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CONCERNING THE UNANIMOUSLY DESIRED RESTORATION OF A UNIFIED RUSSIAN CHURCH
Bishop Evtikhii of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (RPTsZ) issued a pastoral letter (dated 1998) that cleary summarizes the oft-repeated points of the conflict that continues to separate Russian Orthodox from each other. An Appeal Concerning The Unanimously-Desired Restoration Of A Unified Russian Church by BISHOP EVTIKHII (1998).
RELIGION IN RUSSIA
The following information is posted on the web page of the Russian embassy in Washington.
With nearly 5,000 religious associations the Russian Orthodox Church accounts for over a half of the total number registered in Russia. Next in numbers come Moslem associations, about 3,000, Baptists, 450, Seventh Day Adventists, 120, Evangelists, 120, Old Believers, over 200, Roman Catholics, 200, Krishnaites, 68, Buddhists, 80, Judaists, 50, and Unified Evangelist Lutherans, 39.
Many churches and monasteries have been returned to the Church, including the St. Daniel Monastery, the current seat of the Moscow Patriarchate, the spiritual and administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Some statisticians estimate the percentage of believers at 40 per cent of the entire Russian Federation. Close to 9,000 communities belonging to over forty confessions had been officially registered in the country.
The majority of religious Russians are Christians. The country has over 5,000 Russian Orthodox churches. Many are built anew or under repair on parish and local budgets money.
Among the several more ambitious projects is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, erected in Red Square to commemorate the liberation of Moscow by Minin and Pozharsky's militia, pulled down in 1936, and recently rebuilt from scratch. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished in 1931, is restored. Patriarch Aiexis II described its rebirth as "a sublime act of piety and penitence."
Russia had 150 Roman Catholic parishes, two theological seminaries and an academy before the revolution of 1917. All were suppressed in the Soviet years, and the believers -- ethnic Lithuanians, Poles and Gennans -- were banished and seattered about Siberia and Central Asia. 83 communities have reappeared by now, and 123 bishops ordained to be administratively subordinate to the Papal See. The theological seminary, Mary Oueen of the Apostles, opened in Moscow.
The two million Protestants have 1,150 communities.
The nineteen million Muslims, the second largest religious community in Russia, have over 800 parishes and mosques, mostly in Bashkortostan, Daghestan, Kabarda-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Tatarstan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. The Muslim Board for Central European region has been re-established. The Moscow Muftiyat, an independent ecclesiastical body, is responsible for the Moscow, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Tula, Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Yaroslavl and Kaliningrad regions, and Sochi, the renowned seaside resort in the Krasnodar Territory.
Buddhism is widespread in Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva, and the Irkutsk and Chits regions. The Russian Federation currently has ten datsan monasteries, with the total monastic body approaching 200. Another ten monasteries are under construction.
The Russian Federation has 42 Jewish communities. Moscow accounts for over 10 per cent of Russian Jews, and has three synagogues, one of which is Hasidic.
FBI WILL INVESTIGATE RIGA TERRORIST ACT
Ignoring the violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Latvia, the USA reacted immediately to the antisemitic act
by Dmitry Gornostaev and Viktor Sokolov
The explosion at the Riga synagogue rang out against the backdrop of the sharp deterioration in Russian-Latvian relations at precisely the time when the beating of retirees, the conduct of a policy of "pressure" on the Russian-speaking population, and the exacerbation of ethnic conflict threaten to isolate Latvia internationally. Practically the same explosion in the same synagogue happened in May 1996, when a 200-gram TNT cannister was thrown into the basement of the building. At the time this was chalked up to hooliganism and those guilty still have not been found. Now the situation is different.
Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Guntars Krasts, and the chief of the Latvian foreign ministry distributed a statement in which they sharply condemned the indicent. The minister of internal affairs of the country, Ziedonis Chevers, relieved the chief of the criminal police and the state secretary of the ministry of their duties. The chief of MVD declared that the organizers of the explosion will be found in the shortest time possible.
Noone took responsibility for the blast. Leaders of the Jewish community refused to speculate about possible organizers. In their opinion, those who did it "have tried to disturb our relations with the Latvian people. But they will not succeed." The Jewish center of Simon Wiesenthal suggested that the terrorist act was connected with the recent events marking the anniversary of the Latvian legion of SS and called the president of Latvia to declare illegal all such meetings and demonstrations. The leader of the Latvian government considers that the goal of the criminals was to bring about the isolation of Latvis and to worsen attitudes toward it in the international arena. From all of this it is possible to draw the conclusion that the Latvian leadership is trying to use the terrorist incident in its own interests in order to alleviate its guilt before the people in the event of the possible isolation. Such a version has the right to exist, taking into account the threat of resignation of the government of Guntars Krasts, which could come in the near future.
The explosion in the only synagogue of Riga evoked enormous concern abroad, especially in the USA. The concern was much grater than for the clubbing of Russian-speaking retirees, who were demonstrating. The official representative of the state department called this terrorist act "a cowardly act." The former deputy secretary of state of USA, Richard Holbrook, and the current occupant of a high post in the state department, declared upon his arrival at the Latvian capital that the FBI of USA will render comprehensive aid to the Latvian authorities for investigation in incident of the bomb explosion. The unhappiness of USA about the terrorist act at a Jewish temple is quite understandable, and it is shared by the majority of states, including Russia.
However, behind the sharp reaction by official persons from Washington stands something more, at least for them themselves with regard to internal political interests. It is no secret that the influence of the Jewish lobby on the American administration is enormous, because Jews constitute an extremely substantial part of the USA electorate. It is hardly possible to imagine another issue on which the United States, which has been actually silent about the beating of old folks by Riga police and the march of SS veterans, would have taken such an interest besides the explosion, as of result of which, thank God, noone even was injured.
When a matter pertains to the national or religious perception of people who constitute an enormous portion of the American electorate, the apparatus of USA begins to work at full strength. An additional impulse to this activity comes from the clash with the interests of its chief rival in the international arena, Russia.
Again, it is no secret that Washington is continuing to treat Moscow as a subject of international relations which is trying to expresss its "imperial ambitions." And the freedom loving Baltics in this case offer an extremely convenient device by which the Americans are able to beat upon the Russian bear.
FBI help has been offered not so much to facilitate the investigation of the affair for practical as for political reasons--to show who can engage those countries which once were a part of USSR.
Washington has declared frequently its support for Riga's wish to be integrated into the Euro-Atlantic structure, having primarily in view its integration into NATO. From the context of internal poitical conditions in Latvia, USA is extracting precisely those events which are conducive to the realization of Bill Clinton's concept of the "leadership of the United States in the world."
Richard Holbrook was enthusiastic about how quickly the Latvian law enforcement agencies began the investigation of the incident of the explosion at the Riga synagogue, which, in his opinion. demonstrates the creation of a goverment of law in Latvia. But then isn't it surprising how slowly these very same law enforcement agencies of the very same country began the search for those who were guilty in breaking up the demonstration by retirees or how indifferently Riga responded to the actins of the national socialists? (tr. by PDS)
STATE DEPARTMENT CONDEMNS LATVIA BOMBING
By Barry Schweid
AP Diplomatic Writer
Thursday, April 2, 1998;
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States offered its assistance Thursday to Latvia in trying to track down the bombers of the only remaining Jewish synagogue in Riga. The State Department spokesman called the attack ``an outrageous hate crime.''
Riga, like many cities in Europe, had a large Jewish community before Germany and its sympathizers murdered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
Two weeks ago, veterans of a World War II Nazi unit marched in the capital. Senior members of the Latvian armed forces and some members of the parliament participated.
The predawn blast, second in three years, blew out the synagogue's door and all the windows on the first two floors. There were no reports of injuries, and no one claimed responsibility.
``The government and the people of the United States condemn the cowardly bombing of the main synagogue,'' James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman, said Thursday.
Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts asked whether the FBI could help find the bombers and the U.S. government pledged to provide ``full support,'' Rubin said in a statement.
Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and Krasts condemned the attack, and the parliament's national security committee intends to discuss it, the Baltic News Service reported.
There are an estimated 20,000 Jews in Latvia, the largest Jewish community in the Baltics.
About 500 former Latvian SS soldiers who fought for the German Nazis during World War II gathered in Riga, the capital, March 16 to commemorate their 55th anniversary.
More than 100,000 Latvians served in the pro-German legion during the war.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
(posted 10 April 1998)
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH DENIED REGISTRATION
by Lilia Solomonova Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 8 April. The directorate of justice of the Administration of Moscow region refused registration to the congregation of the Christian Presbyterian church Zion in the city of Reutovo, Moscow region. "In accordance with article 11, part 5 of the law 'On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association,'" the letter from the chief of the directorate of justice of the Administration of Moscow region, Yu. Vlasov, said in responst the the application from the congregation's pastor N. Slivki, "registation requires the presentation of a document certifying the existence of the religious group on the given territory for at least fifteen years, which is provided by an agence of the local administration. Because of the absence of such a document, the directorate of justice has decided to leave the application without review." (tr. by PDS)
(posted 8 April 1998)
LATVIAN LEADERS CONDEMN VANDALISM AT SYNAGOGUE
ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii
RIGA, 2 April President Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia categorically condemned the act of vandalism at a Riga synagogue, which happened last night. An explosion occurred in the yard of the synagogue, as a result of which the building was damaged. The head of the government addressed his concern to the rabbi of Riga and Latvia, Natan Barkan. Prime minister Guntars Krasts, who visited the place of the incident, promised personally to follow the course of the investigation. He mentioned that thus far the persons guilty of a similar terrorist act that happened in May 1996 have still not been found. At that time a 200-gram TNT cannister was thrown through a basement window into the building of the synagogue.
The Sejm of Latvia also "categorically condemned the provocation and demanded that the Bureau of the Defense of the Constitution and the MVD investigate the incident and bring the guilty to justice." (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
PRESIDENT OF JEWISH CONGREGATION OF LITHUANIA CONSIDERS THAT THE EXPLOSION AT THE RIGA SYNAGOGUE WAS CONNECTED WITH THE DEMONSTRATION BY THE LATVIAN SS LEGION
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii
Vilnius, 3 April. The president of the Jewish congregation of Lithuania, Simonas Alperavichius expressed "dismay and regrets because of the explosion at the synagogue in Riga" and he considers that this explosion was connected "with the recent procession of veterans of the Latvian SS Legion in the capital of Latvia." He expressed this today in an interview with the media in Lithuania. He sais that the Lithuanian congregation of Jews is disturbed that "there exists in Latvia a tolerant attitude toward the activities of the SS men." S. Alperavichius expressed the hope that the Latvia authorities will take timely measures for finding those guilty of the explosion at the Riga synagogue. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
INTOLERANCE IN LATVIA SLUMBERED LONG
Before the explosion at the synagogue the country was considered to have overcome antisemitise
by Daria Nevskaia
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 8 April 1998
Explosions at the only synagogue of Riga and next door at the Russian embassy rang out one after the other. It seems that both crimes were actually one affair, but nevertheless the antisemitic direction of the first requires special comment.
In connection with the explosion at the synagogue, it was officially announced at an extraordinary special session of the Commission on National Security of the Sejm on 7 April that the FBI will give Latvian specialists technical aid in the investigation, but will not participate in the actual work. Specialists have not ruled out the possibility that the terrorist act was committed by members of the pro-fascist organization "Perkonkrusts," although it seemed strange to the president of the Council of Security of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis, that after the explosion at the Riga synagogue the national security service did not have "a concrete version or analysis or understanding of the situation." If the director of the bureau cannot satisfy the security council with today's report, then he will be forced to resign. Howveer can resignations help if the provocations follow one upon the other?
On Saturday it became known that in the city of Liepaia a Jewish cemetery was desecrated. One of the grave markers was covered with black paint. It is not known by whom and when this act of vandalism was committed. In the course of recent months this is the fourth case of desecration of monuments that has become known. Three of them happened in Liepaia. Most likely the explosion at the synagogue and the desecration of the Jewish cemetery are provocations which are directed at undermining the international authority of Latvia rather than against the Jewish community. That is what was said by the chief rabbi of Latvia Natan Barkans. But in cany case it is evident that in Latvia forces are active to whom the further isolation of the republic is beneficial.
The Jewish community was formed in Latvia in the years of the first independent republic in 1918-1940. The constitution of bourgeois Latvia guaranteed national minorities equal rights in cultural, social, and religious spheres. Thanks to this at the time dozens of national schools, several synagogues, sports and cultural Jewish societies, theaters, and even a park were opened.
But although Jews in Latvia received what they did not have in soviet Russia, the goverment practicied discriminatory policies toward them. Thus, for example, for Jews there was a secret prohibition on professions. From almost 100,000 Jews, only 200 positions in the state sector were occupied by Jews. Not one Jews was a judge and one worked in the postal service and there were 33 in the railroad. Of 316 Riga police officers only one was of Jewish nationality. Restrictions for Jews existed also in admission to medical schools.
Without a doubt, other national minorities suffered some restrictions, but it can be said that Jews were exceptionally isolated from Latvian society. Thus they dealt more with Latvian Germans. Jewish schools with German instruction were considered most prestigeous.
Antisemitism in Latvia began to grow alongside the development of national socialism in Germany. From the beginning of the thirties in Latvian the word "zhid" began to be used. (Incidentally, in the mid-1990s in the Latvian press there has been a discussion about the return of this word into active use. This was caused by the desire to return to the Latvian language all words which Russian linguistic usage has removed.) Intolerance toward national minorities has intensified. The writer of several books on the fate of Judaism in Latvia, Leonid Koval, considers that in contrast to Germany antisemitism in Latvia has been engendered by the intelligentsia.
In 1940, forseeing trouble, 20,000 Jews left Riga for Palestine. Of 80,000 Jews, on 162 persons remains after the war in Latvia. With 1940 began the story of the physical elimination of Jews in Latvia. Jews were shot in the woods near Rumbula and in Bikernieks forest. In the center of the city the synagogue was burned, with about 500 Jews inside.
It is known that Hitler chose Latvia a one of the places for the destruction of the Jews of Europe. Through the Riga ghetto during the way passed more than 300,000 Jews from all of Europe.
But not only fascists participated in the brutal actions. In Latvia there were several pro-fascist Latvian organizations which voluntarily took upon themselves the mission of the executioners of the Jewish people. They traveled through Latvia and seized Jews and then shot them. Among those volunteers was also the popular Latvian pilot Herbert Zukurs, who properly speaking beat Jewish children around the corner from his house. In Latvia last year there appeared a two-volume textbook on Latvian history by Janis Karklinsh which was approved by the department of education. Every school in Latvia received two free copies of this book. The item about Zukurs says that he was a popular Latvia pilot who flew to various countries and they was killed by Israel intelligence.
In this text one can also find obscene songs of the Latvian people about "zhids."During the years of soviet rule the spiritual needs of Jews emerged. Jews in Latvia in the majority had lost their language and culture. This is one of the reasons why now the Jewish community cannot appear as it once did in bourgeois Latvia. However antisemitism does not exist today in Latvia.
That is what writers, scholars, and politicians who represent this people in the republic say. Professor Aivar Stranga, who studies the history of Jews of Latvia, for example, considers that antisemitism does not exist at this time either on the state, or religious, or economic, or psychological levels. First, because there are no Jews. Now there are only 12,000 in Latvia. Second, certain unpleasantness toward non-Latvians by Latvians, including Jews, cannot be ascribed to antisemitism.
Today in Latvia there is a synagogue (the same) and one Jewish school and a national culture society. It is possible to consider the appearance recently of a swastika with a fascist inscription on the synagogue as an expression of antisemitism. But the verbal skirmish in the press between representatives of the Jewish community and Riga authorities about who should paint over the slogan leads one to the thought that not everyone in Latvia correctly understands what antisemitism and incitement of interethnic hostility are.
At the time of his visit to Washington Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis acknowledged before Jews that Latvians participated in the holocaust. His action was met with hostility on the part of national radicals, who openly declared it in the press. (tr. by PDS)
SYNAGOGUE BOMBED IN LATVIAN CAPITAL
By Eric Jansson
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 2, 1998; 12:29 p.m. EST
RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- The only synagogue in the Latvian capital was damaged in a pre-dawn bombing today, the second in three years. There were no reports of injuries and no claim of responsibility.
The blast blew out the synagogue's front door and all the windows on its bottom two floors, as well as windows in two apartment buildings across the street, Rabbi Mordechai Glazman said.
Hours after the blast, the synagogue held its regular morning service. Glazman said preparations for Passover also will go on ``to show our enemies we are not going to shut down and they are not going to disturb our holidays.''
The service attracted more than the usual number of worshippers, and the mood was somber. ``The old people, they all were crying,'' he told The Associated Press. ``To say they were upset, that is not the word.''
Latvia's president, prime minister and foreign minister condemned the attack, and parliament's national security committee intends to discuss it, the Baltic News Service reported.
State police chief Aldis Lieljuksis and Interior Ministry state secretary Andris Staris have been suspended pending an investigation into the bombing, Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers said.
There has been wide distrust of top police and Interior Ministry officials because a May 1995 bombing of the synagogue was never solved.
Prime Minister Guntars Krasts visited the synagogue, in Riga's Old Town, and pledged that all damage -- notably to stained-glass windows and a wooden door -- would be repaired.
The Baltic News Service quoted Riga police official Alvars Valcis as saying that the bomb appeared to have been plastic explosives.
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, in Riga on a tour of Baltic states, said the FBI had offered its assistance in the investgation.
Although a controversial reunion of the Latvian SS Legion was held just last month, Glazman said he does not feel targeted or unsafe. ``I don't feel it's a group. It's probably a few individuals who want to make a large noise and they did it.''
Riga's chief rabbi, Natans Barkans, was quoted by BNS as saying the bomber ``wanted to destroy our good relations with the Latvian state and people.''
There are an estimated 20,000 Jews in Latvia, the largest Jewish community in the Baltics.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
LATVIAN POLICE CHIEF FIRED OVER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING...
RFE/RL Newsline, 8 April 1998
The government on 7 April fired national police chief Aldis Lieljuksis, whom Interior Minister Ziedonis Cevers has blamed for the 2 April bombing of the Riga synagogue. Cevers says that his orders to install video cameras at the building were not carried out. Also on 7 April, Juris Dalbins, commander of the armed forces, handed in his resignation to President Guntis Ulmanis. The day after the synagogue bombing, the National Security Council had called for the dismissal of both officials JC
U.S. OFFERS HELP FROM FBI IN LATVIA SYNAGOGUE BOMBING.
RFE/RL Newsline, 3 April 1998
The U.S. has offered the services of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to help Latvian authorities find those responsible for the 2 April bombing of the Riga synagogue. The Latvian Prosecutor General's Office is to oversee a nine-member working group that will investigate the bombing. U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, on an unofficial visit to Latvia on 2 April, visited the synagogue and described the attack as cowardly. Latvia's president, prime minister, and foreign minister have all condemned the bombing, while the Simon Wiesenthal Center has said it suspects the blast is "connected" with the recent anniversary parade by veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion. Meanwhile, the police chief and state secretary of the Interior Ministry have been suspended for failing to ensure the security of the synagogue after a swastika was painted on its facade last year. JC
(posted 8 April 1998)
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE IN RUSSIA
What is bothering western rights' defenders?
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 February 1998
The new Russian law "On Freedom of Conscience" continues to occupy the center of attention of the world public. The pressure is well known which has been put on Russia by the United States, considering that the law severely restricts the rights of religious organizations. However by no means do all western rights' defenders agree with such a harsh criticism of the law. The writers of this article, founders and directors of the De Biurcht Fund, took part in January 1998 in a session of the Chamber on Affairs of Public and Religious Organizations of the Permanent Consultative Council of the presidency of RF, and they held consultations with political and religious leaders of Russia. The De Biurcht Fund for the Defense of Minorities is registered in Holland and is an authoritative nongovernmental organization that acts in support of international and inter-religious cooperation. The fund cooperates in conducting informal dialogue on problems of human rights and interethnic conflicts.
Erikhvan Eigen (Holland) and Landrum Bolling (USA) are directors of the De Biurcht Fund.
This material has been prepared with the help of the Association of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.
It is quite clear why many Russians and, in particular, members of the historic Russian Orthodox church view this question as a purely internal matter of Russia, which should not cause any concern among foreigners. Nevertheless many hundreds of millions of believers throughout the world nourish an interest in religion. The persecution of religion under the communist regime in the former Soviet Union during the course of seventy-five years evoked so much alarm among people of various religious convictions that governmental actions now being taken in Russia with regard to religion inevitably attract attention throughout the world. It is quite understandable that we all, who live in other countries, manifest a profound interest in the development of cordial friendly relations with the new Russia, and we are trying to assure that questions associated with religion never become the cause for misunderstanding and tension. The reasons that we engage in the discussion of this question are completely and thoroughly governed by our wish to develop mutual understanding and cooperation even further and not to produce antagonism and conflicts.
We share the dissatisfaction of Orthodox leaders and others from the long-established religious communities in your country in connection with the aggressive proselyting activity of some foreign missionary groups who have entered your country in recent years. We hope very much that in the course of time foreign and Russian religious communities will develop warmer relations of cooperation and friendship and that this will lead to a decline in the activity that has provoked suspicion and antagonism. Naturally we cannot help taking into consideration that religious views of believers differ very widely and this is expressed in the course of personal contacts. All of this represents, of course, a certain threat to the firm guarantees of religious freedom that are provided by your new constitution.
We have been told that the law "On Freedom of Conscience" may be construed as an attempt to incorporate into one document three diverse legal elements. The first, which occupies approximately a third of the law, directly pertains to the necessity of establishing clear and firm guarantees of the right of each person to maintain the most diverse religious convictions and to perform any religious worship activities. The provisions of the law are overt and convincing proofs of the commitment of the new Russia to the principles of the observance of universal human rights, completely consistent with the requirements of the United Nations and the European Community. The law, which confirms these guarantees, could become a model for legislative actions in any democratic state.
The second part of the new law consists of detailed prescriptions of the conditions for the registration of religious groups and associations operating within Russia and regulating their activity. On this level there are many differences of opinion and legislative practice, which is attested by a review of various legislative actions which have been approved in many countries. In regard to this, a special position, although not the only one, is occupied by the United States which considers that there is no need to require the registration of religious groups and associations, inasmuch as this has negative effects upon freedom of conscience. (Although there still is the requirement of filling out certain papers regarding income within the country in order to gain privileges with regard to exemption from taxes.) The governments of a number of countries, for example Switzerland and Austria, require the registration of religious organizations under conditions that are little different from the articles of your law. We suggest that certain provisions on registration of religious groups are supported by your people and any member of the duma. A question also arises about whether one of the articles of the law has any relationship to reality. In this regard we call attention to articles regarding the so-called "fifteen-year" and "fifty-year" requirements for existence of religious societies. In our opinion. these conditions are questionable inasmuch as in both cases they include a whole sequence of years of the laws on religion of the Stalin era, when there was not that freedom for religious groups to organize and conduct their religious activity which now is guaranteed by law. Thus it would be illogical and unjust to require for registration the existence of some religious organization in Russia for a period of fifteen years. A period of five years would be more appropriate.
The third group of questions dealt with in the new law pertains to the regulation of activity and the conduct of religious groups and associations. Insofar as the majority of pertinent articles deal with the prohibition of religious societies or punishment for their conduct that are considered illegal by the majority of criminal codes, it would be appropriate to raise the question of the need for adopting special articles which deal only with religious groups. Some of us suggest that this is potentially the most dangerous and controversial area of the legislation. For example, in art. 3, part 2 it says that "The right of a person and citizen to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession may be limited by federal law only to the extent that is necessary to protect the foundation of constitutional order, morality, health, rights and legal interests of person and citizen, and to assure the defense of the country and the security of the state." There is no doubt that any state wishes to provide by fundamental legal acts for the defense of the constitution order, morality, health, etc., which may extend to all citizens and groups. If one looks at this from the point of view of the potential restriction of activity of religious groups by a federal law, then this could be considered a veiled threat. In the hands of bureaucrats who are bent upon the restriction or even the liquidation of religious groups, these legal norms are so broad and indefinite that they provide the opportunity for legal application to any religious group under the pretext that it threatens morality, constitutional order, and national security. In the last hundred years every dictatorial regime has often used these arguments for justifing the most inhumane actions including death sentences. Your legislators, undoubtedly, had a different intent, but the lessons of history in this regard must not be forgotten.
In sending this letter to you, we want for you to understand anew that we are merely expressing our personal opinion when we make our assessment of the work of the latest De Biurcht conference as a constructive event in keeping with the tradition of previous meetings. In conclusion we again wish to say that we place great value on the ongoing cordial relations with your religious organizations, civilian institutions, and your government. We intend to continue to serve the cause of mutual understanding, cooperation, and harmony between our countries. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 5 April 1998)
SECTS AGAINST THE CHURCH
by Sergei Vasiliev
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 18 March 1998
The noisy court case of the former Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin against Alexander Dvorkin and the Russian Orthodox church has ended. [See "Are all sects totalitarian?"] On 24 February the Moscow city court rejected the appeal of Yakunin and the Comittee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience in the case against Dvorkin and required the plaintifs to pay defendants more than 80 million rubles. The chambers of the court were completely packed. The high public interest in this case had remained. The trial, which had acquired the name "sects against the Russian Orthodox church," began more than a year ago and was directly linked with the discussion on the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations."
We recall that back at the end of 1996 Gleb Yakunin's committee accused Alexander Dvorkin, director of the Holy Martyr Irenaeus of Lyon Center, of slander against "lawabiding Russian religious organizations, which Dvorkin had called totalitarian sects and destructive cults."
The occasion for the legal suit was the Dvorkin's brochure "Ten Question to the Obnoxious Stranger or Help for Those who do not want to be Enticed," published in Mary 1995 by the Department of Religious Education and Catechesis of the Moscow patriarchate. In this brochure he enumerated and described the basic characteristics of destructive sects and showed how they differed from traditional confessions. The group of rights' defenders headed by Yakunin, with active support of the Krishnaites and Scientologists, tried to establish the guilt of Dvorkin and the Orthodox church for lying, but their attempts collapsed.
From the very beginning of the legal examination the Russian Orthodox church supported Dvorkin. Two synodal department joined the case as counselors, after which all sectarians withdrew their accusations and the case began to fall apart in public. However two aides of Yakunin, Lev Levinson and Mikhail Osadchev, declared they they were immediately joining all of the sects mentioned in Dvorkin's brochure and the case was continued.
The interests of the excommunicated Gleb Yakunin and other defenders of totalitarian sects were represented by the attornet Galina Krylova, who specialized in the defense of Aum Shinrikyo, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other sectarian organizations.
Despite this, Gleb Yakunin and the Committee for Defense of Freedom of Conscience suffered a crushing defeat in the Khoroshev intramunicipal court in May 1996. The judge was convinced that academic religious and theological studies have the right to present a sharply negative assessment of totalitarian sects and destructive cults.
In this time unexpected details became known about those who had so steadfastly defended the interests of the sects. In the American magazine "News of Scientology" Lev Levinson was identified not only as a deputy of the State Duma (which was a bald lie) but also the "most outstanding defender of freedom of conscience in Russia today." In all likelihood, this assessment was connected with the fact that Levinson not only had defended the interests of religious minorities, but also openly spoke against the Russian Orthodox church. It is no less interesting that Galina Krylova also is a member of the executive organs of the socalled "Civilian Commission of Human Rights," one of the daughter organizations of Scientology.
Attorney Geralina Liubarskaia, who represented Alexander Dvorkin in the cast, is convinced that the right to freedom of conscience is closely linked with other rights, especially the right to freedom of speech. Genuine freedom of conscience is impossible without freedom of information. However on the whole the point was established; taking advantage of the imperfections of Russian legislation, sectarians have been trying, as before, to mislead society relative to their true goals and methods of operation. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 5 April 1998)
SCIENTOLOGY: PSEUDO-CHURCH, PSEUDO-SCIENCE, PSEUDO-TRUTH
Gorodovoi (Kirov), 3 April 1998
The list of satanic and demonic cults in the handbook "New Religious Organizations of Russia of a Destructive and Occultic Character" (Belgorod, 1997) exposes the Church of Scientology, founded by the mediocre science fiction writer Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986). It says in the book that after World War II he "took an active part in the activity of one of the satanic sects, whose founder was the famous satanist Alistaire Crowley, from whom Hubbard took many of his ideas in the creation of his pseudoscientific system.
Hubbard's son testified that the greater part of the "scientific discoveries" of his father were made under the influence of drugs. Declaring his loyalty to all religions, Hubbard in the last years of his life disclosed the "hidden secret" that his "mission" on earth was the mission of Antichrist for averting the Second Coming.
The growing idea to work for the creation of his own religion turned out to be productive. From a rather poor writer who applied for a veteran's pension, the founder of Scientology became a multimillionaire worth 640 million dollars by the end of his life. Courts of many countries found Hubbard a criminal and in a number of countries he was declared persona non grata.
Nevertheless, the Church of Scientology penetrated many countries of the world, including Russia, where, according to information in the handbook, adepts of Hubbard wove their largest nest in such cities as Perm, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Usol, and Obninsk. Even residents of Viatka did not escape the Scientology epidemic that spilled onto the pages of newspapers like a muddy flood. The newly appearing instructors were at the peak of fame in our country not so very long ago.
And so, what is the essence of the Church of Scientology which, as the handbook notes "is definitely not a church in the Christian sense of the word, since the place of God is actually occupied by Hubbard and each adept brings into the cult the force of his own personality"?
The bible of Scientology is Hubbard's book "Dianetics, Contemporary Science of Spiritual Health," the sources of which are: "Cheap science fiction; extractions from popular scientific literature of psychology contemporary with Hubbard (now already passe); ideas of neo-Buddhism and neo-Hinduism, vulgarized by European theosophy; occultism (magic and satanism), in particular the works of Alistaire Crowley, whose followers frequently accuse Hubbard of plagiarism; no less significant are the symbols of Scientology, the cancelled cross, thirteen leaves, etc."
The term "Scientology" is explained by the adepts as "the study of knowledge" (in English the term "scientology" usually is used in the sense of "science-like"). At first Hubbard tried to pass off his dianetics as science, but, faced with complete rejection on the part of scholars, he was forced to give it a religious "cover."
Without going into detail, we can say simply that the adepts of the Church of Scientology recruit their adherents, in particular, by promising eternal life, for which they offer "a wide selection of courses and training programs," along with "courses of fellowship and so-called auditing, which is methods worked out for the systematic inculcation of uncritical acceptance and repression of any independent thought."
Of course, one must pay for all these courses, which is certainly not surprising, inasmuch as "at the base of the organization there are not by any means religious notions but a commercial interest." While giving up one's individuality, a person still must pay for it!
"The sect poses a danger to the individual, family, and society," according to the "Analytical Herald" of the Russian State Duma. According to the departmental materials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, "The Church of Scientology is one of the many varied satanic sects which have a distinctly criminal tendency and which actively use psychotropic substances in order to acquire control over the personality of adepts." The handbook "New Religious Organizations of Russia. . . " describes numerous cases of judicial investigations of members of the sect which "is striving for world domination" and "can be ruinous for the individual in many respects." Therefore be careful about those who promise to solve all your problems for you. For Hubbard himself admitted: "The only means for controlling people is lying to them." (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 3 April 1998)
SERGEI KIRIENKO SUSPECTED OF SECTARIANISM
by Olga Pestereva, Konstantin Levin
Kommersant-Daily, 2 April 1998
A sensation was created by an article in the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reporting that acting prime minister of Russia Sergei Kirienko belongs to the sect of Scientology. German reporters learned about this from the director of the Saint Ireneus of Lyons Center of the Moscow patriarchate, Alexander Dvorkin, who in turn learned of it from a docent of Nizhny Novgorod University, Evgeny Volkov.
The story turned out to be quite simple. In 1995, when Sergei Kirienko was president of the Nizhny Novgorod bank Guarantee, the managers of the bank, along with many Nizhny businessmen, participated in a seminar of the Hubbard College, one of the institutions of the Scientology church. One of Sergei Kirienko's former university teachers, docent Evgeny Volkov, learned of this incident from acquaintances, who at the time knew a lot of dark things about Scientology. Volkov said that he then phoned Kirienko in order to preclude his being influenced by the American totalitarian sect. "We got together and I explained it all to him and gave him materials. He understood everything and instructed his secretary to hold all calls from Hubbard College," Volkov reported. "This was around three years ago and we have not met since them."
Volkov said that the Hubbard college has been operating in Nizhny for a long time. When in February 1993 Boris Nemtsov was invited to the opening of the college, he requested all materials, reviewed them, and . . . he did not go. Evgeny Volkov stressed that simple participation in the week-long seminar in itself could not be a basis for considering a person a member of the sect.
This "passing," in Evgeny Volkov's words, episode from the life of Sergei Kirienko was described by the docent to many people, including Alexander Dvorkin, an American citizen who is famous as an opponent of sectarianism as a whole and Scientology in particular.
The office of Berliner Zeitung was informed about the contacts of Sergei Kirienko with Hubbard College by Dvorkin. Incidentally, three days after the publication one of the writers of the article was no longer employed by the paper but had "retired." Dvorkin himself categorically denies that he inspired the article in Berliner Zeitung. He says: "This weekend Berliner Zeitung contacted me for comments as a specialist on Scientology. I gave my comments, not as a representative of RPTs but as a private individual." An official representative of RPTs emphasized that Dvorkin did not express the opinion of the church but spoke as a private individual.
Natalia Ivantsova, one of the former leaders of the Nizhny Hubbard college, recalled that Kirienko did not ever participate in the seminars of Scientology. The administration of the college suggested to the administration of the Guarantee bank that it study the administrative technology of Ron Hubbard, but Kirienko personally did not go to the seminar, although he did not forbid his coworkers from doing so.
Kirienko himself considered the report about his membership in the sect of Scientology as "plain stupidity," which could be published only on April First, and he refused to comment upon it. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 3 April 1998)
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