Happy New Year, Son Of God
It seems to have escaped the attentions of most of the mainstream news media (that video is from 2007) but today is New Year's Day. Every year on the day we refer to as 'the 14th of January' a man with a kind, round face and 4,000 other people will celebrate his birthday and their New Year by traipsing around the Siberian mountains for three days. The man with the face calls himself Vissarion, and the other 4,000 people believe that he is the son of God.
Vissarion – or 'The Teacher' or 'Jesus of Siberia', as he's alternatively known – hasn't always been the son of God. Born Sergei Torop, he used to be a traffic cop, but got fired in 1989. After a couple of years spent lying around in his own filth on benefits, he emerged as the second coming of Christ.
It's a pretty left-field way to deal with unemployment, but it seems to be paying off. (Interesting facts: You have to give all your money to him if you want to join his cult, and his commune is allegedly protected by the Russian mafia.) Torop's local 'Vissarionites' are drawn from 30 villages in the Siberian hinterland, while another 10,000 people across the globe believe he's God's divine representative on earth because Vissarion's 2,000 year old memory lets him know things like:
- a) Jesus liked peaches.
- b) he would construct small gifts out of sticks and litter to give to Roman soldiers.
We couldn't get any photos of them setting off (his 'Church of the Last Testament' are big on their 'End Times' schtick, and they don't use money, eat meat or get drunk – they aren't really a Twitpic crowd) but on Sunday night when the three-day wander reaches its climax, Vissarion and his mates will be dancing around a pole at the top of the mountain like a right bunch of fairies.
I'd go along, but realistically I know I'm going to be sat at home on the sofa wishing I hadn't spent the last three days traipsing around east London on bad drugs. I guess it's all just a question of relative faith. Happy New Year and happy birthday anyway, dude.