Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cultivates the image of a bare-chested macho man, but a nun-like sect in central Russia thinks actually he’s the reincarnation of St. Paul, the apostle.
Or, if not that, he may in a past life have been the founder of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“I say what the Lord has revealed to me,” the sect’s leader, former convict Svetlana Frolova, said.
Putin’s advisers disclaim any link with the sect led by the former railway manager, who was jailed for fraud in 1996.
“He (Putin) does not approve of that kind of admiration,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by telephone.
But Frolova and her followers are only the most extreme illustration of a personality cult building up around Putin before the 2012 presidential election.
An opinion poll by the independent Levada Center showed that more than half of Russians believe a Soviet-style personality cult is being cultivated for Putin, who has refused to say whether he will run for president in the March vote.
“I love Putin as our No. 1, our commander, the captain of our great ship, and he is worthy of our love,” said Frolova, who says she was “reborn” as Mother Fotinya after serving a 21-month sentence.
She says God spoke to her and revealed Putin’s past lives included that of Grand Prince Vladimir of Rus, credited with founding the Russian Orthodox Church more than a millennia ago.
“Every one of us has many incarnations. Saint Paul was indeed one of Putin’s,” she told Reuters, her high-pitched voice bouncing off the icon-hung walls of her sanctuary in Bolshaya Yelnya, a village near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 410 km (255 miles) east of Moscow.
Peskov said his boss frowns on the type of devotion fomented by Frolova. Putin, 58, has been at the heart of “the policy and daily life of this country for more than a decade,” he said.
“Certainly, he is the most popular man in this country and has his own fan clubs but it isn’t any kind of cult.”
Putin, for his part, projects a macho, “can do” image despite having stepped down as president in 2008 and steering his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, into the Kremlin’s top job.
Described as “alpha-dog” in U.S. diplomatic cables, Putin has a black belt in judo and frequently undertakes testosterone-fueled stunts such as flying a fighter jet or shooting a Siberian tiger.
His opponents say there is every indication he will remain in charge of Russia, no matter who runs for president in 2012.
Part of his allure is having restored Russians’ pride after the chaos of the 1990s and the embarrassment of Boris Yeltsin’s sometimes drunken stunts as president, historian Roy Medvedev said.
“The relationship to Putin is more emotional than that toward the average politician. He is seen as a kind of moral leader,” said Medvedev, who is no relation of the president.
Frolova’s “awakening” while behind bars came as millions of Russians sought comfort in a revival of organized religion or with the cults that were spawned by the thousands after the collapse of the atheist Soviet Union.
Inside her grey-brick retreat, hidden behind tall fences and crowned by spires and a cupola, women in nuns’ dress stroll the grounds while the faithful tend to gardening, children clutching at their skirts.
Dressed from headdress to sandals in white robes, Mother Fotinya, 63, preaches a mishmash of values from vegetarianism and anti-abortion to strict bans on modern medicine.
Father Alexei, the village Russian Orthodox priest, shivered with disgust when asked about Frolova and her followers.
“They are unpleasant neighbors. Their ‘so-called faith’ is a nonsensical mix of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, superstitions and political prejudice,” he said.
But for Frolova, Putin — a portrait of whom she keeps in her bedroom — is the embodiment of a Russian tsar.
“He has the soul of a tsar. It’s not by chance that he is now president,” she sighed.
When reminded that Putin is prime minister while Medvedev is president, she said Putin remained Russia’s boss.
“You can be prime minister and still remain president. Medvedev is merely Putin’s student,” she said.
In any case, she said, Russia’s future has already been decided: “Do you remember how Putin became president? Yeltsin gave his post up to him. God willing, Medvedev will do the same,” she said. “Everything has been decided by God.”
Well yes, how absurd and disgusting, and yet only part of the ‘norm’ of current ‘post-soviet’ neo-soviet & demoralized Russian culture. Desperate people are looking for hope and for MEANING for their lives, for answers, in every possible quarter, (which atheism can NEVER give to anyone, anywhere!) even in the most bizarre places, as their official religion, the still-communist KGB controled Moscow Patriarchy, remains morally totally compromized and merely a lackey abject theatrical/religious tool of the current Kremlin gangster regime, with Putin as it’s visible head (the new ‘Holy Czar’-?). I certainly agree with the local MP state-church village priest, Fr. Alexie’s appraisal of this sect: “They are unpleasant neighbors. Their so called ‘faith’ is a nonsensical mix of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, superstition and political prejudice”.
Yet, what does his official and ‘canonical’ ‘church’ have to offer the poor suffering Russian masses?..MOST of whom no longer attend his church’s services or even marry in his church-!…but who are listed as automatic ‘members’ of his church, JUST because of their ethnic Russian identity (!)
Nothing but more lies and endless support for the criminals in the Kremlin, who also run his phony ‘church’, that is what his Moscow Patriarchy has to offer Russians, a phony/pretend, ‘Russian Church’, institution created by Joseph Stalin in 1943, and still! uncleansed of it’s communist overlords’ management.
One notices, that the local village MP priest does not mention Putin’s (sacred-?) name, or criticize him….which ‘sinful’ act, is forbidden in his MP ‘church’, considered a SIN, just as in old Russia, when no one then could/dared publically criticize the authentic old-Russian Czar either.
Will Russia ever be truly free and truly prosperous?
The situation does not look hopeful, which is exactly why so many of these weird sects exist there, and why also, so many of the younger and best educated and BOLD Russians are leaving Mother Russia by the thousands, every day!
They can only vote with their feet, as they have no voice in Putin’s gangster Russian Federation.
More Russians would leave, if they could afford to, but they are simply too poor. About 70% of Russians live in dire poverty, DIRE and unending hopeless poverty!…all under the wonderful rule of Czar Vladimir Putin!
It’s like you’ve checked the video in the 1st comment and was inspired by it writing the BS above…
No, ‘Dmitry’, I am only responding to the main article, and to the facts about current Russia. But, so what does your BS have to teach us? I learn nothing from your empty words. How much did the KGB pay you for that stupid BS comment? Why waste our time with such nonsence?
Your nonsense does nothing to expose Russia’s corruption, which prevents it from being the world class economic superpower that it should be with its vast potential. I am sickened that so many Russians seem so clueless about why their standard of living ranks with third rate backward nations like Tallinn.
Whose ‘nonsence’? Are you addressing your comment to Dmitry or to Psalomschick? Explain yourself.
“How much did the KGB pay you for that stupid BS comment”
“third rate backward nations like Tallinn”
Guys, you both, don’t you feel your world is a little bit, er, deranged?
Your silly words are not worthy of any reply.