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

Moscow continues harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses Office of public information, 23 May 2003

Yesterday, the Golovinsky District Court ordered the Russian government to pay for a philological-psycho/linguistic expert study to be conducted on the literature of Jehovah's Witnesses published in the past ten years.
The study will be carried out by The Institute of the Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and one psycho-linguist, Konstantin Igoryevich Alekseyev. Judge Vera Dubinskaya did not set a time limit for the study.

"This is nothing more than a determination to find experts who will support a ban on JehovahÕs Witnesses," stated Artur Leontyev, defense attorney. "There has been expert study upon expert study since 1996 in the effort to refute key charges in this trial. This new attempt will only further draw out this harassment of JehovahÕs Witnesses in the courts. The last time an expert study was appointed in April 2002, a ten-month delay resulted."

One sociological study entitled The Family and the Bible, conducted by A.I. Antonov, head of the Department of Family Sociology at the Lomonsov Moscow State University, established that the religion of JehovahÕs Witnesses "plays an important role in strengthening the institute of the family." In particular it shows a divorce rate among JehovahÕs Witnesses of less than 5 percent compared with 40 percent among the general population of Moscow. The study also revealed a much higher level of education among JehovahÕs Witnesses (when compared with that of the average Muscovite), which tends toward independent rational thinking and decision-making. "Tolerant attitudes and conduct improve the longer a person is a Witness," said Professor Antonov.

JehovahÕs Witnesses are registered in 399 communities in 72 regions throughout the Russian Federation. In November 2002 an appeal court in Chelyabinsk ruled that the rights of JehovahÕs Witnesses to be registered as a legal entity were protected under the Russian Constitution and the European Convention. Moscow remains the exception to re-registration under the 1997 religion law.

There are now over 130,000 active Witnesses in Russia, and this year 282,433 persons attended the commemoration of the death of Christ.

Jehovah's Witnesses Office of public information, 14 May 2003

The trial in which the prosecution aims to ban Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow, now in its seventh year, resumed today in the Golovinsky Intermunicipal District Court.

Judge Vera K. Dubinskaya refused to admit a 2002 report accepted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from co-rapporteurs Mr. David Atkinson and Mr. Rudolf Bindig, who "regard the length of the judicial examination in this case as an example of harassment against a religious minority." In their report "Honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation," dated March 26, 2002, the co-rapporteurs called for the trial to be halted.

The prosecutor, Tatyana Kondratyeva, refused to answer questions on the report, even though in her complaint she charged the religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses with contravening the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In 2001 the prosecutor claimed that the application to ban the legal entity was a means to protect the rights and freedoms of all 10,000 Witnesses in Moscow. However, today she refused to say whom she is representing. "The law does not bind me to specify people," she stated. She later said: "I am not required to follow the letter of the law, only the spirit of the law."

Commenting on today's events in court, defense lawyer, Galina Krylova commented: "The prosecutor has failed to identify the plaintiff, will not state which articles in any of the Conventions Jehovah's Witnesses have allegedly violated, and snubs a report by Council of Europe officials. Her comments only confirm the co-rapporteurs' conclusions that this trial is a form of harassment and should be halted."

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Patriarch under control of confidantes

Voronezh metropolitan sent for strengthening Orthodoxy in Kazakhstan
by Viktor Samoletov
NG-religii, 21 May 2003

Looking at Orthodox church life, one becomes more and more convinced that it is terribly like our life--secular and political, that is, like the life of other rulers of this world, with their division into groupings, clans, and communities, with mutual hostility and ill-will.  And this is the way it was twenty or thirty years ago. We recall how the first secretaries of the provincial committees who in the opinion of the CPSU Central Committee were acting too independently or displeased the center were dispatched as ambassadors to some countries of people's democracy that were friendly to USSR.

And just like those old times, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church under the leadership of Patriarch Alexis II, without special fanfare or explanation, made the decision that Metropolitan Mefody Nemtsov of Voronezh and Lipetsk would be relieved of the administration of his diocese and appointed administrator of the newly created Astana-Alma-Ata metropolia, uniting all Orthodox dioceses of Kazakhstan. To his place in Voronezh was appointed permanent member of the synod and chancellor of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Sergius Fomin of Solnechnogorsk.

Analysts and reporters representing various secular publications began immediately to try to find in this story some kind of intrigues within the leadership of RPTs. According to some versions, it turned out that Mefody fell victim of his old positional struggle with Metropolitan Kiril Gundiaev, member of the Holy Synod and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate. Others believe that actually this happened due to the efforts of the above mentioned Metropolitan Sergius, who is the youngest and most promising protege of Patriarch Alexis in the synod. But he cannot be, as chancellor, simply one of the vicars (assistants) of the patriarch in the Moscow diocese, since Solnechnogorsk is not a diocese but just a village in the Moscow suburbs which you cannot detect on a big political map.  In general, everything is normal as among such folk the strongest win out.

However in all of this story there is some symptom of a disease arising in church life. At first glance it seems that at the present moment, when RPTs finds support from society and the government, the church has achieved for the first time since the bolshevik revolution its mature triumph. But this triumph and the very spirit of triumphalism immediately pose great dangers. We recall the significant stalinist expressiion, "Dizzy from success." Today the leadership of RPTs--Moscow patriarchate is trying to create a metropolitan region not only in Central Asia but also in western Europe, to unite all Orthodox Russian people who belong at the present time to different Orthodox churches in the West. From where does this assurance that all Orthodox of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and those under the Constantinople patriarchate certainly want to enter the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate come? Doesn't this remind one of the policy of the same stalinist leadership with regard to RPTs that seriously discussed after the restoration of the patriarchate in 1943 the possiblity of transferring the center of world Orthodoxy from Constantinople to Moscow?

Can our church, suffering the illnesses of growth and gradual liberation from the traumatic consequences of its existence under the communist regime, be the most attractive center for the Russian diaspora in western Europe?

The symptom that we see gives evidence that RPTs still has not emerged from the condition of stagnation of the soviet period, when aging and weakened patriarchs did not rule the church themselves but their confidantes did. In the 1970s, under Patriarch Alexis I, such a favorite was Danila Andreevich Ostapov (director of the financial administration) and in the 1980s under Patriarch Pimen, when Metropolitan Mefody headed the finance administration, all affairs in the patriarchate were managed by the wife of some Moscow deacon who was called behind her back "Nadezhda of all-Rus." It was then that the chancellor of the Moscow patriarchate Metropolitan Alexis Ridiger, our current patriarch, thanks to the intrigues of Pimen's circle, left this position and was forced to be satisfied with a transfer to the Leningrad see.

However time passes, and everything comes full circle. After becoming patriarch in 1990 at Gorbachev's age (at the time he was 61), the primate of RPTs very actively and dynamically lived through the last decade of the twentieth century, but his illness and rapidly advancing age have deprived him of the possibility of holding in his hands the power of administration of the church. Now Alexis II's innercircle, and that is primarily Archbishop Arseny of Istrina and the nun Filareta, also have direct influence on the current primate at the level of the making of decisions on important church questions and personnel policy. However, perhaps, as always, we should not complain about "times and manners."

Meanwhile, the former Voronezh metropolitan has been sent to develop the virgin lands of Kazakhstan. May God help him.  (tr. by PDS, posted 24 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Orthodox sect fighter interviewed

by Irma Kaplan
Konservator, 23 May 2003

Interview with Alexander Dvorkin, the chief sect fighter in Russia and originator of the term "totalitarian sect."

Tens of thousands of people hate Dvorkin. A few are grateful to him. Many people are in sects; not many leave them. But the author of the book "Sectarian studies," employee of the Moscow patriarchate, publicist and religion scholar Alexander Dvorkin continues to fight with sectarianism, not to life but to death. He is doing this with excitement and joy and thus it is extremely interesting to talk with him.

--Usually the people who fight with evil are those who suffered from it. But it seems that sects have not done anything bad to you personally.

--True, sects originally did not do any harm to me or to my family, praise God. When I returned to Russia from emigration and went to work at the newly opened Department of Catechization and Religious Education of the Moscow patriarchate relatives of persons who had fallen into the sects began coming to me. At that time we were talking about the "Bogorodichnyi center." As an historian I saw that certain of the positions of the "Bogorodichnyi center" were similar  to what I had studied in church history regarding sects of early Christianity. Then I was invited to describe this for representatives of the government of Moscow, and yet later I conducted a one day seminar on the "Bogorodichnyi center," where for the first time I used the term "totalitarian sect."

--So you are the inventor of the term?

--I learned that later. The expression itself was so obvious that I did not know that the term did not exist. So I began to engage in sectarian studies. A great role in my turning to the problem was played by Scientology, whose representatives came to me when I knew little about them. That is, I had heard that there was some kind of crazy organization, no more. I somehow participated in a conference of the "Dialogue" center in Denmark on the topic of Scientology and my name got into the press. After this Scientology came to get acquainted with me.

--To convert you?

--No, probably to frighten me. They said to me:  you have fallen into very bad company, so keep in mind that everybody who speaks out against Scientology come to a bad end. And I still had not gotten around to say anything about them. I then asked:  "Are you threatening me?" And they said: "No, we are warning you." That interested me very much.

--How strange! They threaten you and you get interested.

--But this really was interesting. What kind of organization is this that is so afraid of any critical information about itself?

--How do you think the open borders of Russia aided the outbreak of sectarianism?  Or is the sect, as suggested by the works of Etkind, the most organic form of religious life in Russia, and always was?

--Those sects were different. Khlisty, skoptsy, they could cause harm, but as a rule the "ships" of the Khlisty were led by insane persons or fanatics, and not by businessmen or manipulators. The modern sect is a completely different matter. It came from the West and the open borders, of course, playing their own role. But some of the totalitarian sects existed underground in USSR.  For example, "Jehovah's Witnesses." For example, Krishnaites, whose appearance in Russia is extremely enigmatic.

--Krishnaites do not really proclaim eastern beliefs, do they?

--No. The Society of Krishna Consciousness is a western belief system that arose in New York in 1966. It is a rather young organization with a small eastern entourage, a so-called pseudo-Hindu sect. It appeared in USSR in 1971, when its founder came here and walked the streets preaching and even converting a couple of people into the sect. And it seems the KGB did not notice all of this. Two years later a whole landing force of western Krishnaites arrived in Moscow for an international book fair, where they were allotted a stand along a whole wall.

--Why don't the higher ranks of the clergy with the help of the government put an end to the activity of such groupings?

--That is a question for the government. In our country the church is separated from the state and we are not able "to put an end" to anything. In order for something to change in this situation it requires political will. European governments do everything possible to protect their citizens from these organizations. That's not the way it is here; we yield to pressure from the United States, and they are interested in the proliferation of sects. But we should not think that this pertains exclusively to Russia; this pressure is put on both France and Germany. But they are simply able to withstand the blow, while we are not.

--Do the sectarians often take you to court?

--So far they have tried it only once. They lost miserably. A whole group of sects, Scientology, Moonies, Krishaites, Jehovah's Witnesses, well, a few Mormons took part, plus a small native "Sect of Peter." The main problem of the criminal activity of the sects is in their extremely complex  argumentation. If they put a religious mask on their deception, everything becomes more complex. For a crime there has to be a victim, but if a person enters a sect he categorically refuses to recognize himself as a victim. When he leaves the sect it turns out to be the testimony of one person against all.

--Is the composition of the sects somehow different in the provinces and in the capitals?

--The concentration in Moscow is thicker. Any sect that wants to appear on a national level begins with attempts to get established in the capital. There is such a quantity of arrivals here, people who are full of the hope of getting something. It is a broad and propitious field for various scams.

--Modern paganism, is that also a sect?

--It is a new organization or, better, a gathering that consists of a multitude of various tiny sects. All neopagan organizations are innovations that have nothing to do with ancient paganism, which once existed among the ancient Slavs, but which died out long ago.

--And are Wahhabis a totalitarian sect?

--Wahhabism is the official religion of Saudi Arabia , and their ideology is the field on which the sects of terror breed.

--Which of the sects today is most active and popular?

--Neopentecostals, at the present time, are one of the most numerous sectarian movements in Russia. Now members of the neopentecostal sects in our country are no less than 250,000, and maybe 300,000. That is as many followers as all the other groups taken together have (with the exception of Jehovah's Witnesses): Scientology, Krishnaites, Moonies, "Church of Christ," "Bogorodichnyi center," Vissarion and his sect, "Sakhaja-Yoga," Mormons, "Brahman Kumaris," the sect of Porfiry Ivanov, satanists, and a bunch of others.

--What is the essence of their teaching?

--In two words:  dynamic scam. Present-day neopentecostals have a very direct relationship to historic pentecostals. It is an occultic movement that preaches that a real Christian should be healthy, happy, wealthy, and prosperous. If he is not, that means he is not a real Christian. Thus it is necessary to know the laws of the spiritual world and know how by using them to demand of God wealth, health, and prosperity. And who does not want to be healthy and wealthy? And soon they begin thinking that they are healthy and wealthy regardless of what happens really. In order to grow rich, they explain to you, it is necessary to begin giving money to the sect, and the more you give, the sooner you will get rich. In the final analysis the difference between the real state of affairs and what, according to the neopentecostals' faith, things should be leads to the most tragic events. Recently on Pogodin street one neopentecostal went crazy, and many have gone crazy there, and he cut the throats of his mother and grandmother. According to statistics, 93% of the members of this sect are psychologically sick, and 25% attempt suicide.

--Do the neopentecostals evangelize like the Jehovah's Witnesses? Do they come up to you meekly and ask for a little attention?

--No, they "invite you to a remarkable gathering." It is not hard to recognize an evangelist. I have a small book on this topic, "Ten questions for the insistent stranger." Whether he is a neopentecostal, moonie, or scientologist, it's not important. First it is necessary to display, if you will, a healthy doubt. When they suggest something completely fantastic to you, let's say, work where there is no need to do anything only to get easy money.

--What, they evangelize with work?

--Of course. These are all commercial cults.  "Herbal Life" for example. Or cosmic products from the "Reiki" centers that treat illness with cosmic energy for money. This is another one of the pseudomedicinal cults. There the game is a no-lose thing. "Reiki" is cosmic energy that comes from the palms of the "master," and it heals when and whom it wants to. There are no guarantees. If you are not healed, it means the "reiki" did not wish it. The only thing good that can be said is that they do not advise discontinuing your medicines. If you are going to a doctor, keep going, but if you get well, then it was the "reiki" that healed you. If the sects told the truth about themselves, I would not have any criticism. But they would not have any followers. The task of a sect is to grab the person before he learns anything about it.

--It is hard to imagine that Kondraty Selivanov  took payment for membership in his sect of skoptsy. Perhaps sectarianism now is an offshoot of business that you are interfering with?

--That is a good comparison. In history there were some sects that renounced the world and went off into the taiga and lived their own life. That was, at least, honorable. Current-day sects are like businesses and they renounce the world but are not able to live without it. That is, they do not produce anything themselves. They need to collect resources, financial and human. They pump out of a young man his health and money and after a few years, when his resources drop it is easier to abandon him and win over a new adept.

--Should true faith permit the presence of reason, which continually doubts, or does reason merely interfere with all-consuming faith?

--Faith without reason is fanaticism. Actually there should be doubt. Truth does not fear it. The lie fears doubt and fears being exposed. It hates reason and loves a trance--that is the sign of sectarian consciousness.  The trance reveals, as a rule, a dark reality. The basis of the Orthodox spiritual life is sobriety. Reason is never abandoned; it should always be with a person. We even have a saying: "When you enter the church, take of your hat but not your head." (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russian internal ministry resumes fight against Muslim head scarves in passports


The Russian MVD asked the presidium of the Supreme Court of RF to overturn the decision that permits being photographed for passports in head coverings. At the press service of MVD, RIA Novosti was told that on 23 May a representative of this ministry sent to the presidium of the court a judicial complaint in connection with the case challenging the instructions of the ministry regarding the image of the photograph in the passport of a citizen of Russia.

The complaint contains a request from Russian MVD to overturn the determination of the Appeals College of the Supreme Court of 15 May 2003 that ruled favorably on the request of a number of citizens to be photographed for their passports in head scarves in accordance with their religious convictions. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Muslim journalists unite

by Mikhail Tulsky, 22 May 2003

On 21 May in Moscow, in the building of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of the European Part of Russia (DUMER), a conference of editors of Muslim news media was held, in which not only editors and journalists and not only of the Muslim media.

The first part of the event that lasted around two hours consisted of statements by organizers of the event and official persons and invited guests. The chairman of DUMER and the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, noted the continuous growth of Muslim societies and educational institutions in the past years. Ravil-Khazrat approved the decision of the Supreme Court permitting Muslim women to be photographed for their passports in hijab, and he complained about Islamophobia in the news media, noting that it is time for Muslims of Russia to create their own media that will defend the secular image of Islam from unjust attacks and that Muslim journalists must unite their efforts for this. As a specific example of Islamophobia, Ravil Gainutdin described the story of the opening of the "wahhabi case" against Kazi [i.e. Muslim priest] Danis Davletov of Sverdlovsk, which was terminated when the provincial authorities responded to an inquiry from SMR by saying that the case was closed and all accusations against the kazi were cancelled; but nevertheless the news media continued to publish those accusations.

The "escalation of Islamophobia" in Russia also has been observed in recent years by the leader of the Eurasian party, State Duma Deputy Abdul-Vakhed Niiazov, who shared his thoughts about the fate of the country.  "Russia may withstand military pressure, all the way to intervention. But Russia will not survive if there is a division on the basis of ethno-confessional identity. The example of USSR proves this." Niiazov noted also that "Mahatma Gandhi paid with his life when he said that Muslims were a part of India. He knew to what it would lead, but Gandhi was not frightened." And now everybody should understand that "Muslims are an inseparable part of Russia, which is a Eurasian country." For this it also is necessary to create a Union of Muslim Journalists (SMZh), the leader of the Eurasian party thinks.

The president of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vsevolod Bogdanov, recalled the conflicts in Yugoslavia, where "confessional conflict divided even individual families," and he noted that Russia must not repeat the path of Yugoslavia and must not permit arousing of conflict between Muslims and Christians.

The chief editor of the "Versiia" weekly newspaper, Rustam Arifjanov, criticized the Muslim media for "a backward position" and certain old fashionedness. "Muslim media work well in the field of education and dissemination of Islamic values, but they cannot seriously respond to the challenge of modernity. With rare exceptions they do not contain analytical commentaries of the speeches of the president and other events that are important for the country." Arifjanov called for raising the professionalism of the Muslim news media and for increasing the work on exchange of experience and information to do this.

General Leonid Ivashov called Muslims and Orthodox to unite for joint resistance to western liberalism and Americanism. In Ivashov's opinion, Americans will stop at nothing in their aspirations for world domination: " Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his book that with communism ended, now it is necessary to combat Orthodoxy. And after the Orthodox they will take on Muslims."

Next the cochairman of the "Muslims of Russia" movement, Shamil Sultanov, spoke, who was famous in 1991-1997 as a reviewer for the "Zavtra" newspaper. The "Muslims of Russia" movement itself was founded by Volga Mufti Mukaddas Bibarsov on 13 April 1996 after his break with the Council of Muslims of Russia of Niiazov-Khachilaev, which gave no signs of life for more than five years but recently was reregistered as a nonpolitical association. Bibarsov remains its chairman and the cochairmen are Farid Asadullin and Ali Viacheslav Polosin. Sultanov called Muslims to be active and consistent and to be Muslims not in words but in deeds (one should recognize that Shamil Zagitovich follows this principle to a significant degree; his son, who also works at the "Zavtra" newspaper, regularly attends Friday prayers in the Moscow mosque on Poklonnaia Hill).

At the suggestion of Ali Viacheslav Polosin, the question was put to a vote about the establishment of the Union of Muslim Journalists, for which those present voted unanimously (as was the case for all the rest of the suggestions of the presidium).

Summing up the results of the first portion of the conference, the advisor to SMR and the chief editor of the "All About Islam" newspaper and the "IslamInfo" internet site, Ali Viacheslav Polosin, noted that the main task of CMZh is to form a Muslim elite in Russia and spread the image of enlightened and humane Islam.

The second portion of the conference, which lasted less than an hour, began with an address by Ali Viacheslav Polosin:  "We have made the fateful decision about the creation of SMZh. I ask for a vote to consider all participants in this meeting participants in the founding congress of SMZh."

Next the head of the press service of SMR, Radik Amirov, took the floor and noted the presence at the first part of the event of the head of the Union of Journalists of Russia (SZhR), Bogdanov: "Along with various associations, we have the desire to join SZhR, which has already invited us to participate on 9-12 June in the World Congress of the Press." Referring to the Code of Ethics of Muslim Journalists that was adopted at the end of the day, Amirov noted that the draft represents a minimal collection of principles and standards which will be supplemented in the main by the provisions of the code of SZhR. Bogdanov added that "their code says that the journalist cannot bear arms, and for now we have not adopted this."

After the adoption of the code and charter of the new union, the editor of the "All about Islam" newspaper said: "In accordance with the charter, it is necessary to elect the governing body" and he gave the floor to the director of "IslamInfo," Akhmet Abdulazizov, who did not beat around the bush. "I propose electing Ali Polosin president of SMZh. He is a doctor of philosophy, editor of 'All about Islam' newspaper, creator of the 'IslamInfo' internet portal, and I do not see a more professional person. In addition, Polosin is a sufficiently well known public figure, an expert on the State Duma, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet, and he heads the 'Direct Path' society and is cochairman of the 'Muslims of Russia' movement. I do not see an alternative to him." After this Radik Amirov added:  "I think that it is clear and evident. I propose voting. Who is for electing Polosin president of SMZh? Who is against and who abstained? Adopted unanimously. We can congratulate Ali Polosin."

Then Radik Basyrovich proposed electing Abdulazizov first deputy of SMZh: "The director of 'IslamInfom,' scholar of eastern studies, an Arabist, young, active, soberminded, a good comrade. I am persuaded of this by my personal experience." This suggestion also was "adopted unanimously."

The newly elected president of the union took the floor. Ali Viacheslav Polosin said, "This post is not so much an honor as a burden. We all are going together on the way of Allah.  I am prepared to do everything that depends on me. The charter provides for the office of executive secretary. I nominate Radik Amirov for this position. He is the director of the press service of SMR, he worked on the 'Profil' magazine and the 'Rossiiskaia gazeta.' Actually he left 'Rossiiskaia gazeta' in order to work with Ravil-Khazrat in the press service. Before this nobody knew that there was a press service of SMR. Radik is young, but he has ten years of experience in work as a journalist. I consider that he will be up to the job." Again, "adopted unanimously."

After this Polosin proposed electing three deputy presidents of SMZh. "Iman Valeriia Porokhova is not a journalist but she creates the image of Islam in the world that journalists cannot create. Unanimous. There is a person who is not a Muslim, but he was the announcer of the TV shows "1001 days" and "All the suras of the Quran," Alexander Sergeevich Yachmenov.  Unanimous. The right hand of Mukaddas Bibarsov is one of the most authoritative of our muftis, Akhmed Makhmetov. Despite his youth he deserves to be supported.  Unanimous."

Next an advisor of SMR noted that it is necessary "to elect several more people to the presidium. This is not a punishment, but it is necessary to work; after all the presidium is a working body. For now there are the following candidates:  Visam Ali Bardvil (' Under his leadership of the society of Russian Muslims of Petrosavodsk there have been constant scandals,' Polosin said humorously and Bardvil smiled.) and political scientist and journalist Denga Khalitov."

Abdulazizov took the floor and proposed the candidacy of "Yasin Rasulov, the founder of the internet site and composer of the Code of Ethics of Muslim Journalists, a very modest young man. And telejournalist from Sverdlovsk province Yulia Nasretdinova." She said that on Sverdlovsk television a Muslim broadcast happens every other week and once a week there is a broadcast for Tatars in the Tatar language,  but she doubts that she can take an active part in the work of the presidium of SMZh because of the geographic distance of her place of residence. "But are you willing?" Polosin asked Nasretdinova. "I am willing," Yulia answered. After this Polosin praised the Muslim women who "without the help of men obtained through the Supreme Court the right to wear the hijab" and then put to a vote a single list of Bardvil, Khalidov, Rasulov, and Nasretdinova, which again received unanimous support. . . .

The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Code of Ethics of Muslim Journalists.

However, already by evening the organizers of the event were greatly grieved. The "Stolichnaia vecherniaia gazeta"  referred to Ravil Gainutdin's event as Talgat Tajuddin's, it misquoted, and much else. Mistakes also were made by the "Religiia and the Media" internet site that is famous for its professionalism, that had three representative at the event, but in the article about it they called the leader of SMR "Ravil Tajuddin."  (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Patriarch recovering

Interfax, 22 May 2003 (4:20 p.m. Moscow time)

The condition of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, who recently entered the Central Clinical Hospital, has significantly improved, "Interfax" was told on Thursday by people close to the primate of the church. According to the agency's sources, in a few days His Holiness will be transferred to the "Barvikha" sanatorium in the suburbs of Moscow for rehabilitation.

Because the patriarch got another cold he will not be able to participate in the ceremonies for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, although on 10 June he plans to conduct a divine liturgy on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of his enthronement. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Duma set to prohibit public evangelistic activity

Moskovskii komsomolets, 22 May 2003

Street missionaries apparently will cease imposing religious literature on passers by, under threat of fine. As MK has learned, the State Duma began a review of amendments to the Administrative Code, in which it is proposed to introduce an article on missionary activity in inappropriate places. If the deputies approve the corresponding draft law, then citizens simply will be able to turn in to the police anybody who, on the street or in a park or at a stadium or even on transport, attempts to foist onto them a pamphlet that invites them to a church. The proposed fine for distributors of such literature is from five to ten times minimum wage.

Yet harsher punishment is planned for conducting public events or posting of texts or pictures that offend the religious feelings of citizens in the vicinity of houses of worship. Perpetrators are threatened with a fine of from 5 to 150 times minimum wage. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2003)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Case against Orthodox textbook continued

Religiia v svetskom obshchestve, 22 May 2003

On 21 May the Moscow city court was supposed to hold a review of the complaint by the "For Human Rights" movement in connection with the decision of the Meshchansk district court of 24 March. However the materials of the  investigation by the Ostankino district prosecutor's office had not been delivered to the court. Thus the hearing was postponed until 27 May.  (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May, 2003)

See "Moscow court rules on antisemitic textbook"
"Prosecutor defends Orthodox textbook"

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Personnel changes increased church's power

by Maksim Shevchenko, chief editor of "Smysl" magazine, 21 May 2003

The decision of the synod of the Russian Orthodox church of 7 May can be called historic first of all because the internal conflict which has been talked about for a long time in both church circles and circles of church analysts, namely the competition of two metropolitans, Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, and the now former Metropolitan of Voronezh and Lipetsk, Mefody, was resolved by the division of the Voronezh-Lipetsk diocese into two--Voronezh and Lipetsk--and the effective removal of Metropolitan Mefody not only beyond the boundaries of Moscow but also beyond the borders of Russia.

This is an unconditional and almost total personnel victory for Metropolitan Kirill in the struggle for consolidating the position of OVTsS as the administrative and political center of the Russian Orthodox church.

It is completely evident that metropolitans Kirill and Mefody personified (and still do personify) not only two church groupings within the Moscow patriarchate but also two branches of the administrative structure of power leaning upon their respective partners of the political and state power.

Metropolitan Kirill's career blossomed in the periods of perestroika and Yeltsin, at the end of the 80s and the 90s. It was in this time that he headed the Department of External Church Relations. The young, liberal, bright, and public hierarch immediately impressed the public with his speaking a normal human language in the name of the church, after the soviet period, and he promoted active political plans. The peak of his career was reached in the 90s when the soviet nomenklatura divided up the former "public property," becoming oligarchs and creating the oligarchic clans. Metropolitan Kirill was undoubtedly associated with those groups that in these years of the 90s became politically strong on the territory of our country, principally in the state sector of the petroleum establishment.

Metropolitan Mefody, who was the head of the economic department of the Moscow patriarchate in the beginning of the 90s, in his turn is known for his very strong ties with rather highly placed persons in the intelligence services, first in the Soviet Union and subsequently in the Russian federation.

And thus the two internal tendencies in church politics:  Moscow, links with the power structures, associated with the "Putin Chekist grouping" (Mefody) and, speaking conditionally, the "family" of the oligarchic finance clans, the former party and komsomol structures (Kirill).

The conflict was resolved in Kirill's favor. Such an outcome was not evident to many just a few years ago and many in the intellectual and publishing church structures as well as in the Orthodox educational societies near to the church and various kinds of unions of Orthodox citizens said that "Kirill is finished." Incidentally, I always was convinced of the power of Metropolitan Kirill and of his ultimate success and I mocked those who "buried" him before time. Now I am convinced that we will see yesterday's enemies and ill-wishers begin "licking the boots" of the powerful metropolitan.

Metropolitan Mefody has been removed to Kazakhstan and under him a noncanonical structure called a metropolitan region has been created, which still remains to be confirmed. This structure is not provided for in the charter of the Russian Orthodox church, which means that there will be some changes introduced into the charter. That is normal.

Metropolitan Mefody was a very influential person in Moscow. He headed the Metropolitan Makary Fund and he had relations one way or another with the supervisors of the enormous project of the "Orthodox Encyclopedia." He has very extensive ties in the academic world of historians. His conferences in conjunction with the Academy of Sciences in recent years have attracted a large number of people. His removal by decision of the synod, which was made without even his participation and, according to some sources, without his presence, of course shocked many, especially those people for whom Metropolitan Mefody was and remains a symbol of scholarly activity and grand history projects within the Russian Orthodox church and within the Moscow patriarchate.

What did Metropolitan Kirill win? First, he managed to place in two very important, key dioceses people who are totally devoted to him. In first place is the placement in the Stavropol and Vladikavkas diocese of a person who for many years headed the finance division of OVTsS,  Bishop Feofan Ashurkov from Magadan, known to many as the former Archimandrite Feofan, rector of the church in Khoroshevo. Now this intelligent man and experienced church politician, who has very great financial ties in political and elite business circles, undoubtedly strengthens the position of Metropolitan Kirill, to whom he is indebted for his bishopric.

In the Magadan diocese Metropolitan Kirill placed another person, the former bishop of Korsun, Gury, who had been located in Paris and was driven from France by scandal. It is possible to read the details in "Russkaia mysl" of five years ago. The local emigrant community accused him, to put it mildly, of nontraditional sexual conduct, that shocked the conventional emigrant Orthodox society in Paris.  I do not know whether it is true; I am not interested in other people's personal life. But in my time I had an interview with Bishop Gury and to my direct question of how he viewed homosexuality he answered that it is a horrible sin and those guilty of it are in the lowest levels of hell, or something of the sort. This man is unlimitedly loyal to Metropolitan Kirill and he holds episcopal rank thanks to the personal intervention of Master Kirill. Surely it is not necessary to say that the Magadan province is one of the richest, because of its gold, fish, and proximity to Abramovich and all things useful in economic terms.

As regards the Saratov see and Bishop Longin, he is a young monk who comes from the Saint Sergius Holy Trinity lavra and is trained in the monastic traditions of the chief spiritual center of Russia. He is traditionally considered to be close to Archbishop Arseny of Istrina, a vicar of the Moscow diocese.

Honestly, I find it humorous that some journalists writing about the Russian Orthodox church compare the influence of Archbishop Arseny and Metropolitan Kirill. With all due respect to Archbishoop Arseny, who really is a person who developed Moscow church life in an excellent way and who has managed to escape or somehow suppress a mass of scandals and is a wise administrator of the churches in Moscow, which is a very complex church region, still his influence is not comparable to the influence of Metropolitan Kirill.

Master Kirill is a politician on the international level, and a man who has ties with the most powerful politicians of the time not only in Russia but in the world. He has entree  to the Vatican, the European Union, and the American administration; in general he has the number two status in RPTs, surely, after the patriarch. Thus I think that in order to move away Metropolitan Mefody and finally rid himself of a rather dangerous competitor he, of course, made some kind of alliance with both Archbishop Arseny of Istrina, that is, with Moscow and the rather powerful church administration of Chisty Lane and, of course, with Metropolitan Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, chancellor of the Russian Orthodox chruch.  For a long time Metropolitan Kirill did not have dealings with Metropolitan Sergius because when he became chancellor he tried to challenge the intrachurch and political influence of the metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, but at the time nothing came of it. And in the end he was unable to obtain a diocese for a long time. As chancellor he was nominally head of the nonexistent Solnechnogorsk diocese. We all know well, of course, that there is no see in Solnechnogorsk; this is a vicar title that is part of the administration of the Moscow province of the Krutitsy and Kolomna dioceses.

But now Metropolitan Sergius has become metropolitan of Voronezh. The Voronezh diocese is an ancient, very good, diocese, a diocese connected with many heroes of the Russian Orthodox church. Until recently it was strong, but of course it has been weakened by the division of the Voronezh-Lipetsk diocese. The separation of Lipetsk from Voronezh, with its (Lipetsk's) Novolipetsk metallurgical combine, which is one of the few profitable enterprises on the territory of Russia, and the very powerful Novolipetsk grouping that is connected with the name of Lisin, of course separates Metropolitan Sergius from direct contact with a powerful source of influence with which Metropolitan Mefody had interacted.

To the Lipetsk see has been assigned a little known and apparently good man, whom I do not know, the vicar bishop Nikon, and the diocese will be effectively under the administration of the Holy Synod. As we know, all documents of the Holy Synod are prepared in the Department of External Church Relations. Thus in effect Lipetsk diocese will be  under the control of Metropolitan Kirill.

Thus I personally interpret the synod's decision of 7 May unequivocally; it is an unconditional victory won by Metropolitan Kirill in order to concentrate the administration of the church in his hands. In his head and heart Metropolitan Kirill has the plan how to make the church the most important, the most significant, and the most serious political subject on the territory of Russia. He is a person who by virtue of his personality can be compared with Patriarch Nikon. I am ready to affirm this unconditionally because I know Metropolitan Kirill well.

Nobody is immortal. The whole church, including me, is praying for the health of the current patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, Alexis; but monks, as they say, have to realize that sooner or later we all will stand before the Lord.

After 7 May there simply do not exist in the Russian Orthodox church figures who are equal to Metropolitan Kirill other than the currently recuperating Patriarch Alexis, who, of course, remains the leader and number one figure. How the decisions of the synod were made is a great secret. I don't even know whether the patriarch was present at this session of the synod. In general, the Holy Synod officially is the synod under the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus and the chief vote, of course, belongs to the patriarch. Thus, if the patriarch was present at the reassignment of Metropolitan Mefody, that means the patriarch made the decision about the reassignment of Mefody and for the effective removal of him from affairs and the strengthening of Metropolitan Kirill and people close to him.

OVTsS is the only effective intellectual and administrative and political center of the Moscow patriarchate, to which there is no alternative. Metropolitan Mefody was a person who tried to create an alternative. He tried to make the Makary Fund such an intellectual center and to parlay the Orthodox Encyclopedia into a center of formation of intrachurch politics, but the political intrigues and the attraction of rightist groups of the ilk of the Union of Orthodox Citizens turned out to be a fatal course.

Metropolitan Kirill manage to beat down the front that was being raised against him and against the Department of External Church Relations, and to keep control of the department and effectively eliminate all competitors in the field of preparing political decisions within the Russian Orthodox church. For the time being the Department of External Church Relations is one of the mightiest political centers on the territory of the Russian federation. And the Moscow patriarchate is the most powerful corporate political actor, with practically no equal in its power, and only the administration of the president and similar structures cooperating with it will be able to compete with the patriarchate.  Kirill's victory has consolidated this position. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2003)

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,