Where is Yakov Smirnoff when you need him?
The crowd shivered in breathless anticipation as dramatic music heralded his approach. “The Teacher is coming!” they whispered.
They parted in a human tunnel to allow the approach of the man they know as “Vissarion, the Teacher.” His long brown hair and white robes flowing and face fixed in a beatific smile, Vissarion outstretched his arms in blessing.
Women sobbed in ecstasy and clung to each other as he passed. “It feels like eternity,” one woman gushed. Close by, one man sighed in wonder: “It’s love on earth! Can’t you feel it?”
For thousands of followers, Vissarion is no less than the second coming of Jesus of Nazareth, reincarnated 2,000 years after his crucifixion, deep in the Siberian wilderness.
His promise of salvation has brought 4,000 followers to eke out a living in this far-flung region of Siberia, in one of the more extraordinary currents in a country known for its eccentric religious sects.