Alexander L. DVORKIN

– Professor, Director of “St Irenaeus of Lyon Center of Religious Studies”

Overview of the Activity of Health-Related Cults in the Countries of the Former URSS

  • Professor Dvorkin started his presentation with the example of Nadezdha Antonenko and her Nadezdha Centre for Medicine and Readjustment (ESPOIR). She claims to have witnessed a powerful energy and a gift for curing cancer during paranormal apparitions: her powers enable her treatment to “teleport” the disease from patients’ bodies into containers filled with an energising solution. The diseases remain imprisoned only if patients obey the rules she sets down. She rejects the authority of non-believers, who make the diseases leave the containers and re-enter the body through their negative energy. The systematic diagnosis of cancer in its terminal phase for any illness enables Nadezdha Antonenko to claim cures which have no basis in reality.
  • The speaker then explained the main reason behind the growth in healing cults in Russia: they present themselves as alternatives to the mediocre State medicine, which is crippled by insufficient funding. They attract more people through hiding their activities behind a scientific mask, which reassures a people educated in the cult of science in Soviet times. The speaker classified cults using a medical bait in four groups and deduced the main components as his presentation went on.
  • The professor treated the first group of cults: cults for whom the main objective is to cure. He particularly concentrated on the Sufi medicine groups of Mr. Mirzakarim Norbekov and on the Academy of Frontal Problems of Boris Zolotov. these two cults condition their followers through group exercises which include sex practices. The conditioning performed by Boris Zolotov is extremely destructive, due to the wide range of perverse acts inflicted on the participants in his seminars. The speaker closed this section of his presentation with the powerful Porfiry Ivanov cult. Porfiry Ivanov was the father of valeology – the health science which was still taught in almost all Russian schools. The late guru claimed that living naked without eating or drinking led to everlasting life. The principles are still being applied in schools, orphanages and in the army in Kazakhstan and kyrgistan. While valeology has been taken off the school curriculum as a result of protests from Orthodox Russians, it does carry on under other names in many seats of learning – particularly in universities.
  • The speaker went on to present the second group of cults: those which base a great deal of their propaganda on the promise of good health. He first of all recalled the main characteristics of the Church of the Last Testament. Its guru is Sergey Torop, who claims to be the new incarnation of Christ: VISSARION. Nearly 5000 followers live around him in Siberia, and are building Sun City – a totally ecological city presented as the last refuge for the end of the world, which is due to arrive between 2003 and 2015. Only those people to have scrupulously followed the rules laid down by the Messiah are to be saved: among those rules are a ban on drinking water and a ban on turning to any medicine whatsoever – instead urinotherapy and esthetotherapy are used. Many people die under these conditions, with the numbers of deaths likely to be underestimated, due to the lack of any records being kept. The cult is cutting itself off from the world more and more, going deeper into the taiga.
  • Professor Dvorkin then spoke about the neo-Pentecostalist cults, looking at two of their manipulation techniques: Ericksonian hypnosis, which causes mass hysteria and a trance-state, followed by what he calls the “Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome”, meaning the power granted on words if they are said in faith. While Professor Dvorkin recognises the existence of psychosomatic cures, he says that he has yet to find any cures for organic illnesses using these techniques.
  • The speaker went on to talk about the third group of cults – that of psychocults, targeting those offering detoxification from drugs, like the neo-Pentecostalistcults, the Moon cult, Scientology/Narconon and 3HO (Healthy, Happy and Holly Organisation) with its Kundala Centre. He also spoke of the links that exist between various psychocults.
  • To conclude, the speaker quickly presented the problem of the fourth group of cults: the occult healers and witch doctors. He cited the two most famous cases: Anatoli Kashpirovsky and Alan Chumak – who regularly appear on television
  • While Professor Dvorkin welcomed the two decrees signed in 1996 by the Russian Health Minister in the fight against cults in public medicine, he also expressed worries of some Orthodox Christian about the position adopted with regard to the law on refusing blood transfusions by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In view of the occultation of the state medicine they fear that the ban on JW, based on their refusal of the ban of transfusion might set a precedent for future legal action against those who refuse the occult healing practices. He ended by deploring the explosion in the number of cults (several thousand) in the countries of the former Soviet Union, recalling the new relationship of cause-and-effect between poverty and the public healthcare system and the proliferation of cults and charlatans.

Debate :

Professor DVORKIN paid particular attention to European support for his Centre, particularly in order to act as a counterbalance against the pressure exerted by the United States.