Vladimir Putin is saint and saviour for Russian cult

By Reuters Staff
May 25, 2011

(Svetlana Frolova pauses during a service at her sanctuary at Bolshaya Yelena, a village near central Russia's city of Nizhny Novgorod May 15, 2011/Natalia Plankina)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cultivates the image of a bare-chested macho man, but a nun-like sect in central Russia thinks actually he’s the reincarnation of St. Paul, the apostle. Or, if not that, he may in a past life have been the founder of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“I say what the Lord has revealed to me,” the sect’s leader, former convict Svetlana Frolova, said.

Putin’s advisers disclaim any link with the sect led by the former railway manager, who was jailed for fraud in 1996.  “He (Putin) does not approve of that kind of admiration,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by telephone.

But Frolova and her followers are only the most extreme illustration of a personality cult building up around Putin before the 2012 presidential election. An opinion poll by the independent Levada Center showed that more than half of Russians believe a Soviet-style personality cult is being cultivated for Putin, who has refused to say whether he will run for president in the March vote.

“I love Putin as our No. 1, our commander, the captain of our great ship, and he is worthy of our love,” said Frolova, who says she was “reborn” as Mother Fotinya after serving a 21-month sentence. She says God spoke to her and revealed Putin’s past lives included that of Grand Prince Vladimir of Rus, credited with founding the Russian Orthodox Church more than a millennia ago.

(Svetlana Frolova leads a service at her sanctuary at Bolshaya Yelena, a village near central Russia's city of Nizhny Novgorod May 15, 2011/Natalia Plankina)

“Every one of us has many incarnations. Saint Paul was indeed one of Putin’s,” she told Reuters, her high-pitched voice bouncing off the icon-hung walls of her sanctuary in Bolshaya Yelnya, a village near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 410 km (255 miles) east of Moscow.

Father Alexei, the village Russian Orthodox priest, shivered with disgust when asked about Frolova and her followers. “They are unpleasant neighbors. Their ‘so-called faith’ is a nonsensical mix of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, superstitions and political prejudice,” he said.

Read the full story by Alissa de Carbonnel here.

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