Monitoring news media reports about religion in Russia and other countries of former USSR
Copyrighted material. For private use only.
If you quote material, please credit the publication from which it came. It is not necessary to credit this Web page for any print use of the material. If any electronic reproduction is made, please acknowledge the URL:

Archive of News Items

Conference on religious extremism

by maria Cherkasova, Oksana Alexeeva
Kommersant-Daily, 10 December 2002

Yesterday the international conference on "Totalitarian sects: the threat of religious extremism" opened in Ekaterinburg. Conference participants intend to develop a package of recommendations describing in detail cooperation among state and church authorities for eliminating totalitarian sects from the territory of Russia and to recommend that Orthodox culture still be taught in the schools.

Methods of struggle with religious terrorism are being worked out in the conference hall of the former party school that now is the Academy of State Service. Several Scientologists attended the session with the permission of the conference organizers. "We warned them right away that they should sit quietly, since the event was being conducted with the support of the plenipotentiary representative of the president," the leader of the evangelistic department of the Ekaterinburg diocese of RPTs, Vladimir Zaitsev, told KD. In addition to the Scientologists led by the former personal secretary of Scientology founder Ron Hubbard, Gerald Armstrong, and leading opponents of religious extremism on the Russia-wide scale, Alexander Dvorkin and Deacon Andrei Kuraev, the conference was attended by Archbishop Vikenty of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursk and Sergei Vakhrukov, the first deputy of the plenipotentiary representative of the president in the Urals federal district, Peter latyshev.

Conference participants heard written greetings from Alexis II and then spoken greetings from Mr. Vakhrukov, who reminded those present about the incident in Dubrovka and declared that leaders of traditional religions, along with the state, can protect the country from pseudoreligious forces. The director of the evangelistic department of the Moscow patriarchate, Archbishop Ioann, called attention to the threat of the virtual expansion of sectarians; he said that now there are 132 sites on occultism and satanism that are active. But Mr. Dvorkin's speech was especially expansive. "You know what they call us?" he declared to those present. "Raw meat. A sect is a meatgrinder that needs new pieces of meat all the time in order to chew them up and spit them out."

A break was announced after Alexander Dvorkin's speech. Religious leaders arrived late to reception for reporters at Peter Latyshev's, where the main events occurred. Deacon Andrei Kuraev, a professor of the St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, told KD: "The main event occurred at the meeting with Latyshev; we achieved complete mutual understanding. We came to the conclusion that the best means of resisting any sect is the development of religious culture. All kinds of fanaticism come from lack of culture. First off it is necessary to train children. The subject of religious culture should be in the schools and the level of its teaching should be controlled by both the church and the state. State standards for the subject are needed. Mr. Latyshev completely agreed that in relations with sects there must not be any roadblocks. It is simply necessary to create a leading position for traditional confessions in informational activity. The church must be represented in the schools, prisons, army, and hospitals. In this regard I intend to raise at the conference the question the attempts of the Jehovah's Witnesses to win over physicians and nurses as their apostles so that these people will preach to patients the Jehovists' ideas. The state must expose these plans and warn the medical workers."

Vladimir Zaitsev told KD that the results of the conference, which will continue another two days until 11 December, will include recommendations for the struggle with religious extremism as well as techniques of cooperation between church and secular authorities in this matter. The recommendations will be presented to the next session of the State Council. The organizers intend to include in the package of recommendations a list of religious organizations they consider should be prohibited in Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 December 2002)


Ekaterinburg, 10 December 2002

We, the participants of the International Applied Science Conference "Totalitarian sects: The threat of religious extremism" that met under the sponsorship of the plenipotentiary representative of the president of the Russian federation in the Urals federal district, P.M. Latyshev--psychologists, psychiatrists, attorneys, theologians, researchers into sects, employees of MVDRF, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, other state institutions, institutions of higher education, public organizations, centers of information about destructive cults, and ministers of traditional religions, citizens of various countries, people of various nationalities, convictions, and confessions--we believe that a threat to human rights and democratic freedoms hangs over several countries of eastern Europe, and Russia in particular, one of whose sources is totalitarian sects (destructive cults).  The unrestrained activity of totalitarian sects (destructive  cults), which bears the character of unconcealed expansion that causes irreparable harm to the health of people and violates fundamental human rights, poses a threat to family, society, and the state.

Totalitarian sects are defined as especially authoritarian organizations whose leaders, striving for control over their followers and for their exploitation, conceal their intentions under religious, politico-religious, psychotherapeutic, health, educational, scientific-informational, cultural, and other guises.  Totalitarian sects take recourse to deceit, silence, and persistent propaganda to attract new members and to other unethical means for control of the personality, to psychological pressure, and to intimidation and other forms of retaining their members within their organizations. Thus totalitarian sects violate the human right to freedom of an informed choice of world view and way of life.

In the opinion of conference participants, the danger of totalitarian sects consists, in particular, in their authoritarian structure that often violates generally accepted democratic values, in that their fundamental ideology and claims to the absolute correctness of their leaders in the matter of the "way to salvation of the soul" deceive people and completely take control of those who are seeking conversion and new orientation for themselves. The danger also consists in the unconditional submission of their members, for which sometimes highly refined threats are employed.

The negative consequences of membership in these sects can include the following: interruption of the school and professional education of members and radical changes in their personalities and loss of perception of reality, which can lead to conflicts with relatives and other close friends. In addition, as a result of the changes in orientation and world view, as well as by the sects' use of methods of influencing people's psyches, psychosocial problems can arise.

Alienation of members of a sect from the external world, focus on the inner world, aggression against sect members and outsiders in the fanatical defense of the ideology about salvation of souls, as well as rejection of rational thought in all this are considered dangerous consequences. The tendency to dependency, loss of autonomy, and isolation that are inculcated into the personality of people often are intensified by the cohesive nature of such groups.  Deception by means of covert means of manipulation and psychological pressure, as well as the deliberate intrusion of these sects into the sphere of politics and economics, reveal the danger of totalitarian organizations.

The practice of psychological pressure, the exploitation of the finances and labor of converts, their social isolation and total restriction of personal liberty by means of methods of manipulation and thought control, the harm caused to the psyche and health, and a number of fatal incidents force one to the conclusion that in their activity totalitarian sects systematically violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular:

--article 3, that declares: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

--article 4 "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms." They actually participate not only in criminal trafficking in people but also often create for their converts genuinely slave conditions (for example, the "Church of Scientology" sect, and others).

--In some sects article 5 is violated in practice, which says "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." (For example, the "Society of Krishna Consciousness")

--violation of Article 12:  "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, [or] family," which is the perpetual practice of totalitarian sects (for example, the neo-charismatic sects and others).

--In some sects (in particular, the sect of Rev. Moon) violation of points 2 and 3 of article 16 ("Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.") has achieved the status of cult doctrine.

--Violation of article 17, which declares that "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property," is the effective goal of the creation of a majority of destructive cults. In the process the use of methods of manipulation and force bear an especially refined character.

--Using methods of deceptive persuasion, informational isolation and mind control, and exploitation of fears for the purpose of retaining converts, all totalitarian sects violate article 18, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief," article 19, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media," and point 2 of article 1 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (resolution 36/55 of the General Assembly of UNO), "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice."

--The use of psychological pressure during evangelism leads one to contemplate violation of point 2 of article 20, "No one may be compelled to belong to any kind of association."

--Social isolation of converts, that is, their separation from social processes that is practiced in a number of sects (for example, among "Jehovah's Witnesses") violates article 21, "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives," as well as article 29, "Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible," (for example, besides "Jehovah's Witnesses," a number of neo-charismatic sects, "Society of Krishna Consciousness," and others).

--The strict regulation of the conduct and the use of unpaid or poorly paid labor, by means of psychological compulsion, violates article 23, "Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.," as well as articles 24 and 25.

--Article 26, "Everyone has the right to education," is violated by a number of totalitarian sects who practice effective deprivation of converts and their children of this right.

--Violation of article 27 is characteristic for almost every one of the totalitarian sects: "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."

--The practice of illegal recruitment of minors directly violates point 2 of article 5 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, "Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents or legal guardians, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle," and point 5 of the same article, "Practices of a religion or belief in which a child is brought up must not be injurious to his physical or mental health or to his full development."

Also the activity of totalitarian sects violates a number of other international documents and provisions of national legislation of the Russian federation and other countries that cannot be cited within the dimensions of the current concluding declaration.

What is said above is the reason for active social and governmental policies of European countries and the Council of Europe directed to the defense of civil rights from the threat of totalitarian sects. Aware that democratic principles face the threat of a new danger that is to a great extent similar, according to German analysts of sects, with nazism, Europe has adopted a number of measures that restrict the destructive activity of sects. In connection with this, as well as in connection with the increasingly informed population in western Europe, the epicenter of sectarian activity has been transplanted into the countries of eastern Europe.

The mistaken stereotype that any cultic group is good since "it conveys faith in something better" has received undeserved dissemination in Russia and a number of other eastern European countries. The result of this was the emergence of a very large number of destructive cults, surpassing their number in countries of the European Community.

Proceeding from what is said above and on the basis of a decision of the Assembly of the Council of Europe of 22 June 1999 that stated the necessity of creating a European organization for tracking the groups of a religious, esoteric, or spiritualist type that would substantially facilitate the exchange of information among corresponding centers of member states and that stated that the Council of Europe also must undertake actions for encouraging the creation of informational centers in the countries of central and eastern Europe, we make the following appeals:

--To the Council of Europe, deputies of the European Parliament, and leadership of FECRIS (European Federation of Centers of Research and Information about Sectarianism), appealing for increasing the activity directed to the protection of civil liberties from sectarian totalitarianism in countries of eastern Europe and for providing comprehensive help to eastern European antisectarian organizations and for conducting informational policies directed to informing the authorities of eastern European countries about the European position with regard to the dangers of totalitarian sects.

--To the governmental authorities of Russia and other countries of eastern Europe with the suggestion for adopting strict measures (including legislative ones) on the model of civilized European countries (for example, France, Belgium, and Germany) for restricting the destructive activity of sects. We insist upon faithfulness to the position of the Council of Europe that "exercise of the right to freedom of conscience must not be effected at the expense of the rights of other citizens."

--To eastern European organizations (public, religious, scientific, personal) that conduct research and informational and rehabilitation activity in the sphere of the protection of families and individuals from totalitarian sects and psychological pressure: the necessity of coordinated cooperation of eastern European organizations became ripe long ago, which would permit more productive exchange of experience, scientific procedures, and information, and consolidated cooperation with national authorities, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations in resolving problems of the strength of totalitarian sects in eastern Europe. Conference participants support the initiative presented to the International Applied Science Conference "Totalitarian sects: threat to human rights in eastern Europe," held 8-10 October 2002 in the city of Vinnitsa (Ukraine), creating a confederated eastern European organization, and they propose to their colleagues in countries of eastern Europe that they join in this initiative.

--We call the news media to warn citizens about the dangers of destructive cults. Only reliable information provides hope for defense against deceit and psychological pressure. We consider necessary more complete information on the pages of newspapers and television and radio broadcasts not only about the danger of sects but also about the methods of psychological manipulation and mind control. In our turn we are prepared to cooperate by all means with the news media not only in preparing materials but also in the event of sectarian attempts to choke out freedom of speech.

We also call all constructive forces to cooperate in the resolution of this acute social problem.

Adopted 11 December 2002, unanimously, by 303 participants in the conference, citizens of the Russian federation, Ukraine, Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, and representatives of twelve dioceses of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches.  (tr. by PDS, posted 16 December 2002)

Appendix: List of Destructive Sects

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Baptist leader denounces leaked government document


"On 5 December the news media disseminated the contents of a draft report 'On improvement of the activity of state and public institutions in combating manifestations of religious extremism in the Russian federation.' [RRN translation] This text is a working document of the report which is being prepared for a joint session of the Security Council, the State Council, and the Council on Relations with Religious Organizations of the presidential administration of RF that is scheduled for the beginning of next year." [from Slavic Legal Center]

Those who prepared this report, moved by patriotic feelings and concern for defense of the state from religious extremism, clearly have overreached. Their suggested classification of religious extremist groups gives evidence of the incompetence of the report's drafters, at best. There is every reason to think that this work expresses the attitude of government workers, in particular their extremism, and since they work in the Russian government then this is governmental extremism.

Although Baptists are not named among the extremist religious organizations, this does not give us the right to overlook such a categorical division of the Christian world and the sweeping designation of all who are not Orthodox as extremists. Baptists have always followed their own principles, one of which declares "Freedom of conscience for all."  Today we declare with all responsibility and the right given to us by God: such documents as the above named one encourage extremism since, in essence, they are extremist.

I call the attention of the president and members of the Security Council to the fact that by dividing Russian citizens into loyal and disloyal on the basis of religious identity the government workers have directly violated the constitution. I would like to say that the consequences of such actions are not foreseeable, but I am sure that the proposed actions, without doubt, will lead us into conflicts and opposition and will not lessen the tensions within society but will strengthen them. The silence of the prosecutor general, who is called to see to the observance of legality in the country, encourages lawlessness on the part of the state.

With love for the fatherland,
Yury Sipko
President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Liberal newspaper alarmed by church's role

by Boris Kolymagin
Vremia MN, 11 December 2002

The Kadyrov-Zorin report has reproduced the rhetorical figures of church radicals. It seems that the conception of religion-state relations in contemporary Russia is undergoing serious changes and a doctrine of the "established church" is emerging to the fore. This is evidenced by the draft of a report that already has produced considerable commotion, which was prepared for a joint session of the Security Council, State Council, and Council for Relations with Religious Organizations of the presidential administration.

More than thirty government employees under the leadership of Akhmad Kadyrov and Minister Vladimir Zorin worked on it. The text of the document, whose formal subject is "religious extremism" in Russia in effect places outside the law a majority of religious associations. Among the threats to national security, first place goes to the Catholics, then the protestants and representatives of new "religious" movements, and only far behind do Islamic fundamentalists loom. Why the list was constructed this way one can only guess. It is evident to the naked eye that under the banner of struggle with "extremism," the "ministry of the Orthodox confession" is "soaking" its competitors.

Only recently the Moscow patriarchate declared that it opposed "establishmentarianism." Refusal to participate in the doubtful project titled a "Russian Orthodox state" is ceremoniously established in the social doctrine of RPTs. However recent events cast doubts on these intentions. We see a vigorous movement of religion into the state spheres. RPTs is lobbying for the introduction into the basic, that is universally obligatory, school curriculum of a "Foundations of Orthodox Culture" course. Using the power agencies it is combating its spiritual competitors and controlling the activity of foreign missions.

And the secular politicians are not lagging behind in "establishmentarianism." Thus Sergei Glazev promoted the "valuable" initiative for granting RPTs the same status as institutions of law enforcement and education. On the agenda is the question of the recreation of a Council on Religious Affairs, a new Ministry of Cults, which would inevitably intrude into the activity of religious associations.

At the beginning of perestroika the ringing phrase "the church is separated from the state but not from society" was widely trumpeted. However genuine dialogue between church and society never occurred during the years of the so-called "religious renaissance." There were many reasons for this, chief among which was connected with the triumph of fundamentalism within the church gates. Actually, who wants to get into a conversation with people who continually fulminate about a "secret world conspiracy" and trumpet fables about the ritual murder of Nicholas II and earnestly discuss the introduction of censorship?

Unfortunately, notorious organizations like radio station "Radonezh," on whose waves one can hear many extremist expressions, find support in the leadership of the church. By way of contrast, priests who depart from the "general line" are subjected to all possible forms of repression. In order not to go too far, one can take the example of the parish of Fr Georgy Kochetkov, which was actively engaged in evangelistic work, translation of the liturgy into comprehensible language, aid to children in orphanages, and the like. For many years now, this congregation of thousands that was deprived of its parish as a result of fundamentalist impediments has been leading a semi-underground existence, wandering from church to church. And it seems that such a state of affairs suits church leaders who are actively supporting the state in the ideological field. The rift between the clergy and believers does not bother them much.

It is curious that the ideology of fundamentalism has become the currency in bureaucratic games. The Kadyrov-Zorin report is reproducing precisely the ways and rhetorical figures of the church radicals, beginning with the unscientific term "totalitarian sects" and ending with the image of the enemy foreigner. The doctrine of the "established church" is by no means a realistic understanding of the place of religion in the contemporary world. The prospect of its development could harm both the church and the state: the church, because it would deliver the death blow to the growth of parish community life; the state, because it would place in doubt the positive contribution of religion. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2002)

Vremia MN, 11 December 2002

Relations between the state and religious organizations have taken on surprising piquancy recently. First society was roiled by the attempt of the Ministry of Education to introduce the "History of Orthodox Culture" course into the schools. Then the so-called Kadyrov-Zorin report about the struggle with religious extremism. From the countryside comes news of the struggle with foreigner preachers. Finally, it has become known that some kind of conception is being prepared calling for drawing a line in the state's conduct with regard to confessions that are traditional and nontraditional for Russia. What does all of this mean? Has the government decided finally to fix its position or is religion trying to occupy a more prominent place in the secular state? (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2002)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Leaked government report provokes hysteria

by Nadezhda Kevorkova
Gazeta, 5 December 2002

A sensational document has come into Gazeta's possession -- it is a draft report to a joint session of the Security Council, State Council, and the Russian President's Council for Collaboration With Religious Organizations. The report is devoted to religious extremism. Under the leadership of Akhmad Kadyrov and Minister Vladimir Zorin, some 32 officials and one expert worked on it. The officials have set down Catholics, Protestants, sectarians, and foreigners as extremists -- that is, everyone except Orthodox adherents, Buddhists, and for the time being, Jews.

The 15-page text is [RRN translation] devoted to recommendations for countering religious extremism in Russia. The very fact of the quantitative growth of registered religious associations over the past decade (up from 20 to 69) is assessed as alarming.

Extremism, the document says, is characteristic of "certain religious associations and is manifested in religious fanaticism...the use of religious symbols and phraseology for political and other ends." Extremists are those who conduct the "propaganda of exclusivity, of the supremacy, or inferiority of citizens according to their attitude to religion and according to what social, racial, ethnic, or linguistic group they may belong."

"Disrespectful Attitude Toward Traditional Religions at Every-Day Level"

The Roman catholic church which has declared Russian territory to be an "ecclesiastical province" and which is trying to persuade "certain priests and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to defect to Catholicism" (that is exactly how the names of the religions are written [i.e. distinction between upper and lower case] in the document -- Gazeta note) occupies first place in the ranking of threats to national security in the report.

The second threat to Russia's security emanates from the Protestants and the dynamics of their growth. "Under the guise of rendering humanitarian aid, many new protestant organizations are molding in various groups of the population a stance of self-alienation as regards the Russian state....national traditions, way of life, and culture." In the Far East "new protestant organizations" have developed "whose headquarters are located abroad," namely in South Korea and the United States.

In the officials' opinion religious extremism demonstrates "a disrespectful attitude toward traditional religions," "including at everyday level."

In third place, in terms of their danger, stand "representatives of foreign pseudo-religious communities" (Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, Scientologists, and so forth), Satanists (it is not clear from the text whether they mean our own or overseas Satanists), "religious groupings (! --Gazeta) based on various trends of Eastern religious teachings." "At the instructions of their controlling centers, their representatives make attempts to penetrate the structures of the organs of authority, the Army, and the law enforcement agencies for the purpose of collecting information and exerting influence on the adoption of important political decisions and of disseminating the ideology of total license and egoism."

The fourth place is allocated to Islamic extremists who are also the fruit of the work done by foreigners and hostile special services. "Their plans...include setting the interests of Russian Muslims at odds with the interests of the state and of society."

"The confrontation between Russian Muslim leaders is hampering the unification of the organizational and material resources of Islam in is reducing the effectiveness of efforts to counter extremism." And foreigners are also to blame for this because they are "inspiring conflicts between representatives of various trends in Islam." Now "more than 2,000 Russian citizens are undergoing instruction abroad," and over the decade more than 20,000 have been trained.

It is interesting that the main exposer of Wahhabism, Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin himself, studied at the Egyptian Al Azhar University. Many clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church, all the leaders of the catholic community, Rabbi Shayevich and Rabbi Berl Lazar have also studied abroad. And are those children who study in Britain and Israel indeed dangerous too? After all, religious instruction is compulsory over there.

"A tendency to drive out loyal and law-abiding clergy and replace them with younger and more educated graduates of foreign study centers has taken shape," and this is a separate form of "the threat to the interests of the country's national security."

The fifth substantive threat is the "attempts to impose on Russian society the idea of a conflict of civilizations and of allegedly irreconcilable contradictions between Christians and Muslims." However the report does not name the source of this threat. Further on it points out that "one of the global consequences of the events of 11 September in the United States, and also of the events of October 2002 in Moscow has been the ubiquitous growth of Islamophobia, which is being fanned by certain of the mass media." This theme also goes undeveloped.

"Deliberate Mockery of What the Church Holds Sacred"

"One ought to proceed from the fact that this (religious extremism -- Gazeta) is a long-term factor...and it is scarcely going to prove possible to overcome it and also the concomitant terrorist threat, in the foreseeable future." But some achievements are cited in the report.

"In Astrakhan Oblast, a missionary, Sool Rayt of the Estonian Christian Church (Pentecostals), has been exposed and deported." The Komi Prosecutor's Office is working with some Jehovah's Witnesses: The head of the Pechora branch has been held administratively accountable, a man and wife by the name of Waldowski, who are citizens of Germany and regional supervisors of the sect, have been banned from entering Russia for a period of 5 years. Some 14 foreigners whose actions are deemed to be a threat, have been deported" from Tatarstan. The report fails to make any mention of the five Catholics who were stripped of their visas and equally the case of the Dalai Lama who was refused a visa.

Official written warnings, the officials report, have been given to the newspapers Slavyanin, Erzyan Mastor, Urlaskaya Zhizn, Kazachiy Krug, Russkaya Obshchina Yekaterinburga -- for the "deliberate propaganda of the supremacy of one religion over another and for mockery of what the Church holds sacred."

It is surprising that neither the odious organizations like the Union of Orthodox Citizens, or Radonezh, nor the so-called phenomenon of mladostarchestvo [young inexperienced priests who arrogate the right to make believers submit to their will] which was condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church Synod back in 1998, are mentioned in the report as a threat to Russian security.

On the other hand the following words are highlighted in red: "of important significance in the context of strengthening the Russian Orthodox Church's external contacts are the decisions of its Most Holy Synod concerning the transformation of the permanent delegation of the Moscow patriarchate at the European Union into a mission of the Moscow Brussels." As effective measures, it is recommended that the special services "constantly track" the activity of religious extremists in Arab countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Great Britain, and Italy, and also in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The Wahhabites in Azerbaijan have already been counted up -- there are 7,000 of them there and as regards Georgia, "there is information about the growth of Wahhabism among the Kists." But there is no mention in the report about various home-grown nationalist groupings, armed Cossack formations, or skinheads.

The Ministry of Belief

A sensational proposal is also made in the field of state building: "The question of forming a federal body handling problems of ethnic and state-religious relations should be examined." In plainer speech this comes down to the creation of a Ministry for Religious and Nationalities Affairs, the idea for which is contained in the draft law on amendments to the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" of 1997. According to Gazeta's information, one of the claimants to the post of head of this ministry is Akhmad Kadyrov. According to a number of assessments by experts, the very posing of this question of a ministry for religions attests to the fact that even in the working group there is no complete unity and far from all its participants are pursuing the line of the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad who is head of the Moscow Patriarchate's External Church Relations Section, stated back in January 2002, when people had begun talking about some kind of semblance of a ministry, that such an institution "would work not as a partner of religious associations but as a department standing over them," and that "the very nature of such a department would prompt it to interfere in the affairs of religious associations."

The draft is wide ranging and worked out in detail, including a system of ethnoconfessional monitoring, state support for traditional religious organizations, religious education, and the provision of state standards for it. As regards education, "the creation of a single educational area" is proposed -- experts have been talking for several years now about the need for this.

In the legal sphere it is recommended that the "arousal of ethnic, racial, and religious enmity" be transferred to the category of grave crimes punishable by a term of up to six years and criminal liability ought to be introduced for the production and dissemination of printed matter and video recordings with an extremist content.

It is recommended that the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" should "make provision for the centralized religious organization to be held liable for the unlawful activity...of local organizations," that "hypnosis or the use of narcotics on an individual" be banned, and that "a standard (written) form of consent by parents...for the participation of minors in the activity of religious organizations be drawn up."

In other words a monk transcribes a leaflet directed against the INN [Taxpayer's Identification number], but the archbishop has to take the rap for this. Shamans who eat magic mushrooms are banned. And children can go to Mass only if they have a notarized authorization from their parents. But everything pales in the face of the demand for the "imposition of a temporary injunction, pending a decision by the court, for the seizure of the print runs of books of controversial content." From certain people's viewpoint, everything that has been written is controversial, from Tolstoy to Pelevin. And the sacred texts themselves are full of assertions that are shared only by the adherents of the particular religious denomination in question. This report focuses on all the modern ideological trends of religious-state relations and it is for this reason that it produces the impression not of an integral product but of a "struggle of opinions." It would be simplest of all to accept the assumption that this document is the latest "product" of the Russian Orthodox Church's "intrigues." As Church historian Dmitriy Pospelovskiy said in an interview with Gazeta "the present relations between the president and the patriarch are far more restrained than during Yeltsin's time The church is now keeping its distance." But on the other hand there is now religion in school. Gazeta was the first to raise this topic. This document in part sheds light on the mechanism of this development. (tr. by FBIS, posted 12 Dedember 2002)


Statement from the Slavic Legal Center and the Institute of Religion and Law regarding the draft of a report by a working group of the presidium of the State Council of the Russian Federation.

On 5 December the news media disseminated the contents of a draft report "On improvement of the activity of state and public institutions in combating manifestations of religious extremism in the Russian federation." This text is a working document of the report which is being prepared for a joint session of the Security Council, the State Council, and the Council on Relations with Religious Organizations of the presidential administration of RF that is scheduled for the beginning of next year.

This draft effectively places outside the law all, with a few exceptions, religious associations of Russia, and it also justifies any anticonstitutional measures with regard to these organizations, including total surveillance, intrusion into the personal lives of believers, the creation of an intolerable moral climate around religious associations, and the introduction of repressive legislation that restricts the activity of religious associations.

As noted by the newspaper "Gazeta," which was the first to publish this information, "32 government employees and one expert worked on the report under the leadership of Akhmad Kadyrov and Minister Vladimir Zorin." The text of the document contains recommendations for combating religious extremism in Russia, of which the chief agents and conduits, according to the text, are the Roman Catholic church, protestant religious associations, and "foreign pseudoreligious societies" and "religious groups based on various forms of eastern religions." The document indicates that the activity of these associations "does not violate provisions of existing Russian legislation." Nevertheless, in violation of fundamental legal principles, the government workers considered it possible to accuse indiscriminately all these religions of extremist manifestations which, in particular, include "activity directed to the violent change of the bases of the constitutional order and violation of the integrity of the Russian federation, undermining the security of RF, creation of illegal armed formation, and commission of terrorist activity" and other acts that are punishable in accordance with the law. Also the Roman Catholic church is accused of activity "on traditional Orthodox territories of the Russian federation," and protestants are accused of "a persistent tendency to grow quantitatively" and providing humanitarian aid to citizens.

The Slavic Legal Center and the Institute of Religion and Law express amazement and concern that such a blatantly incompetent and anticonstitutional draft could be used by a working group even as a working document. The premise of the outright accusation of several religious organization of extremism by virtue of their confessional affiliation and supposed foreign origins cannot serve as a valid basis for developing recommendations that could really facilitate the mitigation of the threat of religious extremism. It is more likely that the result will be a strengthening of interconfessional and interethnic tension in the country.

It is alarming that the report views as positive measures taken by state agencies in the struggle with religious extremism such notorious actions as expulsion of Catholic and protestant clergy from the country. These measures have already evoked sharp protest on the part of the international community. The draft of the report recommends "to expose and put an end to activity on the territory of the Russian federation of various forms of totalitarian sects and organizations of a destructive character," which includes Pentecostals in particular.  We note that representatives of the Pentecostal movement are members of the Council for Relations with Religious Associations of the presidential administration of RF, which is supposed to participate in the discussion of this report. In this context, reference to the authority of the UN and provisions of international law seem especially cynical.

In the course of the past few years such illegal methods in dealing with non-Orthodox religious associations as unsanctioned secret videotaping of worship services, intrusion into the private lives of believers, and circulation of unsubstantiated and slanderous information have become entrenched in the practice of security agencies. Unfortunately it is necessary to conclude that legal and religious ignorance is becoming, to an ever greater extent, the norm of the life and activity of law enforcement agencies and executive offices, including at the federal level. Texts like the draft of this report on combating extremism only facilitate the legalization of such activity, which is absolutely intolerable in a democratic and law-based state. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2002)

Mir religii, 5 December 2002

Today Russian Minister for Affairs of the Federation and National and Migration Policy Vladimir Zorin spoke on air with the "Echo of Moscow" radio station. In today's issue of Gazeta he was named as one of the leaders of the group that prepared a report devoted to religious extremism for an upcoming joint session of the State Council, Security Council, and Council for Relations with Religious Organizations of the presidential administration of the Russian federation. Lengthy excerpts from the draft of this document were published by Gazeta and gave rise to sharp comments on the part of politicians and religious leaders.

Referring to this article from which it appears that Catholics, protestants, and sectarians are included among the religious extremists in Russia, V. Zorin noted with amazement that he is not acquainted with this document. "I cannot figure out what this text is, but a number of the quotations from it could not be used in documents at such a level," he said, adding that "such a text will not come out of the working group." The minister declared that the joint session mentioned in today's Gazeta will really be held at the beginning of next year.

According to the minister, the draft of a report for the joint session is being prepared by a special working group headed by the chief of the administration of the Chechen republic, Akhmad Kadyrov. Zorin noted that the subject of the report is directly connected with "combating extremist activity under religious banners." Zorin reported that the text of the report, on which experts have been working, "nowhere equates any kind of confession or religious organization and extremism," and "it stresses that Islam is a religion of peace."  "Today extremism is a serious challenge to our society," he noted, "but all people who have been working on this report are concerned that the notion of extremism not be associated with any specific nationality or specific confession." The minister added that in the process of working on the document "consultations with specialists from religious associations and organizations are being conducted."

In Zorin's opinion, it is necessary to create in Russia an institution for resolving questions of relations between the state and religious associations. He thinks that such an institution should help solve "common tasks in partnership that today face both the state and religious associations." At the same time the minister stressed that in creating such an office it is necessary to consider in the first place the opinion of religious associations and confessions. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2002)

by Oksana Yablokova
Moscow Times, 9 December 2002

A group of government officials and religion experts has drafted a report that identifies the Roman Catholic Church and other "foreign confessions" as potential threats to national security and urges law enforcement agencies to closely monitor their activities.

The report, which is currently undergoing final touches, is an examination of the development of religious extremism and is not intended to provide the basis for a government order, said Nationalities Minister Vladimir Zorin, who is co-authoring the document with Chechen administration head Akhmad Kadyrov and 33 other officials.

The group's findings, however, provide an insight into the thought about religious issues in government circles.

A section of the draft report, titled "Assessment of Threats to National Security Related to Religious Extremism," contains a list topped by the Catholic Church. Protestants are ranked No. 2 - although no faiths are specified - and the list is rounded out by what the draft calls pseudo-religious organizations, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists and Satanists.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, says some "foreign confessions" have rapidly expanded over the past decade and crowded out traditional Russian faiths - namely, the Russian Orthodox Church, Judaism and Buddhism, the only faiths to escape criticism in the report, which also attacks radical Islam.

"A disrespectful attitude toward traditional Russian confessions helps lay the foundation for religious extremism," the report said. This paves the way for "religious hatred and antisocial actions on religious grounds, which in turn affects interstate relations," it said.

The draft calls for law enforcement agencies to strengthen control over religious organizations, suggesting that new departments be set up in the Interior and Justice ministries, the Federal Security Service and Prosecutor General's Office to fight religious extremism.

Catholic officials are dismayed by the draft. "How can a civilized society number a church with 2,000 years of history behind and does its best for resolving conflicts and fights with such frightening phenomenon as terrorism. This is unheard of," Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the head of the Catholic Church in Russia, told last week.

Kondrusiewicz is a member of the presidential council on cooperation with religious organizations, which will hear a presentation of the report next month at a joint session with the State Council and the Security Council.

Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have been tense for years, and several Catholic clergymen have been inexplicably denied Russian visas in recent months.

Vladimir Ryakhovsky, a lawyer who tracks religious freedom issues, slammed the draft Friday, saying it was "incompetent" to assign blame on religious organizations in the government's fight against extremism.

"By pronouncing Catholic and Protestant churches as the main sources of religious extremism, the authors are demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the related issues," he said.

Zorin stressed that the report was nothing more than an analysis.

"The purpose of the report is to analyze how confessions develop and expand in Russia," he said in an interview. "It is just a statement of fact that there is tension between the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church." He said the report aimed to provide recommendations to reconcile various faiths rather than provoke new conflicts.

Russia Religion News Current News Items

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,