Saint Vladimir, or Putin the Prophet?

Russian RIA Novosti reports:

Vladimir Putin may be popular in Russia for saving the nation from the chaos of the 1990s, but a sect in the country has taken its devotion a step further by praying to ‘presidential icons.’

The Bolshaya Elnya village in the Nizhny Novgorod Region is home to the “Rus’ Resurrecting” sect, a group of local residents who believe that President Putin was both the Apostle Paul and King Solomon in previous lives.

Rus’ is the term used for the medieval East Slavic nation that gave its name to modern Russia.

“We didn’t choose Putin,” Mother Fontinya told the Moskovsky Komsomolets paper, expounding on the first time she laid eyes on the “holy one.”

Saint Putin

“It was when Yeltsin was naming him as his successor [during a live New Year’s Eve TV broadcast in 1999]. My soul exploded with joy! ‘An ubermensch! God himself has chosen him!'” I cried.

“Yeltsin was the destroyer, and God replaced him with his creation,” claimed Fontinya.

The sect possesses a President Putin icon that Fontinya claims miraculously appeared one day.

“He has given us everything,” she said, pointing to the sky.

A special newspaper published by the sect – ‘The Temple of Light’ – features interviews with long-dead religious figures, including the Apostle Paul. The sect members are also convinced that President Putin knows about and supports the actions of their ‘Mother Superior.’

Russian Christian sects have long been known for their unusual choices of icons, some of them praying to portraits of such well-known ‘holy men’ as Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.

Another Russian sect is currently holed up in an underground shelter in the country’s central Penza Region and has threatened to commit mass suicide if any attempt is made to bring them to the surface.

Religion was tightly controlled in the U.S.S.R. and the collapse of the Soviet Union saw an explosion in sects and cults, as well as interest in New Age philosophies and beliefs. The back pages of many Russian tabloid newspapers are full of advertisements for ‘healers’ and ‘magicians’ who promise to bring happiness in love, success in business, as well as a range of other services.

This reminds me slightly of the cargo cults that have chosen Prince Philip as their unlikely saviour. Unlike Prince Philip, though, Vladimir Putin is the leader of a huge cult of personality. It’s not too surprising that a proportion of his followers have taken that extra step and decided he is their messiah.

With his term as President almost up, he has made it very clear that while he will obey the letter of the constitution and stand down, he fully intends to maintain a steel grip upon the governing of Russia for the foreseeable future. The unfortunately named Putin youth group, the Nashi, are numerous and skilled at intimidating anyone who dares to criticise him, and are impressively zealous and filled with love for Putin. For the time being it seems, Gary Kasparov notwithstanding, that Russia is a one-party state, and the depth of devotion to their dear leader only seems to be increasing with time. Until such time as someone within Russia is willing (And able to avoid dying or imprisonment, both of which are epidemic amongst Putin supporters.) to stand against his complete dismissal of criticism of himself, or the darkly comical way in which the political system of Russia is conducted, his powerbase will continue to grow.

By the way, calling him an “ubermensch” does absolutely nothing to make feel any better about all this. I don’t mind so much other people thinking he’s the messiah, just so long as he doesn’t start believing it himself…. Perhaps this is what George W Bush really saw when he famously looked into Putin’s soul…

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