NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA
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ALEXIS II: BAD PUBLICITY IS PREVENTING THE DETERMINATION OF THE TRUTH
by Andrei Papushin
Dom i Otchestvo, 29 November 1997
Questions about the conclusive identification of the remains of the royal family and their reburial have emerged recently to the front pages of the newspapers. On the one hand, this must cause joy: the problem is affectingsociety and testifies, at the least, that we have survived our historical amnesia. On the other hand, the issue has been accompanied by obviously bad publicity.
Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus has spoken out about the matter of the remains of the royal family. In the opinion of His Most Holiness, the numerous interpretations of the matter of the remains of the royal family is nothing more than a conjunction. The versions attending the "tsarist affair" also depend on it. Meanwhile, according to the patriarch, the conclusive resolution of the question requires answers to "ten points" of the Moscow patriarchate. And scholars still have not answered them.
Until the problem gets an official scientific foundation the patriarch suggested not to rush events, "not to jump to conclusions," and to await the verdict of the State Commission and the scholars working with it. That means not to rush to a resolution about the reburial of the remains of the royal family. "Our church," the patriarch said, "will participate in the burial and that means, it must be convinced that the remains, commended to us by the State Commission, are genuine. Our common task is to be persuaded of the 100 percent identification of the remains and the specialists who are engaged in the questions of certification have another two months." Evaluating the situation that arose the next day, Alexis II declared that "the location of the skeletons of members of the royal family in the Ekaterinburg morgue violates morality." Insofar as it was possible to understand the supreme hierarch of the Russian Orthodox church, the conduct of the governor of Sverdlovsk region, E. Rossel, is considered by the church to be improper.
Investigator of the General Procuracy of the Russian federation Vladimir Soloviev, Nikolai Nevolin, and the chief of the Sverdlovsk Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination, where the remains of the royal family are stored, have issued a joint declaration. Its essence is: despite the opinion of the governor of Sverdlovsk region Eduard Rossel, the remains of the imperial family nevertheless will go to Moscow. But not all of them; only "those which require additional examination."
When the remains of the sovereign family will be transferred to the capital is unknown. The director of the federal center of judicial medical analysis, Vitaly Tomilin, who was supposed to go to Ekaterinburg yesterday, will make the determination of the necessity of the transfer to Moscow of certain bones. The "division" of the bones in in Russel's hands; part of the relics the Ekaterinburg governor will retain as a kind of security, hoping for the final interment of the remains in Ekaterinburg. (tr by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 2 December 1997)
ATTEMPT TO PRESSURE PSYCHIATRY HAS NOT SUCCEEDED
by Yu. S. Savenko
Nesavisimyi psikhiatricheskii zhurnal, Vol. 3, 1997, p. 64
The previous article [a reprint of D.V. Pospelovsky's "Father A.D. Shmeman would have been killed in Russia," published in Russkaia mysl] gives a comprehensive context to a contemporary instance of pressure on psychiatry. Father Georgy Kochetkov, one of the most prominent pastors of the Moscow patriarchate (MP), managed to draw to his parish around 2,000 parishioners, including well known leaders of science, culture (S.S. Averintsev), and the human rights movement. However by his innovations, principally the use of contemporary Russian language in the liturgy rather than Church Slavonic, Fr Georgy provoked among conservative forces of MP attempts to remove him. As a result, recently a newly ordained young priest was assigned to Fr Georgy's parish near the Sretensky Gates (the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki), who not only had not completed his novitiate but, as became quickly apparent to many parishioners (not just medical personnel), was also psychologically unbalanced. Many considered this choice intentional.
The tension of the emerging conflict was so great and obvious that in the final weeks a videotape was made of each service. When the conflict erupted (29 June 1997), the conduct of the young priest was so manic and incompetent that psychiatric first aid was summoned and the attendant older experienced physician considered his condition worthy of involuntary hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital.
However six hours later, despite its being a weekend, the patient was discharged with the diagnosis of no signs of any psychiatric disorders. The case was in many regards unprecedented. Neither the first aid psychiatrist nor the admitting psychiatrist reported signs of a beating, which appeared subsequently. The special commission of the Moscow Department of Health, which had investigated the actions of the first aid physician, concluded that they were proper. Then in the Ministery of Health another commission was created under the presidency of Professor A.S. Tiganov, but without the participation of the independent psychiatric association (NPA) of Russia. After several sessions, when Professor Tiganov tried to meet with Fr Georgy and the young priest, who disappeared after the events, a church commission (containing only opponents of Fr Georgy) put out its decision in the form of a decree of the patriarch (9 October 1997). "For commission of violence and insult against the priest M.D., and also having determined that the causes of this were manifested in systematic arbitrariness on the part of Fr Georgy Kochetkov both in divine services and in other activity of the parish which he leads, which served to disrupt the peace of the church and to create a conflict situation . . . Fr Georgy Kochetkov ... is suspenced from clerical service . . . and remains under suspension until he manifests repentance. . . . The question of the possibility of his subsequent clerical service can be reviewd by us only after he acknolwedges his guilt and repents."
Several days later the commission of the Ministry of Health concluded that the hospitalization of Fr M.D. had been proper. The Russian NPA cooperated with Fr Georgy. He participated in the Second Konstorum Readings. A joint conference was planned, with the approval of the patriarch, devoted to the memory of Professor D.E. Melikhov, whose scholarly religious works Fr Georgy published on the eve of the meeting. The creative potential of Fr Georgy is so extraordinary and great that it cannot simply evaporate. This story has still not been finished.
For psychiatrists this is a hopeful example of unanimity with regard to impermissible pressure from the upper echelons of power. More than that, protection from such pressure has been manifested. This is in the form of the directive of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, No. 291, of 3 October 1997: "Take measures for fulfilling the decision of the interagency commission of the Security Council of the Russian federation for protection of the health of the population, no. 4, 23 July 1997, regarding institutions that render psychiatric, psychotherapeutic, and drug-abuse aid." In the fourth of the five points of the decision of the interagency commission we read: "Require of leaders of agencies of protection of health and maintenance of order that the use of psychiatry for nonmedical goals is impermissible, including cooperation with public associations of social, racial, national, and religious affiliation."
We speak of this directive as a guarantee in the same sense the law and constitution are correspondingly considered. Although they are often not fulfilled, or fulfilled poorly, this nevertheless is a basis for an attempt to fulfill them. Whether the directive remains mere words and demagogy or becomes a genuine defense against insistent and continual attempts at pressure depends upon all of us. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 28 November)
JUDGE FORBIDS REMOVAL OF TSAR'S RELICS
Complete surprise for all officials
by Ekaterina Grigorieva
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 26 November 1997
Yesterday a judge of Sverdlovsk region published a resolution forbidding the removal of the remains of the royal family. For the governor of Sverdlovsk region, Eduard Rossel, this decision came quite unexpectedly. He himself, according to his press secretary Alexander Levin, learned about it from reports of information acencies. It also was a suprise for the district court. The vice president for criminal cases, Anatoly Shestakov, told a NG reporter that there was no session of the regional court on this matter and this is the first case of such an initiative by an individual judge. He had not encountered such a thing in many years of practice in the regional court.
This decision actually was taken on the personal initiative of Judge Valery Romashkov. He considers it a matter of professional honor. Mr. Romashkov told a reporter from NG yesterday that Thursday of this week representatives of the Coordinating Council of Veterans came to him and asked for an investigation of the situation which, in their opinion, posed a threat to moral foundations. The judge conducted his own examination, took written depositions from the participants, including the director of the regional medical examiner's office Nikolai Nevolin, and on the basis of the material collected issued his resolution.
Valery Romaskhov considers that the matter fell under article 244 of the new criminal code and can be considered desecration of the bodies of deceased persons. In his resolution he asks agencies of the MVD to guarantee the proper preservation of the remains and also to protect the rights of citizens in matters of morality. Copies of the resolution were sent to the regional procurator's office, State Administration of Internal Affairs, and the regional bureau of forensic medical examination. This decision has legal force and can be appealed only at the Supreme Court of the Russian federation.
In Mr. Romashkov's opinion, the remains of the royal family can be removed from Ekaterinburg only if a decision has been made regarding their burial. He considers that they must be transported not in boxes, which would be a sacrilege, but in full compliance with Christian procedures, with attendant honors. Valery Romashkov is not concerned that by his decision he is opposing the authority of the government, since a judge must base his action only on his own understanding of conscience and legal procedure. Mr. Romaskov is prepared for any possible personal unpleasantness that may come from his decision and he will stand by it to the end. (tr. by PDS)
c. Nezavisimaia gazeta
ON REBURIAL OF REMAINS OF ROYAL FAMILY
Izvestiia, 21 November 1997
[from an address by Patriarch Alexis II] "In the past our understanding of the murder of the royal family was based on western publications and conclusion of the investigator of especially important matters, Solokov, who found two sets of ashes where the remains had been destroyed. And suddenly, in our time, eight years ago, the remains themselves appear, which many are inclined to consider tsarist. The church posed ten questions in order to ascertain the truth. I do not exclude the possibility that these two versions are not mutually contradictory. Specialists say, that it is not so easy to destroy a body of someone who has just died, even with the use of sulphuric acid, four poods of which were supplied, and the destruction was begun (there are no remains of the heir and one of the grand duchesses), but the limits of time did not permit them to perform the crime following the crime to the finish, and other remains were concealed along the road and laid like sleepers. Scholars have said that it will take them two months to reach a final answer. I agree that after the reconciliation of the two versions it will be necessary to conduct a burial and put an end to this horrible period of regicide and the general destruction of our people." (tr. by PDS)
from Pravoslavie v Rossii
PATRIARCH: ALL VERSIONS OF THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE REMAINS OF THE
ROYAL FAMILY MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT
ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW, 27 November. At a press briefing in his working residence today, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus evaluated the discussions which are circulating in public regarding the remains that were found near Ekaterinburg. His Most Holiness stated his opinion that "there are many varied versions which contradict the conclusion that these are the genuine royal remains." The primate of the Russian Orthodox church considers that on this topic all current suggestions and hypotheses must be taken into account.
Most Holy Patriarch Alexis recalled that the State Commission on the Identification and Reburial of Remains that were found near Ekaterinburg, which included participants representating the Russian Orthodox church several years ago posed ten questions. The patriarch is convinced that "they must be clarified in order to eliminate all doubt." His Most Holiness considers also that the version based on mateials of the witness Nikolai Sokolov should not be excluded. Sokolov conducted an investigation of the murder of the royal family in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and he drew the conclusion that all remains were incinerated. However, Patriarch Alexis suggests that the contemporary version, according to which the remains that were found along the Koptevskaia road recently belong to the royal family, does not necessary negate Sokolov's testimony. "The White Army was approaching and it was necessary to destroy the traces of the regicide in haste," he explained. "It is possible that they managed to destroy only the bodies of the tsarevich and one of the grand princesses, the remains of whom, according to several experts, are missing." It is necessary to set both versions side by side and answer all questions that arise, the most holy patriarch is convinced. "We must be sure of the authenticity of the remains of the royal family in order not to give occasion for saying that the church might have participated in the burial of unknown remains," the primate again emphasized.
The primate of the Russian Orthodox church expressed the hope that scholars will be ready by January of next year to present the results of the investigation to the president of Russia, who will then make the final decision. However, irrespective of the conclusions of scholars, His Most Holiness considers that in any case the question about the burial must be decided. "Whoseever these remains may be, their presence in the Ekaterinburg morgue is a violation of morality," the patriarch declared. (tr by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 26-27 November 1997)
RUSSIAN BISHOPS OF ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD ISSUE APPEAL
Russkaia mysl, 27 November 1997
"At the present time the building of the former ceremonial hall of the Golovinsky cemetery is occupied by the so-called Russian Church Abroad, but we are applying our energies for its transfer to us," declared Fr Georgy Polozov, rector of the Moscow church of the Sign (Znamensky) in Khovrin.
The former ceremonial hall, built in the 1950s in the Golovinsky cemetary, was transferred in 1994 by lease to the community of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, which was a part of the Suzdal diocese of the Russian Orthodox Free Church. Since then until the present the community has been holding regular services in this building. In recent months the pressure on the society has intensified from the authorities of the city of Moscow. The community received a notice to pay the rent for several months of 40,000 dollars. In the event of failure to fulfill this notice the community could be deprived of its church which, apparently, will be turned over to the Moscow patriarchate.
An appeal circulated in Moscow from the conference of Russian bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (RPTsZ), which was held on 13 November in Yalta, notes: "In recent time the persecution on our Orthodox church has intensified." As examples of intensification of persecution the writers of the appeal point to the confiscation of the Holy Trinity monastery in Hebron (Palestine), murder of Archpriest Alexander Zharkov in St. Petersburg, murder of the curator of the Iverian Myrrh-flowing Mother of God icon, Josif Munos, in Athens, and the beating of a priest in Belgorod region. "All of this has happened against a background of evil hatred on the part of the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate," consider the Russian hierarchs of RPTsZ. "Its years-long service to the enemies of Orthodoxy has not produced good fruit." The authors of the appeal are convinced that the Moscow patriarchate has broken the historic succession associated with its thousand-year tradition of Russian Orthodoxy. "The church has nothing to do with trade in the mysteries, money blackmail, usury, and dirty business," they write. "The church never has manifested its righteousness by means of the lie, violence, confiscation, and murder."
The Russian bishops of RPTsZ associate the decline in the authority of Orthodoxy in Russia with the activity of the Moscow patriarchate. The appeal concludes with a call to all the faithful flock of RPTsZ in Russia and the countries of CIS to give testimony to undistorted Orthodoxy and to interpret the history and essence of the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox church and declare the foundation of Orthodoxy. The appeal was signed by Archbishop Lazar Zhurbenko of Odessa and Tambov, and bishops Veniamin Rusalenko of Chernomore and Kuban, Evtikhy Kurochkin of Ishimsk and Siberia, Agafangel Pashkov of Simferopol and Crimea and Mikhail Donskov of Toronto. (tr by PDS)
Link to Russian text in Russkaia mysl
(posted 26 November 1997)
RIGHTS DEFENDERS UNITE
27 November 1997
"The defenders of rights are fully resolved to retain Russia as a secular state and will not permit its clericalization. We shall not by any means surrender our sacred right to freedom of conscience," states the declaration of the constituent congress of the "New Civic Movement," meeting in Moscow on 20 November. The founders of the movement included the Moscow Helsinki group, the Interconfessional Center of the Movement of Defense of Rights, and organizations and activists from Russian regions who a defenders of rights. The congress' declaration notes the increase in the number of "crude violations of human rights in the area of freedom of conscience" and the intensification of persecution of citizens for the religious convictions associated with the adoption of the new law on freedom of conscience. Congress participants noted with alarm that in Russia "government agencies and the church structures of the Moscow patriarch are forming an antirights coalition and Russia is beginning to lose the marks of a secular state." They expressed their support for the movement "For Freedom of Conscience and a Secular State," which convened in Moscow on 21 October, and their readiness to help its organization committee and to work with its central and regional structures to defend by all possible means citizens whose rights are bying restricted on the basis of the new law. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text in Russkaia mysl
(posted 26 November 1997)
THE PRIEST LIKED GENNADY ZIUGANOV
22 November 1997
The Presnensky district court of Moscow gave partial satisfaction to the priest Alexander Shargunov in his law suit for defense of his honor and reputation against the newspaper Moskovsky komsomolets. [Related item: "Censured paper strikes back"] The newspaper was required to retract its statement that Shargunov trained priests in the spirit of Marxism and to pay the priest one million rubles for damage to his professional reputation. In the article "God will not dispose and Ziuganov will not eat," published in the summer of last year, journalist Sergei Bychkov described how Fr Shargunov called his parishioners to support the communist Ziuganov in the presidential elections. The item about the communist sympathies of the Orthodox priest was supplemented by statements of Archpriest Nikolai Sitnikov, monastic priest Nikon Belavints, and Fr Georgy Chistiakov, who condemned Shargunov for his support of the communists.
The priest took the paper to court. In his complaint Shargunov claimed that he supported not the communist party but the individual candidate, Gennady Ziuganov. The priest explained his choice by saying that Ziuganov was the only candidate for the presidency who had consented to include within his program a point declaring corruption a state crime. Shargunov demanded that Moskovsky komsomolets retract the offending item and compensate him for damage to his professional reputation. The priest did not stipulate a figure in his suit but during the trial he estimated the damage at one billion rubles.
At all sessions of the trial Alexander Shargunov was supported by his parishioners and sympathizers with placards stating "Hands off Fr Alexander Shargunov" and "MK is the enemy of Russia." During the final session they occupied positions inside the courtroom, though without placards. The statements of witnesses and defendants were accompanied by great noise and the judge soon expelled the "group of supporters" from the room.
Fr Nikon testified. He confirmed that the words in the newspaper were his and that he really condemns Shargunov for his support of communists. The attorney for Moskovsky komsomolets, Andrew Muratov, reminded the court that on the eve of the elections the Holy Synod decided not to take part in the elections on any side. In the opinion of the attorney, Fr Shargunov violated this decision.
In the judgment the court decided to satisfy the priest's suit partially. The judge acknowledged that Sergei Bychkov's sentence stating that Shargunov "managed ed to train dozens of young priests in the spirit of allegiance to marxist dogma" besmirched the professional reputation of the plaintiff and required the newspaper to retract it and pay Fr Alexander one million rubles in compensation. "If one considers that Shargunov wanted a retraction of much more of the item and he got only one sentence," Andrei Muratov said, "and of the billions requested he got only a million, then the decision of the court seems like a gnat's sting and we will not even appeal it." (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text from Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 26 November 1997)
INTOLERANCE OF PROTESTANTS
by Igor Alenin
MOSCOW (22 November 1997). In the city of Staryi Oskol [appr. 200 miles south of Moscow, tr.] a burdensome situation is developing for those whom the Orthodox tradition considers to be heretics. The pastor of the Evangelical Christian church "Bethlehem Chapel," the representative of the Russian Bible Center(RBTs) Word of Christ in Staryi Oskol, Sergei Matiukh, appealed in a letter to the public movement "For Freedom of Conscience and a Secular State" (Helsinki group) in which he described actions of the local administration that are designed to create a situation of intolerance of people who profess "incorrect" Christianity. "In recent time Pentecostal believers have received oral warnings from a city police officer about repressions that are being planned against them. In October . . . Mayor N.N. Shevchenko of Staryi Oskol was at the building where the offices of the Christian Evangelical church Bethlehem Chapel and the regional department of RBTs--Young Christian Center Word of Christ are located and he personally tore down the sign from the office door. The local mass media are under the strict control of the city administration and they absolutely prohibit all objective information about non-Orthodox Christian confessions . . . or they repeat the insults to the religious feelings of protestant believers by the dean and rector of the church of Alexander Nevsky, Fr Alexis Zorin, who equates us with the 'White Brotherhood,' 'Jehovah's Witnesses,' etc. In March 1997 the newspaper Zor published an article titled 'Western intellegence agencies are interested in Staryi Oskol' (regarding the arrival of American missionaries). On 14 November I met with the chief editor of Zor, Nadezhda Kravchenko, and asked her to explain the position of the main city newspaper. In reply the chief editor stated that she can print information about protestants only with the approval of the city administration. N. Kravchenko also said that she herself is Orthodox and thus she gives preference in the selection of articles to her religion and that although the new law 'on freedom of conscience' violates the constitution it has nevertheless been adopted." (tr. by PDS)
(posted 26 November 1997)
TRAGEDY OF KAZAN ADVENTISTS
by Andrei Gogolev
Kommersant-Daily, 21 November 1997
Yesterday in Kazan a criminal case was opened against Valentina Tkacheva, accused of murdering her children. On the same day the burials of her fifteen-year-old son Alexander and seventeen-year-old daughter Olga were conducted. Tkacheva, who regularly attends meetings of the sect of the Seventh-day Adventists, admitted that she killed her son with his consent. Two days later Olga, who aided in the murder, threw herself from the sixth storey.
Only because of the suicide of Olga Tkacheva did the police who came to the site of the tragedy find the body of Alexander in the apartment. The body of the teenager was wrapped in a blanket and, according to his mother, had been in the house two days. Valentina Tkacheva has been attending meetings of the sect of Seventh-day Adventists for a long time, which follows the basic principle of self-discipline. Members of this small sect in Kazan (there are around 30 people in all in the city) discipline themselves with long periods of fasting accompanied by prayer "so that God will attend to them." After one of these prayer-fasts Tkacheva claimed to hear the "voice of the Almighty," ordering her to kill her own son. Apparently the audible hallucinations of the mother also affected her older daughter, who began to help her. According to the elder Tkacheva, at the time of the murder Sasha himself asked for death "in order to deliver us from our sins."
Tkachev was strangled with a vacuum cleaner cord which the mother and sister wrapped around the youth's neck and pulled from opposite sides. Tkacheva wrapped the lifeless body of her son in a blanket and took it out onto the balcony. It lay there about a day. Afterward she took the corpse into the apartment and placed it next to her on the bed and fell asleep. In the morning Olga threw herself from the window of the apartment.
She died in the hospital after several hours without recovering consciousness. The police squad which came to the site of the tragedy immediately arrested Valentina Tkacheva. She offered no resistance, assuring the police that her son was still alive and that she was innocent. The mother did not participate in the funerals of Alexander and Olga and, generally, according to the district prosecutor, she gives the impression of a quite sick person. The murderer of her children has been declared incompetent and she will be placed in a psychiatric hospital.
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS: Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) were formed as an independent church in 1863. Faith in the imminent advent of Christ remains the chief tenet of SDA. The advent of Christ which they announced for 1843 did not happen and they explained this by the claim that in that year Christ came not to earth but to heaven "to purge the heavenly purgatory" for "the examination of deed" which will precede the Final Judgment. Obedience to biblical commandments is obligatory and especially "observance of the Sabbath." Their profound conviction is that the Sabbath is the "seal" which distinguishes the "elect." Working and even preparing food on that day is forbidden. SDA deny the immortality of the soul and the doctrines of hell and paradise. They require donations from each member for the benefit of the church (a tenth of their income). Adventists cultivate "asceticism in the world," and they forbid any entertainments including reading of fictional literature. Throughout the world there are more than five million adherents of the sect, in 22,000 churches in 184 countries. There are 5,000 religious institution and fifty publishing houses that produce literature in 170 languages. The headquarters of the world alliance of SDA is located in Washington. The sect first appeared in Russia in 1886. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 26 November 1997)
ORTHODOX OF KUZBASS SEEK STATE AID
by Vadim Akentiev
KEMEROVO (19 November). In the Kuzbass the arguments over article 22 of the regional charter in the pages of the local periodical press have not calmed down. The article declares freedom of religious confession and, in its second point, states: "No religious confession may be declared obligatory or preferred before others. Support from the agencies of state power and the local administration to any religious confession is prohibited."
Because of this point the pages of the newspaper of the Kemerovo diocese, "Zolotye cupola" (Golden Domes), during the summer put forth the accusation against the authors of the charter that they were "embarking on a path of legislative combat against the Orthodox church," and by adopting the charter they were demonstrating either "political myopia," or "elementary incompetence," or "criminal indifference and cynical calculation." These angry reproaches were contained in a published declaration of Orthodox clergy and laity of the Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk dioceses of the Russian Orthodox church to the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleev, which was signed by 9,000 persons, including Bishop Sofrony of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk, deans of the districts, clergy, and laity.
The authors of the declaration ask "not for any exceptional privileges" but for respect for the contributions of the Orthodox church "in the constitution of the native land, state construction, and the formation of the national character." Such a description of these contributions easily is transformed into a criticism of sectarianism, ending with words of alarm over the future fortunes of Russia and a possible curtailment of work on restoration of Kuzbass churches "as monuments of history and architecture." Accordingly the authors of the declaration propose their own version of article 22 of the charter of Kemerovo region, which would declare, in particular, that "agencies of state authority and local administration render comprehensive aid to Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk dioceses of the Russian Orthodox church and other traditional religions," and that "for supervision of the activity of totalitarian sects and religious organizations that pose a threat to public security and the health of the population, a commission of the Legislative Assembly of Kemerovo region is created."
It is not clear whether the authors of the declaration, which is evidently filled with sincere concerns for the souls of fellow citizens, are acquainted with the Russian federation law "On Freedom of Religious Confessions," which was in effect at the time and which the regional charter could be accused of violating. Many premises for the disputed point prohibiting religious privileges may be found in that Russian law. It fully comports also with 14 articles of the constitution of the country, which provides that "religious associations are separated from the state and equal before the law." By the way, at the next meeting of the deputies of the region an amendment to the second point was proposed, which stated that nevertheless it was possible for agencies of the state to render "material aid in the restoration of religious buildings that have historical and cultural value and to cooperate in the return of property confiscated from churches, mosques, synagoges, and other religious institutions." But the amendment was not passed and the deputy head of the regional administration, Nadezhda Kriukova, lamented this in the newspaper Kuznetsky Krai in an article with the characteristic title "Who will come for our souls?" The article essentially repeated the already familiar declaration of the Orthodox church and ended with the same attempts to persuade readers that "money will be used not for religion but for the preservation of the history of our life." In an editorial comment the skeptical question was nevertheless raised: "Is it fair for the financing of the needs and requests of religious organizations to be taken out of the pockets of Kuzbass taxpayers?"
In the autumn in another regional newspaper, Kuzbass, which is closely associated with Zolotye kupola, Nadezhda Kriukova again touched on this theme, responding to the accompanying article of journalist Alexander Sorokin with unconcealed sarcasm and recalling the protest of the Orthodox leaders against the offending second point. According to the journalist, who openly declares himself an atheist, the priests simply "are combating their competitors" in the interreligious division of spheres of influence and profits and are fighting to such an extent that they "are trying to draw the secular power [into it] as a prejudiced mediator." For the struggle with the satanic sects, whose danger Alexander Sorokin also understands, he suggests "giving more means and authority" not to the Russian Orthodox church but to the regional administration of internal affairs. In the reply article Nadezhda Kriukova writes that Orthodoxy is concerned not about the loss of income but about the reality of "nontraditional sects" with "totalitarian forms of religion," and she explains the complex relations of the state and church by saying that "in Russia the declared secularity of the state in effect correlates with support for traditional religion, Orthodoxy," and that "it is perceived as a recognition by the state of the significance of a large stratum of Russians who are Orthodox believers." In conclusion the regional official appealed for a peaceful resolution of the conflict situation and an attempt for some public balance, where "it will be possible to have support for traditional religion without detriment to others, and support for atheism without harming religion, and support of confessions indigenous to Russia along with the exclusion of organizations of a totalitarian type." (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 21 November)
REFUGEE AID CONFERENCE IN OMSK
by Yury Kolesnikov
OMSK (19 November). "The one who does good for the poor lends to the Lord; and He will repay him for his good deed" (Pr 19.17). Under this motto a two-day conference hosted in Omsk by the Evangelical Lutheran church met. The theme of the conference corresponded to the motto: "Joint efforts for rendering aid to involuntary migrants, refugees, and vulnerable strata of the population and to all in need."
Perhaps the following list of participants will give some notion of the seriousness of the event that took place. They included representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran churches of Omsk, Ekaterinburg, and Krasnoiarsk, the Evangelical Christian Baptists of Omsk, Krasnoiarsk, Novosibirsk, and Moscow, Russian Orthodox churches of Moscow, Omsk, and Ekaterinburg, and the Catholic church of Omsk. Various public organization and social aid services and funds also were represented by their workers. The commissioner for relations with public organizatins, Olga Fediaeva, representing the city administration, surveyed in her address to the participants the historical roots of the problem, placing in the list of refugees the progenitors of humankind, Adam and Eve, and adding to it the migrants of the people of Israel. The conference took the form of an exchange of experiences and in conclusion it acknowledged the need for all structures of society to be consolidated in the task of rendering aid to the above-enumerated layers of society on both a spiritual and material level. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 21 November)
VIOLENCE AGAINST NON-ORTHODOX RELIGIONS IN RUSSIA
by Yury Kolesnikov
NOVOSIBIRSK (20 November). It seems that, instead of the anticipated adjustment of interchurch relations, the recently adopted law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" has introduced problems of religious intolerance with all of the attendant consequences. Evidently some points of this "law" have encouraged certain extremist young people to assume for themselves the functions of introducing "order" into the worship services of believing people who do not conform to their dogmatic orientation.
For example, in the city of Iskitim of Novosibirsk region, on 19 October 1997 a group of six Orthodox believers tried to break up a service that was being conducted by the Russian Christian church, which holds to a protestant confession. Waving icons and making exaggerated signs of the cross as if they were going into battle against the forces of antichrist, the "warriors" demanded the right to speak, interrupting the sermon of the preacher who was speaking. Only the police brigade that was summoned by ministers of the church was able to pacify the out-of-control hooligans who apparently intended to win the laurels of soldiers of the true faith.
It is remarkable that even women were among these "legionaries." At the same time one of these, a certain L.A. Volkova, is the director of the Iskitim Children's House of Art. With regard to the violation of the law, as law-abiding citizens of their country, the leadership of the Russian Christian church sent a declaration to the Administration of Internal Affairs of Iskitim, the governor of Novosibirsk region, the procuracy of Novosibirsk region, the Directorate of the Administration of Justice of Novosibirsk region, and the committee of the State Duma on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations.
But, as if to ridicule the pitiful attempts to assert their right to worship in accordance with their own beliefs, two weeks after this incident, on 2 November, which this church was conducting a solemn worship service, a group of twelve strong young men arrived with an extremely aggressive attitude. Bursting into the hall, where there were about 150 people, the young men shouted loudly, "do not believe the foreign sect." Again only the police brigade which was summoned could calm the troublemakers.
If there is anything to be learned from the experience of the incident that happened in Rostov-on-Don, where a group of cossacks under the leadership of two priests broke into a worship ceremony of Krishnaites and beat the people there so that eleven persons were hospitalized, then it becomes clear that the actions of "warriors" that lead to a destabilization of the situation that has emerged in the sphere of religion are being provoked by someone. As regards these "warrior-priests," they now are engaged in an all-Russian quest. It seems that the law on freedom of conscience really now is begetting illegalities that are freed from restraints of conscience or any kind of mercy toward one's neighbor. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 21 November 1997)
NEW AMERICAN AMBASSADOR SHOWED HOSPITALITY IN MOSCOW
by Valery Sychev
Segodnia, 14 November 1997
James Collins held his first press conference in Moscow at his residence, Spasso House. . . . Responding to reporters' questions, James Collins . . . demonstrated skill in avoiding sharp points. . . . Commenting on the attitude of USA toward the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations adopted in the Russian federation, Collins emphasized in the first place that USA approved the position of Boris Yeltsin when the president expressed his attitude toward the first version of the law, having set forth the "principles which are very important for the development of democracy." He added that if it appears to Washington that there are forms of persecution for religious convictions in Russia, then without fail it will express its point of view and he emphasized that the American side wants all religions represented in Russia to be able to develop themselves. . . . (tr. by PDS)
CONGRESS WOULD HALT AID OVER RUSSIAN RELIGION LAW
Reuters, 17 November 1997
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Congress has voted to cut off American aid to the Russian government if Moscow implements a new law restricting certain religious faiths.
The measure, part of the massive $13 billion foreign aid bill passed on Thursday and sent to President Bill Clinton for his signature, would affect about $35 million in direct government-to-government assistance, congressional aides said Friday.
It would not affect the larger amounts going through non-governmental organizations or to the independent states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
"If religious liberties are denied in Russia, American tax dollars will no longer assist its government," said the measure's sponsor, Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
The measure gives Clinton 180 days to certify to Congress that the new religious law is not being implemented to discriminate against religious groups.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin initially vetoed the religion law, but signed it after the Russian parliament passed it a second time.
The law recognizes Russian Orthodoxy primarily but also accepts Judaism, Buddhism and Islam as official religions. It relegates Protestants and Roman Catholics to a different class, considering them foreign sects. (Reuters)
(posted 15 and 18 November 1997)
A RUSSIAN CATHOLIC. UNDERGROUND TRUTH
by Sergei Bychkov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 29 October 1997
In investigating the murder of Archpriest Alexander Men, Moskovskii komsomolets several times has written about his former parishioner Vladimir Nikiforov. He created a secret Catholic parish which the priest supervised. He was arrested at the beginning of 1984 and he cooperated actively with the KGB. One of the members of this secret parish was the Orientalist Alexander Khmelnitsky. In the years of perestroika he became a Catholic priest and the chief editor of the only genuinely interconfessional Christian journal Istina i zhizn (Truth and Life). This year the journal marked the seventh year of its existence. Alexander Khmelnitsky is a guest of MK today.
--What was your journey to Christianity like?
--I was baptized by a French bishop who had come to Moscow in December 1980 on a private trip. The ritual was performed secretly in a private apartment. However, it only seemed to use that everything was done secretly. Actually the KGB was already carefully following the activity of Nikifor and his group, just like it tirelessly followed Fr Alexander Men.
It was hard for us complain about the shortage of attention on the part of the KGB. At the beginning of 1983 (Brezhnev had died and Andropov, the former chief KGB man, was head of the communist party central committee) the security agency began a wide-ranging operation which they called "social prophilaxis." They set themselves the task of destroying all underground or, at least, unofficially existing religious groups: Orthodox, Catholic, protestant, ecumenical, theosophist, and Krishnaite. As a rule, they arrested leaders and frightened the others with threats of arrests, searches, interrogations, letters to employers, and dismissals; they had quite a broad range of means of action.
--I recall that when Fr Alexander learned about the secret activity of Nikiforov as a priest, he broke off relations with him.
--Yes, by that time Vladimir Nikiforov had left Fr Alexander Men, to whom he had been very close. He already had secretly been ordained a priest in Slovakia by some underground Catholic bishop who, as became clear later, was "self-consecrated." But none of us then knew this and everyone, including the KGB, considered Nikiforov a genuine priest.
At the beginning of 1983 the KGB first arrested me and then Nikiforov. They knew that there were some disagreements between us and they were able to exploit them. They told Nikiforov that Khmelnitsky supposedly gave them information they needed and the suggested that he write about everything and promisted to let him go home afterward. He did this and, arriving home, he told everybody that Khmelnitsky was a traitor. So I was between two fires. All the brothers and sisters as a body avoided me like the plague and people from the KGB openly tailed me (and others, too) in groups of five, for the sake of frightening me. Then Nikiforov was arrested and detained in Lefortovo prison about eight months. He chose the pate of "sincere" cooperation with the "agencies," and, as far as I know, wrote volumnous compositions which contained many pages devoted to Fr Alexander Men. The KGB used this pages for numerous interrogations to which the KGB subjected Father Alexander. By the end of 1983 Nikiforov was released as "socially safe." After some time the chief communist papers of primarily Catholic countries carried "sensational" material. Citing Vladimir Nikiforov's statements it unmasked the attempts of the VAtican to create in the USSR a spy network for distributing antisoviet literature and undermining our wonderful socialist system. Now Nikiforov is serving in a Catholic parish in Switzerland.
--How do you assess the experience of the illegal existence of the secret parish?
--A little experience of conspiratorial existence showed that although in some circumstances an underground is necessary and unavoidable, it is harmful for the church even if it involves only a small group of people.
In 1985 I moved to Riga and worked for three years as a translator in the local Catholic seminary and at the same time I was studying. In January 1989 I was ordained a priest in Poland.
Fortunately, times have changed. We we felt that it was possible to work for the church openly, I got the idea of publishing a journal for believers. I pondered about the title a long time and settled upon Christ's words: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
--Why did you decide to reject a strictly Catholic direction and to make the journal a generally Christian?
--There is no question that for the thousand years of Christianity in Russia the chief culture-creating factor was Orthodoxy. And thus Russian Christians who belong to other confessions much recognize, live, sense, and take into account their Orthodox tradition and orthodox spirituality and culture, which were created by this tradition. Besides, no culture--national or confessional--exists in absolute isolation from other cultures and traditions, especially fraternal Christian ones. This applies in full measure to Orthodoxy.
--Doesn't this cause attacks upon the journal?
--For some Orthodox it is not fully Orthodox and for some Catholics it is not fully Catholic. But someone has to show the world that Christianity is essentially one and they our differences are infinitesimally small in contrast with what unites us. That's the third reason that our journal Truth and Life decided to overcome its narrow direction.
We are striving not to open old rules and stir up conflicts, but to give the reader food for positive thoughts and to express the fundamental truths and values of Christianity. This is what I see as the main point of our mission.
--It's quite likely that soon the journal will fold. Why did the Moscow authorities decide to cancel your lease and to evict the editorial offices out of the basement facilities. What did you do to displease the mayor?
--The term of the lease expired. There is barely enough money for an edition of the journal and to pay small honoraria to our authors. But we are not discouraged. We believe and hope for help from above. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 15 November 1997)
PAGAN TEMPLE MAY BE BUILT
by Gennady Alashev
IZHEVSK. 14 November. "Neopaganism" is gathering frightening force in Udmurtia. It is based on the traditional pagan faith of the Udmurts of worship of natural forces. It seems that this belief system, which was fully suppressed by the Orthodox church and then by the communist dictatorship, was preserved by a group of adherents in a remote Udmurt village. But after the adoption of the law on the equality of rights of all religions it revealed itself. Since 1991 the holiday of planting has been revived, at which the Udmurts celebrate the pagan god Inmar and praise him for a successfully conducted planting with sacrifices. Every year more and more people attend.
Neopaganism attracts Udmurts because of its historical meaning inasmuch as it can be called the traditional religion of the Udmurts and a return to their roots. One well known Udmurt scholar declared his own adherence to both Orthodoxy and neopaganism. Conversations are underway for the construction of a large pagan temple in Izhevsk. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 14 November 1997)
RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR MEETS WITH RELIGION LEADERS
ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW, 11 November. Yury Skuratov, the general procurator of Russia, reported today that the procuracy of Russia instituted 49 criminal cases in 1995-1996 for activities that incite national, racial, or religious enmity on the basis of article 74 of the criminal code of the RSFSR (now 282 of the criminal code of the Russian federation). The Center of Information and Public Relations of the general procuracy of the Russian federation noted that Yury Skuratov regularly meets with bishops of the Russian Orthodox church and with representatives of Buddhists and other confessions. In the course of such discussions the general procurator informs them about the work that the procuracy is conducting to unearth crimes on national and religious bases and he answers the specific questions of the participants in these sessions. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 14 November 1997)
OLD BELIEVER COUNCIL APPROVES RELIGION LAW
Blagovest-info/pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW, 12 November. The Consecrated Council of the Old Believer church is preparing the canonization of Old Believer worthies of the past century. The press secretary of the head of the Russian Orthodox Old Believers Church (Belokrinitsa Concord), Metropolitan Alimpy Gusev, told a reporter from Blagovest-Info that the council was held at the beginning of November in the Ragozhskoe cemebery in Moscow, where the ecclesiastical center of the Old Believers is located.
Five archbishops of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church participated in the council along with more than thirty priests and several dozen laity. The council participants devoted their attention to matters regarding the internal life of the church, particularly the opening of classes in the Moscow Ecclesiastical School and preparation for the canonization of Old Believer worthies of the past century. The council participants also adopted a resolution expressing approval in its entirety of the new law on freedom of conscience [this appears to be an incorrect report, see "Old Believers criticize religion law", tr. note] . (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text
(posted 14 November 1997)
ANASTASIA'S ESCAPE IS SIMPLY A MYTH
by Andrei Papushin
Rossiiskaia gazeta, 6 November 1997
This week first vice premier Boris Nemtsov presided over the session of the Commission for Study of Questions Related to the Reburial of the Royal Family . Yesterday Nemtsov declared that the remains of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family will be brought to Moscow just for the time of the analysis and then returned to Ekaterinburg.
State officials, using data of the investigation which was conducted by a group in the General Procuracy of the Russian Federation headed by Vladimir Soloviev, affirmed that the remains of the royal family found on Staraia Koptiakovskaia Road near Ekaterinburg can be considered finally and fully identified. Data of the three-part analysis, conducted in Russia, England, and USA, do not leave any doubt on this matter.
The Russian Orthodox church, for its part, is posing counterarguments which may seem diverse but which are meaningful in connection with the question of the canonization of the new martyrs. The Moscow patriarchate appeals to the "ten points"--which pertain naturally to the problem of identification of remains. Doubts are raised by stomatological and anthropological studies, analysis of written sources regarding the shooting in Ekaterinburg, and the problem of the alleged ritual character of this murder.
These question, at first glance, are quite substantive. Meanwhile the analysis of the remains found on Staraia Koptiakovskaia Road is not likely to produce a conclusion that would cast doubt on the reliability of the conclusions of investigators. Moreover, whereas earlier it had been thought that the burial would not include remains of Tsarevna Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexis, Investigator Soloviev says that distinctives of the structure of the jaws now leads to the determination that the skeleton of Tsarevna Maria is missing (which had certain peculiarities of the tooth structure, or more precisely tooth indentation). And that means that the myth about the miraculous salvation of Anastasia, which served inter alia as the plot for Hollywood movies, has absolutely no basis.
Written sources devoted to the circumstances of the murder also are not unequivocal. Actually, on the one hand, Yakov Yurovsky, the chief organizer of the Romanov shooting on the night of 17 July 1918 was illiterate. However, historians confirm that he dictated to his helper, Mikhail Pokrovsky, a note describing the circumstances of that bloody night and thus the neat style of the report is fully explainable.
Finally, the question of the so-called "ritual character" of the murder of the tsarist family. The present-day church does not by any means insist on this, affirming that the shooting was associated primarily with political motives (despite the discovery on the walls of the Ipatiev house of hitherto undeciphered kabbalistic signs). But in any case it is clear that this matter cannot be a hinderance to the church's decision regarding the canonization of the tsarist family.
In February of last year a special church commission recommended to the bishops' council that Nicholas II and members of his family, who perished in Ekaterinburg, be canonized. Such a decision has not yet been made. Why? Of course, not because the church is deliberately putting a stick into the spokes of the wheels of the investigative process. There is not here any artifical opposition to the efforts of the respective state agencies. The issue is that church hierarchs deal with such matters extremely responsibly, suggesting--obviously not without reason--the possibility of some kind of mistakes, and, what is more, that the problem is a part of a political game revolving around the person of the former emperor. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text from Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 7 November 1997)
PRESIDENT WILL DECIDE WHERE TO BURY THE REMAINS OF TSARIST FAMILY
by Sergei Khripun
Kommersant-Daily, 4 November 1997
At an evening session of the Commission on Burial of the Remains of the Tsarist Family, first vice-premier Boris Nemtsov declared that the government satisfied the requirements of the Russian Orthodox church regarding supplemental investigations. Even though it now is 99.9% certain that the remains are genuine, the commission will assemble a last time in January, but the decision regarding the time and place of the burial remains with the Russian president.
Boris Nemtsov declared that over the next two months expert analyses will be conducted which "will remove even the last doubts that the remains that were discovered belonged to Nicholas II, his wife, and their children." The Holy Synod of RPTs insisted on the additional investigations of the genuineness of the remains; this had to do with the prospective canonization of the tsarist family, since RPTs does not want even a hundredth of a percent of a doubt.
The governor of Ekaterinburg, Eduard Rossel, continues to insist on the burial of remains in the place where they were found. In his latest public remarks Rossel declared that he would "not surrender" the remains if the commission decides on a burial in the cathedral of saints Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg. Nicholas II, his family, personal physician, and several servants were shot in 1918 in the home of the merchant Ipatiev in Ekaterinburg. Rossel intends to build a church at the site of the Ipatiev home.
The final decision on the burial will be made by the state commission in January. However it will be of an advisory character since, as Boris Nemtsov emphasized, the time, place, and procedure for burial will be determined by Boris Yeltsin. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text from Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 4 November 1997)
COMMISSION ON TSARIST FAMILY BURIAL TO MEET
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW, 3 November. In 1991 a staff member of the museum of local history, Alexander Avdonin, sent a message to the procurator of Ekaterinburg. He declared that in 1978 he, with a group of companions, found the burial place of the tsarist royal family which was shot on the night of 16-17 July 1918. The site was eighteen kilometers from Ekaterinburg. On the basis of Avdonin's statement the procurator began an investigation and on 11 July 1991 the excavation of the grave began at the settlement of Prosenkov Log, from which the remains of eleven people were exhumed.
In August 1993 the procurator general of Russia opened a criminal case dealing the with murder of the royal family and by October of that year a State Commission for the Investigation of Questions connected with the Study and Reburial of the Remains of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and Members of His Family was created. Its membership included the most prominent experts in the area of forensic medical study, representatives of the General Procuracy, and the Orthodox church.
The first session of the commission was haled on 26 October 1993, by which time the basic part of the investigations had been completed. In the fall of 1995 the state commission delivered its unequivocal answers on the basis of the complex analyses which had been conducted: the royal family, including Emperor Nicholas II, was shot in Ekaterinburg.
The computer, genetic, and laser analyses which had been conducted by Russian and foreign scholars showed that five of the remains that had been found belonged to the royal family--these were the remains of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and three daughters. As regards the other two missing bodies, the tsarevich Alexis and Grand Princess Maria Nikolaevna, their fate still is unknown. A possible date for the burial was suggested, Forgiveness Sunday, 25 March 1996, and the possible place for the burial was the St. Catherine's chapel of the cathedral of saints Peter and Paul in Petersburg. But no decision was made on this matter and the burial of the remains was postponed indefinitely.
Metropolitan Vladimir, permanent member of the Holy Synod and head of the St. Petersburg diocese, declared that there is not need to rush the burial of the remains, since still the historical archive that contains documents about the death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family is closed and inaccessible, and the final word remains with the Russian Orthodox church. As soon as it receives answers to all of its questions, it will make a united communal decision. On 17 January 1997 the state commission resolved to finish quickly the incomplete anthropolotical and forensic medical analyses on identification of the remains of the royal family and to acquaint specialist of the world public with the conclusions. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text.
(posted 3 November 1997)
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