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Soviet 'Rasputin' Dies At 65 In Moscow

  • RFE/RL

Juna Davitashvili described herself as an astrologist and a poet and claimed to possess the powers to cure cancer and prolong life, prompting Moscow's elite to line up for her treatments beginning in the 1970s. (photo from 1988)

Juna Davitashvili described herself as an astrologist and a poet and claimed to possess the powers to cure cancer and prolong life, prompting Moscow's elite to line up for her treatments beginning in the 1970s. (photo from 1988)

A legendary Russian faith healer who reputedly worked wonders on the health of Leonid Brezhnev and other prominent citizens of the Soviet Union has died in Moscow.

Juna Davitashvili described herself as an astrologist and a poet and claimed to possess the powers to cure cancer and prolong life, prompting Moscow's elite to line up for her treatments beginning in the 1970s.

But even as accounts of her treatments of Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders and intellectuals spread, Juna remained relatively unknown to the general public.

That changed when she shot to fame when passions for the occult grew after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev started his liberalization reforms known as perestroika.

She made her first public appearance in the late 1980s, with Russian rock musicians Igor Talkov and Andrei Derzhavin, and was rumored to have treated film stars from Hollywood and Europe.

Some referred to her simply as "the new Rasputin," according to newspaper reports from her heyday.

'An Extraordinary Person'

An ethnic Assyrian, Juna -- or Yevgenia Yuvashevna Sardis, as she was known officially -- was born to an Iranian immigrant family residing in Russia's North Caucasus region of Krasnodar.

Russian actor Stanislav Sadalsky, Davitashvili's close friend, said on June 8 that the legendary healer died at the age of 65 after being in a coma for two days. No other details were given.

She disappeared from the public eye after the death of her son, Vakhtang Davitashvili, in 2001.

Russian lawmaker Oleg Finko said after the news about Juna's death spread on June 8 that he had been treated by Juna several times, and called her "an extraordinary person."

"She was a very fair person. When she knew she was not able to cure a certain disease, she refused to get involved. But she was able to tackle many illnesses," Finko said.

The president of the Russian Astrology School in Moscow, Aleksandr Zarayev, described Juna Davitashvili's importance to Russian society as similar to that of prominent Soviet-era bard Vladimir Vysotsky, adding that "Juna fulfilled her mission."

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
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