Jehovah's Witnesses clear out their property


One of the most influential religious organizations in the world has now fallen under a ban in Russia

Moskovskii Komsomolets, 5 May 2017


The Supreme Court has actually ruled that the Jehovah's Witnesses conducted extremist activity. Now they are required to cease their work immediately, which they have already done. Further, apparently, there will be new owners of their property. And these believers' property is good, especially in St. Petersburg.


People left in tears


In the northern capital, which has traditionally been considered to be multi-confessional, a place was found for the Jehovists also. Here they own a dozen hectares of land in Kurort district in the village of Solnechnoe, with dwellings and office buildings. They also own a congress hall with 2,500 seats on Kolomyazh Prospect, building 21, with a hectare of land. And several smaller buildings.


The central office of the Russian Jehovists is located in Solnechnoe. In the plan of its  arrangement it may be compared with a monastery. Families of clergy worked and lived there. In all, about 300 persons worked in the settlement of the Administrative Center.


Now the buildings on the shore of the Finnish Gulf are empty. The inhabitants began leaving with their things as soon as they learned of decision of the court. Many had lived and worked here for years and therefore they departed in tears.


"We will challenge the decision, but we do not want to create in the authorities the impression that we are not obeying the court," one of the former leaders of the center explains.


Instead of a dump they built a palace


There existed the myth that back in the early 1990s Mayor Anatoly Sobchak presented the Witnesses a parcel of 10.5 hectares in Solnechnoe and a hectare on Komomyazh. However, as it turned out, according to documents the religious organization acquired the territory of a former Pioneer Camp in Solnechnoe, which included residences, buildings, and a boiler house, from a construction company for 150 million rubles. According to representatives of the Jehovists, the camp had been completely ruined and they rebuilt it and turned it into a well landscaped lot.


At the time, fellow Jehovist believers from Finland, Sweden, and Norway worked on the construction. They brought a Finnish architect. The Scandinavians brought construction materials and hired workers. The construction began in 1992 and by 2002 the entire "camp" was ready. And all of this belonged to citizens of other countries, the Witnesses aver, and therefore it cannot be confiscated.


While the construction of the camp was underway, the Witnesses found the land for the Hall of Congresses. Mayor Anatoly Sobchak signed an order to transfer to the Jehovah's Witnesses one hectare on Kolomyazh Prospect. It was leased for 49 years under the condition that for each square meter they were supposed to pay 10 rubles as their contribution to the development of the city. It turned out that the land was not without a surprise—under the future building was found a hazardous waste dump. But the Jehovists paid for the complete disposal of harmful waste.


Despite the rumors about the foreign imprint in the immovable property of the Jehovists, according to information of Rosreestr [Russian Register] both the land in Solnechnoe and the hectare on Kolomyazh today are registered to the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. The foreign owners, who might have been able to protect the property of their Russian fellow believers, could not be found. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 May 2017)

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