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Alarm about White Brotherhood

by Alexandra Sorokina
Moskovskii komsomolets, 28 August 1997

Marina Tvigun, also known as Maria Devi Christos, emerged to freedom on an amnesty after imprisonment in the Dneprodzerzhinsk women's colony. The term was shortened only two months for the representative of the White Brotherhood by the clemency of the president of Ukraine, which was given not only to her. The sentence of the Kievan city court on three counts--seizure of a state institution, organizing mass disorders, and preaching a religion harmful to health--and the term of four years then remained without changes.

What kind of person was Marina in the world before this whole terrible story of the White Brotherhood? A happy and beautiful woman wishing for all earthly happiness. Many people in her native Donetsk remember her. And her reporter colleagues who knew her well remain completely mystified. And, to tell the truth, they do not particularly focus in their articles on the poor woman. She is really one of us, although deluded. And it really takes a stretch to believe it is so; the absurd turban on the head and the white, flowing clothing--is this ordinary, funny Marina a fantasy or a joke? In court she threatened, perhaps as a joke or perhaps seriously, that the Lord Maria Devi Christos will leave the room. To which they reasonably answered her that the Lord Commander of the Guard would not permit it.

In the colony Marina Tsvigun calmed down, apparently figuring that its bad to joke with laws. She peacefully wove string bags with friends and wrote and wrote. She compiled a "Third Gospel," composing verses and poems. And if in the newspaper of the White Brothers "Yusmalos" they operate honestly, then it appears she actively conducted correspondence with her flock. A month and a half or two ago, that is, on the eve of her liberation, number 25 of this particular publication appeared in the hands of young men and women dressed in white clothing, scurrying about Moscow. And such nonsense as does not exist among mortal man, let alone a god and in prison, Marina shamelessly acknowledges that, well, in general: "Two halves are eternally joined into one. And God eternally is being born." And she has heard: "As soon as you deliver your child, you will descend again into the sinful world as Christ's sacrifice."

Marina's only son, Vitalik, had barely become ten years old when her divine ordeals began. He rather compromised her past, as a physical conception, as completely worldly affairs. In Donetsk it was like an exploding bomb; in the streetcar on the way home supposedly White Brothers tried to do away with Vitalik. The child did not see his mother for months; he left school, began to drink and he tried drugs. His father, taking responsibility for his son's education after the divorce, was not able to cope. In the most difficult time for a youngster Marina spent a long time abroad, in exile, so to speak, because of the investigation. Then prison. The son began seeing his mother even less often. Some time he lived with his father, and other times, he played a guitar at weddings to earn some money. Recently there have been money transfers from White Brotherhood. Grandmother Anna Yakovlevna, with whom Marina grew up and to whose home she brought her husband Nikolai and where Vitaly came into the world, has not dried her tears for all these years. Moskovskii komsomolets contacted her by telephone. And we heard: "This evil Krivonogov really turned my dear child into something inhuman, and even after homesickness in prison I dare say she will not come home to my house. Any day when I sit outside all the time I watch expectant. I read in the Ukrainian newspapers that my Marina supposedly went to relatives in Kiev with her son Vitalik. I am the oldest member of the family and, believe me, nobody is in our house." However some Kievan relatives regularly brought Marina parcels and through them she sometimes relayed letters to her son and even grandmother. So it seems that this was the way articles and poems were sent to the White Brotherhood newspaper.

When after sentence was pronounced some Kievan reporter asked: "What next?" Marina answered that everything will happen as predicted. Only after release from jail. "And the Lord Maria Devi Christos will reveal herself in order to be torn to pieces. The bodies of God Maria Devi Christos and her prophet Yuoan Svama will lie in the street for three and a half days so that all will see how they are resurrected and ascend (in glory!) into heaven. All people will be persuaded of the truth of the scriptures. But it will be too late. The final judgment will begin." Is all of this mindless nonsense really going to be repeated again? But Marina believes that she will die. And is it really true that she is pregnant? Perhaps by a new white god? (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

(posted 29 August 1997)

Patriarch rejects North American standards of freedom of conscience

ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 27 August. Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus spoke against the imposition of "North American Standards" upon our country in matters of freedom of conscience, and he considers that the religious legislation of Russia should take account of national traditions. He made this statement today after a meeting in Saint Daniel's monastery with Archbishop Kristof Shenborn of Vienna, who came to Russia at the invitation of the primate of the Russian Orthodox church.

"I think that we have our own traditions and history and they must be respected in our legislation. Sometimes people try to impose North American standards upon us," said the most holy Patriarch Alexis II. The law on freedom of conscience, which was adopted by the State Duma and Federation Council but was rejected by President Boris Yeltsin, "corresponds to European standards," the primate of the Russian church noted. "But, as we join the European community, we would want to preserve our own personality and countenance, the spiritual and cultural heritage which was laid down over the course of the thousand-year history of Russia," he emphasized.

Speaking about nontraditional confessions, his most holiness declared that "proselytism should be completely excluded" in their activity, that is "the attempt by unworthy means to convert to a different faith people who profess the religion of their ancestors."

"We also oppose proselytism," declared the guest, having emphasized that the position of the Catholic church in Austria is not different in any way from that of the Vatican. "But at the same time we consider that it is necessary to respect freedom of conscience."

The guest agreet that "each country must control its own autonomy and find its own ways. It is quite natural that in the new situation in which Russia finds itself, it is necessary to find those paths which would be more appropriate for the changed circumstances. And these quests must be supported and welcomed."

"However it is necessary to have tolerance in this process," the archbishop noted. As an example he cited Austria where a special law was worked out gradually that pertains to the status of adherents of Orthodoxy. "In the end they have managed to find those wordings which secure for the Orthodox in Austria the same rights as the adherents of the largest confessions," he said.

The short meeting with the archbishop in the official residence of the most holy patriarch took place behind closed doors and other details were not released. Archbishop Shenborn will stay in Russia until the end of the week. Tomorrow he will attend the divine liturgy on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God which will be celebrated in the patriarchal Dormition cathedral in the Kremlin by the primate of the Russian Orthodox church.

Link to Russian text.

(posted 28 August 1997)

Yeltsin administration proposes amendments to religion law


Rossiiskie vesti, 27 August 1997

The basic parameters of the new version of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" have practically been agreed to. This was accomplished as a result of conversations lasting almost a month between representatives of the administration of the president of Russia and leaders of the basic religious confessions. Rossiiskie vesti has frequently written about the most important stages of this delicate process. In its earlier version the law was vetoed by President Boris Yeltsin, since a whole series of its provisions contradicted the constitution of the country. According to information from Interfax, at the present they have managed to honor almost all of the observations and wishes of both the president and of the leaders of basic religious organizations traditionally existing in Russia. the new version of the law will permit the securing of a respectful attitude in society toward traditional religious values and will guarantee the rights of believers who belong to various religions. The draft of the law is in full accordance with world practice and the norms of international law, the sources of Interfax stressed. At the same time the document devotes significant attention to the protection of spiritual health of society and puts impediments in the path of the spread in Russia of totalitarian sects which cause physical and moral harm to the population. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox church, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Old Believers, Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, and other confessions participated in consultation on the revision of the law. It is expected that the agreed upon version of the law will be discussed at the beginning of September at an expanded session of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations of the presidency of Russia. The possibility that Boris Yeltsin himself will participate in the work of the council has not been ruled out in the Kremlin.

According to sources close to the head of state, there is hope that if a final consensus is achieved at the expanded session of the council, the draft law can be quickly forwarded for review by the State Duma and its approval. Such an approach, in their opinion, will show parliament's respect for the representatives of the basic religious confessions existing in Russia. (tr. by PDS)

* * * * *

Keston News Service obtained a copy of a proposal for revising the law on freedom of conscience. This proposal was worked out by representatives of Yeltsin's administration who negotiated with representatives of the Moscow patriarchate. Keston reports, also, that both the patriarchate and significant members of the State Duma are critical of this proposal.

Complete text of draft: Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations

(posted 27 August 1997)

Debating the religion law

Articles sympathetic to the law:

ARGUMENTS AGAINST ARGUMENTS, by Viacheslav Sergeevich Polosin, candidate of political sciences, State Duma expert, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 23 August 1997

THEOLOGY LESSONS, by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Trud, 21 August 1997

WEAK STATE, WEAK CHURCH, AND WEAK SOCIETY CAN BE STRONG ONLY TOGETHER, by Andranik Migranian, Alexander Tsipko, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 August 1997;

If it is approved by the president, the new law "On Freedom of Conscience. . ." will save the Slavic world from the expansion of totalitarian sects.

"OURS" AND "THEIRS," by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Trud, 16 August 1997;
FREEDOM AND CONSCIENCE, by Vladimir Petrovich Semenko, Nezavisimaia gazeta, Military Review, 16 August 1997;
DOES THE STATE BELIEVE IN GOD? by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Trud, 13 August 1997;
CRITICISM OF RELIGION BILL. POT CALLING KETTLE BLACK? by Julia Shargorodska, St. Petersburg Times, 4 August 1997;
THE POPE IS SHORT ON FREEDOM, by V. Poliakov, Pravoslanvaia moskva, No. 22 (August 1997);

Articles hostile to the law:

EVERYONE IS READY FOR CONCESSIONS, Moskovskie novosti, 27 August 1997
COMMUNISTS FLIRT WITH THE CHURCH, by Mikhail Mendeleev, Ekspress khronika, 25 July 1997

Moldavian church conflict

by Georgy Stolnik, RIA-Novosti correspondent

KISHINEV, 25 August. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kishinev and all-Moldova personally delivered to Presidnet Petr Luchinsky a declaration from the synod of the Orthodox church in Moldova which contained a categorical demand that the government ofthe republic not register the so-called metropolia of Bessarabia which functioned there before 1940. The synod considers that this would disrupt the unity of the church in the republic where, according to statistics, ninety percent of believers profess Orthodoxy, and it will lead "to a division between Romanians and non-Romanians, and then to the emergence of Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Gagauz, Greek, and other ecclesiastical administrations." The syond, which criticized the republican president's "position of silence on the current question," considers that the official recogniztion of the so-called metropolia of Bessarabia "will complicate the process of reconciliation between Kishinev and Tiraspol." The declaration emphasizes that the conflict that has arisen is a competition between church officials and should be decided at the summit between Russian and Romanian Orthodox churches with the participation of the Metropolia of Kishinev and all-Moldova. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text.

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

BUCHAREST, 25 August. "Romanian ministers of the church and believers share the joy of their brothers across the Pruth river in regard to the legalization of the metropolia of Bessarabia diocese, created five years ago after its brutal liquidation in 1940," declared Romanian Patriarch Theoktist in response to the decision of the appelate court of Kishinev that requires the legalization of the Bessarabian diocese under the Romanian Orthodox church.

The primate of the Romanian Orthodox church called for "prayer that in this moments God will bestow a universal thought and will for the confimration of this decision and that love and mutual understanding will be confirmed among all sons of the unified people of the republic of Moldova and that its church and canonical organization will be preserved and freely developed. The Bessarabian diocese was founded in 1928 by Romanian church authorities and it was liqwuidated in 1940 after the annexation of the territory between the Pruth and Dnestr rivers to the USSR. In 1990 a number of Moldavian priests declared the restoration of the Bessarabian diocese. In 1992 the Romanian Orthodox church unilaterally recognized it and consecrated a bishop there. The Kishinev government and Moldavian metropolitan refused to recognized the schismatics. In 1996 the leaders of the Bessarabian diocese appealed to a Kishinev court for recognition of the legality of its restoration. The court at the first level refused them, but an appelate court on Tuesday gave a positive answer. It is predicted that the final decision on this qwuestion will come from the supreme court of Moldavia (Supreme Judicial Chamber), and the government intends to appeal.

At the same time Romanian papers are reporting the reaction in Kishinev to the verdict of the appelate court. It is reported in the press that Moldavian Metropolitan Vladimir declared that only one metropolia can exist in Moldavia, expressing concern about the possibility of the emergence of Gagauz and Pridnestrian metropolias. In his turn, the speaker of the parliament, Dumitru Motspan, declared that the "recognition of the Bessarabian diocese clears the path for the union of Moldova and Romania." The president of the Moldavian department of cults, George Armashu, noted that when the Bessarabian diocese was created it included the dioceses of Ismail and Belgorod, which now are in the territory of Ukraine. Thus if the Bessarabian diocese were legalized conflicts could arise with the government of that state. He added also that the Bessarabian diocese does not represent a separate church and thus the issue is one of internal church conflict. In his opinion, the disputed question "should be the object of conversations between the Orthodox churches of Romania and Russia, which will occur in September."

The deputy from the National Christian and Democratic Front, Vlad Kubriakov, said in an interview with the newspaper "Ziua," that if the supreme court sides with the government, then the Bessarabian diocese will appeal to the European court on human rights in Strasburg. He said that "from the conversations with Prime Minister Ioan Chubyk it turns out that the government of Moldova still has not made a final decision about an appeal to the supreme court." He said that cabinet needs a "democratic image" in the West, which, however, can pose threats to Russian speakers. Besides, V. Kubriakov said, recognitiion of the Bessarabian diocese was one of the conditions which the Council of Europe imposed on Moldavia before its acceptance into the organization. "For the Russian speaking population legalization of the Bessarabia diocese is a beginning of the end," writes Ziua, "marking the practical liquidation of the metropolia of Moldavia, which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox church. At the present time the metropolia of Moldavia has 840 churches and 24 monasteries, while the Bessarabian diocese has 117 churches. The next round of talks between the proponents of legalization of the Bessarabian diocese and Prime Minister Ioan Chubuk will be on Sunday." (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

Further on Moldavian church conflict.

(posted 25 August 1997)

Interconfessional news conference on religion law

Pravoslavnaia Moskva, no. 23, August 1997

In Moscow, in the Saint Daniel's hotel, there was a press conference devoted to the issue of the new federal law on freedom of conscience. Among its Orthodox participants were Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the president of the department of external church relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, the administrator of the affairs of the Moscow patriarchate, and Archbishop Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, the vice president of the external affairs department. Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, president of the presidium of the ecclesiastical board of Muslims of the central european region of Russia represented the Muslim religious organizations. Lama Dashi Niama Garmazapov, president of the souncil of the central ecclesiastical board of Buddhists of the Russian federation in Moscow represented the Buddhists. The press conference opened with an addres by Master Sergius, reading the declaration of the most holy patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II, dealing with the issues of the new law. Responding to reporters' questions, Mitropolitan Kirill frequently stressed that the law contains no restrictions on any religious groups. The listing in the preamble of the law of the traditional religions in Russia does not grant them any privileges nor infringe upon the rights of those religious confessions that are not mentioned. In regard to the standards of the law, requiring a fifteen-year tern of existence in Russia for gaining the rights of legal entity of any religion, it was emphasized that this norm does not affect either Catholic or Protestant confessions that have existed on the territory of Russia for an extended time. The issue is pseudoreligious organizations whose theory and practice are unknown to our people and society. The law contains no standard that limits the activity of these organizations. The issue is only the time during which they must demonstrate their good intentions. Several questions were raised about the Catholic religion as to why it was not mentioned in the preamble of the law. To these Metropolitan Kirill responded that the Catholic religion had not exerted a substantial influence on the spiritual and cultural life of Russia, as had those that were listed. "I think," the master added, "that if we were talking about Italian, Spanish, or Polish law, then the Russian Orthodox church, which is present in these countries, would not even imagine requesting its presence among the religions that had formed the contours of these nations." He added, "Why is it that the legislation of Ireland, Spain, Greece, Great Britain, and Scandinavia mentions traditional religions but poor Russia cannot mention Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, which for millennia have been connected with the history of the peoples." The master further noted that "there is the opinion that the Russian Orthodox church actively participated in the construction of the text; this is not quite so. We participated along with representatives of other religion and we expressed our opinions." A number of reporters asked whether relations between the church and president and the government in general had been changed. In resonse it was emphasized that the Russian Orthodox church is not a political force in society and does not engage in the political struggle or in the opposition. The position of the church today is not criticism with a far-reaching goal but the modest wish to speak the truth to our people at this fateful moment of its history. There are issues on which the church cannot compromise. "The issue of the spiritual make-up of the country and the recognition of traditional religious are such principal concerns and we humbly declare this to our people, and the our government, and to our parliation, and to our president," said the master.

Then Mufti Gainutdin responded to questions, stressing that Muslim religious organizations will insist upon all important provisions of the law on freedom of conscience and on the rights and interests of Muslim believers in concord with the Russian Orthodox church. Archibishop Sergius, responding to a question regarding the law's opponents, including Pope John Paul II and President Bill Klinton of USA declared: "No one known better their own people, believers, than their spiritual leaders--priests, muftis, rabbis, pastors, and lamas. And what the law should be is a matter for the Russians themselves, and internal matter of the government and parliament of Russia." The head of the Buddhists energetically supported the Orthodox master: why can we not decide for ourselves our domestic business? And really, in our legislative activity, as Master Kirill noted earlier, the American Congress is beginning to play too great a role. And what does this mean? Whatever role the American or any other congress may play, the chief decision still remains to the believing people. The preachers who poured down upon us in 1992 declared that atheistic Russia is some kind of spiritual vacuum. The sects were not rejected by the law enforcement agencies nor the rulers but by the people who did not accept them in the absolute majority. And only on the basis of the people can we hope that Russia will remain Russia. It is difficult not to agree with this opinion of the hierarch of the church, especially evidenced by the enormous number of letters to the president requesting support for the law on freedom of conscience that have come from a multitude of political parties, public organizations, and believers of the traditional confessions. The last word has not been heard. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text.

(posted 24 August 1997)

Progress toward new religion law

Interfax, Segodnia, 23 August 1997

The basic parameters of a new edition of the law on freedom of conscience have practially been agreed upon. This was achieved as the result of conversations among representatives of the administration of the president of the Russian federation and leaders of the basic religious confessions, according to reliable sources in the Kremlin. They said: "at the present moment almost all of the observations and desires of the president have been honored, as well as those of the leaders of the basic religious organizations that traditionally have operated in Russia. The new edition of the law permits a strengthening of a respectful attitude toward traditional religious values in society and secures the rights of believers who belong to various religions. The draft of the law fully conforms with world practice and the standards of international law." (tr. by PDS)

(posted 23 August 1997)

Patriarch: Yeltsin's amendments insult Orthodoxy

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

Yaroslavl, 20 August. "The significance of Orthodoxy for the life of Russia must be adequately written into the law on freedom of conscience," Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus declared while in Yaroslavl diocese on a pastoral visit.

The primate of the Russian Orthodox church believes that the activity in Russia of all types of foreign sects and missionaries poses a serious problem and their influence must not be underestimated. He considers that this is why the State Duma and Federation Assembly, which understood the need for legislative measures to restrict their spread, approved the new law that provided such measures.

However the patriarch considers many of the amendments of the president, who vetoed the law, "harmful and insulting for the Russian Orthodox church," and he told the head of state that at the time of their telephone conversation. "They place in doubt the historical, cultural, and spiritual heritage of Orthodoxy and its significance for Russia," his holiness noted with regret.

"Yaroslavl land in this regard is an example of how profound is the influence of the heritage of Orthodoxy upon the life of our fatherland and the life of the people." His holiness also stated that a reconcilation commission is now at work on the task of discussing all suggestions and acute question. However, the primate noted "we are standing completely firm on the point that the preamble of the law must retain the provision about the special role of Orthodoxy in Rus. Because to remove this wording that points out that there also are other confessions that made a contribution in our country to the historical and cultural heritage would mean to erase the truth." (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

Tver diocese supports religion law

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

TVER, 19 August. Orthodox believers of Tver region spoke out today in defense of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associatins," which President Yeltsin vetoed. Two appeals were circulated today in Verkhnevolzhe. The first was from the Tver Union of Orthodox Laity to residents of the region. It says that "according to the conclusion of authoritative specialists, the law fully accords with the Russian constitution and international standards on freedom of conscience and it takes into account the experience of other countries, in particular Germany, Greece, Israel, UAR, and others, where similar laws are in effect." The authors of the appeal write: "Today an intense struggle, a genuine spiritual battle, is being waged for the souls of Russians. And the state must not be at all indifferent about who wins. The massive and unregulated invasion and attack upon Russia by hitherto unknown 'churches,' whose activity damages the spiritual, psychological, and physical health of people, have upset the religious stability that has existed historically in Russia."

An appeal of Orthodox believers of Tver diocese to deputies of the Russian State Duma, expressing "hope in their steadfastness," notes that "the law was called to take a stand in the path of those who are destroying Russian spirituality. . . . They are destroying the foundations of our fatherland that were laid without human agency and they are finally destroying Russian statehood." The authors of the appeal consider that "pressure through the mass media is being exerted not only on deputies but also on the church and the most holy patriarch. Someone wants to draw the patriarchate into participation in the reconciliation commission for 'revising' the law you adopted. It is not the business of the church to write secular laws and drawing its representatives into this business is a provocation that transfers responsibility for the contents of laws onto the church. Every law written by the powers that be is imperfect and transient." Appealing to the duma deputies the Orthodox believers declared: "We decisively support the law that you adopted not because it is an exception from that rule but because now the scales are tipped in favor of the enemies of Russia and the law you adopted weighs in the opposite direction." Collection of signatures on the appeal has begun and it will be delivered to the State Duma of Russia. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text.

Romanian vs. Russian Orthodox churches

ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii

KISHINEV, 20 August. After the Moldova appeals court required the state to legalize the subordination of the metropolia of Bessarabia to the Romanian church, a catastrophic schism among Orthodox believers will begin, which will spill over into society, according to Metropolitan Vladimir of Kishinev and all-Moldavia. He spoke today with reporters about the verdict that was rendered yesterday evening by the appelate court in the suit of the metropolia of Bessarabia against the government.

In the course of several years the cabinet of ministers has refused to review and confirm the charter of the metropolia of Bessarabia, which was created with the cooperation of the Romaniian Orthodox church in 1992 and since then has been in conflict with the metropolia of Kishinev and Moldavia that is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox church and is registered with the state. In the opinion of the director of state service for problems of cults, Georgy Armashu, "the church conflict must be resolved in the course of conversations that were begun this year between the largest Orthodox churches, Russian and Romanian." However a representative of the metropolia of Bessarabia in the court, parliamentary deputy from the National Front of Moldavia, which advocates union with Romania, Vlad Kubriakov, stated that the cabinet's refusal is a violation of human rights.

"After the announcement of the appeals court's decision I received calls from priests all over Moldavia who asked for a general meeting of believers on the central square of Kishinev, in order to resolve the question finally. We understand that this is not the best move, but we are forced to do it and, apparently, next week such a meeting will occur," declared Metropolitan Vladimir. He emphasized that the basic mass of Orthodox in Moldavia oppose schism and registration of the metropolia of Bessarabia, since they thing that this will lead to destruction of Orthodoxy and disorder in society. "I have already received suggestions to create a metropolia of Pridnestria and Gagauzia. But tiny Moldova is not a country where several large confession can exist. They will fight among themselves for believers, which will lead to schism of both the church and state," the bishop stressed. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

Background from RFERL


A representative of the government on 6 August told the Chisinau Court of Appeals that the government was now ready to extend official recognition to the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (BMB), which is subordinated to the Bucharest Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate. The government had refused recognition of the church for five years, recognizing only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. The court was about to rule on litigation between the government and the BMB and the government had appealed against a decision of the Chisinau Tribunal recognizing the BMB. The government representative said official recognition would be extended on 13 August, BASA-press reported.


Ion Ciubuc has said that Gheorghe Armasu, the director of the government office in charge of religious affairs, "misinformed" the Chisinau Court of Appeal when he said the government will recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church on 13 August, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 13 August. Ciubuc said the government's agenda for its 13 August meeting had never included the Church's recognition. The Bessarabian Church is subordinated to the Bucharest patriarchate and has been denied recognition for five years. Armasu told the court that the reason for the denial of recognition was that "Bessarabia" (the name of the Romanian province whose bulk makes up today's Moldova) does not exist at all.


The Chisinau Court of Appeal on 19 August ruled that the government must recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church. RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that the government can appeal the decision within 15 days. The government has refused to recognize the Bessarabian Church, which is subordinated to the Bucharest patriarchate. It recognizes only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow patriarchate. The Bessarabian Church claims some 400,000 believers.


Metropolitan Vladimir, who heads the Moscow-subordinated Moldovan Orthodox Church, says there is a danger of a "war among Orthodox Christians" if the Chisinau Court of Appeal's decision to recognize the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is not overturned. Vladimir told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau that if the decision remains in force " the loser will not be the Church alone but also the State." Also on 20 August, Gheorghe Armasu, director of the government office in charge of religious affairs, said the government will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. Armasu said the Bessarabian Church declares itself to be the successor of a Church that had existed "under foreign occupation," BASA-press reported.

(posted 21 August 1997)

Bad press for sects

Moskovsky komsomolets, 15 August 1997

Recently the residents of building 20/3 on Domodedovsk street witnessed a horrifying tragedy. On the ninth floor there lived a thirty-five-year-old barman with his mother, who is a fervent adherent of the sect of Jehovah. As a neighbor of the original family of Margareta Nazarova tells it, for a long time singing came out of the apartment and then the unfortunate barman tumbled out of the window and then, after briefly grasping onto the trees, crashed onto the pavement. His mother, having immediately leaned out of the window, in a sing-song voice read from the Bible and loudly rejoiced that now her holy son was in Heaven. Actually, the poor man died on the way to the hospital. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

(posted 20 August 1997)

Cult leader amnestied in Ukraine

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

Dneproderzhinsk, Denpropetrovsk region, 17 August. Marina Tsvigun-Krivonogova, one of the leaders of the infamous "White Brotherhood" sect, was freed on an amnesty from the Denprodzerzhinsk women's correctional labor colony. Nevertheless, a month ago this woman who has taken for herself the name "Maria Devi Khristos," told her supporters, "brothers" in faith, about her own development in a telephone message from the place of confinement

She did not act alone but in unison with the "patriarch" of the "White Brotherhood," who also was her husband, Yury Krivonogov. Together, using methods of hypnosis, they drew into the sect mainly young people. Taking advantage of their immature feelings and minds, the heads of the sect acquired complete dominance over them. In particular the leaders of the sect organized a demonstration in the center of Kiev with a crowd of "white brother" youths, which ended with an attack upon Holy Wisdom cathedral that forced law enforcement agencies of Ukraine to take the "prophets" seriously. What "Maria Devi" intends after her release--whether to break with the ex-patriarch Yury Krivonogov and create a family with the "apostle" Vitaly Kovalchuk--is still unknown. A more serious question arises: whether the "White Brotherhood," which has spiritually destroyed thousands of young people in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, will revive its activity. (tr. by PDS)

by Steve Gutterman, Associated Press Writer
Monday, August 18, 1997; 4:04 p.m. EDT

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine has freed the imprisoned leader of a doomsday cult that created chaos in Kiev with its 1993 warnings of the imminent end of the world, police said Monday.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church leaders -- disturbed by the increasing presence of foreign and nontraditional religions since the Soviet>collapse -- said they feared the release would lead to a revival of the White Brotherhood cult. Marina Tsvygun was freed Wednesday under a general amnesty by President Leonid Kuchma for a variety of less serious offenses, police spokesman Vladimir Anisimov said. Tsvygun is known to members of the White Brotherhood cult as Maria Devi Christos, the living God.

In 1993, hundreds of her followers descended on Ukraine's capital for a prayer vigil leading up to what they said would be the Nov. 14, 1993, end ofthe world. Four days prior to the predicted apocalypse, Tsvygun and other cult members were arrested for allegedly storming and vandalizing Kiev's ancient St. Sofia's Cathedral. She was sentenced to four years in prison in February 1996; her husband and a priest in the movement also received long prison terms. The president's amnesty freed the priest as well as Tsvygun, but it was not immediately known if it freed her husband.

The prison sentences started the day the cult leaders were arrested, meaning Tsvygun would have been released this November if not for the amnesty, Anisimov said.

Officials claim the cult, estimated by police in 1995 at 12,000 members in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, brainwashed its followers and tightly controlled their behavior. Ukraine banned the group in 1992.

c Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

by Vasily Zakrevsky
Izvestiia 21 August 1997

On Wednesday of last week her 18-year-old son met Marina Tsvigun at the gates of the Dneprodzerzhinsk woman's colony where she had been confined since the beginning of the year. "The living goddess" Maria Devi Christos was released on an amnesty celebrating the anniversary of the constitution and returned to the "White Brotherhood" with her former husband Yury Krivonogov, according to those who follow her fate. It was Yury who, properly speaking, created the brotherhood and rose from beingan unknown journalist of a Donetsk newspaper to "divine heights." Marina's new chosen one is the Apostle Peter II, whose secular name she does not even mention, who also was freed on the amnesty after spending a term in a colony of ordinary regime. Witnesses say that Marina Tsvigun left in a car with close relatives for Kiev. I one can speak about luck in such circumstances, then Marina is lucky that she was in the Dneprodzerzhinsk colony. It is possible to call this woman's colony a model institution. Everywhere on its territory there is greenery and flowers. The prisoners are well fed and the quality of medical care is shown by the absence of a single case of tuberculosis in the last year.

How did Tsvigun behave in confinement? Quite modestly, according to the colony's officers. She did not keep company with other prisoners who were there for robbery and murder, but she did not condemn them. She carefully obeyed all orders of the keepers and she did not draw her friends in prison into the "White Brotherhood." From morningto night she worked weaving string bags and produced other goods, but she never fulfilled her quota, which the women from the other cells sorely criticized her for. Marina did not go to the corporate prayer services but venerated the icons alonein her cell. She sang religious hymns of her own composition in a kind of semi-dream state. She was very offended when she was called Marina Tsvigun and not Maria Devi Christos, but she got used to it.

And now she is at liberty. Many parents received the news with a pang in their hearts: will their children again take up the white overalls and embrace the "living god"?

As is known, Marina Tsvigun and her closest associates were arrested by law enforcement agencies on the accusation of religious extremism. Our readers surely remember how thousands of white brothers, mostly young girls and boys, gathered at the cathedral of Holy Wisdom. Maria Devi Christis declared the end of the world. In commemoration of this she was supposed to commit self-immolation on the ancient quare. Then arise. And then in the form of Christ to prononce judgment on the world. Whoever did not believe this was supposed to go to the fires of Gehenna. And several brothers and sisters intended to light candles in the evening twilight. Young people acted like robots and sleepwalkers and were ready to do anything. They did not even recognize their own mothers.

The self-immolationof Marina Tsvigun never happened and the white brothers and sisters began to sack Holy Wisdom cathedral and beat up the priests. When the zombies were arrested experienced physicians were unable to bring them out of their trances for a long time. Many became emotional cripples for a long time.

The question poses itself: has Marina repented or even after the colony will she continue sectarian activity that cripples the souls of youth? The evidence says that now Marina Tsvigun as never before is persuaded that she is Christ is female flesh. And the absence of white brothers from the streets and squares of our cities does not assure us but rather disturbs. It's as if they are saying: just wait; our time will come. Experts are predicting three versions of the Tsviguns' conduct. She could withdraw into her fanatical belief like a turtle into its shell and do no harm. But this is not certain. Marina is too accustomed to dominate the crowd which is under her religious trance. The second version is that Maria Devi Christos will reject religious extremism and even tryto register officially the "White Brotherhood."

Finally, the third version is that the brothers will go deeper into the underground and Ukraine could get its own Aum Sinrikyo.

Although she considers reporters to be the tribe of Cain, Marina still could not resist temptation and on the eve of her release she appeared on Denpropetrovsk regional television. I should say frankly that her appearance on the screen was impressive. This thirty-something, sweet woman had a tall, bright body. Her voice was calm, but each word was seemingly electrified. Marina is no less capable of mass hypnosis than Kashpirovsky. In so manywords she called her brothers to remove the dirt and atheism from their white garments and get ready for the coming of Maria Devi Christos. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 August)

Historic church reopened

Komsomolskaia pravda, 19 August 1997

Today, in Petersburg, after thirty years of restoration work, the cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, popularly known as the Savior on the Blood, is being opened. It was built in 1881 on the place where Alexander II died. Bolsheviks planned to tear down the church but then they decided to use it as a storehouse. Over the past seventy year Savior on the Blood was closed and visitors were not permitted. The director of the St. Isaac's cathedral museum said that restoration started at the beginning of the 1960s. Two thousand restorers worked on the restoration of the church and 225 billion rubles were spent. However another 85 billion are needed for restoring the altar and other outlays. Nevertheless everyone now can enjoy the unique icons and the Florentine mosaic pictures. They were restored over the course of fifteen years. After the opening of the monument people will be able to visit the museum without cost. (tr. by PDS)

Kommersant Daily, 19 August 1997

Today in Petersburg after lengthy restoration the church of the Resurrection of Christ, better known as Savior on the Blood, will be opened for visitors. The first stage of restoration work is completed--about 7000 square meters of the mosaic covering of the church have been restored. Completion of restoration is expected by 7 November 1997; the Day of Reconciliation and Concord will be observed in the church with a solemn service in memory of all victims of terror in Russia. Savior on the Blood is the most curious monument of Petersburg. The combination of architectural absurdities and the religious monarchist aura is uniquely its own.

The church is not really located in the most convenient place for viewing; its bright cupolas and multicolored kokoshniks are visible from Nevsky Prospect and from the Field of Mars. It was built during 1883-1907 as a church monument on the place where on 1 March 1881 Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded by a terrorist act prepared by the People's Will. A long architectural competition preceded the construction of the church. The winner was the unknown architect Alfred Parland. His design was executed in the so-called Russian style (which now is more often called the Russian variant of the historical style). Its basic compositional approaches and motifs come from Muscovite and Yaroslav architecture of the 17th century. So it can seem on the first, naive glance that Savior on the Blood is like the St. Basil's cathedral, except that the Moscow cathedral is authentic while in Parland's work it is transformed into clumsy decoration. However this church is not important in the history of Russian architecture because of its exterior. Its interors are unique; the church is almost completly covered by mosaic. All icons in the church were made by mosaic technique (among the artists were Nikolai Bruni, Vasily Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov, Alexander Riabushkin, and Nikolai Kharlamov).

The church of the Resurrection of Christ was consecrated exactly 90 years ago, on 19 August 1907. For the next ten years it functioned as a nonparish church in which holiday and commemorative services were conducted and it was viewed primarily as a memorial to the Tsar Liberator. In 1918 the church was turned over to a church committee and it was closed in 1931. Later the building of the church was used for storage; at one time a vegetable warehouse was located here. The mosaics on the floor were almost completely destroyed and at the time of the war the decorations on the cupolas were badly damaged. In 1970 the church was transferred to the St. Isaac's cathedral museum as an annex. From today on visitors will be able to enter Savior on the Blood. It will function under the system of the museum. The director of St. Isaac's, Georgy Butinkov, promises that church services will be conducted in the church. However that will not likely be very soon until the altar is restored (and for this another 80 billion rubles are needed).

The subsequent fate of the church is not clear but, it seems, it will become a bone of contention. Primarily, the Orthodox church will aspire to take it over. Tentative steps in this direction already evoked an uproar in the local press and profound concern on the part of the museum director for whom the newly opened church, which will be an undoubted hit of future tourist seasons, represents a source of substantial income. Perhaps this battle can be nipped in the bud by the church's patrons, Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin and First Vice Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin, who played an important role in financing the restoration. Kudrin is a Petersburger, but why Chernomyrdin was sympathetic to this monument is not clear. And the case of such patronage of the Savior on the Blood's prototype seems just as absurd. The cathedral of St. Basil, despite all of its antiquity and the no less meaningful experience to which it is dedicated, is crumbling and may not survive, but its exterior is able to arouse the national and religious feelings of some high-placed person. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

(posted 20 August 1997)

Satanists in Russia

by Nikolai Kireev
Rossiiskaia gazeta 13 August 1997

Recently a group of eight Satanists was arrested in the small city of Severozadonsk. They were accused of performing ritual murders. It is rumored that the "spiritual leaders" of the sect are a 72-year-old woman and her 42-year-old son. They drew under their wing young men who come mainly from well-to-do families. Seventeen-year-old Artem. by his own admission came to Satanism independently. He read the Bible and came to the conclusion that the devil is stronger than Christ and that he actually was the creator of the universe. Last year he became acquainted with the sectarians and in the spring of this year he participated in a murder. The victim was a 49-year-old man whom they lured on Easter eve into the home of the "leader," tied up, and then began the ritual ceremony of consecration of initiates into the sacrament of service of the devil. Each of the participants in the orgy delivered one blow with a dagger. In July the black "devils" tied a 16-year-old young man from the neighboring Novomoskovsky district to a tree and brutally beat him with hammers. He was beaten just because he dared to slap slightly a rabbit belonging to Artem. [see attached story]

It is horrifing, but it is a fact: satanists occasionally show up in various corners of the country. Many probably know about the terrible tragedy which was played out several years ago on Easter night on the grounds of the famous Optina hermitage. Some time later a 29-year-old convict from Saratov was arrested in the skete of this monastery. When he was searched they found a knife and books about black and white magic. This "pilgrim" had not managed to do any damage, although it was clear that with such "goods" he had come to the sacred Orthodox place with far from good intentions.

Generally the abundance of destructive and secret religions and sects in our Russia has become the object not merely of sharp discussions. In the city of Mtsensk of Orel district a Satanic organization of fifteen persons was uncovered. It all began with a criminal case of desecration of a grave and arson of the prayer building of Seventh-day Christian Adventists. In the course of the investigation it became clear that a student at the local metalurgical institute Dmitry G. had committed the arson out of moral principles, trying to damage a religion that was strange to him. The 17-year-old youth was required to endure three circles of experiences: to spend a dark night in solitude near an old cemetery, get a human skull, and they inject a "living spirit" into it. In other words, a Satanist initiate must perform sacrifice to the devil. Dmitry did not dare to dig up a grave, but he decided to substitute for this act of vandalism the burning of church books. The youth drank a lot to build up his courage and in the dead of night he broke a window and entered the prayer house. He collected the literature into a pile and set fire to it, and then using blood from a cut in his arm caused by the broken glass he drew a Satanic symbol on the wall, the upside-down cross. No, it is not coincidental that the priests of Optina hermitage ring alarm bells on the eve of the glorious resurrection of Christ; the servants of the devil are not sleeping. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Ostorozhno sekty

(posted 19 August 1997)

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

TULA, 25 July. Law enforcement agencies of Tula region have uncovered crimes by a sect of satanists which has been active in the city of Severozadonsk. In three month the members of the sect have committed three ritual murders. Eight sectarians have been found, who were led by a 72-year-old woman, a psychiatric patient, and her 40-year son. They recruited their "flock" among teenagers from well-to-do families. Among the "initiates" are several fanatics. "Satan is stronger than Christ," one of them, who is all of 17 years old, declared to officers. By his admission, two years ago he performed a rite of apostasy from God, carrying an Orthodox cross in the heel of his boots for several days.

The sectarians performed the first ritual murder on the eve of Easter in 1997. Luring a 49-year-old man into their building, they tied him up and performed a rite of consecrating several initiates to the service of Satan. Each struck the victim with a knife and drank human blood. After the rutual the bodies of the victims were buried or made to look like suicides. The second victim of the satanists was a former husband of the "leader" and father of her children who had refused to adopt the "true faith," and the third was a 16-year-old youth who supposedly mocked the sectarians.

The sensational revelation of the satanists was quite unexpected for the neighbors who described the leader of the sect as a happy and pleasant person. Meanwhile in her hom the investigation disclosed a multitude of objects of the satanist cult, from icons pierced by crosses to ritual daggers for murders and bowls in the form of a satanist star from which they drank the victims' blood.

The law enforcement agencies do not exclude the possibility of ties of the sect with fellowbelievers in Moscow. It was explained that the second son of the leader works in the police department of the capital and on the days of the sacrifices he was in Severozadonsk. The investigation of the satanists is continuing. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text

(posted 21 August 1997)

News about the patriarch


Interfax, Segognia 19 August 1997

Speaking to leaders of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) at a ceremony for the presentation of the medal "In memory of the 850th anniversary of Moscow," Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus declared that the provision about the role and significance of Orthodoxy that was written into the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations "must not be subjected to any doubt."

The patriarch considers that "there are forces which are trying to cast doubt on the significance of RPTs and Orthodoxy." He expressed confidence that the high evaluation which was given to the Orthodox religion will remain in the preamble of the law. Alexis II emphasized that RPTs, cooperating with all religions, in the future will do everything possible for establishing peace and concord in society and to help the peoples of Russia to survive its trials and build a new state.

As is known, the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," which was adopted by parliament, was vetoed by the Russian president. Boris Yeltsin explained his position by citing many provisions of the law that "trample upon constitutional human and civil rights and freeedoms and also establish inequality of various confessions." In the preamble of the law four religions are singled out as traditional for Russia, Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, which evoked objections from representatives of confessions not mentioned in the law. On 6 August, at the time of the ceremony of consecration of the church-chapel of Boris and Gleb in Moscow, Boris Yeltsin and Alexis II agreed that representatives of the church, government, and president will prepare and agree on amendments to the law before 1 September in order to present a new version to the State Duma. (tr. by PDS)

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 19 August 1997 (excerpt)

. . . Speaking at a ceremony . . . the patriarch noted the "efforts and selfless labor of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov for the restoration of churches, monasteries, and the entire church life in the city."

by Anatoly Matsukevich
Rossiiskie vesti 16 August 1997

All were calmly minding their own business. The sports journalists were waiting the results from Elista of the jubilee fiftieth championship of Russia and no one knew, nor guessed, nor sensed, that this day would be a historical experience for chess. The final round of the championship was attended by Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus.

The patriarch came to the capital of Kalmykia on business that was important for Russia, the consecration of an Orthodox church built by the talented Kirsan Iliumzhinov practically in the center of Elista. And the president of Kalymkia, recalling in time that he still is the president of the International Chess Federation, managed to persuade the illustrious guest to attend the Russian championship. The patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus' attendance at the chess tournament was a genuinely historical experience. In fact from time immemorial the attitude of the Orthodox church toward chess was very, very cool and at times actively hostile.

In the Nomokanon, collection of canon laws, composed by Patriarch Photius in the 6th-7th centuries, chess was equated with games of dice and other "demonic entertainments." At the end of the 12th century the Byzantine Nomokanon was translated into Russian and became the basis for the Kormchaia, which is the handbook for the Russian clergy. As a result in all subsequent church resolution chess was declared anathema. Thus in the bishop's "Instructions for a new priest" of the end of the 13th century, that was incorporated into the Novgorod Kormchaia, playing chess was equated with reading forbidden books, robbery, and other sins. The fathers of the Russian church did not favor chess even in a much later period. In many church letters and instructions of the 16th century our favorite game was condemned along with singing, dancing, and music. In the Trebnik of the second half of the 16th century the priest was advised to ask the Orthodox believer at confession: "Did you play chess?" Leaders of the struggle with the "chess heresy" included Metropolitan Daniel (died 1547) and thunderous arch priest Silvestr (1566), who in his Domostroy warned fans of chess that they "will all go directly to hell and be damned in hell." The Hundred Chapters council of 1551 of clergy and boyars, called by Tsar Ivan the Terrible, included chess among "Greek demonic entertainments." The regular prohibition this time was extended only to common people. The tsar and his court did pass the time with the "demonic game." There is a tradition that Tsar Ivan even died at a chess board. Subsequently the Russian church's attitude toward chess became more tolerant. In the Ulozhenie of 1649 chess was not condemned. One of the first Russian publications where chess is mentioned is the "Practical Primer" of a monk of Moscow's monastery of the Miracle (which was destroyued in 1930), Karion Istomin, which was published in 1694 and 1696. In it each letter is illustrated "in faces" and accompanied by one or more drawings with brief explanations. Among the illustrations under the letter "sha" was a drawing of a chess board with the label "shakhmaty." However, paying tribute to the popularity of the game, the pious author in full keeping with church tradition warned the reader against its extreme seductiveness and called the reader to devote free time to more godly pursuits: "Do not consider the game of chess so important that without it you cannot have a good time. Do all things for the glory of God."

In the period when the great fan of chess, Peter I, sat on the throne the game began to win adherents even among the clergy. Frequent chess partners of the tsar included the court priest Ivan Khrisanfovich and the Novgorod archibishop Feodosy Yanovsky, who at one time was the vice president of the synod. In the 19th century the famous theologian Metropolitan Filaret Drozdov turned his attention to chess. And now, on the historic Friday 6 June 1997. The most holy patriarch's attendance at the chess competition has removed from chess the obsolete church prohibition. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: S nami patriarkh

(posted 19 August 1997)

Orthodox presence in army

by Svetlana Sukhova
Segodnia, 15 August 1997

The ministry of defense is cooperating only with the Russian Orthodox church; it does not even conduct conversations with sects and representatiaves of other religions.

This story began with a meeting at the Sheremetevo airport, to which the Segodnia correspondent had been invited among other representatives of the media to the opening of a new landing strip. Having arrived with my colleagues I was amazed that the priests invited to bless the new strip came with a full security escort (six-eight men in camouflage), while the other honored guests had at most two body guards. Forming a semicircle around the priests, the soldiers operated in a fully professional mannter as a choir accompanying the priests' activity. And this evoked a real shock. It seemed that the choristers either had studied in seminaries before being drafted or they assisted in churches. Now they all were soldiers of unit 5538. Such cooperation of the army with the church certainly evoked great interest, and thus, having received permission of the press center of the Moscow military region, I went to Khimki [Moscow suburb].

A pair greeted me, an assistant commander for education Valery Ovseichuk and Lieutenant Colonel Nikolai Kozachuk, an officer for communication with state and public organizations and religious associations of the defense ministry. It seems that the experience of the Khimki unit has become the "first swallow," and today Orthodox churches exist on the territory of 88 military units. True, Kozachuk stressed, the defense ministry cooperates only with the Russian Orthodox church. And it does not even conduct conversations with any sects as well as with representatives of other religions.

The road to the "regimental church" (as they call the church of Alexander Nevsky here) was short, less than five minutes walk from headquarters. The small but precise church had been built, as they explained, not only by soldiers' hands but also with funds from the unit. They recited to me with pride the succession of dates of laying the foundation stone (Patriarch Alexis II himself conducted the ceremony on 1 September 1995), the completion of construction (18 April 1996) and consecration (7 June of the same year). The rector of the church, monastic priest Sofrony, is called by the leadership of the unit none other than the "first priest of the armed forces," but sometimes simply "our little father." The father, as was explained later, is quite young--he looks about thirty. And, judging from the conversation, he has fresh memories of his own army experiences. He arrived at the unit as a representative of the patriarchate's recently created department on relations with the army and law enforcement agencies . Father Savva (whom I saw at Sheremetevo) heads this department which consists of six or seven people.

Incidentally, in distinction from the rector of the church of Alexander Nevsky, many of the choir members had chosen a career in the priesthood prior to their entering the armed forces. Several of them even were students in a seminary (first or second year). With rare exceptions, the boys are not from Moscow; many are natives of the cities of the "Golden Ring." They got into the unit through "connections," one might say; their rectors put in a good word for each of them. The command of the unit does not hide this.

However, we should not confuse this means of building a unit with alternative service. Soldiers of unit 5538 take the oath, learn to use weapons, and acquire a specialty just like their peers in other units. Church attendance and help in conducting services are free time activities or by permission of the command. The boys themselves say that although the church is open daily they attend it primarily on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Incidentally, in regard to holidays. Yesterday the first Savior was celebrated in the unit. And in the church there is a schedule of the church holidays with notes from the command of the unit when soldiers are granted leave for "church needs." And this seems to be quite a lot. The boys not only sing in the regiment church but also go on "tour" (when, for example, they went to the consecration of the runway). And what is amazing here? At the time of the services they put together a good, one might even say professional, male choir the likes of which in Moscow and the provinces can be counted on the fingers.

What is more, there is work for the choir in the unit besides services on holidays and Sundays. There are baptisms and weddings. And in the church of Alexander Nevsky they baptize not only infants--children of officers--but also adults, officers and soldiers who have come to faith only after joining the army. And there are more and more like that, according the Father Sofrony's testimony. Although there are those who might say something harsh and insulting about a choir member (especially behind his back). According to the testimony of officers there is a lot demanded of the choir members and they try to justify the confidence of the command and show that a believer solder is more competent than an atheist.

But why did these boys join the army? Since they were seminary students they easily could have been "excused" for this service that is not very popular, especially in recent years. Moreover it is no secret that several young people even go to seminary and church schools specifically to avoid the army. So these somewhat strange (in a general sense) folk have expressed their own desire. "If you haven't experienced something how can you counsel others?" Father Sofrony wonders. "And besides the army is a good school for people who intend to spend a part or a large part of their lives in a male collective." Besides, as was later explained, after leaving the army two of the boys will go to one of the strictest (in terms of seclusion from the world) monasteries--Mt. Athos. It has already been hundreds of years since a female foot stepped on the territory of the monastery (they say that even female birds do not fly over the monastery). So that the ability to function in a male collective will not be wasted for the future clerics.

Possibly the office of regimental priests will be officially introduced into the army in the near future, like in tsarist Russia. For the time being the appearance of a church on the territory of the unit is an exception, a rarity. And the formula "on the territory of the unit" was used here deliberately; the church is located on the land that belong to the unit (of the ministry of defense) but behind a fence, in order to emphasize that between the state (army) and the church there is a barrier. However, today this is a material rather than a spiritual division. The creation of the institution of regimental priests requires resources, legislation, and the like. But this barrier could easily disappear. It would be sufficient for the patriarchate to decide the material question for itself. But there already are more than enough churches in the army; many of the units are located in former monasteries or in the vicinity of abandoned (or active) churches. It is only necessary to resurrect the past. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Doroga k khramy

(posted 18 August)

One week later, patriarch-president meeting still making news

by Ilia Medovoy
Kultura, 14 August 1997

On Wednesday of last week on Arbat Square in Moscow the president of Russia and the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus met. The occasion was the consecration of the newly completed church of Boris and Gleb on the location of the church of the same name that was destroyed in 1930. Our president seldom opens churches. But this was a special occasion: the names of the holy martyrs who were the victims in the eleventh centurl of a fratricidal war are the names of his two grandsons. The presence of the patriarch gave still greater meaning to the event: it promised to smooth out the contradictions that had arisen in relations of the two leaders--political and religious. Events preceding the meeting had unfolded rapidly. On 23 June the State Duma adopted that law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." On 3 July the Federation Council approved it by an overwhelming majority of votes. On 21 July Boris Yeltsin vetoed it. In a message to the citize nsof Russia the president emphasized that many provisions of the law violated constitutional human and civil rights and freedoms, created inequality of various confessions, and contradicted the international obligations that we have assumed. In response the Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus issued an official declaration in which, in the name of the Orthodox flock, he expressed disappointment over the rejection of the law. And he expressed the firm conviction that its immediate enactment was necessary, without change in the principles of the provisions. Then the press service of the president distributed the text of the letter from Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin, in which were ennumerated all the juridical contradictions of the law with the bases of the constitutional system of Russia and principles and standards of international law. And finally, just previously were published excerpts from a document sent by the chancellery of His Most Holiness, where in a polemical tone he expressed the point of view of the Russian Orthodox church. It was expressed unequivocally and firmly: the patriarch insists that the draft law is fully consistent with existing Russian legislation and the generally recognized legislative practice of foreign states and it does not restrict human rights.

It is understandable that the meeting was informal, without protocol, and was best suited for smooting the escalating conflict. "An angel flew," they say, when as unexpected pause occurs in the conversation. Whether the president's angel soared over the Arbat on the day of Boris and Gleb, it is difficult to say. But many words were said. They bore testimony to the desire of the president to patch up the split in relations with the patriarch. "No impediments arising in the recent past," declared the president during the ceremony, "can ever divide us inasmuch as we know both the role and significance of Orthodox Christianity and our Orthodox church in the regeneration of Russia." Besides this Boris Yeltsin, judging by all signs, did not change his position with regard to the draft law. He authorized his chief of staff to conduct by 1 September an expanded session of the Council of Relations with Religious Organizations, in order to decide--of course with representatives of convessions, deputies, and senators--whether it is necessary to make serious changes in the draft of the law. May God grant that the result will put everything in order and that the Moscow patriarchate in the end will not be turned into the religious department of the state. Meanwhile, in the course of sociological investigation conducted recently by the all-Russian Center for Study of Public Opinion, 49 percent of those questioned expressed disagreement with the idea that Orthodox people in Russia should have legal priority over atheists or representatives of other confessions. In a word, half of Russians share the position of the president and not the authors of the outrageous law draft. Whose will it take? (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Diplomatia na Arbatskoi

(posted 15 August 1997)

Church and parliament leaders on law



from Nezavisimaia gazeta, 13 August 1997

The president of the department of external church relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, expressed hope that representatives of religious associations and state agencies will be able to reach agreement on the wording of revisions in the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" that was rejected by the Russian president. Speaking on Tuesday to a press conference in Moscow he again confirmed the point of view of the Russian Orthodox church that the vetoed law "does not contradict the constitution of the Russian federation nor infringe upon anyone's rights, including Catholics and Baptists." "I have never seen a more liberal law on religion than is this law. Why is not anyone upset that a number of countries declare themselves Catholic countries, but we are frightened that the law's preamble simply points out the historic role and value of Orthodoxy in Russia?" he said. (tr. by PDS)

c. Nezavisimaia gazeta, 13 August 1997

RIA NOVOSTI, 11 August 1997

MOSCOW 11 August. "If the duma tries to revise the law, then we certainly will join the reconciliation commission," President Egor Stroev of the Federation Council said on 8 August in a conversation with a correspondent of the RIA Novosti agency. "If the duma chooses to do something else, for example, if is wishes to override the president's veto, then that will deprive us of the possibility of revising the law." Emphasizing that "reason promotes" the necessity of an attentive review "of all the opinions that have arisen with regard to this law," the speaker of the upper chamber called for "calm acceptance" of the law, taking into account the existing opinions, because "it is extremely necessary for our nation." In Stroev's opinion: "Orthodoxy should occupy first place on the list of religions," but "it would be possible to do without a list altogether." "The main thing," he emphasized, "is that standards of conduct within the life of society be observed in keeping with the rules that exist in our country, as well as with Russia's treaties within the European Union." (tr. by PDS) GENNADY SELEZNEV: STATE DUMA WILL NOT OBJECT TO CATHOLICISM Segodnia, 12 August 1997 (ITAR-TASS) The conceptual principles of the law on freedom of conscience will not be changed, but on a repeated review of the document the deputies will take into account the suggestions of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In particular, Catholicism will be included in a listing of the basic religions of Russia , according to the president of the State Duma, Gennady Seleznev. He considers that a majority of the disputes over this law, which has evoked discussion in Russian society, are connected with the question of the activity of nontraditional religions and sects. "The State Duma cannot give them the right to work on equal footing with the Russian Orthodox church, and if the president does not agree with this, we shall override his veto," the speaker of the lower chamber declared. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 13 August 1997)

Patriarch versus president

by Gaiaz Alimov, Gennady Charodeev
Izvenstiia, 9 August 1997

A document has reached the editorial office of Izvestiia from the chancellery of His Most Holiness which states the point of view of the Russian Orthodox church on the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations, which President Boris Yeltsin, as is known, has vetoed. If hitherto the essence of the disagreements of the sides was a matter of conjecture, now we can evaluate them. Actually this is a public polemic which, in our opinion, is of interest to society. [tr. note: the wording in this article suggests that the document referred to here is pretty much the same as the one that was published in the magazine Radonezh with the title Expert Commentary on the Draft of the Law. . . .]

What the president disagrees with:

"In rejecting the draft of the federal law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, adopted by the State Duma, the president argued that provisions of this draft contradict provisions of the constitution, federal laws, and the bases of the constitutional system of Russia."

What the patriarch insists on:

ˆIt is impossible to agree with Boris Nikolaevich's position. The draft as prepared was the fruit of long efforts of its creators and it fully conforms with existing Russian legislation and with the generally accepted legislative practice of foreign countries.

Article 2 of the draft gives the definition of legislation on freedom of conscience and religious associations. In this definition there actually is no mention of international standards and legal acts. However this does not mean that these acts of international law, in the lawmakers' opinion, are not a part of the Russian legislation on freedom of conscience. According to part 4 of article 15 of the constitution these acts constitute an essential part of the legal system of the Russian federation and consequently, independent of the enumeration of standards and legal acts contained in article 2 of the draft, the legislation on freedom of conscience and religious association includes analogous provisions: "principles and standards of international law and international agreements of the Russian federation."

What the president disagrees with:

The president considers that the draft law tramples upon "fundamental human rights."

What the patriarch insists on:

An analysis of the indicated standards permits one to draw the conclusion that the president considers the very procedure of registration of a religious organization as "trampling on human rights." In this regard one wishes to note that the creation of a religious organization is a basic, but not the only, form of corporate confession of religion profession. Alongside religious organizations there is another form of corporate religious profession, the religious group, which does not require special registration. Thus, the existence of a special procedure for registration of religious organizations cannot be viewed as a restriction of citizens' rights to corporate religious profession. From the moment of state registration of religious organizations they acquire rights of legal entity. As legal entities, religious organizations, on the one hand, become fully qualified participants in the civil marketplace and on the other hand acquire enormous tax and other privileges which essentially distinguish them from other economic entities. In this regard the state must not automatically recognize as religious organizations those associations who simply call themselves such. The state must attentively examine the essence of the belief systems, their rituals, and the social consequences of the activities of newly created organizations. The need for a special procedure of registration of religious organizations is contained also in international legal documents. For example, in its resolution of 29 February 1996 the Europarliament "calls the governments of member states not to grant the status of religious organization automatically." Thus, the provision of the draft law regarding the procedure of registration of religious organizations fully conforms to the recommendations of the Europarliament.

What the president disagrees with:

The president categorically opposed the provision of the federal law that was deliberately directed toward the restriction of the rights of persons who are not citizens of Russia. In his letter the president of Russia appealed to the provision of the constitution according to which"foreign citizens and persons without citizenship enjoy in the Russian federation rights, and bear obligations, on an equality with citizens of the Russian federation."

What the patriarch insists on:

In this instance it has been entirely ignored that the restriction of rights of foreign citizens is permitted if this restriction is established by federal law or internation agreement of the Russian federation. That is the restriction of certain rights of foreign citizens by the law On Freedom of Religions Confession and Religious Associations" does not thereby violate the constituion. According to the constitution "exercise of human and civil rights and freedoms must not fiolate the rights and freedoms of other persons." Religious Activity of foreign citizens frequently has led to the saddest consequences for Russians. The task of the state is to defend by all means its citiznes from infringement of their rights and freedoms. One of the means of defense of the inerests of Russian citizens is a partial restrictin of the rights of foreign citizens. Obviously this is what guided the president of the Russian federation when he restricted the constitutional rights of foreign citizens to labor. In decree no. 2146 of 16 December 1993, justifying the restriction of foreigners in their right to labor, the president of Russia said: "In the interests ... of guaranteeing the priority of the rights of citizens to occupy vacant posts." Further by decree he established a complex procedure for receiving permission for employing foreign citizens in Russia. A number of federal laws also have established certain restriction of the rights of foreign citizens and this fully agrees with the constitution. For example, in accordance with article 7 of the Russian law of 27 December 1991, no. 2124-1 "On Media of Mass Information" the founders of media of mass information cannot be "citizens of another state;" in accordance with part 4 of article 18 of federal law "Concerning Changes and Additions to the RSFSR law 'On banks and banking activity in RSFSR,'" "the bank of Russia has the right to limit the appreciation of capital of credit organizations at the expense of nonresidents." The state resorted to these restrictions of the rights of foreigners because it determined that in these matters the activities of Russians must have priority over those of foreign citizens. Can anyone be persuaded that religious activity is less significant for Russian citizens than banking activity or the activity of media of mass information?

What the president disagrees with:

Analyzing a number of articles of the draft the president draws the conclusion that requiring the state to give financial, material, and other kinds of support to religious associations to assure the teaching of general education subjects in educational institutions, created by religious organizatins, does not comport with the constitution of Russia.

What the patriarch insists on:

It is necessary to note that in accordance with the federal law "On Education," non-state educational institutions that have received state accreditation already have the right to state and municipal financing provided that they are implementing the basic general education curriculum. The standard of the draft of the law under discussion in this case does not introduce into Russian legislation anything new.

His Most Holiness considers the chief culprit in creating in the head of state a mistaken understanding of the document to be a "small group of experts who from the start had a negative attitude" toward the law. "We know these people and we are ready to discuss openly with them in the eyes of all society," Alexis II declared. It has become known that President Boris Yeltsin has authorized his chief of staff to conduct before 1 September an expanded sessino of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations in order to agree with representatives of confessions, deputies, and senators the essential question: whether it is necessary to introduce serious changes in the draft of the law on freedom of conscient.

We shall see how well this can bring about a convergence of the positions of the two sides. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Patriarkh Aleksii nastavaet na svoem

(posted 15 August 1997)

Journalist honors Yeltsin's political skill

by Natalia Kalashnikova
Segondia, 7 August 1997

The patriarch consecrated a chapel whose cornerstone had been laid by the president

"If the vacation had not interfered, many of the celebrated difficuties never would have arisen," His Most Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus said, drawing a line under the disagreements which had seriously escalated in relations between the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) and the president. "Boris Nikolaevich, addressing a number of legislators, said that a compromise must be found," the primate noted; "The law most certainly must be adopted." Boris Yeltsin promised that the law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Asociations can be adopted after revision: "A reconciliation commission will be created that includes representatives of the church, the duma, the presidency, and the government. . . . After this the way will be cleared for the law."

The reconciliation of the church and the government came about on the right day: yesterday the Orthodox commemorated in their prayers the holy passionbearers Boris and Gleb. And on the right spot: Alexis II and Boris Yeltsin met at the ceremony of the consecration of a church-chapel dedicated to the pious princes on Arbat Square. [see report Yeltsin meets patriarch] The chapel was erected on the very spot where earlier had stood the church of Boris and Gleb, which was destroyed in the thirties. The new church was finished within three months, and the president had participated in the laying of the cornerstone, giving special honor to Boris (for whom he is named), who was murdered in 1015 by his brother Sviatopolk the Damned, and to Gleb (for whom his younger grandson is named). The princes, we recall, were the first Russian saints to be canonized.

Evidently such a fortuitous concurrence of place, time, and circumstances explains the extremely diverse composition of the assemblage of state figures at Arbat Square. Here there were the minister of defense Igor Sergeev, and secretary of the security council Ivan Rybkin, and vice-speakers of the State Duma Artur Chiligarov and Sergei Baburin, and officials of Moscow. Having received the prayers of the archdeacon for the health of the president of Russia, the mayor, and members of the government of the "divinely preserved city of Moscow," those present proceeded into the church.

However let us return to the theological discussion. Alexis II yesterday, it seems, laid out more fully the position of the RPTs with regard to the law we have mentioned. And judging from the sharpness of his points, the government has now been shown its path for retreat. The patriarch's sermon alluded to the campaign that arose in the west and even in the American Congress (Americans threatened to "freeze" Russian aid) because ofthe law's nonrecognition of "nontraditional" religions: "No foreign intervention and generally no one and nothing can save Russia from chaos and ruin until . . . the nation itself is cleansed in the font of repentance from its years-old evils." The patriarch mentioned the crimes of Aum Sinrikyo and the White Brotherhood. And for the first time there was a curt commentary by the RPTs on a major dispute--onrecognition of Catholicism as a "traditional" Russian religion: "In tsarist Russia the main place of residence of Catholics was in Poland and Lithuania. In Petersburg and Moscow there were Catholic churches for foreigners. Catholic parishes on Russian territory were ruled by the metropolitan of Mogilev," he recalled. Finally, after a certain hiatus, the primate issued abundant words of gratitude about Boris Yeltsin himself. [see report of patriarch's statement]

In a word, the victory seems to have been snatched from the grasp of the duma that the president so dislikes: it had been planned to begin the fall parliamentary session with the Lord's Prayer. But the president is going along with the West and is discounting the Orthodox people. The president is not being led by anyone because he has chosen--as he usually does--a third way: he ordered both that the law be adopted and that the constitution be observed. How? a reconciliation commission will decide. He even had declared 1997 the year of concord and reconciliation.

Russian text: President poshel po tretemy puti

Orthodox church will accept few changes in religion law

RIA Novosti, by Alexander Utkin
7 August 1997

MOSCOW, 7 August. Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, chief of staff of the Moscow patriarchate, declared that the current position of the Russian Orthodox church is to insist upon the principles contained in the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," [text of law] which Russian President Boris Yeltsin vetoed, while "working for the achievement of compromise."

"We do not want to get into the basic conceptions of the law on which a great deal of energy and effort has been expended," he said. At the same time Father Sergius stressed that the Russian Orthodox church would not wish for tensions among the president, State Duma, the government, and representatives of the primary religious confessions, and thus it is ready to find a mutually acceptable version.

In connection with this he expressed "satisfaction and joy" over the decision of Boris Yeltsin to create a reconciliation commission, which will include representatives of the church and state agencies, in order "to review" the law, removing the provisions which, in the president's opinion, violate the constitution.

Archbishop Sergius expressed great hopes that the expanded session of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations of the Presidency of the Russian Federation, which was ordered by the head of state to meet before 1 September, "would reach a common denominator." The monseigneur (vladyka) stressed that the Russian Orthodox church will insist upon the preamble of the law, which takes note of the roots of Orthodoxy in Rus and to which the president has expressed no dissent.

The main problem in revision of the document will deal, in his opinion, with the right to religious freedom for a person who is not a citizen of Russia , as well as the questions of the registration of religious sects and organizations and of the representation of foreign churches of various denominations in our country. When all obstacles have been removed," then, the Archbishop of Solnechnogorsk considers, "a compromise acceptable to all will be found." He did not discount the possibility that there may later be a meeting of the president and Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, who today began a ten-day vacation. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Tserkov budet otstaivat na printsipialnye polozheniia

Links to other Web articles on law:

Patriarch Alexi and Yeltsin agree law must be amended, by Keston News Service

Legislation of Church and State: Established Religion in Russia?, by Richard Pipes

(posted 10 August)

Hindus apprehensive about outcome of revision of religion law

For the Hindustan Times
from Fred Weir in Moscow,
6 August 1997
(from Johnson list)

MOSCOW (HT) -- President Boris Yeltsin moved this week to head off a politically dangerous rift between Church and State over a controversial religion law, but reconciliation could come at a high price for foreign confessions -- including Hindu ones -- that want to practice freely in Russia.

Mr. Yeltsin and the powerful Russian Orthodox Church have quarelled this summer over the President's veto of a law that would grant national status to just four "traditional" Russian faiths -- Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism -- making them, in effect, Russia's official religions.

The law, passed by the opposition-dominated parliament last month and strongly favoured by the Church, would restrict all other confessions, and cancel their existing rights to publish, conduct missionary activity, own property and maintain schools.

Mr. Yeltsin vetoed the law after the United States State Department published a report warning that religious freedom was being curbed in Russia and the U.S. Congress threatened to cut off financial aid to Moscow. The veto seriously undermined the Kremlin's good relations with the Orthodox Church, and created the prospect of political crisis when parliament returns in September from its summer recess. Most experts believe opposition deputies could easily muster the two-thirds vote required to overturn the veto, throwing a Constitutional hand grenade into Mr. Yeltsin's lap at a time when he has no shortage of other headaches. The Kremlin has argued that the proposed law violates Russia's Constitution and severely restricts minority rights. Any "non-traditional" sect wishing official sanction would be required to undergo a 15-year bureaucratic process of registration -- during which it would be forbidden from seeking converts or even holding a bank account. Even after registration, it would only be permitted to exist in localities where it could prove a continuous presence.

"We are very grateful that Yeltsin vetoed that law," says an Asian diplomat, who asked not to be further identified. "It would represent a serious departure from the secularism that has characterized the post-Soviet Russian state, and would impose terrible hardships on small confessions, and ones that are new to Russia."

The Krishna Consciousness Society, which has been very active in Russia in recent years, along with several other lesser known Hindu groups, would be effectively banned under the legislation.

A large number of Christian missionary groups, and even the powerful Roman Catholic Church, would be similarly affected. But Mr. Yeltsin, who has always been careful to maintain close relations with the Orthodox Church -- Russia's traditional faith and one that claims 80-million followers -- appeared this week to be backtracking from his determination to squelch the law. The President has said that some version of the law is necessary to "protect the spiritual health of the Russian people" against doomsday sects and crackpot cults, and has urged a joint parliamentary commission to find an acceptable compromise.

On Wednesday Mr. Yeltsin attended the opening of a new church in Moscow together with Patriarch Alexy II, spiritual head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and indicated that such a compromise is near. "No obstacles shall separate us, because we know the role and the importance of the restoration in Russia of Orthodox Christianity and the Orthodox Church," Mr. Yeltsin told the Patriarch, according to news agencies. Patriarch Alexy told journalists that Mr. Yeltsin had assured him the law will be enacted in its basic form, and that it would provide protection from "destructive pseudo-religious cults and foreign false-missionaries".

For many, that signals the end of separation between Church and State and a new era of official patronage for a few religions -- and discrimination against others -- in Russia. "Whatever compromises may be made, we doubt they will include small confessions, such as Hindus, who have been active in Russia," says the diplomat. "Perhaps some accommodation will be made for the Catholic Church, or big Western Protestant groups. But others, who have also been part of the new diversity in this country, will suffer. That's very unfortunate," he says.

Sectarian crimes

Prosecutor enflames opinion by alleging criminal activity of sects
from ITAR-TASS and Pravoslavie v Rossii
8 August 1997

MOSCOW (8 August) The activity of many foreign religious organizations on Russian territory has been accompanied by violation of existing legislation and the constitutional rights of citizens and has resulted in numerous criminal cases, according to Viktor Navarnov, a prosecutor of the department for supervising implementation of the law on international relations of the general procuracy of the Russian federation, who spoke with a correspondent of ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview. Citing information from his office, he noted that the expansion of nontraditional religious associations (totalitarian sects) in Russia that promote antisocial behavior and rejection of constitutional obligations and pose a threat to the moral, psychological, and physical health of citizens present a serious threat to the state and to society. Dividing people in the religious sphere and setting them against one another on the basis of religious convictions, totalitarian sects destroy the spiritual and moral foundations of society that have been created in the thousand-year history of Orthodox Russia, according to the representative of the general procuracy. On the basis of expert opinion, he said, the belief system of totalitarian sects is intended to achieve a complete transformation of people's system of moral values, which is achieved by overt psychological manipulation of the consciousness of a person in the form of sermons, rituals, and the like. In analyzing video tapes and printed materials they have identified psychological techniques to achieve intellectual and emotional influence that is aimed at a social and economic reorientation, change of standards of values, and retention in the religious organization. Investigations that have been conducted have established that the attraction of young people into antisocial religious groups leads to destruction of family relationships, arrests their psychological and social development, deforms their personality structure, and requires special psychological and social therapy. In Volgograd district alone, according to data of the general procuracy, there are 37 religious associations that are operating without registration, that is, surreptitiously, which pursue mercantilist goals, namely the "White Brotherhood," "Bah," "World Center," and "Black Moon," and others. All of them are characterized by an internal hierarchy, subordination of the rank and file to the leadership, and total control over the personal life of the adherents. In the "Church of Scientology," for example, illegal manipulation of consciousness is conducted among the members, in the process of which penetration into the subconscious of a person is achieved, which creates real conditions for damaging the moral, psychological, and physical health of citizens. The religious association of "Jehovah's Witnesses" has achieved wide distribution in the European part of Russia (144 congregations). Numerous declarations made to law enforcement agencies by citizens whose relatives are members of Jehovah's Witness show that the leadership of the society, who draw people into their ranks by deceit, stirs up hatred toward traditional religions, "makes zombies" of the parishioners' psyches, forbids the fulfillment of the constitution duties to defend the Fatherland and serve in the military, and breaks up families. The teachings that are harmful for society that the Jehovah's Witnesses spread, according to the representative of the general procuracy, include the doctrine about the "imminent end of the world," which is used vigorously for enticing new members and also for frightening and retaining others in the sect. The teaching about a world catastrophe creates a mass psychosis and is characterized by extreme immorality, he added. Inasmuch as the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses have frequently predicted the "end of the world," expert psychologists consider that it could lead to actions of mass destruction with dire consequences, such as occurred in the case of Aum Shinrikyo, where members of the sect planted poison gas in a Tokyo subway, leading to mass death. (tr. by PDS)

ITAR-TASS, Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 10 August 1997)

Liberal paper defends reformist priest

by Dmitry Sergeevich Gorin, journalist
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 9 August 1997

reply to Olesia Nikolaeva

The conflict surrounding the congregation of the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki and its leader, Fr Georgi Kochetkov, already has received rather broad publicity in both the secular and church press (the article of Olesia Nikolaeva in NG, "Orthodoxy as dissident thinking" represents a point of view different from mine). The event really was unprecedented--the largest Muscovite Orthodox eucharistic community has been deprived of its rector and spiritual father. Much has been written, both true and false, about what happened in Dormition church on 29 June when the second priest of the church, Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, was taken by First Aid in the presence of the police from the sanctuary or the church and put into the 14th psychiatric hospital. We shall not linger long on this matter but turn to what happened afterward, for the development of events is more interesting than the incident in the sanctuary itself.

The first question that arises in a detailed study of the documents of this story is where did the story about a beating of Fr Mikhail come from? On the day of the incident, 29 June, Fr Dmitry Smirnov, a well known priest in Moscow, on radio Radonezh declared that Fr Mikhail was taken "directly from the church with the police after having been beaten." One wants to ask Fr Dmitry: "Father, who told you this?" Father Dmitry did not witness the incident and even, according to his own words, did not talk with any eyewitnesses, but for some reason he explicitly talked about a beating of Fr Mikhail. Perhaps he met with Fr Mikhail and he told him that he had been beaten, bound, and the rest? No, this also did not happen. Moreover, in his first interview after 29 June Fr Mikhail also did not mention that he had been beaten. The physicians also found on Fr Mikhail on scratches which, alas, are unavoidable in situations of compulsory hospitalization. So who gave to Fr Dmitry the version about a beating?

On the evening of the twenty-ninth Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky was released from the 14th hospital with the conclusion: "At the present, there are no observable signs of psychic disturbances." We note that the physicians, who assembled on the June Sunday evening in the hospital, not without pressure, for examination of the patient, by no means implied in their conclusion that Fr Mikhail was "practically well." But this is the way the doctor of medical sciences Fr. Anatoly Berestov interpreted this document on the airwaves of Radonezh on 30 June. Why did this humble monastic priest make such a mistake? Who forced him to deceive the church public?

We go further. On the first day after the event in Dormition church its warden went to the office of the vicar of the patriarch in Moscow, Archbishop Arseny of Istrinsk. After hearing the account of the warden of the church regarding what happened the master declared: "That's your version." It turns out that by the morning of the thirtieth the bishop has his own firm version of the events. It would be interesting to learn which of the witnesses of the tragedy of Fr Mikhail Archbishop Arseny had managed to hear? Which documents had he studied by that time?

But if there were no documents then someone had to provide Master Arseny his version. Fr Alexander Abramov, aide to the director of the chancellery of the Moscow patriarchate, Archpriest Vladimir Divakov, was engaged in "collecting evidence." As has been learned, Fr Alexander on 30 June appeared in the office of the commander of the 18th precinct of police in Moscow, Senior Lieutenant Rimsky, with the question from Archbishop Arseny on what basis the unit from the precinct "had used violent actions on Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, resulting in his arrest and removal to the police department at the time of the worship service, that is, at the time when he was performing his ministerial duties." What! On first glance the question seems absurd. But this is only on first glance.

On 2 July the answer reached the patriarchate (NG 26.07.97) in which the chief of the department of police, Rimsky, said that a departmental review had determined Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky was not arrested by a police squad and not taken to the department, but he was taken to the psychiatric hospital by First Aid physicians, who restrained him after a fight with Fr Georgi Kochetkov, while the former had traces of struggle and torn church vestments, so that the "behavior of the officers of the department are considered legal, proper, and justified, which also was confirmed by the testimony of eyewitnesses, the ministers of the Moscow Presentation men's monastery . . . who were present during the resolution of the conflict." We recall, that they (the ministers) led by Hegumen Tikhon Shevkunov had three years earlier expelled the congregation of Fr Georgi Kochetkov from the Vladimir cathedral of that monastery. In a word, they are interested persons in this case. Not one of the "eyewitnesses" was a witness of the events in the sanctuary of Dormition church on 29 June. We also add that Senior Lieutenant Shunaev, who was the one who was in the sanctuary of the church of the Dormition on the 29th and who addressed the crowd with the words: "no violence has been committed. . . the father (i.e. Fr Mikhail) is somehow not himself," in a conversation with journalists said that he knows nothing about any investigation and that he cannot give any explanation in connection with this. So what investigation is the chief talking about in his response to Archbishop Arseny? Rimsky himself acknowledged in conversation with parishioners that he was not in the church and he composed no response. Who prepared this document? Were the "eyewitnesses" from the Presentation monastery?

As we have seen, there were many lies in this matter from the very beginning. Under such conditions it is quite natural that they got into the documents which were prepared for the signature of the most holy patriarch. The resolution signed by him on 1 July (we recall that the response from the police arrived only on the 2nd) states as fact that on 29 June in the church of the Dormition "sacrilege was committed upon a clergyman of the church, Fr. Mikhail Dubovitsky, and he was beaten and taken by force to the psychiatric hospital." On the basis of this evident lie Fr Georgi was dismissed from his position as rector of the church and the parish council was told to "resign from its responsibilities," and "people who participated in the sacrilege upon a priest and in his beating are forbidden to partake of the holy Christian Mysteries and in divine services until they repent before the confessor of the city of Moscow." It appears that the last phrase, in which there are no names, pertains to the altar boys of the Dormition church. And that it was put into the document in hopes of creating fear (the formula is really quite old) and that one of them would be unable to stand the pressure and will inform on himself. This is all well known, isn't it?

We return to the collection of "evidence." On Monday, the 30th, Fr Mikhail returned to the emergency room in his neighborhood where on his medical report was recorded "numerous contusions of the upper and lower extremities," and "wounds on the right half of the chest." At this emergency room, on 20 July, Fr Alexander Abramov (according to the personnel it was evidently he) appeared with a request for Fr Mikhail's diagnosis. This document, it seems, was given to Fr Alexander. True, in the document which Fr Alexander received there is no mention of a small detail that was contained in other documents of the emergency room, namely that according to Fr Mikhail he "was beaten by unknown persons on 29 June." If the wounds of the priest and the document about them are not a complete fake, then it turns out that Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky was beaten on Sunday after his release from the 14th hospital. But by whom and for what? However, perhaps the document actually is "fake"? We all know how it is possible to get such documents in Russia.

And so Master Arseny got what he wanted. By Wednesday he had in his hands "undoubted proof" of the commission of a crime: a paper from the police which told of the fight and the evidence of the presence of Fr Mikhail in the emergency room where the "beating" was established. Who has opposed these "arguments"? Indeed it is possible to imagine what was said about this to his holiness and how the picture and consequences of the horrible crime in the sanctuary of the church of the Dormition were described. So it is quite predictable that there would be the resolution the most holy patriarch signed on 2 July dismissing Fr Georgi Kochetkov, rector of the largest Moscow congregation, from priestly service "until the completion of the investigation of the incident" "for inability to stabilize the internal parish life and...also for offensive actions besmirching the honor and dignity of the clergy of the church, Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, and for bringing about physical attack upon him in the sanctuary of the church." Just so.

What the opponents of the congregation of Father Georgi had not been able to achieve in numerous so-called "theological" and "academic-practical" conferences and round tables, nor get from the last two bishops' councils, they were able to achieve in three days as a result of a direct provocation with pathological elements. "Opponents" of Fr Georgi, who failed to conquer him externally by more appropriate methods, carried out their plot with the help of overt criminality. The methods of struggle with the Dormition parish are disturbing. "This Carthaginian lie must be destroyed," declared Hegumen Tikhon over the airwaves of Radonezh. And really, there was not much hope that the parish could withstand the blows of lies and slanders.

But there still is hope. Not in the church commission which was appointed for "examination" of the current affair on 11 July, after the patriarch's decision already had been made. According to witnesses who were summoned to its sessions in the New Savior monastery, this investigation was more like interrogations in certain well known offices than a genuine ecclesiastical quest for truth. The hope is that the parish of Fr Georgi is a community or, using the words of the witness Serafim Chichagov, a spiritual family. It will not be so simple to break up a strong family, even when it is left without means for existence. The family can resist the "system" and triumph over it. This cannot be done in isolation.

In the end one wants to express one observation about this. Many people, with whom I have talked during these days, refuse to help Dormition parish, citing this crude intrachurch affair. But, first, the violation of the law in the church was a violation of the law. And second, Orthodox fundamentalism, which is rapidly gaining strength in the church recently, is both a church and social phenomenon, since its basic goal is the struggle for power not only in the church but also in society. What yesterday was viewed as a masquerade--the parades of cossacks and black hundredists, etc.--today represents a real threat to peace and freedom in society. After liberation from the communist "system" it is important for all of us to be sure that another "system" does not come to power tomorrow. (tr by PDS)

Russian text: Kto zakazyvaet izbienie sviashchenikov

(posted 9 August 1997)

Nationalist Orthodox journal refutes president's veto of religion law


Radonezh, issue no. 13, August 1997

In rejecting the draft of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association," which had been adopted by the State Duma, the president of the Russian federation stated that provisions of this draft contradict provisions of the constitution of Russia, federal laws of Russia, and the foundations of the constitutional system of Russia. It is impossible to agree with the Russian president's position. The prepared draft of the law was the product of intense efforts of its developers and it fully corresponded with current Russian legislation and generally recognized legislative practice of foreign states.

"Radonezh" suggests that its readers persuade themselves of this. We are presenting the full text of the statement of the president with corresponding commentary from our group of experts.

Complete article: Expert Commentary

(posted 8 August)

Holy Synod again hesitates on question about royal family

From the report of the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church, July 17, 1997:

CONSIDERED: the work of the State Commission on the Examination and Re-burial of the Remains of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and Members of His Family. . . . [The report contains a synopsis of the synod's consideration.]

1) that the questions posed by the Church at the Holy Synod meeting of 6 October 1995 and those worked out by the Commission on 15 November 1995 be considered crucial for the completion of the work of the State Commission;
2) that the biased presentation of the work of the Commission and the position of the Russian Orthodox Church by the mass media is regrettable;
3) that the position taken by Metropolitan Juvenaly at the Commission be approved.

English translation of entire report is available on the Web page of the Moscow patriarchate

Russian version on the Russian Web page of MP

Yeltsin meets patriarch

President Boris Yeltsin and Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, at the consecration of the restored chapel of saints Boris and Gleb on 6 August 1997, with a model of the chapel.
(photo from ITAR-TASS)


MOSCOW (AP), 7 August. President Boris Yeltsin and the leader of Russia's Orthodox church kissed at a religious service Wednesday and pledged to mend their longtime alliance, frayed by a divisive dispute over competing religions. Yeltsin and Patriarch Alexis II, standing together near the newly built chapel of St. Boris and Gleb, vowed to strengthen their cooperation. . . .

"I am satisfied that the president has moved to meet the aspirations of tens of millions of our church's faithful," Alexis said. . . .

Complete text of AP story

AMERICAN ANALYST CONCLUDES: ". . . This reassertion of Russian caesaropapist traditions of close links between the state and one church is likely to become one of the most important obstacles to the possibility of creating a democratic system. . . ." Analysis from Washington, by Paul Goble.

from Presidential Press Service, 6 August 1997

Your Most Holiness!

Dear fellow citizens!

Not quite three months have passed since the day when we were participants and observers in the laying of the first stone of the chapel-church of the faithful prince saints, Boris and Gleb. And now its construction is completed.

Here, at the Arbat gates, for more than 500 years stood the church of the holy martyrs Boris and Gleb, which believers esteemed. It was destroyed. But today, on the eve of the 850th jubilee of Moscow, its renovated form has appeared.

It is our moral obligation to restore the sacred places that have been destroyed. We sincerely rejoice that Moscow again is illuminated by the light from the cupolas of the largest church in Russia, the cathedral of Christ the Savior. But just as much joy and emotion seizes us when we see that city and village churches and chapels are being restored and repaired. This shows once again the attitude which the state is displaying toward the church in restoring all that the years of sorrow destroyed. Participation in the rebirth of churches unites people of the most varied convictions, ages, and professions.

This sacred work is so very important for strengthening the moral foundation of our lives and for cleansing our souls.

I place great value on the substantial strengthening of relations between the state and the Russian Orthodox church that has happened in the past few years. I cannot help but not the contribution of the Russian Orthodox church and of the patriarch of Moscoe and all-Rus, Alexis II, personally in peacemaking and educational activity and in philanthropy.

The role of the church in social aid and in preserving and expanding our cultural heritage is enormous. I am sure that our fruitful cooperation will enhance the welfare of Russia and no hinderances of any kind, which have arisen recently, will ever be able to separate us, in so far as we know both the role and significance of Orthodox Christianity and our Orthodox church in the rebirth of Russia.

I want to express my gratitude and thanks to the artists' collective which drew up the splendid draft of the church-chapel of the holy faithful princes Boris and Gleb and to the builders who brought it to reality in such a short time.

I express my thanks to the government of Moscow and Mayor Yury Mikhailovich Luzhkov, who three months--less than three months--ago on this spot at the laying of the cornerstone gave his word to have the church built by this time. And, as always, he kept his word.

Special thanks to the Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples and to all who cooperated in the hastening of this lustrous day of consecration of this chapel.

I wish you, Your Most Holiness, and to all present here good health, peace, and strength for new achievements in the name of our fatherland. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Vystuplenie presidenta

from Moscow patriarchate, press release, 6 August 1997 (partial text)

The state authorities must realize that the national spirit must not be left to the tyranny of the elements of this age:

Addressing the people assembled, the primate of the Russian Orthodox church thanked everyone who began and carried out the construction of the memorial church, including the governments of the country and the city of Moscow and the Fund of the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, and many others.

The patriarch said: "This day and this event again shows how the historical memory is being restored to our people, which from ancient times has resided in its spiritual and cultural image. In a profound sense it is no accident that the second baptism of our people proceeds hand and hand with the regeneration of Russia and with its gradual transition from the times of troubles to the creation of civil peace. Just as many centuries ago, Rus is being created and united on the basis of the native faith. In this way and only in this way can the fatherland restore its energies and its beauty. Hope for a better future lies only in fidelity to our native spiritual path."

Addressing the head of the Russian state and all those present, Patriarch Alexis again touched upon the question that is disturbing the whole of society today, the draft law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." The head of the Russian Orthodox church said in particular: "Recently discussions were again stirred up about the extent to which our society has the right to protect itself from spiritual corruption and to create a barrier to destructive sects and false missionaries. Much depends on the outcome of these discussions, whether our Rus will preserve itself spiritually. And I am satisfied that the president has come to grips with the hopes of tens of millions of believers of our church, since he has discussed these controversial questions with the church's representative. In the course of the discussion we became convinced that if it were not for the vacation many of the obvious problems never would have arisen. I thank Boris Nikolaevich for his expression in our conversation of his firm conviction of the role and significance of Orthodoxy in the history and contemporary life of the Russian state and its people. Saint Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow, in the dramatic postrevolutionary period wrote: 'No kind of outside intervention and generally noone and nothing will be able to save Russia from ruin and devastation until the Righteous Lord turns his wrath to mercy and until the people itself is purified from its ages-old evils in the font of repentance and thereby is spiritually reborn into a new man, created after God's image in righteousness and true holiness.' We Orthodox Christians know from centuries of experience the truth of these words. We also know that hatred and division, deception and vice, immorality and impiety, the blindness of false ideals, and desecration of the native faith and the national traditions will bring devastation, suffering, and death. "The government also must recognize this. For if the spirit of the people is abandoned to the tyranny of the elements of this age then all that remains for us is to face the future in fear and trembling. What kind of Russia will we, the older generation, leave to our grandchildren? This is being determined today; it is being determined by the government and by the people. So we shall never forget the enormity and the urgency of the responsibility that we bear before God, the nation, and history." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Dukh naroda

ITAR-TASS, Pravoslavie v Rossii

Moscow (6 August) "The law on freedom of conscience and religious association which I returned for revision soon may be adopted." President Borin Yeltsin declared this today in Moscow after the ceremony of consecration of the church-chapel of saints Boris and Gleb. The president said that the law must be revised in a reconciliation commission which will consist of representatives of the government, presidency, as well as the Russian Orthodox church. the head of state noted that the commission must revise the law and review all of its provisions that violate the constitution. In response to the president, Patriarch Alexis II acknowledged that today he has become optimistic with regard to the fate of the law.

"The law on freedom of conscience and relgious associations is not discriminatory and it does not restrict any confessions," Patriarch Alexis II declared today to journalists after the ceremony of consecration of the church-chapel of saints Boris and Gleb on Arbat square in Moscow. In the opinion of the primate of the Russian church "the law regulates the activity of destructive foreign sects." In all European countries, the most holy patriarch recalled, there is a procedure that requires accreditation for each activity. "Moreover," he added, "it is for activity which influences the minds and consciousness, and the faith of people. We must know who is preaching on our territory and who is ideologically educating our citizens." The tragic situation in the Tokyo subway involving the Aum Sinrikyo sect should make us cautions, his holiness said. He also cited the example of the "White Brotherhood," whose founder's portraits, Maria Devi Khristis, were plastered all over Moscow. "In November she is supposed to be set free and is she going to come here to found a religious organization? The offices that deal with registration must be very attentive to such cases," Patriarch Alexis thinks.

As regards the Catholic church in Russia, the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus is convinced that Catholics have no reason to be anxious. "The Catholic church in Russia has existed here more than fifty years, so it will have no problems with registration." But it cannot aspire to the historical role and label of being a traditional religion for Russia. "In tsarist Russia before the revolution the principal region of residence for Catholics was Poland and Lithuania. In St. Petersburg and Moscow there were Catholic churches for foreigners. The metropolitan of Mogilev ruled the Catholic parishes in the territory of Russia," he recalled.

His most holiness acknowledged that today had inspired optimism in him with regard to the future fate of the law. After today's meeting with Russia's President Boris Yeltsin and also the recent lengthy telephone conversation with the head of state, the patriarch said that he had been assured that a reasonable compromise will be found. "This is what the president called for in his appeal to a number of lawmakers," said the most holy patriarch Alexis, expressing his conviction that the law absolutely must be adopted. (tr. by PDS)

Also from the Presidential Press Service, 6 August 1997

President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin authorized the leader of his administration, V.B. Yumashev, to conduct before 1 September 1997 an expanded session of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations of the presidency of the Russian federation for reaching agreement with representatives of confessions, deputies of the State Duma, members of the Federation Council regarding necessary changes in the draft of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Eltsin poruchil

(posted 7 August)

Patriarch interviewed


Izvestiia, 5 August

Summary from Russia Today Home Page

The daily interviewed the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksiy II, regarding his upcoming meeting with President Boris Yeltsin.

The two will focus on the controversial draft law on religion, which the president refused to sign despite the fact that it was supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.

"We agreed that all amendments to the law will be discussed in advance between representatives of the president and of the (Russian Orthodox) Church," the Patriarch told the daily. "I have told the president that the law is not discriminatory. It might not conform to the American pattern, but it corresponds to the European model," he said. "Legislation in a number of countries speaks about traditional or state religions," he adding citing the examples of Greece, Ireland, Sweden, England, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

However, the Patriarch is opposed to granting the status of a state religion to the Russian Orthodoxy. The Church should be separate from the state, he said. He also rejected the idea that Catholicism is traditional in Russia, and spoke out against the activities of various sects that he said have invaded Russia.

(posted 6 August)

Conflict between traditional and reform Orthodox turns violent


Moscow priest Georgi Kochetkov has made a name for himself as a religious innovator. His actions have divided opinion both in Moscow and throughout the world. The division reached what seems to be a crisis point on 29 June in an incident at his parish church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Pechatniki in the Seretenka region of Moscow. Reports about the details of the incident are extremely contradictory.

One of the first accounts came from Maxim M. Obukhov (, which is reproduced here . This text has been slightly edited for English style.

Last week Orthodox Moscow was shocked by an awful incident that happened at the church of Dormition of the Mother of God in Pechatniki. This parish is led by the well-known celibate priest Fr. Georgi Kochetkov, who is famous for using his own (unauthorized) translation of church services from Slavonic into Russian and for his complaints about being oppressed.
Fr. Kochetkov is known as one of the radical reformist group of Moscow clergy. Many innovations of this parish have been opposed by the majority of Russian priests: women entering into altar, laity having the Holy Chalice after the Divine Liturgy, new theological views, and extreme ecumenism. All these innovations caused a division within the Orthodox public of Moscow.
Recently the auxiliary priest Fr. Mikhail was assigned to the parish. He refused to use the Russian translation not authorized by ecclesiastical authorities and was reprimanded by Fr. Kochetkov. The latter even refused to have Communion with him - "because of the different points of view".
The covert conflict erupted in tragedy. On 29 June, when Fr. Mikhail began to read prayers of confession in Slavonic, he was told not to do this by Father Kochetkov's altar boys . They grabbed his service book, seized the priest, and took him to the altar where he was beaten and bound. (This fact is confirmed by witnesses). After a call for first aid, a psychiatric service ambulance arrived. (By the way, it arrived unusually soon, in thirty minutes instead of the three to five hours usual for Moscow. Persons living in Russia know what a psychiatric ambulance coming so soon means.) The priest who had been bound and beaten was taken to the hospital, where he received an injection of tranquilizer. Just after that he was released as psychologically well but still with traces of violence. The traces of violence and trauma are confirmed by medical examination. His mental condition is confirmed in documents by physicians of the hospital.
The beating of a priest in the sanctuary and withholding of fellowship are such extraordinary and shameful crimes that after petitions from a majority of Moscow clergy, including two bishops, His Most Holines Patriarch Alexis II suspended Father Kochetkov. (ed. by PDS)

Five days after the incident Nezavisimaia gazeta published a different account by someone who evidently is more sympathetic to Father Kochetkov than is Obukhov.

by Ivan Chernov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 4 July 1997
The first three words of the title belong to our national philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. He included within the indicated crises the inability of traditional Orthodoxy to deal with the challenges of modernity and to turn its face toward contemporary people. Instead of giving to the suffering a word of consolation and gospel truth, Orthodox pastors speak only about the preeminence of traditional ways, the apostasy of Catholics and protestants from the truth, and the unprecedented number of heresies and heretics. Some parishioners pay attention to the Orthodox zealots, and others leave since they are unable to bear the interminable abuse and to practice politics in the religious dimension.
Moscow. Church of the Dormition in Pechatniki in Sretenka. Large. One of the largest in the capital. The parish of Father Georgi Kochetkov, a famous reformer priest.
What and how is he trying to reform? He has translated some of the liturgy into Russian. He tells his flock to take the sacrament of baptism seriously. He reads aloud the so-called secret prayers. He celebrates with the royal doors open. He organized classes for baptismal candidates and created a higher theological school bearing the name of Moscow Metropolitan Filaret. He deals with the challenges of his enormous and extremely demanding flock. And in everything else Father Georgi maintains completed Orthodox views, preaching the Gospel and reading the patristic tradition. However, many are displeased.
The most unsubstantiated rumors are circulated about him and his parish: that they are ordaining priests there autonomously and that they conduct some kind of dubious dinner conversations. In a word, they are sectarians and heretics among the Orthodox.
The church authorities have long wished to bring the obstinate parish to heel. They appointed a second priest, Father Mikhail, a younman, a traditionalist from Kursk. The conservatives were heartened. They began to call together people to make their confession to Father Mikhail. Most of them came from the neighboring monastery of the Presentation of the Christ Child: the service there wearies them and here they are more timely. Everything would be fine but there is a problem: there are too many intellectuals in the parish of Father Georgi Kochetkov and too many discussions and questions. Father Mikhail could not bear the intellectual pressure for long. Last Sunday he suddenly began screaming at the top of his voice in the sanctuary during the liturgy: "They are killing me!" Altar boys approached the priest in order to comfort him. He kept crying out. They had to call the psychiatric ambulance. Monks came running from the Presentation monastery. It was said that one of them threw himself under the wheels of the vehicle. But nevertheless they took the poor man somewhere and then gave the diagnosis of "acute psychosis."
There's a crisis for you! Comedy? Tragedy? (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Krisis srednevekogo mirosozertsaniia

The newspaper published a rebuttal to Chernov's article on 26 July: ORTHODOX THINKING AS DISSENT by Olesia Alexandrovna Nikolaeva.

Two days earlier the newspaper provided a broader perspective on the issue, which was written by two of the paper's regular contributors, Maxim Shevchenko and Oleg Mramornov: THE LARGEST MOSCOW PARISH REMAINS WITHOUT ITS BELOVED RECTOR. "Conflict in the church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Pechatniki could have far-reaching consequences for the Russian Orthodox church."

The Keston News Service, which represents a substantial body of western observers who sympathize with the reformist wing of Russian Orthodox clergy, published a story that presented the pro-Kochetkov perspective: RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MISSIONARY PRIEST BANNED BY MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE, by Xenia Dennen.

Information from the anti-Kochetkov perspective was provided by the extreme nationalist Orthodox organization Radonezh: RENOVATIONISTS HAVE RESORTED TO CRIMINAL ACTIONS. This long document contains eyewitness accounts from Vladimir Sergeev, a layman, Fr Mikhail's wife, and Fr Mikhail himself. (It seems significant that Fr Mikhail never describes his mistreatment as a beating, although this word occurs in many reports of the event.) Then there is an interview with the sect fighter A.L. Dvorkin, who is known as the subject of a court case brought by Gleb Yakunin. Finally, there is a long anti-Kochetkov indictment by the abbot of the nearby monastery, Hegumen Tikhon.

Other references to Kochetkov in Subject Index

(posted 5 August 1997)

Orthodox as persecutors

by Robyn Dixon

Sydney Morning Herald, July 26, 1997

WHEN Baptist missionaries invaded a small, conservative village, not far from the communist stronghold of Smolensk, several hundred kilometres west of Moscow, it was too much for the local Orthodox priest. Watching the slow parade of his competitors handing out their Protestant brochures, he was seized by a hot surge of ungodly rage. He snatched a Bible from one of the Baptists and whacked him over the head with it.

After suffering 74 years of religious persecution in the Soviet Union, something very strange is happening in the Russian Orthodox Church. It has become the new oppressor, trying to hound out foreign churches and missionaries competing to save the souls of Russians. Harassment of members of foreign religions by Orthodox priests has turned violent on several occasions.

The Hare Krishna organisation claims a Russian Orthodox priest led an attack on one of its temples in the southern Russian town of Rostov-on-Don during a religious meeting in June last year. Ten Hare Krishnas went to hospital after they were beaten with shovels and clubs. One was unconscious for a week. The organisation claims another of its devotees in the town of Nizhny Novogorod was grabbed by a priest after she tried give him a Hare Krishna leaflet. The group alleges the priest took the young woman to his church, beat her and then took her to the police station, demanding she be punished.

Despite the religious freedoms permitted since perestroika, there is still not much religious tolerance in Russia. In ancient times, the Church was conservative and xenophobic. Today, it remains suspicious of outsiders.

Recently, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist Party formed a strange alliance to try to undermine foreign churches. Both pushed for a law that would restrict the activities of most of the churches operating in Russia. But the Russian President, Mr Yeltsin, clashed with the Orthodox Church for the first time when he vetoed the law on Wednesday. His decision stunned the Orthodox hierarchy. At Moscow's ancient Danilovsky Monastery, the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church, a team of gardeners manicures the formal garden, spread like a floral eiderdown beneath the glittering golden cupolas of the churches. Equally measured and formal is the church press conference in response to the veto, held in the luxury hotel in the monastery grounds. The atmosphere is plush and powerful. Overhead, icons of Christ and the Mother of God hang poised above the debate. On the table stand bottles of Saint Springs mineral water, a handy little earner for the Church. Mr Yeltsin vetoed the law because it undermined the rights of many Russian churches and contradicted the Russian Constitution, which guarantees equality of all religions.

The law, attacked by Pope John Paul II and the United States Senate, gave favoured status to four "traditional" Russian religions - the Russian Orthodox Church, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism - while all others have to prove they have been operating for more than 15 years or face a 15-year bureaucratic struggle for registration. Every new branch would have to go through the 15-year registration process and could not proceed without the permission of the "traditional" churches in the area. Those without registration could not own property, preach publicly or distribute literature. The Catholic administrator of European Russia, Archbishop Thaddaeus Kondrusiewicz, said that although Catholicism in Russia dated back to the 12th century, there were only two Catholic churches left by the 1930s. There are now 23. The Archbishop fears that under the law, the Catholic Church would be forced to surrender all but the two churches it owned 15 years ago, facing a 15-year delay to register any new church.

The battle over Russia's law on religion is far from over. Communist deputies say the Parliament is likely to overturn Mr Yeltsin's veto. Mr Victor Ilyushin, chairman of the security committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, said the law was required to limit Western pressure on Russian minds. "The free and uncontrolled activity of foreign religious confessions in Russia is a threat to state security," he said. One of the law's main advocates in the Duma, the communist deputy Mr Victor Zorkaltsev, attacked the President's veto, saying: "Russia has been trampled underfoot."

In the days of the Soviet Union, members of the Church hierarchy learned to co-exist with communism. Some Orthodox priests were persecuted but others colluded with authorities and survived. And there was, at least, no competition from outside. The coincidence of the interests of Orthodox faith and orthodox communism reflect where the natural conservatives lie in Russian society today. They are nationalistic, anti-foreigner, against change and opposed to outside competition. The Church and the Communist Party share supporters, with many elderly Russian Orthodox believers also being pro-Communist. When Mr Yeltsin vetoed the law, he took a principled stand at considerable political peril. It is difficult for a president to win a debate against God and his earthly envoys. And it is risky for a Russian leader to alienate the powerful Russian Orthodox Church with its vast and devout constituency.

Indeed, Mr Yeltsin's stand is unlikely to win him any political friends. On the day of the last presidential election, the Russian Patriarch, Alexy II, made his preference clear when he blessed Mr Yeltsin, which suggested the President and his people understand the power of the Church.

But now the risk for Mr Yeltsin is that the shared conservative persuasion of the Orthodox Church and the Communists could evolve into a more permanent alliance.

Uzbek restrictions on religion

by M.S. Zapisal
Russkaia mysl, 24 July 1997 (full text)

MOSCOW. A group of protestant believers arriving from Uzbekistan carried across the border material about the state of religious freedom in that country. Here is what was described by a member of this group, a Pentecostalist pastor who requested anonymity.

"According to the constitution everything should be normal but the legislation about freedom of conscience contains an article prohibiting missionary activity. It states specifically: "Missionary activity is forbidden," although there also is an article which says that religious organizations are formed for the profession and dissemination of faith. But no one pays any attention. And because there is no precise definition of what missionary activity is, it is understood in whatever way is convenient, beginning with the distribution of booklets and extending to evangelization.

"Religious activity is forbidden to all foreign religious organizations. What is more, because of different interpretations of the provisions of the law, it often happens that actions are prohibited which actually are permissible. For example, dissemination of faith is forbidden. If a person begins to distribute booklets or religious literature on the street, they can easily detain, arrest, and accuse him of distributing religious teachings and charge him under article 241 of the administrative codex.

"Such an attitude toward religious organizations is arbitrary: If churches do not disseminate religious teachings among the native nationality, if they cooperate with the authorities or security services on the basis of secret or open agreements, then they have fewer problems. If a church is active and goes beyond merely conducting worship services and engages in overt profession of faith, evangelization, philanthropy, and education, then problems and insurmountable difficulties begin.

"The law on freedom of conscience theoretically permits worship literature in accordance with one's wishes, but actually there is a multitude of restrictions connected with particular activity among the native population, the Uzbeks. It is simply interpreted as missionary activity. Even when an Uzbek or Kazakh believes in Jesus Christ and tries to share his faith, restrictions begin.

"There are cases where students of the university have been persecuted by their deans' office simply for speaking about God or going to church.They are required to renounce their faith and threatened with dismissal on some basis or other.

"The criminal code has an article against inciting religious hostility and about conducting meetings, processions, protests and demonstrations. Now many religious organizations which are not registered are threatened with criminal charges on these articles.

"In September of last year there was an incident in our church, for example, when believers were assembled and a raid was conducted. About twenty people were detained. They were shown a photograph of the pastor and asked: 'Do you know this pastor? Answer yes or no.' After this they made use of those answering 'yes.' They went to the pastor's home and served upon him a charge of violating article 241 of the law for teaching religious ideas, without permission, on a private basis. The same happened in November--a round-up and interrogation, but only the pastor was charged with violating two articles, 241 and 201, and taken to prison.

"Those who do not want to be registered are rare. The basic problem is different--to achieve registration. Although registration requires the presentation of four or five documents, actually many more are demanded. Artificial hindrances are created: a person arrives without suspecting anything and brings everything that had been suggested. He is not refused but is told that the documents cannot be accepted because a comma is out of place or a date must be changed or a signature is incorrect, etc.

"And this is not said at first but only after the documents have been submitted to several offices and the time limit established for the registration has elapsed, and then they say: 'You know, this won't do. You must do it all over.'

"There are churches which have been trying to register like this for three years or longer. And, for example, the charity fund Khydoka khlakha (God will provide) has sought registration about six years, after which it was forced to cease its existence entirely.

"Several evangelical churches (Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, and others) have been subjected to demands of reregistration in this way. They say to them: 'We registered you incorrectly and this is the mistake, and now you must remove this item.' That is, they actually demand that believers limit the activity that their own bylaws specify. Basically this concerns such things as education, work with children, evangelization, and publishing. It is required that worship services take place only at the location of registration.

"Conversations with children younger than six are forbidden, and then written consent from the parents is required in the case of minor youths. Frequently ministers are summoned to offices and told: 'You do not have the right to work with children. Suppose children drop in at your place who do not have parental permission, or in the case of some that have permission, suppose that a boy or girl friend who accompanies them has Muslim parents?' All of this is done so that the churches themselves will turn away believers or restrain themselves out of fear of ban and loss of registration.

"In Karakalpakia a church of Pentecostals tried for a long time to receive registration, but the minister of justice refused them on that basis that they engage in spreading their faith.

"Generally, in Azerbaijan all protestants have been charged with conducting antistate activity. A Bible society there was registered, but under the guise of a society of booklovers called 'Kikap.'

"The authorities make no secret that they expect the adoption of a strict new law in Russia, andthen it will be more convenient for them to make things even tougher in our country." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Svoboda sovesti na bumage

Other articles on Uzbekistan

(posted 3 August)

Completion of Savior cathedral nears

by Inna Kolomeiskaia
Segodnia, 1 August 1997 (full text)

A patriarchal prayer service and consecration of the walls of the cathedral of Christ the Savior will occur on 7 September. The new cathedral will have different basement facilities than the old. This is because the old cathedral stood on a hill but now the hill is gone and in its place there is an enormous pit left over from the palace of soviets and the Moscow swimming pool. It was decided to build a subterranean storey to house the patriarchate, which for many years has been forced to squeeze into cramped quarters that were inadequate for its needs. Now the offices, library, TV studio, meeting hall for church councils and the Holy Synod, and the patriarch's office will be located below the cathedral of Christ the Savior. There even will be an underground parking garage, part of which evidently will be leased. This information came from a press conference of a representative of the Fund for Financial Support for Restoring the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Sergei Semenenko. He said that in the three years of its work the fund (a noncommercial charitable organization) raised more than three trillion rubles for construction.

The overall cost of all work on restoration of the cathedran of Christ the Savior was estimated in 1994 at 350 million dollars. The actual total could turn out to be much less because several construction firms have given volunteer labor and materials have been donated.

The solemn patriarchal prayer service and consecration of the cathedral will be on 7 September. At that time the lower gallery with memorial plaques honoring the donors who gave money for the restoration will be opened. By the time of the jubilee of the capital the cathedral will be completely covered in white marble and its external appearance will correspond completely with the historical pattern. The landscape also will be completed, with lawn and benches and a small pool and observation deck. Incidentally, the land still belongs to the city and its transfer to the patriarchate is just now being arranged. The official opening of the territory of the cathedral of Christ the Savior, which should be attended by the patriarch and Mayor Yury Luzhkov of Moscow, will be on 3 September. At that time a great concert of church singing is planned.

The interior artistic decoration of the cathedral and its equipment will be completed by the year 2000. But this will not interfere with the clergy or worshippers. Almost all the bells of the cathedral have been hung. The Transfiguration church (the lower cathedral) now has regular services and its own parish. On 19 August, an elaborate patriarchal service with the traditional consecration of fruits was held on the Apple Savior's day. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 3 August)

Yeltsin and Alexis II


Segodnia, 1 August (full text)

President Boris Yeltsin is expected to meet with Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus at the beginning of August, according to a source in the Moscow patriarch. The source specifically did not rule out that the meeting would occur on 6 August at the time of the ceremony dedicating the restored chapel of the martyr-saints Boris and Gleb. The source suggested that the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox church will agree on principles for the direction in which the revision of the law on freedom of conscience will go.

Meanwhile yesterday the assistant chief of the administration of the presidency, Maxim Boiko, exchanged views about the adtoption of a law on freedom of conscience with reprsentatives of the ROC and Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist religious organizations. The religious leaders expressed their readiness for constructive dialogue and agreed that the document must not contain provisions that violate the constitution of the Russian federation. (tr. by PDS)


MOSCOW, AUGUST 1, RIA NOVOSTI - Federal President Boris Yeltsin had a long telephone conversation with His Beatitude Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to discuss the vetoed bill, On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations.

"It was a long, hearty and mutually well-wishing talk," says presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

The President shares the Patriarch's apprehensions as sinister sects and cults are mushrooming in Russia to bring moral and physical damage to people they entice. The President is sure that they will be neutralised through official efforts, and their proliferation stopped, the presidential press service says in a statement circulated today. text of statement

The President and the Patriarch agree that Russia needs the freedom of conscience law after all its premises are amended into constitutional compliance. They regret that they are both absent from Moscow--Boris Yeltsin on vacation, and Alexis II on ecclesiastical affairs--and so cannot confer eye-to-eye about the disputable bill. If it had taken place in due time, such a conference would have prevented many misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the developments by the mass media.

The President and the Patriarch agreed to join hands for bill amendment and adoption.

(posted 3 August)

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