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Experts say there are as many as 700 cults in Russia attracting between 600,000 to 800,000 followers.…The proliferation of home-grown cults is a relatively recent phenomenon. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became a destination of choice for every variety of faith, from Western-based evangelical churches to exploitive con artists eager to tap this new market. But Russia’s fondness for mysticism isn’t entirely new. Its pre-revolutionary religious history is steeped in rituals and superstition. Christianity came to Russia in the 10th century, and though it replaced paganism, it didn’t fully stamp it out.
Thousands of new religious groups have formed all over the world in recent years as increasing numbers of people become disillusioned with traditional religions, according to experts who study worship trends. In Russia, millions of people returned to the Orthodox Church after seven decades of state suppression of religion, but hundreds of thousands of others sought new faiths for new times.
When Russia opened its iron curtains during perestroika, it instantly became a pristine target for missionaries. Since atheism was the official doctrine of the USSR, most people did not practice any religion. Their isolation from the outside world meant that they had no idea about Operation Snow White or other scandalous incidents involving untraditional religious groups. The entrance of different mainstream and fringe religions into Russia after 1989 became yet another novelty in the country.
• Note: This is only a partial entry. More resources will be added over time.
• See also our older entry on Russia
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