Ines and Norman Kosin are members of Anastasia, a far-right Russian sect accused of antisemitism that was inspired by the novels of Russian author Vladimir Megre.
The couple left their life on the German island of Sylt to move to an isolated estate in the southern Burgenland region of Austria.
Norman Kosin, who is a former tourist travel manager, hopes to bring “a hundred families” to what he calls “his space of love”, located on the Hungarian border.
As well as contributing to Anastasia’s dedicated Telegram channel, Kosin harnesses other conspiracy channels on Telegram. He uses these channels – which have a combined following of roughly 250,000 subscribers – to denounce what he calls media lies.
Anti-Covid backlash driving the movement
Norman Kosin says his convictions were strengthened by the anti-Covid restrictions, denouncing supposed brainwashing in his children’s schools.
His youngest child, aged 4, goes to nursery school, but the two eldest, aged 10 and 14, have been taken out of school.
“The souls of children are so innocent” and such measures “destroy them”, the father insists, drawing a parallel with what is happening now with the war in Ukraine.
“We are building an image, a propaganda” against Russia that “marks for life”, he said, convinced the “system”, which has “degenerated” humans, will collapse.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has given Anastasia a considerable boost in German-speaking countries,” according to the Documentation Fund on Religiously Motivated Political Extremism.
According to progenitor Megre, there were 400 initiatives in 2019 to set up the fringe communities in Russia – however, these figures have not been verified.
A movement spreading across Europe
Beyond the German-speaking world, there are active Anastasia members in other European countries, including Portugal and Bulgaria.
In France, where national conferences on the subject were held last week, a “significant increase” in similar sectarian groups in connection with the health crisis has been identified.
Although the Anastasia movement, “contains all sorts of harmless ideas for better living”, according to Ulrike Schiesser, head of the Federal Office for Sectarian Questions, it also “stands against democracy, the state or science” by presenting itself as the way forward for an “elite” holding the truth.
Schiesser also notes “the anti-Semitic elements clearly present in the books”, which are “generally ignored, denied or minimised, as if one could not criticise the writings of the guru”.
Norman Kosin responded to questions about the movement’s antisemitic ties by brushing off the matter according to AFP.
“Because of two or three chapters, everyone who reads the books is lumped into the national socialist category,” he continued.