Faizrakhmanist Movement

A Russian Islamic sect led by a self-proclaimed prophet, known for its underground living and isolationist practices.

The Faizrakhmanist Movement, also known as the Fäyzraxmançılar, is an Islamic sect based in Tatarstan, Russia. It is primarily known for its separatist and isolationist practices and has been referred to in the media as the “catacomb sect.”

Founding and Beliefs

The sect was founded by Faizrakhman Sattarov, a former mufti who declared himself a prophet in the mid-1960s after a purported divine encounter. He formed the sect in the 1970s, interpreting sparks from a trolleybus cable as a divine light from God. The sect’s beliefs deviate from mainstream Islam, which holds that Muhammad is the last prophet. The Faizrakhmanist Movement rejects the modern Russian state and its laws, along with mainstream and orthodox Islam.

Separatism and Isolation

The Faizrakhmanists emphasize their native roots and lack of association with other Russian and worldwide Islamic organizations. In the 1990s, Sattarov and his followers moved to a compound in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, where they sought an isolated lifestyle. They declared themselves as an independent Islamic state, living in accordance with their interpretation of the Quran. The community was not hostile to the outer society but opposed secular authorities, forbade outside medical help, and prohibited sending children to external schools.

Underground Compound Discovery and Raid

In August 2012, Russian police discovered an eight-level complex of underground chambers beneath Sattarov’s home in Kazan, where 38 adults and 27 children lived in conditions described as catacomb-like. Most sect members were forbidden to leave the compound. The discovery led to charges of cruelty against children, with the children displaying symptoms of anemia and tuberculosis. Sattarov, then 83 years old and ill, was charged with “arbitrariness,” a criminal offense under Russian law.

Legal Controversy and Extremism Charges

In February 2013, the Faizrakhmanist religious group was banned as extremist. The prosecutor’s office argued that the community’s isolated way of life was harmful to both its members’ health and the children’s development. The group never propagated discrimination, hatred, or violence based on religion. The banning of the community raised questions about the proportionality and applicability of anti-extremist measures in Russia.