Siberian man wins $15,000 in moral damages from yoga cult

RAPSI, Russia/January 18, 2014

Tomsk, Russia -- A man in a small town in Siberia has won a lawsuit against Konstantin Rudnev, head of the Ashram Shambala religious cult, and was granted damages for profound mental anguish and years of trying to regain his mental balance, the court said in a statement on its website.

According to the court, the plaintiff, a resident of Strezhevoy, a town in the Tomsk Region in western Siberia, first visited seminars held by the cult’s visiting gurus in 2003.

“The plaintiff’s behavior changed dramatically after he attended the seminars, read Rudnev’s books, listened to audiotapes and watched videotapes that he bought at the seminars,” the court’s statement reads. “He lost interest in everything except Ashram Shambala; he quarreled with his relatives, avoided outside contact, discontinued his studies and stopped all communication with his friends. As a result of his involvement in the sect, the plaintiff suffered a mental disorder that affected every part of human activity.”

The court said the plaintiff “lost years of his life trying to regain mental stability and still cannot lead a full life or take advantage of his civil rights.”

The court awarded him moral damages in the amount of 500,000 rubles ($15,000).

Over 20 years ago, Konstantin Rudnev, 44, a graduate of a machine-building college, declared that he was the messiah sent to Earth to save people. The cult is believed to have been established in 1989 in Novosibirsk and has branches in 18 regions across Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The sect reportedly has 30,000 members. However, only 16 individuals have come forward as aggrieved parties in cases against Rudnev. Investigations were opened against him in 1999, 2004 and 2008, but in each case failed to reach trial because the cult members refused to testify against him.

In 2010, Rudnev was detained in Novosibirsk and subsequently received an 11-year prison sentence on February 7, 2013. He was convicted under four Criminal Code articles for founding a religious association that infringes on human and civil rights, rape, sexual assault and intent to sell drugs.

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