6 miles from the nearest road, in the vast Siberian wilderness, a bearded man in flowing white linen robes sat at his kitchen table and talked about his crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate 2,000 years ago.
In a voice barely louder than the rain falling on the mountaintop home his followers have built for him, Sergei Torop said it was painful to remember the end of his last life, in which he says he walked the Earth as Jesus Christ.
Torop, 46, is a former Siberian traffic cop who is now spiritual leader of at least 5,000 devoted followers. They have abandoned lives as artists, engineers and professionals in other fields to move to this remote corner of Siberia, 2,000 miles from Moscow. In empty woodlands, they are building from scratch an entire new town, where they pass their lives near the man they call Vissarion, "he who gives new life."
Russian government officials and religion analysts call his Church of the Last Testament one of the largest new religious groups in Russia, which has become an incubator of novel faiths since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.