INTERVIEW: WITH YAKOV KROTOV, A PRIEST OF THE UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH
by Vladimir Oivin
Portal-Credo.Ru, 28 April 2017
--Vladimir Oivin: How do you evaluate the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on "liquidation" of the Jehovah's Witnesss?
--Yakov Krotov: The decision seems to me to be momentous and curious. What for the western world is simply despotic tyranny is, in Russia, a clear signal that says that totalitarianism has advanced yet further along the path to its desired ideal. Now there is no longer a need for any law about religious groups (after all there was a draft law requiring religious groups to give notification of their existence), and they will come for everyone. They have already come for the Jehovah's Witnesses, although the Supreme Court decision supposedly does not affect the life of ordinary believers. It is a conspicuous signal to precinct police, FSB agents, and employees of the E-Center: "Don't be shy, guys; Europe and America are no longer a decree for us. We now have Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in one bottle, and a little bit of Turkey."
It is a pity for not only Jehovah's Witnesses, because it affects everybody.
--You say that the decision of the Supreme Court does not affect rank-and-file believers very much. But after all they have been legally equated with extremists, with ISIS . . .
--Perhaps I did not express myself precisely. Of course, they will be put in prison, fined, and so forth. But the authorities have a plan. As in 1937, the goal is not to imprison everybody. It is necessary to imprison only so many as the authorities want. They also will not imprison nearly all Salafites or Wahhabis.
For Jehovah's Witnesses it also was rather bad, and now it will be even worse. And they knew before this that they can come for anybody, arrest anybody, and accuse them of any crime. Now they know it even better and, I think, most were terribly frightened.
For the past 27 years, the restoration of the soviet regime has been going on. Now we have reached 1977 and it will be worse. Because nobody has resisted and nobody is resisting, even the Jehovah's Witnesses. Nobody is demanding abolition of the law on extremism; everybody says only that this is an incorrect use of it. That means people are hoping to come to an agreement with cannibals. But such hopes encourage cannibalism.
--How do you evaluate the reaction of society and believers to what is happening?
--The most vile thing here is not the position of the Supreme Court but that of those official "Orthodox" who now are sighing: "Oh, but why so, they went too far, freedom of speech must be protected. . . ." The positions of Kuraev, Khudinev . . . As with "Pussy Riot," they should be spanked and released. For decades people have said that the Witnesses are "American agents," and that they "hurt the feelings of Russian Orthodox believers," and that "in Russia there should be Orthodoxy," and that "sectarians produce zombies." And when finally their propaganda, which was conducted under orders from the KGB and FSB, bore its fruits, they decided to remain clean and began speaking out in defense of freedom of conscience. This is despicable.
But I hope that there are in Russia people who really value freedom of speech and who will fight for it not because they are afraid of the consequences and want to distance themselves from the executioners, without changing their views at the same time, but because they conscientiously accept: to be a person means to tolerate freedom of speech for any other person, no matter what the person says. (tr. by PDS, posted 30 April 2017)
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