Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
70 sectarians are found living in an underground bunker in Russia.
An Islamic religious sect has been discovered living in an eight-story underground bunker outside the western Russian city of Kazan, about 500 miles east of Moscow. Seventy members of the sect were recently found there, according to the Guardian, some having lived underground their entire lives.
Known as the Fayzarahmanist sect, the group has lived underground in self-dug catacombs with no natural light, ventilation or heating for a decade or more, urged there by the 83-year old founder of the sect, Fayzrahman Satarov. Among those found in the bunker were 20 children, one as young as 18 months. Four members of the sect have been charged with cruelty against children, according to the International Business Times.
Religion was suppressed under the Soviet Union. Its collapse led to a blossoming of religious sects of all stripes – a recent estimate suggests there are more than 700,000 religious sectarians in Russia, including those in the Fayzarahmanist sect.
Satarov declared himself a prophet and claimed his house was an "independent Islamic state," according to Russian TV news reports. The underground bunker was discovered when police visited the home during an investigation into the recent killing of another Muslim cleric in the area.
The video below notes that only a few members of the sect were allowed to leave the bunker regularly, mainly to fetch food and supplies or to work as traders. The children had likely lived underground since birth. After police discovered the sect, all members were checked for medical issues. Though the children were apparently dirty, all were relatively healthy.
The Associated Press reports that the bunker was built below a decrepit three-story house on a roughly 7,500-square-foot plot of land. State police said they plan to demolish the site.
Top image: AFP/YouTube