True Russian Orthodox Church

A doomsday cult that isolated themselves in a cave to await the apocalypse, resulting in multiple deaths

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Russian Orthodox
Founded: 1927
Location: Russia
Other Names: True Orthodox Church

The True Russian Orthodox Church (TROC), also known as the Penza Recluses or “Heavenly Jerusalem,” is a splinter group from the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church, established by Pyotr Kuznetsov around 2007. This group, often characterized as a doomsday cult, emerged from Kuznetsov’s criticisms of the official church, which he accused of deviating from true Orthodox Christian practices. Advocating for a return to what he considered the authentic tenets of the faith, Kuznetsov led his followers to adopt a lifestyle removed from modern influences and corruptions.

Members of the TROC adopted several radical practices, most notably their rejection of processed foods, television, money, and modern conveniences like social security numbers, bar codes, and passports, which they believed bore satanic symbols such as the Eye of Providence and the number of the Beast. These items were eschewed as part of their preparation for the apocalypse, which they believed was imminent.

The cult gained significant notoriety in November 2007 when approximately 30 members sequestered themselves in a cave near the village of Nikolskoye, in the Penza region, in preparation for the end of the world predicted for May 2008. This dramatic episode saw the group threatening mass suicide by explosion if any attempts were made to remove them forcibly. The standoff with authorities drew international media attention, highlighting the extreme beliefs and the lengths to which the group was willing to go.

The situation in the cave reached critical points when a partial collapse due to melting snow forced some members to leave in March 2008. Following the uneventful passing of the predicted doomsday in May, and faced with toxic fumes from decaying corpses, the remaining members eventually abandoned the cave. Pyotr Kuznetsov, who had not joined his followers in the cave due to earlier detention by the police, attempted suicide after his prophecy failed and was subsequently confined to a psychiatric ward.

Post-crisis, the cave was destroyed by authorities citing safety concerns, and the group largely disbanded. Some members relocated to Belarus, while others, like the family of Vasily Nedogon, continued to live in isolation, still awaiting the apocalypse.

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