August 9th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

Police free Russian cult kids who reportedly never saw sun

At least 57 members of an Islamist sect, including children, have been discovered living underground in the Republic of Tatarstan, according to Russian police.

Many of them have never even seen the sun, authorities said.

The sect members, which includes at least 19 children ages 1 to 17, were freed. They were found August 1 during a police raid performed as part of an ongoing investigation into militant groups in Tatarstan. The bunker, which appeared to be made of decrepit concrete blocks, has multiple levels below ground with tight-quartered cells that have no light, ventilation or heat.

The leader of the sect is reportedly Fayzrahman Satarov, an 83-year-old who pronounced himself a prophet destined to direct a caliphate, according to a report by Russia state TV channel Vesti.

Amid chants of defiance, police detained Satarov and some other members, and they are facing charges.

Russian media reports say his followers lived in isolation, refusing to recognize Russian laws or the authority of mainstream Muslim leaders in Tatastan.

The bunker is located near the city of Kazan in Tatarstan, about 500 miles from Moscow.

Tatarstan is majority Muslim and oil rich.

Shireen T. Hunter is a noted scholar on Islam and Russia, and is the director of the Carnegie Project on Reformist Islam at Georgetown University. She has visited Tatarstan and Kazan several times to do research.

It's important, she said, to keep in mind that little is known about the group and simply because the leader identifies himself as Islamist, there should not be immediate connections drawn between the group and Islam in the area as a whole.

"This could just be some 83-year-old who wants to control people," she said. "This may have nothing at all to do with radical or extreme Islam as we understand it. This man - creating a caliphate? How is he going to do that? This just doesn't seem like the modis operandi of a serious radical cell bent on challenging the government."

Kazan is a pleasant city with coffee and clothing shops, Hunter said.  Some women wear hijabs, others don't. Some women work and other choose not to, she said. In recent years, many people have bought villas and other housing in Kazan.

It's conceivable to her that a group could live underground and go unnoticed for years.

"If I decided to live underground in Washington, D.C., I could do that, and so could other people," she said.

Health worker Tatiana Moroz told CNN that the children are in "satisfactory condition" and that they have been fed. Some were sent to the hospital for care.

"Upon receipt from the building, the children were in satisfactory condition," she said. "The children were all fed, although they were dirty. Upon receiving them, we washed them. They have undergone a full examination - all the Russian specialists have examined them, and taken all the analyses. [Friday] the full analyses will be finished and we will give our final conclusion about the condition of their health."

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Russia
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Towanda

    What is everyone writing about? I read 25 "comments" and it required a lot to connect the "comments" to the "story" – it's like you just "comment" about anything. So – in that mode – here's my comment to "Russian cult children not seeing the sun." It's raining in Virginia today – I guess I might not see the sun.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. William

    Sick nut jobs – period!

    August 10, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. Beff "Skunk" Jaxter

    What's with all the kids these days being into cults?

    August 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      What makes you think this was the kids' idea???

      August 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • varxx

      @ Bob: You need to change the batteries in your sarcasm sensor.

      August 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Coflyboy

    Aaaah– More religious fanatics living the good life.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. McShane

    Allah works in mysterious ways!

    August 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 2012marandalaw

    Thank God..They got them out of there...

    August 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      ...which one?

      August 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. maybetrue

    The best that should have happen would to have sealed the cave and let nature take its course. The minds of all people, including the children have been damaged and most likely will never be changed. The people will forever HATE the interruption of the PLAN and will respond with great violence. ALL religions are against ANYTHING that does not adhere to their beliefs, and there is no middle ground or acceptance of equal status. Now with better methods of control (physical and mental), religions will stop at nothing until their point of view is accepted or until all is destroyed. Religion must be PERSONAL CHOICE.

    August 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Andrew McCauley

    Religion, ladies and gentlemen!

    August 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank

    People of the United States of America and the World,
    Well,this just goes to continue to prove that there are plenty of psychopaths running around the rest of the world not and not just here in the United States

    August 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RobertC

    In America, the cults lead pilgrimages to fast-food restaurants to celebrate exclusion. Not nearly as destructive as this, but still stupid.

    August 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pnm9pnm

    I no Putin is not out of amo 1der way so nicey nise?pnm.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mztmarie

    When compared to some of the other cult/religious headlines this one is tame. Living underground and keeping your kids out of society is not illegal, just unusual. If there were no guns, bombs, poison or other artifacts of violence, then why judge. If he wasn't forcing 12 year old girls to marry 55 year old guys or making members pledge blood oaths, then monitor the group and drop it. I'm sure Russia has more pressing issues to attend to.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. James

    I doubt children who have never seen the light of day can be in good health. There are all kinds of detrimental health effects that one would suffer if one had never been exposed to sunlight (e.g. the Fritzl case). Perhaps they weren't confined underground for the duration of their lives?

    August 11, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Caiha

    Hm, is this the first every case of a "prophet" creating his own sect for a reason other thank banging the children of his followers?

    August 11, 2012 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jack

    Feel so pity for the kids ~ Most of the kids is being trap inside there because of their parents is cults ~ It was so pity for a child's experience that never saw the sun and how it look like ~ Hopes that can live out at the cities under education situation ~ I think it just can be done through the Kechara Wish Fulfilling Chakras ~

    August 11, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
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