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"WE ARE REGARDED AS DECEIVERS, YET WE ARE GENUINE; AS DYING, YET
WE LIVE" [2 Cor 6.8,9]
by Andrei Platonov, parishioner
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 27 February 1998
By her article "Joseph's story. . . " the poet Olesia Nikolaeva obviously was preparing public opinion for the publication of the unjust sentence upon Fr Georgy Kochetkov and twelve members of his community. This sentence was hastily issued by a church commission for investigation of the incident which happened last year on 29 June in the Moscow church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, in complete defiance of the final results of the verification by the procuracy and the examination of the special commission of the ministry of health. The poet clearly expressed the position of those ecclesiastical and nonecclesiastical forces which have tried to pressure folk like the Moscow priest Georgy Kochetkov, without whom, in our view, the Orthodox church in Russia faces grim isolation for many years.
We recall what happened on 29 June. The second priest, Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, created an uproar during the liturgy, and police and a psychiatric first aid team were called to the church, taking responsibility for the decision to hospitalize Fr Mikhail with the diagnosis of "schizophrenia, acute onset." Within no more than a few hours after the incident a full chorus of church and nationalist forces led by the monks of the monastery of the Presentation, on radio, television, and pages of the newspapers, burst out: "physical violence...crime...terrorist acts...money from the West..."! Brrr....
These were accompanied a couple days later on 1 July by the issuance of the resolution of the most holy patriarch, and on 2 July, his decree about the supposedly undoubted facts of insult and beating, forcible hospitalization, and physical violence upon Fr Dubovitsky and the suspension of Fr Georgy Kochetkov from ministry.
Somewhat later (26 July) on the pages of NG a document was published over the signature of the chief of the 18th police precinct of Moscow, A.L. Rimsky, which spoke of a fight between priests in the altar area and which, obviously, was used as the basis for imposing punishment on Fr Georgy. Soon after the events of the 29th the patriarch appointed a commission for investigating the incident in Dormition church, which as a result of its work supposedly established the "fact of the commission of violence and insult against Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky," in connection with which the primate of the Russian church on 9 October signed the subsequent decree, placing Fr Georgy Kochetkov under ban and excommunicating twelve members of his community, among whom were almost all the acolytes, members of the parish council, and a seventy-year-old woman assistant of Fr Georgy. (True, in the final decree there was no specific reference to the beating and admission of Fr Mikhail to the psychiatric hospital, but there again was reference to violence, insult and humiliating actions against him.*)
It is interesting that parallel with the church commission secular official agencies were working on the basis of a declaration by Mrs. Dubovitsky, a twenty-year-old psalmist of one of the Moscow churches: the 18th police precinct verified the "facts" of the violent actions against Fr Mikhail and of his illegal admission to a psychiatric clinic on which the procuracy and commission of the health ministry also had worked. They all completed their work and confirmed the final documents which completely agreed with the conclusions of the church commission (which were so hasty that it would seem they had been adopted even earlier than the time of the release of the first decree of the most holy patriarch of 2 July*).
And so Fr Georgy Kochetkov and twelve of his select parishioners were accused of a serious crime--violence against a brother and his dispatch into a psychiatric clinic with hardly any basis. All of this is being used by opponents of Fr Georgy's community to confirm the above mentioned document from the 18th precinct, the conclusion of the physicians of psychiatric hospital no. 14 (that the patient Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky "showed no signs of psychiatric disorder" at the time of his release), and some affidavits which, however, no one has seen.
But then on 8 October (literally on the eve of the patriarch's signing of the decree of punishment for Fr Georgy and his parishioners*) from the same police precinct emerged a resolution not to initiate a criminal case for violation of public order in the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki on 29 June. At the same time the document said that "from the statements of Dubovitsky himself it emerges that he was offended by his forcible admission to the psychiatric hospital but he does not consider that it was a violation of public order."
Further on 14 October (on the day following the publication of the decree for Fr Georgy and the parishioners*) the conclusion of the commission of the Russian ministry of health was signed, verifying the circumstances connected with the admission of Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky to the psychiatric hospital. This commission exhaustively investigated all materials pertaining to the hospitalization of Fr Mikhail on 29 June, heard from him and even his attorney (an aide to State Duma deputy A.N. Greshnevikov*), as well as the first aid physician, and reviewed the whole videotape of the events in Dormition church. And the concluding document says that "at the moment of the hospitalization of M.V. Dubovitsky he was in an acute reactive state, which corresponds to an acute reaction to stress with profound disturbance of behavior in accord with the International Classification of Illnesses." And further: "Under the circumstances, the approach of physician G.L. Shafran, deciding to take M.V. Dubovitsky out of the irresolvable serious psychotraumatic situation, was justified, because otherwise the actions of the physician would have to be considered failure to render medical aid." Thus, the forcible hospitalization of Fr Mikhail from the church on 29 June was recognized by this document as justified at the highest level and consequently the reasons for which it was done, in principle, have been confirmed (i.e. the diagnosis was not rescinded).
Presently the Meshchansk procurator rendered his decision. On 20 October the resolution refusing to instigate a criminal case for illegal hospitalization was signed because of lack of evidence of a crime. The reader may confirm this document in its entirety below (so commentary is not necessary*).
And finally, the last document, also published below, [tr. note: The documents to which this letter refers seem not to have been printed in the newspaper, as far as I can tell. They are translated below from another source.] speaks of the most misused 1 July letter of the chief of the 18th police precinct, Sr Lt A.L. Rimsky. As we see, the document of the procurator clearly says that the information contained in the police document does not correspond to reality. How then should one understand the assurance of Mr. Rimsky alleging that on 29 June the police officers "discovered a fight in the altar room between priests," and the same Rimsky's affirmation on the television program "Criminal" (NTV, 24 July) of the beating of Fr Mikhail, when it already was clear that the priest not only was not beaten but not even threatened? How generally can a person, who is called to establish truth and punish criminals, make such statements?
(Incidentally, from police sources another remarkable fact has become known. When the decree placing Fr Georgy Kochetkov under ban and excommunicating twelve of his parishioners came out, the wife of Fr Mikhail wanted to withdraw her declaration for, as several pseudochurch papers managed quickly to announce, Fr Mikhail supposedly "forgave his offenders." But she was too late; the refusal to prosecute a criminal case on the basis of the investigation that had been conducted had already been prepared.*)
Quite unfortunately it is particularly necessary to mention the extreme lack of objectivity on the part of that church commission which the most holy patriarch authorized to investigate the sad incident. The commission frankly did not wish to take into consideration either the testimony of witnesses or the results of the civil investigation (in which, as has just become clear, the secular agencies, who do not enjoy much respect in the eyes of the public, to their credit did not want to promote falsehood) and rushed to issue its conclusion. The commission was in such a hurry that it did not even formally question all witnesses of the events in Dormition church, although its president, Bishop Alexis of Orekhovo-Zuevsk, and his secretary, Fr. Alexander Abramov, assured everyone to the contrary. (It turned out that the one who perhaps is the most objective and independent witness of this case, monastic deacon Serafin of St. Daniel's monastery, who during those hours was present in the church and in the altar area (in contrast to all "witnesses" from the Presentation monastery), was not questioned. He had tried to talk with Fr Mikhail himself to admonish him and his name was mentioned by several witnesses who were summoned to the commission's sessions.*)
As was said in the final decree of the patriarch, the commission "established the fact of the commission of violence and insult against Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky." [See "Patriarch reprimands reformist priest"] But how, in its opinion, was this force and insult expressed? For some reason until now the conclusion of the commission has remained unknown to the Orthodox public, and thus it turns out, forgive me, that the bishop of Moscow himself, the most holy patriarch Alexis II, appears ultimately responsible in this ugly story. Although everyone understands that a person weighed down by such tasks does not have sufficient time for a careful analysis of such matters. It is for such things that there are vicars, chanceries, staffs of aides, and the like. It seems that this time the aides have profoundly subverted the patriarch since his opinion on this matter, whatever it may be, is based on the information they have prepared.
(Now, it seems, the sad story of the incident in the Moscow cnurch of the Dormition in Pechatniki, which has been disseminated by the ultra-right para-church media in a manner without precedent in all the history of RPTs, has come to an end.*) Today it is obvious to all that there are no objective documents that confirm the "fact" of violence and insult against Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, and now it can be said unequivocally that legally and morally Fr Georgy Kochtekov and his parishioners are innocent in the events in this church on the last Sunday of June. So is it not now time to look for and to find the true causes of what happened and is happening in our church?
Perhaps the full horror of the present Russian reality lies in the lawlessness and excesses which have made life really unbearable. Looking at the sad outcome of the "ministry" of Fr Mikhail and his everyday overt and covert supporters and at the now practically empty Dormition church in Pechatniki, one becomes doubly horrified at the fact that this excess and chaos sometimes reign in our church and, chiefly, that currently there are no forces evident that could heal this ecclesiastical illness.
The nature of the events that have developed since the decree and articles has changed. On the one hand, enemies of Fr Georgy's community got what they wanted: the priest and his close aides who were so threatening to them have been placed under ban, the church has been seized, and the community has been thrown into the street. But on the other hand, obviously, the church public has not supported these persecutions as the decisions of civil authorities, vindicating the community and setting everything in order, have become more widely known.
On 3 December (almost three months ago) at the feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple the period of penance, which was imposed by the decree of 9 October on Fr Georgy and his aides by the diocesan confessor, ended. They all, in accordance with its requirements, submitted to the patriarch the appropriate requests for lifting the punishments, who was supposed to make a decision about the subsequent fate of those who, for unclear reasons, nevertheless have remained under discipline.
On 1 March the Russian Orthodox church observes Forgiveness Sunday, the feast on which believers ask forgiveness of those against whom they have sinned and forgive those who have offended them, so that they may begin the Great Fast at peace with everyone. This is a special opportunity to establish righteousness completely and to put an end to this extremely sad story that is distasteful for all believers, without infringing the authority of the Russian Orthodox church and its hierarchs. There is hope that Divine truth will triumph and that the earthly church will seek the will of God and set its path in accordance with it. But in such moments it is nevertheless necessary to practice moderation, because the danger is great that even if the bishop of Moscow himself personally wants to make a just decision, he will not be permitted to do this by forces that surround him, which, of course, have not prepared for such decisions and have exacerbated this monstrous conflict. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Nas pochitaiut obmanshchikami
*Tr. note: words within parentheses accompanied by an asterisk are not in the version published in NG but are in the fuller verson published in the Pravoslavnaia obshchina. Link to fuller version on writer's Web page. The documents referred to in the letter are included in Pravoslavnaia obshchina.
Resolution on decision not to prosecute a criminal case
20 October 1997
Assistant Meshchansk inter-district procurator of Moscow, A.A. Stanishevskaia, having reviewed the material on the incident of invooluntary hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital of Mr. M.V. Dubovitsky
on 2 October 1997 material regarding a declaration of Mrs. T.V. Dubovitskaia regarding the illegal admission of her husband, M.V. Dubovitsky, to the psychiatric hospital on 29 June 1997 arrived at the Meshchansk inter-district procuracy of Moscow.
In the course of investigation, conducted by the Meshchansk inter-district procuracy of Moscow it was extablished that on 29 June 1997 in the dhurch of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki, located at building 3 on Sretenka Street, at the time of the liturgy a call arrived at the psychiatric first aid station from Mr. Rodionov, who had been called by a parishioner of the above mentioned church. Around 12:00 on 29 June 1997 the team of psychiatric first aid, comprising physician G.L. Shafran and feldsher B.B. Savushkin, arrived at said address, from where the said team took Mr. Dubovitsky to the city psychiatric hospital no. 14 with a diagnosis of "schizophrenia."
In his reports the physician Shafran indicated that when the first aid time arrived at the church, they were taken to the vestry and to a corridor where the physician saw a man lying on the floor, calling for help, and reading psalms. All of this was happening while nobody was bothering this man and nobody was applying force to him. Physician Shafran established signed of acute psychological disturbance and decided, in accordance with the law of the Russian federation "On psychiatric help and guarantees of the rights of citizens to receive it," to hospitalize Dubovitsky involuntarily, inasmuch as he at the moment was socially dangerous and his conduct could have created a conflict among parishioners of the church. Shafran explained the situation that the rector of the church, Kochetkov, opposed forcible hospitalization, but the physician insisted on involuntary hospitalization of Dubovitsky. The feldsher B.B. Savushkin gave a similar explanation.
Regarding the involuntary admission of M.V. Dubovitsky to the psychiatric hospital, a commission of the Ministry of Health of the Russian federation met, under the leadership of the Director of NTsPZ RAMN A.S. Tiganova, from 4 October 1997 to 14 October 1997. The commission issued the conclusion on this question. The commission came to the conclusion that at the moment of hospitalization M.V. Dubovitsky was in an acute reactive state and under the circumstances the approach of the physician G.L. Shafran was justified, for had the physician done otherwise it would have been a failure to render medical aid.
Thus, the actions of physician G.L. Shafran cannot be viewed as criminal under article 128, part 1 of the criminal code of the Russian federation.
Taking the above into account and guided by article 5, point 2.109.113 of the criminal procedural code of RSFSR,
1. TO DECLINE to prosecute a criminal case on the basis of involuntary hospitalization of Mr. Dubovitsky in a psychiatric hospital.
2. To inform interested parties of this decision.
Assistant Meshchansk inter-district procurator of Moscow, A.A. Stanishevskaia
Meshchanck inter-district procurator of Moscow, senior justice counsel, O.I. Stepanov.
Concerning the letter of chief of the 18th police precinct, A.L. Rimsky
Procurator of the Russian Federation Procurator of the City of Moscow Procurator of the central administrative district Meshchansk Inter-district procurator
107014, Moscow, 1st Boevskaia St., 2, str. 1, tel. 268-55-41
N.L. Martvel 107061 Moscow, B. Cherkizovskaia St., 1/1
In response to your declaration of 3 November 1997, I inform you that the 18th police precinct of Moscow has conducted an investigation by the procedure of article 109 of the criminal procedural code of RSFSR on the incident of violation of public order in the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki on 29 June 1997. The information of 1 July 1997 regarding the violation of public order was not confirmed in the course of the investigation and on 9 October 1997 a resolution was issued to decline to prosecute a criminal case because of the absence of criminal action.
Meshchansk inter-district procurator of Moscow,
Senior justice counsel O.I. Stepanov
(tr. by PDS)
(posted 2 March 1998)
HOLY SYNOD MADE DETERMINATION REGARDING "EKATERINBURG REMAINS"
Press release, 26 February 1998
Today, 26 February, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church, whose session was chaired by the most holy patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II, adopted, in particular, a determination whose text is reproduced in full below.
HEARD: Report of his holiness, metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna, Yuvenaly, member of the state commission for study of questions associated with the investigation and reburial of remains the Russian emperor Nicholas II and members of his family and about the concluding stage of the commission's work.
After discussion, RESOLVED: 1. To take into consideration the information about the decisions of 30 January 1988 [sic] of the state commission for study of questions associated with the investigation and reburial of the Russian emperor Nicholas II and members of his family.
2. Evaluation of the reliability of the scientific and investigatory conclusions, as well as the evidence about whether they are beyond doubt or refutation, is not within the competence of the church. The scientific and historical responsibility for conclusions adopted in the course of the investigation and study relative to the "Ekaterinburg remains" lies completely with the Republican Center for Forensic Medical Analysis of the Ministry of Health of Russia and the Procuracy General of the Russian federation.
3. The decision of the state commission identifying the remains found near Ekaterinburg as those of the family of Emperor Nicholas II has evoked serious doubts and even conflicts within the church and society. In addition there is reason to consider that the remains that were discovered belong to victims of the state that waged war on God. It is known that many of these victims were martyrs, confessors, and passion bearers, who now are numbered by our church among the saints to the extent that their identity, biography, and hagiographic materials can be established. The extended procedure of criminological analysis has led to the result that the Ekaterinburg remains have been left without a Christian burial for an impermissibly long period of time.
4. In this regard the Holy Synod has spoken in favor of immediate burial of these remains in a symbolic grave memorial. When all doubts relative to the "Ekaterinburg remains" have been removed and reasons for confusion and opposition within society have disappeared, then it will be necessary to revisit the final decision on the matter of the place of their burial.
5. To approve the work of his holiness, metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna, Yuvenaly, in the state commission for study of questions associated with the investigation and reburial of remains the Russian emperor Nicholas II and members of his family during the time of its activity. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Moscow Patriarchate
ORTHODOX CHURCH AGAINST CZAR BURIAL
by Maura Reynolds
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, February 26, 1998; 3:54 p.m. EST
MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian Orthodox Church refused Thursday to approve a government recommendation to bury the bones of Russia's last royal family this summer, saying the issue remains too controversial.
The church's Holy Synod cited ``serious doubts and even conflict within the church and in society,'' for its decision.
``Until all doubts are removed,'' the skeletons should be interred temporarily in a ``symbolic grave-monument,'' the church said. It did not elaborate.
The impact of the church's decision was not immediately clear: The church has no legal authority over the government, but it would be difficult to perform a state funeral without the sanction and participation of the church.
Controversy has surrounded the bones since they were exhumed in July 1991 from the woods outside the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, 900 miles east of Moscow. Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed in the city in 1918 by a Bolshevik firing squad.
After six years of investigation and deliberation, a government commission ruled last month the recovered remains belong to the czar, his wife, three children and four servants. The commission recommended they be buried July 18 in the royal crypt in St. Petersburg.
The church had a representative on the commission and had previously indicated that it would go along with the government decision.
Vladimir Solovyov, the government's chief investigator, expressed anger Thursday at the church's announcement, calling it ``pure hypocrisy'' to take part in the commission and then refuse to accept its conclusions.
He said the church appears to be afraid of taking any action that could anger the exiled branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has refused to assist, review or approve the government investigation.
``They know perfectly well that the bones belong to the family,'' Solovyov said. ``It seems to me that their doubts are of a political nature.''
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin scheduled a meeting Friday to reach a decision on the issue. President Boris Yeltsin has previously said he would make the decision personally.
c Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
(posted 27 February 1998)
RETICENCE RELFECTS DOUBTS ON PLANS TO BURY BONES
by Seamus Martin
Irish Times, February 28, 1998 [for personal use only]
Russia: The bones found in Yekaterinburg in 1991, reputed to be those of Tsar Nicholas II as well as some of his family and servants, are to be buried in St Petersburg in July, according to one of Russia's deputy prime ministers, Mr Boris Nemtsov. Mr Nemtsov was accompanied by a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Juvenaly, when he made the announcement in Moscow but the decision appears to be far from final.
It was significant that the proposed burial was not openly supported either by President Yeltsin or by Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and all the Russias. Although identified by DNA tests as belonging to members of Romanov family, the "Yekaterinburg bones" have been the subject of controversy in Russia and among Russians abroad.
Emigre Russians believe that the true remains of the Imperial family, executed by Bolsheviks in Yekaterinburg in 1918, are cemented into the walls in the Russian Orthodox Church of St Job in Brussels, having been smuggled to western Europe by a pro-monarchy investigator, Mr Nikolai Sokolov. Mr Peter Koltypin-Wollovskoy, president of the emigre (White) Russian commission on the remains, told The Irish Times that he did not dispute the DNA results which proved the Yekaterinburg bones to be those of members of the Romanov family but argued that, since so many Romanovs had been executed in the course of the Russian civil war, these were not necessarily the bones of the Tsar and his immediate family.
Yesterday, the full text of the decision on the bones by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed grave doubts on their authenticity. The Synod, composed of Patriarch Alexiy and 12 bishops, recommended burial of the bones in an anonymous grave as "unknown victims of militant atheism." (cartoon from Moscow Times, 3 March)
Initially, it had been anticipated that Mr Yeltsin would be involved in a major ceremony in which the Yekaterinburg bones would be interred in St Petersburg and all victims of Soviet repression would be commemorated. In this way the Russian President - a former Communist Party boss of Yekaterinburg who ordered the destruction of the house in which the Romanovs were shot - would have the opportunity to wash his hands of one of the nastier events of his political past.
As the pro-monarchist forces began to exercise their influence, however, this opportunity quickly faded from the scene. Mr Yeltsin left Mr Nemtsov holding the baby. Patriarch Alexiy, a close confidant of Mr Yeltsin, quickly put Metropolitan Juvenaly into a similar position. Yesterday's government decision to bury the bones as those of the Imperial family runs contrary to the views of the Holy Synod and of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile.
(posted 3 March 1998)
CHURCH "GUILTY" OF EVERYTHING, or HOW "SLANDER"
by Anatoly Pogasy, Christian Legal Service
Dmitry Suslov, Radiotserkov
KAZAN. 21 February. In November 1997 two newspapers in Kazan undertook a standard attempt to denigrate the protestant churches active in the city. This time their target was the church of Seventh-day Adventists. Actually the topic of discussion was a matter that unfortunately has become typical in contemporary Russian life and dealt with the way a certain Olga Tkacheva, who was unwell mentally, first killed her son Sasha and then committed suicide. [See "Insane believer kills son"] However from somewhere the rumor arose about a link between the deceased and the Adventist church, and the secular journalists, greedy for such "sensation," couldn't pass it up. Profoundly distorting the facts, they first associated the tragedy in the Tkachev family with distinctives of the Adventist belief system and besides this lumped the Adventists with the most aggressive and criminal sects.
Not only did the accusations of the writers lacked foundation but, as we hope to show convincingly, they were simply absurd in every respect. They testify that either that the writers are completely incompetent in the matters about which they have written or all of these articles were made to order and the writers merely put their signatures on previously prepared materials. Judge for yourself.
In "Voices ordered: kill your loved one," Ilia Doronin (Vecherniaia Kazan, 18 November 1997) writes: "Valentina Tkacheva attended meetings of the Seventh-day Adventists for a long time." The same was maintained in Liudmila Kolesnikov's article "Kill yourself and your children--these are the sacrifices the Lord calls for" (Vecherniaia Kazan, 21 November 1997) and in the item by a reporter in another newspaper, Kazanskie vedomosti, Alsu Mubarashkina, "Mama declared that her son is a devil," of 19 November 1997. It is simply amazing that not one of the three reporters knows that the church of Seventh-day Adventist Christians (ASD) has a precisely defined membership and thus information about members of the church is recorded in church books. Actually--and it is very easy to confirm this--Tkacheva never was a member of the Kazan ASD church nor was she registered in the church books; moreover no member of the church knows her nor has ever seen her!
The "red thread" that goes through all three articles is the idea that Tkacheva committed the murder as a result of extended fasts and night-time prayers: "Members of this sect deprive themselves with long, so-called dry hunger . . ." (I. Doronin); "Adventist teaching includes extended abstaining when it is forbidden to drink or eat. And, of course, continual prayers which, naturally, could not but have an effect upon the psychology of this family" (A. Mubarashkina). Pinprick upon a pinprick. In contrast to Orthodoxy, Islam, and some protestant denominations, to say nothing of cults and false religious sects, where extended fast are practiced in various forms with or without the consumption of fasting food, the Adventists have no specifically Adventist teaching about fasting. Fasts are undertaken extremely rarely, in connection with some important matter, and they last, as a rule, no more than a day.
As regards "interminable prayers," the prayer life of Adventists is no different from the prayer life of Orthodox or Muslims. If one does not even open specifically Adventist literature but only learns from atheistic literature, one can read about Adventist meetings the following: "Evening meetings should begin always at the appointed hour with congregational singing and a brief prayer. . . . Such regular meetings are supposed to occur two or three times a week" (A.V. Belov. Adventizm. Moscow, 1973, p. 202). The order of Sabbath services established by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Christians in 1932 said: "Song, reading of holy scripture, prayer, collection and fellowship, congregational or choral singing, sermon, song, benediction, a moment of silent prayer by congregation." That's the way it is; neither in the doctrine nor the practice of Adventist Christians are there either "enervating fasts," or "interminable nighttime prayers."
The item in the Kazanskie vedomosti directly links Tkacheva's crime with the teaching of the church of Seventh-day Adventist Christians: "The religious sect is guilty in all of this. . . This woman attended the 'sect of Seventh-day Adventists' and hourly instilled the bases of the "righteous" doctrine into her children." The connection of the church's teachings with the murder of Sasha and Tkacheva's suicide is indicated in the title of Kolsenikova's article: "Kill yourself and your children--these are the sacrifices the Lord calls for." These assertions reveal either the completely fabricated falsehood or the ignorance of the writers on matters of protestant teaching as a whole and Adventist teaching in particular with regard to human life. The biblical command "Do not kill" has, for Adventists, absolute force, without exception. Many young believers even refuse to serve in the army on this basis. Moreover, love for God and people, according to Adventist doctrine, is the motivating force of transformation of human relationships and it alone can bring the world to righteousness, etc.
Could such teaching lead to the idea of murder of a person, let alone one's own child? No, it cannot. One should think that the writers of the articles understood this as well, but their desire for sensation forced them to close their eyes to obvious facts.
The article by Kolesnikova deserves special attention. Beginning from the establisment of the occurance of a crime, the writer goes on to express concern about the growth of new religions in Russia, which includes the ASD church. However, to assign Adventism to the "new" religion category can be done only with qualification, inasmuch as it had spread through Russia back in the second half of the nineteenth century. Without any basis Kolesnikova assigns Adventists, one of the oldest protestant confessions of Christianity, to the category of cults that have nothing to do with Christianity (the church of Moon, Scientology, the church of Vissarion, "Children of God," etc.). While by mentioning the Adventists in the title "Dawn of crime in a new location," the writer thereby accuses them beforehand of the commission of some illegal activities, which calls into question the reputation of the church as a spiritual guide of people which instructs them to obey the state's laws.
The Kazan ASD church, naturally, is unwilling to tolerate the accusations that the reporters have made against it. On 19 February it filed in court a lawsuit against the above-named reporters and the periodical publications, for protecting its reputation and recovery of moral damages. We certainly will report the outcome of the judicial proceedings. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 27 February 1998)
PROTESTANT POLITICAL INFLUENCE GROWS
by Svetlana Stepanenko, Radiotserkov
SLAVIANSK, UKRAINE, 21 February. Vladimir Shushkevich, an advisor of former prime minister of Soviet Ukraine Pavel Lazarenko, who now leads the political association "Gromada," has become a pastor of the "Word of Life" charismatic church of the city of Toreza. This was reported by the chief specialist of the Administration of Religious Affairs or Donetsk regional state adminisration, Igor Kozlovsky.
The same source has reported that the "Gromada" association intends to include on its electoral lists for the next elections to the Supreme Soviet several members of protestant churches, including the prorector of the Donets Bible Institute, Alexander Zaiats. Several church representatives report that now "Gromada" is supported by a majority of the protestant congregations of Ukraine. Its activists believe that the electoral victory of this political association would permit Ukraine to progress along the "American path of development, because protestants determine political life over there."
It should be noted that such an outcome hardly is pleasing to the nationalist mood of a portion of the population, since for them "even if it is bad at least it is our own native way." It is difficult to say whether good sense will triumph, but it is certain that every Ukrainian believer trusts that God will not abandon this beautiful, fruitful land, Ukraine. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 27 February 1998)
Russian Religion News received a letter from Mr. Patrick Francis Nolan, regional director for the Unification Church in south Russia, offering a detailed account of the experiences of one young man and his mother, who were mentioned in an article from Nezavisimaia gazeta, "Sectarianism on the Offensive." That letter is available at the following link: "Letter from P.F. Nolan."
My purpose for Russian Religion News is to make available as much information as I can without intending to pass judgment on the truth of the information or the validity of the interpretation given. In effect, I post material with the notice: "This came from the territory of the former Soviet Union; readers should make their own judgments about it." I thank Mr. Nolan and all others who provide information that gives additional perspective on the religious situation in FSU.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN RUSSIA
Voice of America broadcast, "On the Line"
20 February 1998
Anncr: On the Line -- a discussion of united states policies and contemporary issues. This week, "Religious freedom and human rights in Russia." here is your host, ---------.
Host: Hello and welcome to On the line. Since the collapse of communism, Russia has been struggling to establish a freer political and economic system. Some basic human rights are now respected. Last year, however, Russia adopted a new law regulating religious affairs. the implementing regulations are still being fashioned, but many worry that freedom of religion in Russia will be severely diminished.
Host: Ariel Cohen is senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. He says the new Russian law is contrary to freedom of religion.
Cohen: This law is discriminatory. It's discriminatory not only to Catholics, protestants or Baha'is. it's discriminatory even to Christian Orthodox because this law is structured to create a quasi-state religion, a religion that will be closely interlinked with the Russian state, as that was the case for four hundred or five hundred years of Russian statehood. And that religion is the Christian Orthodoxy of the Moscow patriarchy. It's a strong, centralized body that is trying to destroy competition in a spiritual and religious sphere.
Host: Lauren Homer is president of Law and Liberty Trust, a human rights organization that monitors religious freedom and the rule of law in Russia. She predicts the new law will be challenged in court.
Homer: There are already beginning to be many incidents where, on the basis of the new law, without it really being in effect, people are being told their registrations are no longer effective, that they can't rent halls in which to meet, that their priests have to leave, that their pastors, who have valid visas, can't speak in the church.
Host: Archbishop Thaddaeus Kondrusiewicz is apostolic administrator of European Russia for the Roman Catholic church. He says the re-registration requirements are onerous and open the door to abuse.
Kond.: That means that I have to re-register all the religious structures of the Catholic church: the apostolic administration, parishes, seminaries, colleges, papers, radios, everything. You have to present a lot of papers, a lot of documentation. Among them, you have to present the teaching of your particular church doctrine. and now, my question. Who will judge? Which university in Russia, or the world, can prepare such specialists who can decide: is it a religion or not? Is it a real church, or maybe it's a sect?
Host: Lauren Homer from Law and Liberty Trust says that the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to cut of all U.S. aid to Russia if the new law is applied in a discriminatory way. for On the Line, this is -------.
(posted 21 February 1998)
LAVISH AMERICAN CRUSADE HINDERED
by Roger Barker,
RIAZAN, 15 February. From 25 January to 7 February the largest group of Americans ever to visit Russia, 487 volunteers, visited schools, children's homes, nuseries, and children's clinics in Moscow region, Vladimir, Tula, and Belarus. They brought more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid, including prepared foods, clothing, vitamins, toys, and individual packets containing hygiene products, school supplies, and other gifts. In the course of two weeks fifteen groups of volunteers comprising from 30 to 36 persons, each in their own bus, visited more than 110 sites in 71 population points scattered about Moscow region. Four groups went to Belarus and one group each to Vladimir and Tula.
Each group of 30 volunteers was accompanied by guides and at least six interpreters during visits to the sites. The mission, headed by Josh Macdowell and known under the title "Operation Carelift-98," has organized and conducted such actions twice a year, in winter and summer, beginning in January 1992. The Mission of Josh Macdowell is one of 44 programs conducted under the aegis of "Campus Crusade for Christ International."
Beginning in 1992, seven winter and six summer missions of Operation Carelift have brought to Russia 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid and 5,000 volunteers have arrived to give aid to Russian people, especially the children in accordance with the command of Jesus Christ. They visited hundreds of hospitals, children's homes, nurseries, and clinics, bringing material aid and the Good News to hundreds of thousands of Russians who need not only material food but also spiritual food. They spoke a language of hope and love.
In 1998 the work of the mission and distribution of humanitarian aid was made more difficult because many forms of aid were impounded at Russian customs. In the course of the first week the groups arrived with only some food products, books, and bracelets for distribution. Customs impounded for a week the toys intended for the children, and when the mission Operation Carelift was completed on 7 February, three containers with humanitarian aid still were being held by customs. (tr. by PDS)
Text of Russian at Radiotserkov
(posted 21 February 1998)
[The following document, in typescript, was sent by FAX to Russian Religion News on 20 February]
THE POLICE HAVE INTERPRETED AND ENFORCED THE LAW ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
In the city of Narofominsk a small group of believing Christians of Evangelical Faith (1) has formed. The majority of them are retired and they invited to their home a young minister from Balabanovo, Sergei Adamovich Drozdov (2). Liudmila Ivanovna Zaitsev, who is retired, summoned all of them to her apartment.
The new law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations", adopted in September 1997, provided for such a situation in chapter !!, article 7, under the heading "Religious group." The first point states: "A religious group in the present federal law is defined as a voluntary association of citizens, formed for the purposes of corporate confession and dissemination of faith, functioning without state registration and acquiring the legal capacity of juridical person . The premises and property necessary for the activity of a religious group are acquired for the group's use by its participants."
In the evening of 13 February, in Liudmila Ivanovna's apartment, during the evening worship meeting, a bell rang and a district policeman walked in. Having learned from the hostess that a religious group had assembled in her home, or more accurately a church of which she was a member, he demanded of Sergei Adamovich Drozdov his passport, in accordance with the passport system. Since at the present time he did not have his passport on him, he did not produce it (all he had was his wife's identification as a mother of multiple children). Having learned that he did not live in Narofominsk (Moskow region) but in Balabanovo (Kaluga region at the border with Moscow, thirty minutes away), the policeman demanded that he and the hostess go to the police station.
Thus the worship service was interrupted by a crude act of disrespect for the religious feelings of the assembled beleivers by a representative of the law enforcement agencies and all believers were extremely upset.
At the police station, after interrogating both, the mistress of the apartment was permitted to go home and the presbyter was told to report to the chief of police the next morning with his passport. Sergei Adamovich, who suspected nothing, arrived at Narofominsk from Balabanovo at the appointed time, intending to go from there to work.
The chief of police conducted an interrogation which was both insulting and humiliating. Knowing quite well that sitting in front of him was no criminal who had been arrested for committing a crime, but a minister of the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, the police chief did not restrain himself from using the threat of an eight-day sentence and requiring Sergei to sign a promise not to appear in Narofominsk during the evening hours for whatever reason. The deputy chief, a major, behaved differently, in a proper and respectful manner.
Finally the police chief ordered to take him to the police department, where a lieutenant collected his documents and on the basis of accompanying documents put him into a cell with fifteen men. Sergei read on this slip of paper given him what he was accused of: "Refused to produce documents upon demand of a police officer; behaved defiantly and indecently; insulted a police officer." Sergei objected that this was not true, but he got no results. Then he asked to tell his wife that he had been arrested, since she would have to stay with the children. But no one complied with this.
He was received in the cell cordially when the men found out about his "crime." All the prisoners sympathized with him, but they noted that he had signed his papers, which they asked to see. Apparently they were talking out of their own bitter experience.
On Monday, after two days had passed, Sergei was removed from the cell and again taken to the chief. This time they brought him into a larger office where behind the table sat a man in civilian clothing and the earlier chief sat to the side. The new chief did not introduce himself but conducted an interrogation in a very crude manner. First he asked Sergei whether he was a believer. Having received an affirmative answer he asked whether he would continue to believe. Then he threatened that if Sergei did not get out of Narofominsk, then he would force him to worship at the Orthodox church or he would do something that Sergei would not like. Several times he asked Sergei sternly whether he would appear here again. If he were to show up in the city, even if it were not for a service in the evening, then he would be detained for a fifteen-day period, followed by another fifteen. Surveillance would be posted at the apartment and no one would have the right to assemble there without registration.
In the end Sergei Adamovich was fined twenty rubles and charged about forty for his food. His wife was waiting for him at the police station door along with the bishop of the district church.
Immediately after his release several religious organizations (Christian Missionary Center of Kaluga region, the Gideons of Kaluga region, and the Association of Christian Missions of Moscow), who are most concerned about the fate of freedom of conscience in Russia, held a conference at which Sergei Adamovich was asked to tell about what happened.
All present, recognizing their responsibility for the fate of freedom of conscience, which is dear to all, decided not to leave this incident without an appropriate response but to spread publicity about these first step of a new legal order. Does this incident reflect the new legislation in operation or is it simply the arbitrariness of local authorities? Who can answer this question? The court, or time?
[the document was signed on 17 February 1998 by I.P. Fedotov, bishop of the regional church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Russia; A.I. Kalugin, district bishop; V.I. Chernousov, president of the Christian Missionary Center; V.G. Murashkin, Acting President of the Association of Christian Missions]
Notes appended to original:
1. The Association of Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith (KhVE) of Russia traces its foundation to 1920, to the Odessa (1922), All-Ukrainian (1923) and later All-Russian (1927) Union of KhVE churches, which in 1927 comprised more than 40,000 members. At the present he is represented by more than 40 religious missions and centers throughout Russia, united in the Association of Christian Missions located in Moscow.
2. Sergei Adamovich Drozdov, born 1970, is married, father of four children, employed as a piano tuner in the Second Music School of Obninsk. He is an ordained presbyter in the United Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith. His ministry for God is conducted without compensation in his free time. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 21 February 1998)
IF THE LAW EXISTS, SOMEONE MUST NEED IT
by Alexei Salapatov
Predvestnik, no. 3, 1997
With the passage of some time from the day of the adoption of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association" it is possible to say that it has not been such a catastrophe for the protestant societies in Russia, and 26 September will not be a black day on the calendar for Russian Baptists, Pentecostals, charismatics, and Adventists. Moreover, it is possible to say that in the years of independence the power structures of Russia have tried to protect citizens from the influence of destructive sects, false religions and false missionaries. True, the method of "protection" chosen was not at all progressive: "don't allow," and if they already have been permitted, then don't register.
On the other hand parliament and the president finally have gotten the courage to recognize for the Russian Orthodox church and Orthodoxy a "special role in the history of Russia." And although more time is required for the real consequences of such a legislative act, several conclusions may already be drawn. Despite all criticism which has resounded recently, there also is a positive side to the adoption of this law, namely that the government, somehow or other, has begun to take public opinion into account and has exercised the patience to hear out both of the interested sides. True, for the sake of justice it should be acknowledged that the desire to "hear out" did not come from fairness but after an amazing attack on the part of opponents from all the world. So the law was adopted and where are the critics? Everything seems in order.
What was the problem that caused all this commotion about the law? Even after it was worked out many of its provisions remained unacceptable for those who had subjected the law to harsh criticism. For those who have not read the text of the law "On Freedom of Conscience" (the writer is sure that this is the majority) I shall note that this legislative act was written in the spirit of the old and worst traditions of communist legislation; its epigraph could well be a slogan like "Be thankful that you weren't shut down!" Really, reading this law, one gets the impression that the state clearly overestimates its capacity for control of religious organizations. That such control is intended in accordance with this law there is no doubt. Take for example article 11 which proclaims what troubles you have to go through if you want to become a registered religious society with the status of legal entity. There are other "pearls" in this law, for example article 16, "Religious rituals and ceremonies," which were written in accordance with the soviet principle that "everything that is not permitted is forbidden."
However, it's always easy to criticize, but one thing is worth nothing: there is nothing in this law that in principle is new except for the procedure of registration of religious organizations. But this "except" is important.
Thus the new law provides for the registration (read, legalization) of religious organizations. Principally Russia has not renounced the approach of granting permission in working with congregations, giving to the state machine the full power of oversight and partial control of the work of religious societies. The whole law has been constructed on the basis of this notion. Thus in contrast to the old law, the procedure for registration has been substantially complicated. Now it is not sufficient for a group which has composed a charter and submitted a declaration to expect a decision within a month. According to the new law, a rather important condition has been added to this requirements--the existence of the group for fifteen years, or proof that the group is a part of a centralized religious organization, which in the case of protestants means the EKhB Union (Baptists) or KhVE (Pentecostals). If the group does not want to associate itself with one of the already existing organizations, then there is a "fifteen year term." Such a revision (joining a centralized religious organization) was sufficient to hush the protests from Catholics, but it was not enough for protestants. And this is understandable since among there already has been a long argument among those Pentecostals about whether registered or unregistered congregations are in the right. And this is to say nothing about about charismatics and other like them who don't have anything like a centralized organization and even have an alergy to the very idea.
The state's logic is understandable. Cults and totalitarian sects do not survive long, especially in the harsh conditions of the Russian climate--a year, two, three, maybe five. But a fifteen year term is a fantasy for them. Those obnoxious survivors who do not have their own centralized organization within Russia (like the Moon sect, Mormons, or "Church of Christ") will get their legalization in fifteen years, that is, by 2013. On the other hand placing the already known religious groups under a centralized structure makes control of their activity easier. However it would have been possible (and perhaps even more effective) to have achieved this by making appropriate amendments in the old law "On Freedom of Religious Confession," which would have abolished the activity of sects without infringing on the interests of evangelical societies. Alternatively some committee of the State Duma could have been formed which, on the basis of information submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by victims of sects or their relatives, would initiate court cases for terminating the activity of totalitarian sects like Aum and others that disguise themselves with apparently harmless structures.
Although many have declared that the law violates the standards of international law, the Declaration of Human Rights, and even the constitution of Russia, in fact it is practically impossible to advance such a charge on the basis of the text of the law itself. Actually, according to the law anyone may profess faith and act in accordance with it (article 3), and no registration is needed to make a profession or organize meetings or preach. It is enough simply to organize a group and let the local authorities know about it (if the organizers intend to get registration in the future), although it even possible not to inform anyone, according to article 7. Thus all standards are observed and no one can accuse Russia of infringement of the rights of its citizens. Problems can arise when a religious society (in the law's terminology, a group) wants to have the status of legal entity, in order to rent premises and land, open a bank account, invite foreign preachers, organize large events, or receive humanitarian aid from western fellow believers, etc. However, how the register organizations (or whether to register them) which intend to engage in religious activity within Russia is a purely Russian affair.
I am sure that this law does not hinder sincere believers whose aim is to preach the Gospel, just as the old law "On Freedom of Religious Profession" did not hinder persecution on the part of communist officials. Quite a different matter are certain wheeler-dealers who are not concerned about the loss of legal status but are concerned about the shipments of humanitarian aid, as well as western "brethren" who come here to make big money by teaching us fundamental truths and who are frankly interested in liberating you and me from "darkness." Although nothing is going to stop such people and that will get (rather they already have gotten) their profit even here while the unprecedented outcry raised in the west in connection with the adoption of this law is nothing more than a device for raising money.
However, despite everything said above, we should not forget the peculiarities of Russia, where an enormous quantity of laws function either partially or not at all. There is hardly any watchdog agency like the former KGB with its associate, the Committee on Religious Affairs. Besides the freedom of recent years has produced its own fruits and now nothing can hinder those rleigious groups, who have been placed outside the law, from organizing a commercial firm or, what is even better, a public organization and quite comfortably enjoy its legal status. It will be extremely difficult to liquidate or to persecute such a cover for a religious group.
It would seem that everything is more or less clear with Russia and international public opinion: ideas have been exchanged, criticisms have been made, changes were introduced into the law, and the result is that everyone is satisfied. Whoever is inconvenienced by the situation will resolve their problems on their own. It will not matter that the postsoviet states, which are accustomed to copying the actions of the center from soviet times, will follow suit: "if Moscow cuts off legs, here we cut of fingers." Thus it is quite logical to expect a review in the near future of similar laws in Ukraine and obviously in Belarus. The writer does not want to predict the development of events in these countries, but we cannot rule out the appearance of similar (or even harsher) laws.
Considering everything said here, one can affirm that the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" was a few years late. Such a law really was needed at the time of the breakup of the USSR, which many of its articles would have provided real protection from all sorts of heresies and the law itself would not have been viewed as discriminatory. Now the situation requires more timely and contemporary measures of struggle with sects in Russia and the whole postsoviet space, and primarily an informational struggle. As for the law itself, then as the saying goes: better late than never. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Predvestnik
writer's email: email@example.com
Comparison article: "Religion law opens the door to harassment," St. Petersburg Times, 19-26 January
STATE DUMA SOON TO RECEIVE PROPOSAL TO MAKE RUSSIA AN ORTHODOX CONSTITUTIONAL
Komersant-Daily/Pravoslavie v Rossii
KURSK, 18 February. At the final session of the Council of United Nobility of the Russian Assembly of Nobles the vice president of the State Duma committee on economic policy, Vladimir Lisichkin presented a design for transforming Russia into a country with an Orthodox constitutional monarchcy. This was reported by the newspaper Kommersant-Daily.
According to the design, the political structure of Russia would be replaced by a Land Assembly (Zemsky Sobor) under the direction of the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II. The assembly would be given full authority allowing it to make changes in the current constituion. The assembly of nobles decided to present Lisichkin's draft the the State Duma for review. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
SECTARIANISM ON THE OFFENSIVE
by Maria Bondarenko
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 17 February 1998
The thirty-six religious organizations operating in Don region have drawn in about 10,000 persons, mostly youth, in just the last year in Rostov-on-Don. Every Rostovite has met on the streets of the city clean-cut, well-dressed, black-suited or white-shirted extremely happy young people. These are representatives of western religions. Behind them are the more exotic types, dressed in saris and with intricate symbols on their foreheads who appear as emissaries of the East. And recently there have appeared on the walls of buildings in the city signs with the slogan "Rostov is a special city. Christ is here, here. . ." which demonstrate that the new patriotic movements are not slumbering.
The question about the benefit and harm of nontraditional religions cannot be answered simply. The charitable activity of the Rostov Krishnaites is obvious: they provide free food for the homeless and hungry. The Christian "Salvation Army" is renowned for the others: it constantly receives tons of clothing from America and distributes them sincerely to the needy. Two years running the Salvation Army has conducted a children's camp. Leaders supervise the children, nourish them and entertain them. True, the cultural program corresponds to the character of the Salvation Army: they dress the children in colored hats, give them tambourines, and march them around in circles. In this way the missionaries create a discipline that reigns within the Army itself. At first the Salvation Army held the children's camp in one of the recreational parks of Rostov, and later it was moved a hundred kilometers from the center of Don to Bagaev region. They are a bit strict in treatment of the children.
The charitable activity of Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) is known widely: they conduct free classes in English in the Rostov schools, they gave five television sets to hospital no. 20, and they gave the veterans' society fifteen tons of powdered milk and flour, seventeen tons of clothing, from the USA, food to the children's home, and medicines to "First Aid."
Nevertheless complaints have arrived at the Rostov city administration from Rostovites who are unhappy with the activities of the missionaries. Thus, citizen S. complained about the CARP youth organization. The son of this woman, several months ago, joined this organization. Eighteen-year-old Boris, according to the mother, was extremely happy about this experience, but after some time he quietly disappeared. The retired mother, who raised her son alone, went to this religious organization for an explanation. But there she was told rather roughly that her son "has gone on an errand probably to Stavropol." Time passed and the son did not show up. The distraught woman went to the police who, without investigating, tried to send her to the psychiatric clinic. Not expecting help from the health agencies, S. again went to CARP, where, according to the deserted mother, she was told: "Your son does not want to pollute his life; he is a grown free man, and you are a sick woman." The mother was forced to file a declaration with the administration which was forwarded to the procuracy. And the prodigal son turned up there and demanded that his mother take back the declaration from the procuracy.
It would seem that nothing strange happened in this family. Even in many traditional religions the renunciation of earlier life, relatives, and neighbors is encouraged. Renunciation for the sake of God's service. But, in leaving a sick old woman the son has sacrificed a relative for the sake of an abstract virtue. Incidentally, one of the important points of the charter of CARP is "strengthening family structure." In order to strengthen the family the Moonies even conduct a "ceremony of renewal of marriage vows in the church of Moon," urging married couples to join them. With this "virtuous goal" the Moonies conducted in Don a wedding agency for single women who "within three year certainly will find a second half" from the God of Moon.
Alexis Perekhov, a psychiatrist of Rostov medical university, considers that religion is a spiritual narcotic which is the most difficult to withdraw from. The small church creates very warm, almost familial, relationships which not everyone has the power to break. Besides, many people who are drawn into religious organizations have psychological problems. On the other hand, a religious society frequently becomes the only refuge for an unfortunate person. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 18 February 1998)
NO CONGREGATION WANTS TO BE REGISTERED WITHOUT PRIVILEGES
by Olga Pestereva, Natalia Gridneva
Kommersant-Daily, 17 February 1998
A new procedure for registration of representations of foreign religious organizations has gone into effect. This substatutory regulation was adopted by the government inorder to mitigate some of the problems of the law "On Freedom of Conscience" and to obviate possible embarrassing situations. Those religious organization which cannot, by the new law, be registered in Russia have received the possibility of working as a "representation of a foreign religious organization." But the congregations do not want to be registered like that.
Any religious congregation that is in process of being formed theoretically can be legalized by taking advantage of the new regulation. It only has to find a foreign patron and all problems, it would seem, will be resolved. But for some reason in the first days of the operation of the regulation no one has applied to the Ministry of Justice. The reason is that to be a representation is far from being an independent religious organization. A representation cannot engage in commercial activity nor does it have any privileges (tax exemption on income of enterprises owned by the religious association, property, or income for religious sacraments).
Thus no religious congregation has been registered under the new rule. Everyone is preparaing to reregister in accordance with the law. But they are not rushing to do this. The pastor of an Evangelical Christian Baptist church Pavel Kolesnikov noted: "We have until the end of 1999 (by 2000 according to the law "On Freedom of Conscience" all religious organizations must be reregistered anew). We do not want to be the first. We shall see how things work out for others."
Judging by everything, the first attempt at registration as a religious organization will be taken by the united Eurasian union of "Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) in Russia." Its bishop Vladimir Murza told a reporter "We have nothing to fear. Our organization is fifty years old and I do not remember the conflicts with the authorities. There is nothing alarming for us in the law itself. I am more afraid of claims by the dominant confessions, Buddhism in Buriatiia, Islam in the northern Caucasus, and the like." Although the Ministry of Justice maintains that it is ready to register everyone whether as an organization or a representation, the president of the executive committee of the center of the "Society of Krishna Consciousness," Sergei Zuev, does not rule out some ruse here: "It is possible to nitpick at everything. Even the Orthodox church could be condemned for the way constant fasting harms health." At the same time societies have the means for evading the proposed registration procedure: even if they have not existed on Russian territory for fifteen year they can register as a cultural center, charitable fund, or simply as a sunday school. (tr. by PDS)
Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 18 February 1998)
HEAD OF PATRIARCHATE'S EXTERNAL DEPARTMENT SAYS GENUINE REMAINS OF TSAR ARE IN BELGIUM
The position of RPTs
by Maxim Shevchenko
13 February 1998
The president of the department of external church relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, responding to a question from NG reporter regarding the attitude of the Moscow patriarchate on the royal remains, encased in the wall of the memorial church of Job the Longsuffering in Brussels, literally said: "We have no basis for doubting that these remains belong to the royal family." (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
HEAD OF RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD SAYS GENUINE REMAINS OF TSAR ARE IN BELGIUM
ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii
ST. PETERSBURG, 9 February. The genuine remains of Nicholas II and his family are located in the Brussels cathedral of St. Job the Longsuffering. Metropolitan Vitaly of North American and New York, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (RPTsZ) continues to insist upon this. In a telephone conversaion with ITAR-TASS correspondent the metropolitan, from his residence in Montreal, officially denied information in some media that "the remains of Nicholas II were not located in Belgium."
The head of RPTsZ said that the royal family was canonized by RPTsZ in 1981 and their remains are venerated as sacred relics. The leadership of Russia has been informated regarding their location in Brussels, the master noted, stating that two years ago he received a written request from Yury Yarov, then vice premier of the government of the Russian federation who headed the state commission on matters of the remains, to turn over pieces of the relics for identification of the Ekaterinburg find. Since we consider the tsar's remains as sacred relics, "we never could dare to turn them over to some commission," the head of RPTsZ said. He remains convinced that "the ashes that are at the disposal of the commission are false remains."
With his approval the ITAR-TASS correspondent was given an historical affidavit and other documents about the fate of the remains. They were given to the Church Abroad in 1922 through the former tsarist ambassador in Paris, Girs, by an official of the Omsk regional court Sokolov who had investigated the crime in Ekaterinburg on the basis of fresh evidence. The Kolchak investigator collected evidence that the bodies of the Romanovs were cut up and the bloody mass of parts was soaked in gasoline and acid and burned.
At two firepits in the area of Ganinaia Yama he found material evidence of the crime: charred pieces of bones and skin with traces of the action of acid, a severed finger of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, dentures of Dr. Botkin, clumbs of clay soaked with the tissue of the burned bodies, numerous broken and charred toiletries of members of the royal family and their servants.
According to the affidavit, all this together with the bloody fragments of the walls and floor of the Ipatiev house Sokolov collected in a blue morocco box from the treasures of the tsarina. When Kolchak's army departed the reliquary arrived in Kharbin and went from there to Paris. A list of the contents of the jewelry box was drawn up by Lt. Gen. Diterikhs who conducted an study. In his letter to a member of the committee on construction of a memorial church in Brussels, Arkhangelsky, he expressed the request that it be placed in the church being built "in memory of the royal martyrs and all victims of the troubles."
At the time of the foundation of the church in 1936 the reliquary was secretly built into the altar part. The current primate of RPTsZ consecrated the church in 1950 when he was an archimandrite. He said that for fear of provocation and possible claims of members of the Romanov family to the remains, the fact of their discovery was not made public. However it was known to all who participated in building the church and was testified to by the late rector Archpriest Ioann Malizhinovsky. The current rector of the Burssels church, Archpriest Nikolay Semenov, said in a telephone conversation with ITAR-TASS reporter that "there is all the information that the tsarina's jewelry box really is bricked up in the altar wall ." He stated that after the January interview of Metropolitan Vitaly with ITAR-TASS correspondent, it was suggested to open the wall and get the shrine. "But it is [not?] possible even to talk about such a thin," he stressed. (tr. by PDS)
YELTSIN ORDERS NEMTSOV TO CONSIDER SCHOLAR'S OPINION
ST. PETERSBURG, 12 February. President of Russia Boris Yeltsin reviewed a letter sent to him several days ago by Dmitry Likhachev regarding the Ekaterinburg remains. In it, in particular, the academician expressed concern about the excessive activity of the Kirill branch of the Romanov family in regard to matters of the burial of the remains. The head of state order first vice premier Boris Nemtsov "to take the opinion and suggestions of the scholar into account." A copy of the president's order was distributed today to ITAR-TASS. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 17 February 1998)
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