For the past five months, members of a doomsday cult have drawn national attention in Russia after barricading themselves in a cave to await the end of the world. They predict the Apocalypse will take place next month. But it seems the condition of the cave is ending the cult's wait for the end. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky explains.
A total of 14 members of the Russian cult left a well-stocked sanctuary after melting snow caused part of their earthen hillside cave to collapse. Another 14 others, including two children, remain in the shelter in the Penza region about 650-kilometers southeast of Moscow.
|A cave in the shelter where members of a Russian cult holed up in a cave waiting the end of the world in Penza region about 640 kilometers southeast of Moscow, 1 Apr 2008|
Penza's vice governor, Oleg Melnychenko, quotes the cult members as saying the collapsing walls in the cave may be interpreted as a divine message.
Melnychenko says three previous openings occurred due to various earth movements and Tuesday's fourth opening was taken by the cult members as a sign from above.
The individuals who emerged have refused medical attention, but are said to be in satisfactory condition. The cult members joined their leader, Pavel Kuznetsov, for prayers. Kuznetsov has been undergoing psychiatric treatment and was brought to the scene to convince others to leave the cave.
Officials also tried persuasion for many months, but the members threatened to blow themselves up with gas canisters if police used force to get them out.
The cult is an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church. The cult members reject modernity and believe that barcodes on products for sale are the work of the devil.