teachings.

Church of the Last Testament

Though it has been around for 30 years and reportedly has thousands of followers, the Church of the Last Testament isn't your typical church. Four years after establishing the church, Vissarion and his devotees relocated to the Kuraga region of Siberia, where they founded a settlement known as the City of the Sun, according to BBC. There are also additional settlements in the region, including Abode of Dawn, where the most devout followers reside.

The fact that Vissarion's communities are so isolated in the wilderness of Siberia itself makes the church stand out from other religions. In addition to the location, the practices and beliefs held by the church's adherents and their leader are also different when compared to other mainstream religious practices. According to The Guardian, there is a strict code of conduct for the members of the church. Vices like drinking, smoking, and swearing aren't allowed. Everyone also must comply with a vegan diet, though there are some exceptions for new moms and infants. The exchange of money within their society is also forbidden.

As if those tenants are not unusual enough, the church also recognizes a variety of different "holidays" in lieu of the traditional ones celebrated by more mainstream religions. For example, Christmas was abolished and replaced with a feast on Vissarion's birthday, January 14. Their biggest celebration takes place on August 18 every year, marking the anniversary of Vissarion's first sermon in 1991. They also live in what they call the "new era," which also began on Vissarion's birthday in 1961.

Allegations and Accusations

The Church of the Last Testament is obviously not your typical church. Though Vissarion has reportedly drawn in thousands of followers who agree with his teachings, their implementation of unusual practices did not go unnoticed. Notably, the church caught the eye of officials in the Russian government. Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Russian government, has condemned the Church of the Last Testament as a cult (per All That's Interesting).

Though the church preaches about love and harmony with nature, all may not be as it seems. Over several decades, there have been multiple accusations against the church and its leader. According to CBS News, Vissarion and his church were accused of soliciting money from his followers, as well as emotional abuse. Some of the more disturbing allegations involve the deaths of some of his followers in the 1990s due to the harsh living conditions, lack of medical care, or suicide.

Arrest and Imprisonment

Due to the previously mentioned accusations, along with other charges from the government, Vissarion and two of his top aides were arrested in September of 2020 (per The New York Times). Russia's Investigative Committee conducted a special operation to apprehend the three men and used helicopters to reach the remote location of Vissarion's home at Abode of Dawn.

Though Vissarion is a controversial figure, to say the least, there is debate about whether he and his associates have really done anything wrong. Though there have been accusations of wrongdoing by former church members, there is speculation that the Russian government may just be intolerant of anyone with views different from theirs. There are reportedly no court cases against the Church of the Last Testament or its leaders that prove abuse or financial extortion. Vissarion is still currently imprisoned but continues to lead his followers via a ritual called "sliyaniya," which allows them to be able to communicate their thoughts to each other. According to All That's Interesting, Vissarion, the Siberian Jesus, faces up to 12 years in prison should he be convicted.