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Ukrainian government refuses request to deregister schismatic Orthodox group

Religiia v Rossii, 19 March 2002

The government of Ukraine confirmed the legal status of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate (UPTsKP), ITAR-TASS reports. The conflict over its registration may be considered settled, the state secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, Alexander Lavrinovich, declared. He reported to reporters on Monday that colleagues of the State Committee for Religious Affairs rejected the protest from the prosecutor general which requested a review of the registration documents of UPTsKP.

The protest arose after complaints by the communist party of Ukraine, which had asserted that UPTsKP's registration was illegal. Alexander Lavrinovich thinks that the whole conflict is far from a legal matter is is more likely political.

The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate was formed at the beginning of the 90s after a number of Orthodox parishes in Ukraine separated from the Russian Orthodox church. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 March 2002)

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Court rules in favor of conscientious objector

Religiia v Rossii, 15 March 2002

For the first time, a draftee in Ulianovsk, Timofey Prokopovich, has defended in court his right to perform alternative military service, reports.

The conflict between the Ulianovsk justice system and the recruit Timofey Prokopovich has been dragging on for more than a year. The young man, who is a member of one of the religious sects, has fervently tried to convince the court that he cannot bear arms because this contradicts his religious confession. His spiritual advisor, Father Timofey, has petitioned on his behalf.

Representatives of the judicial authority have seemed not very convinced by their arguments. The draftee lost in district court and filed an appeal in the provincial court without any real expectation of success; he was preparing himself morally to fulfill his military obligation in a construction battalion building some general's dacha.

However, as Timofey himself says, thanks to the intervention of some higher reason, justice has triumphed. The provincial court found in the district court's action a violation of the constitution of the Russian federation and the civil code and overturned its decision.

Now a place for the pacifist believer to perform alternative civilian service must be found, although, as the military has stated, there still is no alternative service in Ulianovsk and there seems to be no hurry to arrange it. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 March 2002)

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Discussion of registering Estonian Orthodox continues

Religiia v Rossii, 15 March 2002

The Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate (EPTsMP) has denied reports in the press that suggested that the church has given up the search for a compromise in negotiations over registration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This was announced Thursday by the press secretary for the metropolitan of Tallinn and all-Estonia, Archpriest Leonty Morozkin.  At the same time he refused to make this statement more precise, noting that representatives of the church will explain their position on this matter in more detail at a press conference on Tuesday.

This week news media of Estonia reported that conversations between the church and MVD on registration of EPTsMP had hit a dead end, since representatives of the church had put forward conditions that are unacceptable for the government.

As the press secretary of Estonia's MVD explained to BNS, up until now the church has agreed not to include the question of the continuity of EPTsMP among its conditions for registration. "At the last meeting of representatives of the two sides, the church refused to discuss the canonical question of continuity and put forward the suggestion that it be considered to have been functioning in Estonia since 1920," the press secretary said.

Commenting of EPTsMP's suggestion, Minister of Internal Affairs Ain Seppik explained that acknowledging the legal continuity of the church in Estonia since 1920 will give it the juridical right to claim the property of the Orthodox church in Estonia.

The MVD press secretary added that the ministry does not consider that the process of negotiation with the church has been interrupted and noted that meetings and consultations of the side will be continued.

Heretofore the government and church have tried to resolve the dispute about conditions of registration outside of court, which the church has postponed several times the date for a discussion of its suit against the Estonian government. The last time this date was put back to 30 April. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 March 2002)

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Variety of religions growing in southwest Siberia

Religiia v Rossii, 14 March 2002

"Maintaining peace and harmony among the multithousand army of representatives of the 125 nationalities residing in Tiumen province": that is how the chairman of the Committee for Nationalities Affairs of the administration of Tiumen province, Aleksei Malchevsky, defined his basic task at a press conference held today.

In Tiumen province there are 205 officially registered religious organizations representing twenty religious confessions. The majority of them belong to Orthodoxy and Islam. The activity of protestant religious organizations, numbering 44 religious associations and representing 15 religious denominations, is growing. The largest of these organizations are the Evangelical Christians-Baptists, with their center located in Moscow.

In Surgut  there is the centralized religious organization named "Association of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Tiumen Province and Khanta-Mansiisky and Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous Regions," and in Tiumen there is the "Association of the Kovcheg [Ark] Missions." Several organizations have created associations for the purpose of providing charitable aid and work with drug addicts and alcoholics.

The number of foreigners who are coming into Tiumen province for religious purposes, including evangelistic programs, is expanding. In the past year the province was visited by 70 such "propagandists" as opposed to 60 in the year 2000. As a result of the efforts of foreign missionaries, new religious denominations have appeared in the province:  a charismatic church, Plymouth Brethren, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and in the spring of last year a Presbyterian church was officially registered.

As the chairman of the Committee for Nationalities Affairs, Aleksei Malchevsky, noted, it is necessary to treat all representatives with friendly relations. For example, it took a long time for officials to get the Mormons to inform the committee about all of their planned events.

Aleksei Malchevsky thinks that at the present time it is important that the dialogue among people, society, and the authorities proceed normally so that they hear and understand one another, and react to inquiries. The maintenance of the ethnic independence of the peoples is facilitated to a great extent by agreements concluded by the provincial administration regarding cooperation in humanitarian aid with Germany, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Ukraine, and Belorussia.

"Each of the peoples, independent of their nationality, should know that their interests are being protected just as are those of all other people living in our province," Aleksei Malchevsky stressed, according to a report by (tr. by PDS, posted 14 March 2002)

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Jehovah's Witnesses win case in Armenia


BBC Monitoring International Reports, 8 March 2002
Text of report by Armenian news agency Arminfo

The Armenian Court of Appeal today passed a not-guilty verdict on Leva Markaryan, a Jehovah's Witness.

 Thus, the Court of Appeal deemed that Markaryan's activities, who is a Jehovah's Witness, was not of a criminal nature and that they not run counter to the country's constitution, which approves freedom of religion. As is known, Markaryan was charged under Article 244 of the Armenian Criminal Code. Markaryan was charged with involving more than 10 teenagers in Jehovah's Witnesses' activities as a result of religious propaganda. In turn, the teenagers started proselytizing students in schools in the settlement of Metsamor. Moreover, there were cases when conscripts refused to join the army as a result of Markaryan's religious activities. In September 2001, the court of first instance passed a not-guilty verdict on the case. However, the not-guilty verdict did not please the prosecution, who was backed by the public.

 We should point out that in the last three years, more than 40 people had been officially warned by the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office about their illegal religious activities. The overwhelming majority of these people are members of Jehovah's Witnesses. In this period, official bodies registered many cases when a number of Jehovah's Witnesses evaded active military service for religious reasons. (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring, posted 13 March 2002)

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Variety of religious groups register in Azerbaijan

BBC Monitoring International Reports, 11 March 2002
Text of report by Azerbaijani TV station ANS on 11 March

Presenter in studio Rafiq Aliyev, head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, has said that 120 religious communities operating in the country have already passed the new state registration. The papers of 110 are being examined. Along with that, the papers of eight religious communities have been returned due to inaccuracies. We should point out that there are also Satanists among 406 religious communities. Rafiq Aliyev, who said they had enough information about Satanists, told ANS that work was under way to expose them. Correspondent over video of Rafiq Aliyev in office There are groups in Azerbaijan, which worship Satan.

Rafiq Aliyev According to our unconfirmed information, such groups are already operating in Azerbaijan. There are groups that worship Satan and we are already gathering information about them.

Correspondent Rafiq Aliyev thinks that the law-enforcement agencies are entitled to track them down and expose them. Of course, those who worship Satan do not ask official state agencies for registration. Overall, the state committee for religious organizations has registered 120 religious communities. Aliyev said another 110 communities had already submitted their papers to the committee. The committee head said that Jehovah's Witnesses were also registered after making some changes in their regulations. He said that Baptist organizations in Neftcala and Sumqayit had not been registered. According to the chairman, other organizations that have inaccuracies in their papers and whose regulations run counter to the law on freedom of religion, are Christian religious communities such as Greater Grace and Living Stones.

Aliyev There was a German Lutheran Church led by Tamara Humbatova. We refused to register that Lutheran Church as well because their papers were not in Azeri.

Correspondent According to Rafiq Aliyev, another requirement put forward by the committee for religious organizations is that these organizations should present a document from their headquarters abroad.

Rafiq Aliyev We also have Adventists. There are two organizations - Adventists in Ganca and Naxcivan. They have not been registered yet because their papers failed to meet our requirements.

Correspondent Rafiq Aliyev also pointed out that committee employees, who contact unregistered religious communities, are sometimes subjected to insults and threats.

Rafiq Aliyev For example, we have registered a religious community of Mountain Jews. A second religious community is trying to get registration. There is someone name omitted who calls us sometimes and says that he will come and behead us.

Correspondent In spite of this, Rafiq Aliyev said that the committee carries out investigations into the activities of all the registered communities and analysis to find out whether their activities are legal or not. (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring, posted 13 March 2002)

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Russia: religious renaissance or return to normalcy?

by Roman Shukhlevich
Russkaya Mysl, 7 February 2002

 Ten years ago the USSR, and with it the Communist regime, disappeared from the face of the earth. One of the main achievements of democracy was the freedom of confessions which had been so severely suppressed for all of seventy years. But what did this freedom bring about? "Has there been a religious renaissance in Russia?" was the topic of discussion at the Berlin Catholic Academy on 22 December 2001. Representatives of various Christian confessions along with Religion scholars participated in the reports and discussions.

Evangelical pastor Hans-Christian Diedrich spoke about the reestablishment of Protestant on Russian territory. According to him, in Russia alone there are 40 to 50 Evangelical communities. Likewise a comparable number of Lutheran communities, which receive help from Lutherans in the US and Europe, were established. After a lengthy silence a number of various publications are now available. A lively exchange with Protestant centers abroad is supported. For the most part the present Russian Protestants are descendants of Finns, Latvians, Germans and Estonians who were scattered, for one reason or another, throughout Russia's vast territories.

However, according to Dr. Diedrich, there is no need to speak about a renaissance: "We are seeing not a process of a religious renaissance but the process of the return to a normal life and the functioning of parishes and Protestant communities."

The Catholic activist Christina Dodt is of the same opinion. Prior to the Perestroika there were only two Catholic parishes functioning in Russia: St. Louis in Moscow and the so-called Kovno Cathedral in Petersburg. By 1991 there were already eight parishes and eight Catholic priests. Today there are two hundred but 92% of these are foreigners. At the "Mary Queen of the Apostles" Catholic seminary in Petersburg there are at the present time sixty seminarians, also in part made up of foreigners. There is a chronic shortage of priests. As for the two hundred Catholic communities in Russia only 60% of these have parishes and regular services. There is a problem in returning churches (20 have been returned and 17 built anew): frequently after 1991 they have been privatized. There are two Apostolic Administrations headed by archbishops (a Belorussian and a German with Russian passports) in Moscow and Novosibirsk. They are fully and normally functional. There is a problem of in establishing an episcopate in Saratov and Irkutsk due to the reluctance of Russian authorities to issue passports to foreign priests.

All in all even if there is no religious renaissance there is a return to a normal religious life.

Father Michael Rahr, an Orthodox priest from Weimar, presented a number of interesting details. He conditionally divided Orthodox parishioners into two parts: pensioner-grandmothers and the intelligentsia. These make up the largest category of Orthodox. Workers, as well as 80% of those calling themselves Orthodox, do not go to Church. Even though thousands of churches have been opened and are packed on major religious holy days, people give more value to the New Year even though Christmas has been made into a civil holiday. "Try telephoning someone in Russia on the night of 31 December. You won't get through. The Russians who live here are calling their friends and relatives to greet them. On Orthodox Christmas it is very easy to call Russia. In Moscow Christmas trees are already lying on the streets by January 3. They have been thrown out without waiting for Christmas."  [In Russia, Christmas is observed on January 7 according to the Julian calendar. In Communist times people decorated Christmas trees for New Year. Trans.]

As for the intelligentsia, the following information came to light during the conference. Recently the Protestant and Catholic communities began to receive people without Polish or German roots. Basically these are the intelligentsia. Dr Diedrich noted : "Today one cannot say that Catholicism is a Polish faith and Lutheranism is a German faith."

The figures which were heard at the conference were as follows: in Russia today about a third describe themselves as firmly believing in God. About 4% are real atheists. The rest are to one extent or another, doubters. Even though these numbers are different from say, 1985, it is difficult to speak about a real renaissance. Religion, although not always, somewhat presumes certain behavior on the part of a person. But Russia today is seeing such behavior as substance abuse, murder, thievery, alcoholism and even suicide, in greater numbers than before, all of which are strongly condemned by all religious confessions without exception. In part these can be the results of social upheavals of the 1990's but it is apparent that religion had little or no effect upon what is negative in society today. (tr. by A.N.S., posted 13 March 2002)

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Could Russian parliament invite pope?

Mir religii, 13 March 2002

At a session of the State Duma on Wednesday Deputy Vladimir Semenov (of the Union of Right Forces fraction) introduced the suggestion that the Committee on International Affairs and the Committee on Rule of the Chamber be instructed to examine the possibility of inviting Pope John Paul II to visit Russia in the name of the State Duma.

Vladimir Semenov expressed his dissent from the position of the higher authorities of the Russian Orthodox church, who, he says "for more than a month now have been stiring up hysteria on this matter," Interfax reports.

The deputy recalled that the head of the Roman Catholic church has already visited a number of CIS countries, and in their times Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin sent him suggestions that he visit Russia. In his opinion, such an approach "weakens relations with the Vatican." Meanwhile, he noted, the State Duma "still has not stated its position."

The vice speaker of the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR), spoke out sharply against this suggestion. "Russia is an Orthodox country and those who want to work out relations with the Vatican can go there as tourists," he declared, according to RIA Novosti. The leader of LDPR called Vladimir Semenov's speech "an impudent act," declaring that Speaker Gennady Seleznev should rebuke him for "impermissible statements directed at the leadership of the Russian Orthodox church."

According to the rules of the State Duma, suggestions from deputies about instructions to specific parliamentary committees are reviewed at the end of the session. At that time a vote is held only if opposition to the instructions is expressed. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 March 2002)

Mir religii, 13 March 2002

The newly created Committee for Religious Tolerance has sent a request to Vladimir Putin that he display courage and resolve and that he invite Pope John Paul II to his country, as was done by presidents Nazarbaev, Shevarnadze, and Kuchma, "Blagovest-info" reports.

"The inadequate reaction of the Moscow patriarchate to the elevation of the status of the Catholic church in Russia and conferral of the title of metropolitan on Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and even, it would seem, to the innocent telebridge between the Vatican and the cathedral church on Malaia Gruzinskaia in Moscow, and the stirring up of anticatholic hysteria by the leadership of MP have as their main goal preventing the planned visit by the pope to Russia," the authors of the appeal state. "All of this purposeful campaign is based on an ill-intentioned application of the definition of 'canonical territory' (which in canon law means only the exclusive definition of the boundaries between dioceses within any one church) to the entire territory of countries of the former USSR where RPTs has its own parishes." Such an interpretation of the concept of "canonical territory" is not recognized by other churches, the authors of the letter maintain. Consequently, they note, the Moscow patriarchate can justly be called "canonically self-proclaimed."

As regards the bestowal of the title of metropolitan on Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, the members of the Committee for Religious Toleration continue, "Patriarch Alexis and the Holy Synod, in the struggle for their own 'canonical territory,' have consistently engaged in legal excess, declaring 'The Russian people has culturally, religiously, and historically been the flock of the Russian Orthodox church.'" Thus, a person who was born and lives on the "canonical territory" of the Moscow patriarchate is its "inalienable spiritual property," the authors of the appeal conclude.

Representatives of the committee recalled also that after 11 September the "world became different." "Spiritual solidarity in the struggle with the evil of terrorism has united the civilized world," the letter says. "And a better symbol of Russia's adherence to the great Christian, European values would be a visit to Russia by the pope, a great humanist and peacemaker, and the person who symbolizes religious toleration."

The appeal to the Russian president was signed by the chairman of the Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience, Gleb Yakunin, the chairman of the Organization for Cooperation in Maintaining Freedom of Conscience in Society, Valery Nikolsky, scientific associate of the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Mikhail Roshchin, and publicist Alexander Nezhny. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 March 2002)

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Ukrainian prosecutor protests registration of schismatic Orthodox group

Religii v Rossii, 13 March 2002

The prosecutor general of Ukraine sent a protest addressed to the chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs, Viktor Bondarenko, stating the illegality of the registration of the noncanonical group called the "Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate" (UPTsKP). This was reported today by the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox church.

The prosecutor general recommended that the state committee rescind the order of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Ukrainian cabinet of ministers of 20 July 1992, on the basis of which UPTsKP was registered, since it contradicts the provisions of the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations."

The prosecutor general's protest suspends the act being protested and requires an obligatory review within ten-days' time. According to the prosecutor general's conclusion, the so-called "All-Ukrainian Orthodox Council" that was held on 25-26 June 1992 was not authorized to create UPTsKP.

The basis for the review of the legality of the registration of UPTsKP was an appeal from 65 deputies of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine. The deputies suggested to the prosecutor that a criminal case be opened with regard to the appropriation of financial resources and property of the Ukrainian Orthodox church by leaders of UPTsKP. UPTsKP was also accused of participation in illegal actions on 5 March 2002 on the "Odnako" program on Russian Public Television. Commentator Mikhail Leontiev reported the participation of UPTsKP in recruiting mercenaries for "hot spots" in CIS and Chechnia. The recruiting was conducting through the "Order of St. Hilarion" that is a part of the UPTsKP structure. The charter of the order was established by the former Metropolitan Filaret Denisenko, who was excommunicated from the Orthodox church and who now calls himself "patriarch of Kiev." The legal address of the organization is the official residence of the "Kievan patriarchate" on Pushkin street in Kiev. The mercenaries fought as part of illegal armed formations in Karabakh, Georgia, and Chechnia. According to Mikhail Leontiev's information, one of the leaders of the order named Lupynos was captured in Chechnia by Russian troops during one of its operations. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 March 2002)

RFE/RL Newsline, 14 March 2002

The Prosecutor-General's Office has said the registration of the  Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) in 1992 was  illegitimate, Ukrainian media reported on 13 March. The decision  followed a motion of 65 lawmakers who accused the Ukrainian Orthodox  Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) led by Patriarch Filaret of illicitly  appropriating property from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church  (Moscow Patriarchate). Meanwhile, the State Committee for Religious Affairs confirmed the same day that the registration was legitimate.  New Channel Television suggested that the Prosecutor-General's  Office's move is political revenge on Filaret, who has repeatedly  voiced his support for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine. Filaret openly  blamed the Communist Party for his troubles. "[The communist deputies] came forward with their protest aimed to abolish the Kiev  Patriarchate or, if not abolish, then deliver a blow that would knock  the Kiev Patriarchate out of existence and thereby help the Communist  Party to win over voters who side with the Moscow Patriarchate,"  Filaret told New Channel Television. JM  (posted 14 March 2002)

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Russian government newspaper sees USA conspiracy in pope's actions

Rossisskie vesti, 6 March 2002

Sakhalin-Karafuto can be answered by Rome-Old Moscow

By decision of Pope John Paul II, four administrative regions of the Roman Catholic church in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Saratov, and Irkutsk have become dioceses, and the former apostolic administrator of central Russia, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, has been named a metropolitan. In the process the head of the Irkutsk Catholic diocese has been named, among others, "bishop of Karafuto," in accordance with the Japanese name of the southern part of the island of Sakhalin.

Not being satisfied with the establishment of four new dioceses and a metropolia, the Vatican decided to raise an uproar by audaciously renaming Russian territories. Whatever one says, "bishop of Karafuto" is just too much. Of course, one can fail to respect Russia, but why so demonstratively? After all, in calling Russian territory by a Japanese name, the Roman see has thereby expressed its positive view toward separating southern Sakahlin from the Russian federation.

It is unlikely that there is any sense in viewing this attack by the Roman Catholic church on our territory apart from the general atmosphere of the relations between Russia and the West in the recent past. The expansion of the Roman Catholic church, including the attempt to rename Russian Sakhalin into Japanese Karafuto, is a continuation of the very same policy.

Inspired by its diplomatic victories in Serbia, Iraq, Georgia, Central Asia, Vietnam, and Latin America, it seems that USA is casting its glance onto several Russian regions. The personality of the ancestor of this American-Japanese imperial geopolitics, Alfred Thayer Mahan, including his geneology, deserves a more detailed recounting.

The Mahan family belonged to the Makonnen dynasty, whose geneological tree dates back directly to the legendary King Solomon. In the nineteenth century this dynasty ruled Ethiopia, but several of its representatives had settled in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century, including in England, where they were called simply Lord Mahan. One scion of the Mahan noble family was the American historian and naval admiral, Sir Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914).

The magnitude of Mahan's personality is truly amazing. The admiral was the first geopolitician who predicted a planetary fate for America as a leading naval power that would directly affect the fate of the world. Mahan's book "The Role of Naval Power in History" was an enormous success.  After it came out in 1890, in just USA and Great Britain it went through thirty-two editions and was translated into almost all European languages, including Russian in 1895. English reviewers called Mahan's works "the gospel of the British majesty" and the "philosophy of naval history." German Kaiser Wilhelm II confirmed that he tried to memorize Mahan's works and he ordered that it be placed in the ship's libraries of all German vessels. Success accompanied Mahan in other countries also, for example, Japan.

But he had the most influence in the working out of the geopolitical doctrine of USA. Mahan's disciples included American presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, who often turned to him for advice in their activity.

Thus according to the plan of American geopolitics devised by Mahan, USA and Great Britain belong to "maritime civilization" whose opponents are the "Eurasian" states of Russia, China, and Germany, who had to be strangled in the coil of the "anaconda," squeezing them out of controlling coastal regions and preventing as much as possible their access to the high seas." Besides this, Mahan advanced the proposition that at some time the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan would unite against Russia and China.

How these plans are being realized in our days we all can judge by a great multitude of examples, including the notorious incident of the "bishop of Karafuto." Although the attack on Russia's position is being carried out from Kaliningrad to the Kuriles, it is the Kuriles and Sakhalin that can serve as a significant example.

It is sufficient to say that Sakhalin and the Kuriles belong to the naval type of civilization while Russia on the whole is continental. During the past century, southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles belonged to Japan for forty years, and these years were for them a period of relative prosperity. Indeed Sakhalin is geographically much closer to Tokyo than to Moscow. In the event of the practical achievement of Mahan's plans, Sakhalin could hypothetically even pass into the jurisdiction of USA, declaring itself in accord with America's dominion or protection, which the Kurile Islands would return to Japan.

It remains for us to hope that the present-day Kremlin is more diligent with regard to Russia's wealth than the previous central authority. At least with Vladimir Putin's assuming the office of president, the confidence of the far eastern regions in the central authority has grown. However it is at least premature to rest on one's laurels.

As regards the Russian Orthodox church, it could be advised to rename Rome as Old Moscow and to establish there an Old Moscow Orthodox archdiocese. That is about what Hetman Kirill Rasumovsky advised Emperor Peter II to do after Prussian King Frederick  made him a major general in the Prussian army. One recalls that the hetman advised Peter to make Frederick a Russian field marshal. Old Moscow-Rome would be a good response to Sakhalin-Karafuto. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 March 2002)

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Committee for Religious Tolerance formed

Mir religii, 7 March 2002

Participants of the Committee for Religious Tolerance are disturbed by the "outrageous campaign against the Catholic church which has been unleashed in Russia," Interfax reports.

The chairman of the committee, Gleb Yakunin, declared at a press conference on Thursday in Moscow that "the arousing of anticatholic hysteria has as its main goal the prevention of the proposed visit of the Roman pope to Russia." He said that the "concept of 'canonical territory' means in canon law the exclusive division of boundaries between dioceses within one or another church but the Moscow patriarchate is trying to carry over this concept to all territories of countries of the former USSR where it has its own parishes."

Another member of the recently former Committee for Religious Tolerance, chairman of the council of the Organiztion for Cooperation and Maintenance of Freedom of Conscience in Society, Valery Nikolsky, reported that participants in the committee intend to appeal to Vladimir Putin.  "After the tragedy of 11 September the world became different. Spiritual solidarity in the struggle with the evil of terrorism has united the civilized world and a supreme symbol of Russia's adherence to the great Christian, European values would be a visit to Russia by the Roman pope, a great humanist, peacemaker, and personality who symbolized religious tolerance," the draft of the appeal distributed at the press conference says.

Participants declared that the basic goals of the committee of the creation of a space for interconfessional dialogue and putting an end to religious conflicts. "We do not call for a merger of religions, but dialogue and cooperation are necessary," they think.

At the present time religion has become a hostage to ideology and is dependant upon the state, the authors of the draft of the appeal maintain.  (tr. by PDS, posted 7 March 2002)

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Jews of former soviet countries create international council

Mir religii, 5 March 2002

Today the founding congress of the Euroasian Jewish Congress opened in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reports. The initiators of the unification of Jewish organizations operating on the territory of the former USSR were the Federation of Jewish Organizations of Russia (Vaad Rossii), the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia (KEROOR), "Vaad Ukrainy" and the Jewish Congress of Kazakhstan. "Vaad" is the Hebrew word meaning "council."

This is an attempt to recreate the former Confederation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of USSR ("Vaad"), created in USSR at the end of the 1980s. After the fall of USSR Jewish organizations were divided on a regional basis.  As Rabbi Zinovii Kogan explained in a conversation with an ITAR-TASS reporter, the basic goals of the future association are educational. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 March 2002)

Mir religii, 6 March 2002

The general secretary of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, Mikhail Chlenov, appealed to the leadership of the Russian Orthodox church requesting that they publicly condemn antisemitism and the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." "We hope that Patriarch Alexis will call this publication a harmful and disgusting falsification," the Jewish leader said Wednesday at a press conference in Moscow.

The occasion for the appeal was the recent publication in Ekaterinburg diocese of the book reporting some worldwide Jewish conspiracy, which according to Jewish leaders of Russia happened with the blessing of a number of Orthodox hierarchs.

At the same time the general secretary of the congress stressed that his organization "is not in conflict with the Russian church" and he suggested that some Orthodox hierarchs simply "are in thrall to bad advisors." On the whole, the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate, in Mikhail Chlenov's opinion, share the opinion regarding the impermissibility of antisemitism. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 March 2002)

by Sergei Morozov
Komsomolskaia pravda, 6 March 2002

The Eurasian Jewish Congress [EAEK] has been founded in Russia.  Its first congress was held yesterday in Moscow and the Red Hall of the "President Hotel," where the program and charter of the new organization were approved and its leadership was elected. Delegates from Jewish communities from countries of CIS and the Asian Pacific region gathered for the purpose of working out a united conception of the development of the social and cultural space of Jewry in the region. The ideologists of the congress include Alexander Mashkevich, president of the Jewish Congress of Kazakhstan, Mikhail Chlenov, president of the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, "Vaad," and Joseph Zisels, director of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine. Alexander Mashkevich was elected president of the congress and Mikhail Chlenov and Joseph Zisels became vice presidents.

It is no accident that the congress was held in Moscow. Vaad of Russia is one of the cofounders of the congress, along with the two other largest public organizations of the region, Kazakh and Ukrainian. Jewish communities of these countries are today not only the most numerous but also the most developed, organized, and effectively functioning ones. But, besides the countries of the former USSR, the region includes another whole series of comparatively small Jewish communities which were severed from international Jewish cooperation. "Our mission is to unite the efforts of separate Jewish communities and to develop communications and contacts among them and their cooperation with international Jewish organizations," Alexander Mashkevich says. "The congress should be better than all others existing now as a form of cooperation of regional communities with the Jewish world. We do not intend to substitute for any existing Jewish societies or states or to interfere in their internal affairs. The community in each country remains sovereign in resolving its own questions."

It is for this reason that all large Jewish organizations of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukarine, and other countries of the Eurasian region took part in the creation of EAEK. Almost all of the diverse forces which exist within Jewish communities are absolutely united in the question of unification, which in itself is not trivial. It is significant that Indian, Japanese, Mongolian, and even Australian Jews accepted the suggestion to be united around the solid core of Jewish organizations of CIS.

Why should Jews of Kazakhstan be united, for example, with Jews of New Zealand or Mongolia? Doesn't this conceal a desire to influence the politics and economy of other countries? By no means. The goals of the congress are not power, geopolitics or macroeconomics. According the EAEK General Secretary Mikhail Chlenov, there already is a list of programs which should be begun under the leadership of the congress in the near future.

"In the first place is the creation of a good analytical information center which would begin collecting and analysing information from the region that is encompased by the congress," Mikhail Chlenov says. "Someone must be following what is happening among us: how many Jews have stayed, what kind of organizations are there, and what are the problems. Second, there is a compensation program which focuses attention of compensation of Jews who were victims of the Holocaust and World War II. The third is a very important thing: interreligious dialogue with Christians and Muslims. This must be on a public level which will provide good chances for such a dialogue in the region. And finally, fourth, coordinating seminars on social work for an exchange of experience and working out common methodologies and the adaptation of foreign experience."

Leaders of EAEK note that it is very important that the creation of the congress strengthen and hasten integrative processes with Jewish communities, including those in Russia. The process of communication is never simple. The fact that Jewish communities have united in this way, rejecting all kinds of contradictions, again confirms their desire for dialogue and cooperation for the good of their countries. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 March 2002)

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