Anti-evangelism law enforced against Orthodox cleric


Credo.Press, 14 January 2021


The reason for the administrative prosecution and propaganda campaign in local and federal news media against the rector of the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the village of Sovetka of Rostov oblast, a cleric of the Suzdal diocese of the RPATs [Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church], Archimandrite Artemy, about which our portal reported on 13 January, was the performance of worship services in the RPATs church, which was built in Sovetka more than 20 years ago. This is made clear in the order concerning administrative violation of law composed with respect to 66-year-old Father Artemy in December 2020 by an assistant prosecutor of the Neklinovsky district of Rostov oblast, T.A. Bosenko, a copy of which the editorial staff of the Credo.Press portal has at its disposal.


The assistant prosecutor perceived in the activities of the archimandrite elements of an administrative crime, specified in part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the R.F.: "conducting missionary activity in violation of the requirements of the legislation on freedom of conscience."


The reason for the proceedings was an appeal to the prosecutor's office by a certain A.V. Uskov, who attended a worship service in the church on 25 October 2020. According to the prosecutor's account, the elements of a crime consisted of the fact that believers, under the leadership of Fr Artemy, "sang religious hymns, read the Bible, and prayed" in the church (the peculiarities of the spelling of words in the order are preserved). The church's rector also is charged with "disseminating his religious belief among persons who are not participants (members) of the religious association, with the intent of drawing them into participation (membership, affiliation) in an unregistered religious association, the annex of the Suzdal diocese of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in the village of Sovetka."


In the parish of the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, it was explained for a correspondent of the Credo.Press portal that it has been functioning since the early 1990s without state registration on a private plot and in a private house, which is the church building. Conduct of worship services in it had previously not evoked protests from the authorities, and sometimes there even were their representatives at festive worship services on the patronal day of the church, conducted by representatives of the RPATs. The canonical status of this parish is governed by orders and directives from the centralized religious organization, "the Suzdal diocese of the RPATs," which assigned to the church the status of its annex (affiliate).


The district prosecutor's office also maintains that Archimandrite Artemy does not possess documents that permit him to conduct missionary activity on the territory of Rostov oblast, since the orders and directives of the Suzdal diocese of the RPATs, which is registered in the Russian Ministry of Justice, are not considered to be such. The prosecutor's order enumerates the provisions of article 24.2 of the Russian federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations," constituting the so-called "Yarovaya Package" and substantially restricting the rights of believers to proclaim their faith. It is noted that Archimandrite Artemy did not send to the regional ministry of justice notifications "about the start of his religious activity."


Paradoxically, the order places next to a quotation from article 28 of the Russian constitution saying that everybody "is guaranteed the right freely . . . to disseminate his religious convictions" the assertion that Fr Artemy's religious proclamation constitutes an administrative violation of law.


The order also maintains that Fr Artemy admitted his guilt of committing an administrative crime. In late December, a magistrate judge of the No. 2 Neklinovsky judicial district of Rostov oblast imposed on the archimandrite a fine of 5,000 rubles, which the cleric of the Suzdal diocese of the RPATs agreed to pay. Thus far it is not known for certain whether worship services are continuing in the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul of the village of Sovetka, although the parish has declared its intention to be registered as a local religious organization of the Suzdal diocese of the RPATs, which it actually has been for almost three decades now. The reaction of the hierarchy of the RPATs to this incident also is still not known; after September 2016 the primate of this church has refrained from official statements about persecution against it, although in 2017-2019, churches still have been confiscated from the RPATs in favor of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.


It is noteworthy that in articles by Russian news media against Fr Artemy, which began on 13 January, there is no mention of "illegal missionary activity." Citing an anonymous "source in law enforcement agencies," the authors of the articles call the archimandrite a "false priest," who for about 20 years has "illegally collected donations." In the articles, stress is also placed on the fact that the parish of Fr Artemy is "not recognized by the 15 local churches" (while its affiliation with the officially registered RPATs is not reported). (tr. by PDS, posted 14 January 2021).



Credo.Press, 13 January 2021


The rector of a parish of the Suzdal diocese of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (RPATs) in the village of Sovetka of Rostov oblast, Archimandrite Artemy, has been brought to administrative accountability for "illegal collection of contributions." This was reported on 13 January by RostovGazeta, citing a "source in law enforcement agencies," who shows good acquaintance with the structure of "world Orthodoxy" and passes judgment on the "canonicity" of one or another community. In the article, Archimandrite Artemy is called "Alexander Viktorovich."


According to the account of law enforcement agencies, the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Sovetka was built about 20 years ago "without the support or recognition of the Russian Orthodox Church. All these years, the self-appointed priest has illegally collected voluntary contributions."  Despite the official registration of the parish of the RPATs as an episcopal annex of its Suzdal diocese, law enforcement personnel of Rostov oblast have decided that it "must join the 15 local Orthodox churches that exist in the world (one of which is the Russian Orthodox Church) and be recognized by them. Otherwise, this self-proclaimed organization is a sect, which is masquerading as Orthodox," the newspaper writes.


"The self-proclaimed priest has been brought to administrative accountability for violation of the federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations,' and the question of halting the activity of a sect has been answered. The 'rector' will pay a fine of five thousand rubles and a repeat offense will face a more serious penalty," the source reported.


The RPATs and its local religious organizations is registered in the Russian Federation by the procedure established by law, and questions about its legal status have not arisen previously. Periodically, church buildings and other church property have been seized from the RPATs, but the formal basis for this has always been that they belonged to the Russian Federation, and not that the Moscow patriarchate does not recognize the RPATs. In the Russian Federation there are several more registered centralized religious organizations of the Orthodox confession, including Old Believers, which are not members of the structure of the RPTsMP and are not recognized by the "15 local churches." As an observer of the Credo.Press portal notes, the incident in Sovetka is the first precedent of the authorities' application to the RPATs of the logic of "combating sects," whose victims in the R.F. have previously been representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses and new religious movements. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 January 2021)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Editorial disclaimer: RRN does not intend to certify the accuracy of information presented in articles. RRN simply intends to certify the accuracy of the English translation of the contents of the articles as they appeared in news media of countries of the former USSR.

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came. It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL,