Jesus of Siberia
Sergei Torop was a traffic cop in the small Russian town of Minusinsk until 1989, when he announced that he was the son of God. Now he commands a following of thousands and rules over a large swath of the Siberian mountains. Ian Traynor makes a pilgrimage
Four thousand feet up a mountain deep in the Siberian taiga, the middle-aged man appears in a velvet crimson robe, long brown hair framing a beatific smile. He sits down in a log cabin perched on the brow of the hill. It is a room with a stunning view. The snowy Sayan mountains sparkle in the distance. The silver and pink of the birch forests shimmer in the clear sunlight. Down to the right, the pure blue water of Lake Tiberkul mesmerises. Behind the cabin, for much further than the eye can see - a thousand kilometres - the Siberian wilderness stretches, bereft of human habitation.
"It's all very complicated," he starts quietly. "But to keep things simple, yes, I am Jesus Christ. That which was promised must come to pass. And it was promised in Israel 2,000 years ago that I would return, that I would come back to finish what was started. I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the Father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me."