Penza cultists go on house-buying spree

Russian Today/August 2, 2008

A sect in the Russian city of Penza is snapping up property in the area, but not winning much sympathy from neighbours. Local officials say some of the land developed by the followers actually belongs to the city.

Not far from where another group locked themselves away in an underground bunker to wait for the Apocalypse, a religious community with no church affiliation lives behind a wall waiting for the end of the world.

While the first group finally surfaced in May, this sect is a little less extreme. However locals are concerned that they are taking over more and more territory on the outskirts of Penza.

Valentina Petrukhina sold her house to one of the cultists for what she says was a miserable price. She says she doesn't know why she did it.

"I was like a zombie - she was pressing me, persuading me to sell my house," Petrukhina says.

And Vasily Migin says a sect leader who approached him with an offer, refused to leave when he was told 'no'.

"There is only a third left from our quarter the sect have already occupied everything. Especially during the last five years," Migin says.

Migin, who's spent his whole life here, says he will never move, even if everyone else does.

The community doesn't force their rules, or beliefs on anyone, but for some reason locals are still very cautious to express their opinion. Even the oldest stay tight lipped.

While the buying up of property appears legal officials say some of the community's buildings are on public territory which doesn't belong to them.

"The community is now preparing charges related to the violation of planning laws. The case has already been passed to a court and will be dealt with according to the law," prosecutor Tatiana Ostrovskaya says.

However, while the prosecutor's office is looking into the case, the building work goes on, while the locals fear a quarter of the town will soon be surrounded by the wall.

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