TAG | Cults
“Leninland,” which was two years in the making, focuses on the massive, tomb-like Lenin Museum at the estate outside of Moscow where the Soviet founder spent his final days and died. The museum complex was built there in 1987, after the period of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika had already begun….
In the “Leninland” trailer, a museum researcher named Yevgenia describes her work in an office decorated with a shrine of Lenin memorabilia mixed in with Orthodox and Buddhist images. “It isn’t about Lenin or defending a concrete person — no matter how wonderful a genius he was — and he really was unique, remarkable, Mahatma Lenin,” she says. “It is about a future for people that they must acknowledge.”
….A deputy director of the museum tells Kurov in the film that “the vibrations of Christ” are still felt on the territory of Lenin’s estate — ignoring the fact that this was the very place where Lenin, an atheist, dictated his instructions to the Politburo on the confiscation of church property and the mass persecution of priests.
Just another reminder that Soviet communism was indeed an expression of an all too religious impulse.
Cross-posted on Ricochet.
The art of writing a first paragraph is said to lie in the ability to draw the reader in.
I would say that Lily Lynch’s remarkable new piece in The Balkanist passes that test very well indeed:
Harun Yahya is said to be the messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult. He’s also the owner of a Turkish television station called A9, and the host of his own religious talk show, which just might make your eyeballs pop out of your skull. The entire set and everyone on it glow like irradiated ultraviolet rays. Five amazing looking women usually co-host the show, wearing things like false rainbow eyelashes, wigs, and diamond-studded Versace bondage gear. The backdrop is a blinding fake lavender cityscape. Conversations often focus on how materialism and Darwinism are dead, how to recognize the face of a real Muslim, and how Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with whom the host is rumored to enjoy friendly relations — is “one of the important figures for the End Times”.
This is a story with everything: murky political connections, the Huffington Post, creationism, “a pair of hunky twins named Onder and Ender”, a harem, Madonna, aliens (maybe), conspiracy theories, abandoned conspiracy theories, litigation and a zoo.
Wait, there’s more…
But you will have to read it for yourselves.
The Financial Times reports:
[Venezuelan president Maduras] campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
He is not alone in making that pilgrimage. Mariana Alcalá recently travelled from the western city of Barquisimeto to Caracas to lay flowers at a shrine set up by devotees near the military barracks where the former president’s remains are kept in a sarcophagus surrounded by the presidential guard of honour.
“Our giant has left us in person, but he will always be with us in spirit. I think that the majority [of chavistas] believe, have faith, that one way or another he is helping us, not only socially but also spiritually,” says Ms Alcalá. “We ask him for help, and he helps us, he illuminates us.”
The “Saint Hugo Chávez” shrine in the 23 de Enero slum in central Caracas is one of many that have sprung up around the country since the socialist leader, who described himself as a Christian, died in March. In poor areas like the 23 de Enero, one of Chávez’s strongholds where he was revered in life, his image hangs next to those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Pope Francis I.
“This is a product of the empathy he developed with the majority of the unassisted, unprotected, forgotten population of Venezuela. When he took power they felt that some sort of father had arrived, a saviour, a protector, an Almighty,” says Lizbety González, a Venezuelan expert on cults. “His death generated a deep pain and that vacuum was filled by a cult, a cult that is evident all over Venezuela now.”
Some even believe the former president could be more powerful dead than alive. “Chávez is a god, a messiah, a warrior of light,” says Humberto López, who likes to dress as the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.
Via the Daily Telegraph:
Seventy members of an Islamist sect who have been living in an underground bunker without heat or sunlight for nearly a decade have been discovered living on the outskirts of the city of Kazan in Russia.
The sect members included 20 children, the youngest of whom had just turned 18 months. Many of them were born underground and had never seen daylight until prosecutors discovered their dwelling on August 1.
A 17-year-old girl turned out to be pregnant…
The group – known as the “Fayzarahmanist” sect – was named after its 83-year-old organiser Fayzrahman Satarov, who declared himself a prophet and his house an independent Islamic state, according to a report by state TV channel Vesti.
Satarov was described as a former deputy to a Sunni Islamic cleric in the 1970s. His followers were encouraged to read his manuscripts and most were banned from leaving their eight-storey underground bunker which had been dug in the basement of a building, Vesti said.
From the Guardian, a reminder (as if one were needed) that religion will always be with us:
In a country that wakes up every Monday morning to a dismal tally of weekend murders, it is no surprise that people have turned to the saints for help. But the holy men invoked in Venezuela are anything but virtuous. In a nation with one of the highest murder rates in the world – a staggering 14,000 a year on average – where locals often joke that they would be safer if they lived in Baghdad, even the beatified carry guns.
Welcome to the cult of Ismael and the Holy Thugs, a curious blend of spiritualism and hero worship that comes with its own quirky iconography: chiefly garish figurines with baseball caps on back to front, cigarettes dangling from their mouths and guns stuffed into their belts. Ismael and his posse are the latest addition to the María Lionza cult, a religion that believes the dead coexist with the living and can be channelled through medium-like people.
Read the whole thing.
It’s not only Putin-as-Paul. The Daily Telegraph has the details of some other modern Russian cults (with Rasputin thrown in for historical flavor, although he was tamer than some). There are reportedly as many as 700 sects active in the country today, with an estimated 600,000-800,000 followers. Amongst those picked by the Telegraph these two stand out:
The Jesus of Siberia known to his followers as Vissarion. In the Siberian town of Abakan, thousands of Russians have abandoned their careers, families and homes to follow the teachings of Sergei Torop, a former traffic policeman who claims he is Jesus Christ. His more than 5,000 followers have built a rural community called Abode of Dawn out of a Siberian forest. Torop likes to don a velvet crimson robe and sports long brown hair. A strict moralist, he claims he has come back to save the world.
Piotr Kuznetsov, a divorced architect from Belarus with an unhealthy obsession for the Apocalypse. The founder of a sect called The True Orthodox Church, Kuznetsov was fascinated with the end of the world and convinced his followers to hole up in a rickety man-made cave to wait for judgment day. He predicted the world would end in May 2008. When it did not he was apparently so disappointed that he tried to commit suicide by hitting himself over the head repeatedly with a log. He did not let his followers watch TV, listen to the radio or handle money and was reported to sleep in a coffin.
Via the Daily Telegraph:
Vladimir Putin has become the object of veneration for a bizarre Russian all-female sect whose followers believe that the tough-talking prime minister is a reincarnation of the early Christian missionary Paul the Apostle.
Members of the sect that has sprung up in a Russian village some 250 miles southeast of Moscow believe that the 58-year-old macho Russian politician is on a special mission from God.
“According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first and an evil persecutor of Christians before he started spreading the Christian gospel,” the sect’s founder, who styles herself Mother Fotina, said.
“In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started wisely leading his flock. It is hard for him now but he is fulfilling his heroic deed as an apostle.”
Reports from the sect’s headquarters close to the town of Nizhny Novgorod say that its members are all women who dress like nuns and pray for Mr Putin’s success in front of traditional Russian Orthodox Church icons that have been placed alongside a portrait of the Russian prime minister himself.
Followers are reportedly encouraged to sing upbeat patriotic Soviet songs at ‘services’ rather than hymns.
The cult of Che Guevara (all those posters and tee-shirts, not to speak of the recent movie hagiography) is a persistent—and rather annoying—reminder of the way that the crimes of communism still rank oddly low in the popular imagination.
But if the Che cult is bad in the United States, in Argentina—the land of the murderer’s birth—it is worse. Please see below a few pictures I took recently in Buenos Aires. Some of this tat must have been aimed at the tourist peso, but I suspect that it also reflected a certain pride in a local boy made, uh, good, a pride about as perverse as, oh, I don’t know, maybe irony-free US tee-shirts commemorating “Charles Manson, American”, a design that may somewhere exist but, if it does, remains mercifully rare.
Well, you get the picture.
Then again, back in the USA there is this…..