Staunton, February 6 – Russians have always been inclined to and fearful of religious sectarians seeing them as a threat to their faith and their country, but seldom have they faced one with a more bizarre name than one committed to driving out both Orthodox Christians and Jews from the territory of Eurasia.
Called “USSR” for “the Union of Creators of Holy Rus,” the sect which has branches in many parts of Russia has attracted the attention of regional anti-sectarian officials in the Civic Security Center, the Arkhangelsk bishopric, and Russian Orthodox and Russian nationalist activists in Moscow (see here, here, here, and here).
As is typically the case, what is known about this sect comes less from its members and followers than from its opponents although the group over the last decade has established a website, published various magazines and books, and often holds public meetings which are covered by the media and anti-sectarian activists.
In the last few months, the USSR sect has made its presence known in Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk by putting up billboards with the slogan “Before God, All are Equal” and featuring the names and telephone numbers of its local leaders, an action that suggests that it has money for the ads and permission from some in authority to spread its ideas.
According to anti-sectarian experts, the USSR sect was established in 2004 when a certain Leonid Maslov, who called himself “a world-renowned scholar,” said he had begun to hear voices that he said came directly from God. Within a few months, he attracted a large number of fanatical followers.
At the end of last year, a court in Taganrog in Rostov Region found four of Maslov’s books extremist because they contained passages insulting people of various national and religious affiliations. Nonetheless, the USSR sect has been able to register in many parts of Russia.
In Arkhangelsk, it is registered as “a regional section of the Social Movement to Support the Spiritual Development of the Population, as the Union of Creators of Holy Rus (“USSR”), and as the Divine Monarchy-Holy Rus.” According to anti-sectarian activists, these are all “front groups” designed to pull people in while confusing local officials.
City officials are often taken in, the anti-sectarians say, adding that opposing sectarian extremism at least up to now “is not a first-order task of city adminstrations.” As a result, such groups as USSR are flourishing, despite what they are advocating and despite the findings of the courts.
According to the anti-sectarian sector in Arkhangelsk, the USSR sect has between 50 and 70 active measures in the region, plenty of financing, and ties with other branches across not only the Russian Federation but in neighboring countries as well, including Ukraine. Those in the USSR sect “consider themselves Slavic gods” and want to set up “a kingdom of justice and well-being under the name ‘Holy Rus’ in which there won’t be any place for Orthodox or Jews.”