We were around 180 km east from the city of Minusinsk where Vissarion gave the first public speech in 1991. Finally the only van on the dirt road stopped – yet again for some time saving us from clouds of mosquitoes and the possibility of a close encounter with a bear. We jumped in the back of UAZ van as if it was our home – it’s pretty common automobile in Central Asia. The driver and his friend were not the followers, two fishermen, already semi drunk, knew little of the community at the end of the road, deep in the Siberian forest. Slowly moving we were getting closer and closer to the place which was a long time pinned on our travel map. Suddenly on the dirt road curve, we spotted an older bearded man walking towards the opposite direction – stick in his hand and a clothes in shades of white and gray made him quite noticeable. “Ha, here you go – a wizard” grunted the driver scratching his arm through a camo shirt. After a few minutes he stopped the machine, they packed up their fishing gear and went somewhere into the forest, we still had 30 minutes walk to do. Our faces were more sweaty than we expected once we got to the wooden guard post. After explaining our story in half-Russian the kind man inside made some calls on the radio. Soon we were greeted and warmly welcomed by the members of the Mountain community.
Getting to Tiberkul Settlement, or more precisely to its part on the Mountain (as followers are calling it), was not so easy. It required us to do some research beforehand and quite a bit of patience too. It may be the only place on our map which we could never say for sure that we will get to. Standing there out of breath and shaking hands with the wholeheartedly smiling followers of Vissarion – we knew instantly that it’s the right place for us. Every next moment after that, during our week stay there, turned into wonderful, unforgettable memories that are very precious to our hearts.
Days were well planned and passing fast, looking back it seems like we were never sitting idle there. Hosted by a lovely couple, our new friends who shall remain nameless, we took part in everyday life in the settlement. After a day or two of assimilation, we began to help with the chores and work, both in the kitchen and the garden. The diet of the followers is basically vegetarian, most people also tend to avoid processed food or many products from the “outside world”. It means that there’s almost always a lot to do, for instance: milking the goat, all the gardening, grinding flour, cheese making, etc. Beside that, of course every member has a profession and a role in the community. During our time there we were impressed with the practical skills and teamwork. The majority of men are craftsmen/artists – results of their efforts are simply astonishing, from the small souvenirs to big wooden concert stages. For the visitors, walking around the Mountain can be done only with a person from the inside (the guardian). Every time we had a chance for such a tour, we admired each corner of that place, and the fact that those people built it with their own hands. It only becomes clear from the top of the Mountain, that the city was built on the “sun” plan, meaning that the “sun rays” are the streets, which coincide in the “sun center”, which is the main place of the meetings and liturgy. Except from the “sun”, it’s just pristine, unspoiled Siberian wilderness reaching the horizon. A lot could be said and written about the location of the settlement, but to put it shortly, there’s something very unique and strange in it, a kind of magic ambience that can be felt with every gust of wind.
Standing throughout the whole liturgy, at the same time we tried to focus and calm our eyes from running around. The ceremony is easily one of the most astounding experiences on our journey and in our lives. It feels personal too. All those faces, some smiling, some absorbed, their white robes blending together with the surrounding mist. Gathered in the center, together, kids, adults and elderly, each seem to at least for a while close themselves in contemplation. The choir’s angel-like vocal harmonies evoking kind of medieval or more like astral power. Once the unequalled psalms echo in the silence, our spirits seem to reach some kind of high. The rooster crow in the far breaks the stillness, soon after it, chirping of the birds and a baby’s cry, the liturgy and all the attendants begin to hug each other, chat and joke. Suddenly it’s much louder, but an inconceivable atmosphere of joy and peacefulness remains. Introduced to everyone and exchanged words, we were lucky to learn more about some of those people later. Who are they really? People, like people everywhere in the world, like us, diverse. Nevertheless, on the Mountain some fascinating features seem to be in common among them. Except for graciousness and altruism, it is their story. Men and women of all sorts from various corners of the world were drew in here, cutting away from their past life and changing their present life forever. Those stories, some more dramatic some less, were no secrets kept by them, but something that they would share with us happily. That, by the way, is another mood that everyone seems to have in common on the Mountain – happiness.
While staying there it quickly turned out that there are actually many smaller and bigger events happening in the calendar. We were lucky to join the members at the big concert, but also were invited to other members’ house for a singing night (Marek was skillfully bravo clapping). Then there were group dances and swimming in the Tiberkul lake at sunset. There was time to forget about everything outside the settlement, but then also to reflect on this unique society and the factors which lead it to success. In that matter, there’s no way to avoid mentioning the main pillar – faith.
Before coming to Tiberkul purposefully we didn’t try to learn much about Vissarion and his teachings, let’s just say that we preferred to approach this subject firsthand. On our way to settlement, both in Khakassia and Krasnoyarsk Oblast when asked about our itinerary, mentioning Tiberkul oftentimes was connected to the negative reaction or more than that. We were told quite a few myths and absurd misconceptions about Vissarion spiritual movement, that did not shock us though. One could say that such “new” movements will always be met with negative response, especially among more conservative people and believers of the largest religions of the world. If someone is interested, we do recommend learning more about it from the “source” – indeed much of what Vissarion teaches is no secret knowledge and is available online in English, we will be happy to provide the links.
While there, we learned that some people make attempts to spread the word about Tiberkul and Vissarion’s teaching. Interestingly enough, we felt that the majority of the community sees it as an unnecessary thing. There is no pressure to attract more members, their belief seemed to be more natural in a way – those who want to know, will know. In Tiberkul nobody tries to talk you around or push their faith on you, actually their open-mindedness is something that many highly developed nations could envy. We could write and write about our experience there, but perhaps this is enough! All of the places we’ve been to and all the people we’ve met on our road – they make changes in us, we feel that they make us better humans. It seems that the community of the Mountain had a big impact on us and our perception of the world, and for that we are forever thankful to them.
PS. We took only a few photos while there because we didn’t feel like taking more, simple as that!