Inside the Austere Lifestyle of Religious Community in Siberia who Follow a ‘Messiah’ as their Spiritual Leader
Julia Sellmann’s documentary photo project, Ecopolis Tiberkul explores a religion born after the dissolvent of the Soviet Union called The Church of the Last Testament (CLT). Sellmann captures a community of followers living in Siberia who sold their belongings, adapted a lifestyle in wooden houses, and live without modern technology to be close to their Messiah, Sergej Torop. Sellmann states, “Their austere lifestyle is an expression of their faith, so I tried to capture it in my images.” Her title, Ecopolis Tiberkul, alludes to this lifestyle: Eco (ecological/habitat), polis (city) and Tiberkul is a lake located near their Messiah’s abode. Torop, who calls himself Vissarion, founded the Church. According to Sellmann, Vissarion was a former policeman, who concluded that he was the latest reincarnation of Jesus Christ. “He wrote the so-called “Last Testament” to follow the biblical Old Testament and New Testament, joining the fundamental beliefs of various religions.” Today, approximately 4,000 members are willing to build a new utopia.