Russian police have detained the self-styled “God Kuzya,” the head of a notorious radical cult accused of whipping and torturing members of his group, most of them women. Investigators found the equivalent of $4 million in his seven Moscow apartments.
“God Kuzya” Andrey Popov
38-year-old Andrey Popov, a visually impaired man, nicknamed God Kuzya after his dead parrot, is infamous for his claim, made in one of his speeches: “I was God who created Christ. I have already done eight times what Christ did.”
Popov is a man with multiple religious personas. He has previously called himself “Archbishop Roman,” and has variously claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Russian saint and spiritual leader Sergey Radonezhsky, 19th century Russian occultist Yelena Blavatskaya, and the Archangel Gabriel.
It has been reported that during one meeting with his followers, he whipped and tortured them with a belt up to 300 times, and slapped their faces up to 100 times. He allegedly punished followers for “offenses” such as communicating with the outside world, taking medicine, or making a phone call to relatives.
An eyewitness has claimed that during one of the beatings, God Kuzya was noticed shouting “Cool, cool!” and when the group member protested that he “was going to faint,” Kuzya replied that it was merely his body that was “weak,” but that his spirit “was holding up fine.”
Investigators found the equivalent of $4 million in Andrey Popov’s seven Moscow apartments
Hierarchic Structure and Plutolatry
Former members have revealed the structure of the cult, which is believed to have a strict hierarchy of six “circles.” In the first circle are his wives, the second includes his harem, and the third consists of close followers. The fourth circle includes other followers, with women in that circle aiming to get into the harem. Women who have managed to flee the group say that Popov enjoys torturing his wives and the harem, and any refusal is treated like an insult, with the woman who attempts to escape set to “pay with her blood.”
The fifth circle are those who don’t know about the godlike nature of “Kuzya,” and the sixth consists of those who were cast away by him – people in that circle are called “demons” or “cucumbers.”
Popov’s other passions apparently include money, and lots of it. According to some accounts, his followers used to prepare baths filled with banknotes for him. The cult’s source of income included selling apartments: the followers were to give their property and other “worldly possessions” to Popov.
According to RIA in Dec 2, 2013, The unregistered Kuzya-the-God religious group, which experts say bears the hallmarks of a totalitarian sect, gained notoriety last week after its members allegedly attacked a Russian TV crew that was investigating its activities. An adherent of the group reportedly sprayed an unknown chemical on the team of journalists, inflicting chemical burns on some of them and damaging video equipment.
Criticism from Religious Community
“Law enforcement agencies and society in general should look most carefully into how legitimate this group’s actions are: whether fraud, deception and the use of force against followers have taken place, and as what [type of offense] the outrageous attack on the TV crew and the use of an unknown chemical substance against it should be qualified,” said Vsevolod Chaplin, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s press service.
“The person who heads it has styled himself as a god on numerous occasions, and before that he posed as an Orthodox priest and even a bishop,” Chaplin said. “We have said many times that this person is not a priest of the canonical Orthodox Church, and so he should be regarded as an impostor by any Orthodox Christian.”
The Russian Orthodox Church launched a crackdown on the sect when it discovered that Kuzya-the-God followers, pretending to be Orthodox monks and priests, were collecting thousands of dollars in donations at Orthodox fairs.
In 2011, the Church established a commission to oversee the numerous religious fairs that have become increasingly popular in Russia. According to the commission, Kuzya-the-God followers were collecting millions of rubles in profit at fairs on a daily basis.