Please visit our new site for up-to-date information and news.

Ex-Moonie Says Cult Groups Are Preying on Russians; Analyst Sees Ex-communists as Easy Targets

Date: Sunday, November 22, 1992
Section: CITY WEEKLY
Page: 9

By Ric Kahn, Globe Staff

SOMERVILLE — Ex-Moonie Steven Hassan just returned from a mind-altering trip to Russia. An internationally recognized expert on counseling people out of destructive cults, Hassan was invited to Russia by Farida Asadullina, a Moscow State University professor concerned about the high intensity of Western groups operating behind the Torn Curtain.

For example, said Hassan, the Moonies have recruited more than 2,000 Russians into the Unification Church. And, he said, both the Moonies’ bible, the Divine Principle, and the Church of Scientology’s handbook, Dianetics, have been translated into Russian.

Hassan’s mission to Moscow last month was to present a series of lectures and workshops, titled “Mind Control and the Cult Phenomenon,” to mental- health professionals and psychology students who would then be enlisted into the battle against the post-Cold-War cult crusade.

But Hassan was startled by the strange feedback radiating from the would-be saviors.

“The irony is that I was there to help the Russians understand how to help people involved with Western cults, and everyone in the audience themelves was a former member of a cult: the political cult of communism,” said Hassan, who, as a result of his trip, is working to have his book, “Combatting Cult Mind Control,” translated into Russian.

Q: By what definition are you characterizing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as a cult?

A: A destructive cult can be a political cult, a religious cult, a psychotherapy cult or a commercial cult. It’s a pyramid-structured authoritarian organization with someone or some group at the top who has absolute power and who uses deception and mind control to keep people dependent. Which fits the Communist model precisely.

Q: What kinds of post-cult characteristics did the Russians evince?

A: Identity confusion, depression, a sense of betrayal by the leadership that exploited them, low self-esteem, problems with decision-making, fear of trusting anything else. They’ve physically left the group but haven’t processed through the experience.

Q: Was there one particular moment that in your eyes crystallized their cult status?

A: I was lecturing to about 50 school psychologists from Siberia. After about 15 minutes of speaking about mind control I stopped and said, ‘What are your questions? I’ll answer anything you want to know about American life.’ Dead silence. So I asked again. Dead silence. I said, ‘What’s going on here?’ Finally, a man spoke from the back of the room. He said, ‘We’re not used to asking questions. We’re used to sitting and taking notes and memorizing what the instructor is saying.’ I said, ‘I want you to think for yourself.’ It was like opening a dark room and telling people, ‘By the way, there’s fields and meadows over there, and the sun is shining.’ Their faces were like, ‘Are you serious? Really?’ I was in tears, it was so moving.

Q: Did they finally ask questions?

A: They wanted to know how it was different in America. They were relieved to hear me say, ‘We’re manipulated and controlled in America, too.’

Q: Are we members of a red-white-and-blue cult?

A: No, but it’s certainly an influence situation. For example, to a large extent we’re indoctrinated by a consumer mentality that says we have to have nice-smelling underarms and a new car. That’s different than saying, ‘We’re going to take over the world.’ People here have the freedom to talk to whoever they want to talk to, to read whatever they want to read.

Q: Why does it seem to be open season for the Western cults in Russia?

A: When you grow up in a totalitarian mind-set, where it’s good vs. evil and obey the leader and everything will be OK, and then you leave that, you feel lost. You’re very vulnerable. And right now, things from the West are perceived as good, particularly things from the West that offer hope and God and transcendental experiences. They’ve been in a society that has denigrated any spirituality, and they’re very spiritual people.

Q: Is the return of the Communist Party a possibility given the seemingly fragile state of the Russian people?

A: I think it is. Whenever any society is in great turmoil, the factions that are more organized have a distinct advantage over everybody else. Who is organized? The party, organized crime, organized cults.

Q: What are the implications of this cultic hyperactivity for Russia’s democracy movement?

A: One of the biggest things I realized is that it’s great to help the Russian people by sending them food and money. But we also have to send them information about how to make decisions. If we in America really want to ensure that Russia will not go back to totalitarianism, then understanding mind control and giving people the tools to make decisions for themselves is a vital step toward ensuring freedom.

RKAHN ;11/17 NIGRO ;11/24,12:38 CICULT22

—————————————————-
All content herein is © 1996 the Globe Newspaper Company and may not be republished without permission.