Monitoring news media reports about religion in Russia and other countries of CIS 
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


Links to Useful


Russia Religion News Current News Items

Convergence of church and state displayed in urban holiday

M51  (Murmansk), 6 October 2012

On Saturday holiday events in honor of the 96th anniversary of Murmansk were held throughout the city. One of the main events of the day to the mind of the leadership of the city and Archbishop of Murmansk and Monchegorsk Simon was supposed to be the Divine Liturgy in the center of the city. However, not all people of Murmansk think such an order of things to be normal, and so three civil activists unfurled on the Square of Five Corners a number of solitary pickets precisely at the time of the worship service.

Tatiana Kulbakina is well known in the city; the bright girl often uses the method of the solitary picket for defending her convictions. Thus recently in the same place Tatiana expressed support for the "Pussy Riot" punk group. Today the activist had in her hand a poster with a quotation from the Russian constitution:  article 14, point 1 "The Russian federation is a secular state. No religion may be established in the capacity of a state or obligatory religion." It is difficult to argue with that. So where does Tatiana see the injustice?

Tatiana Kulbakina, civil activist:

--I am upset that this event is official. It was planned and initiated by the administration of the city, among others. But even if it is, why is it the only one of its kind today? After all, the holiday is for all citizens, belonging to all confessions or not belonging to any. Why on a weekend are people taking a walk to the very center of the city forced to listen to prayers and church bells? This is coercion and I am against that. Everything should not be organized this way; in the final analysis, there are many temples and churches in Murmansk that have been built for such things and could easily accommodate everyone wanting them. But unfortunately the practice of a certain convergence of the Russian Orthodox Church and state authority has not been rare recently.

Tatiana's companions have more categorical opinions, but even their actions did not cross the boundaries of the law.

On the poster of Aleksei Raskhodchikov, who is also well known in the city as a civil activist, there are a skull and crossbones and the slogan "Secularization or Death." What does he mean by this terrible slogan? It turns out its all the same freedom of conscience because secularization is the process of emancipation of all spheres of public and personal life from the control of religion.

The young Murmansk artist Leonid Arch Genius, who recently participated in a protest exhibit "Music of Spring" along with Tatiana Kulbakina, demands saying "No" to clericalization. Clericalization is the process opposite to secularization; it is the political aspiration of getting the
church and clergy the primary role in the public, political, and cultural life of society. How does Leonid understand what is expressed clearly on the poster in his hands?

Leonid Arch Genius, independent artist:

--What is happening at this moment is nothing more than Orthodox propaganda. Personally for me this is unacceptable, since they are now forcing upon me such values of Orthodoxy as humility, for example. And I do not consider this dignified. In principle it seems to me that the further strengthening of religiosity will lead to repression and the degradation of society, and the loss of wisdom, since the church does not permit critical thinking; everything must be accepted on faith. Of course I respect the right of people to believe in God, but let them also respect my right not to believe, and thus such events are impermissible in the midst of the city.

The maintainers of legal order, of whom many had assembled for the event of the holiday in the center of the city, respected the rights of the activists and did not interfere with them, although they documented the protest with a video camera. However both those who were celebrating as Christians and those who were not showed themselves to be tolerant citizens; some even willingly had themselves photographed with the picketers. No aggression came even from representatives of RPTs, only mild surprise registered on the faces of priests departing from the square. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 October 2012)

Russian original posted on site, 7 October 2012

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Prominent resistance to believers' feelings law

Intent to toughen punishment for insulting religion criticized in Public Chamber
by Alexander Chernykh
Kommersant, 5 October 2012

Yesterday in hearings in the Public Chamber of the Russian federation (OPRF), the draft law establishing criminal penalties for hurting believers' feelings, that was introduced into the State Duma, was subjected to sharp criticism. A majority of the hearings' participants demanded that the document be withdrawn, stating that it itself promotes incitement of inter-ethnic strife. Only representatives of RPTs and Muslim clergy approved the draft.

In opening the hearings, the head of the Commission on Development of Civil Society of OPRF, Joseph Diskin, stated that society should respond to situations where someone tries to damage "fundamental values" of both believers and atheists. However, he said, the current version of the law creates a situation where religious radicals "impose their rule on the whole country."

We recall that the draft law was introduced into the State Duma on 26 September. It is proposed to supplement the Criminal Code with an article according to which the fine for hurting believers' feelings will be 300 thousand rubles or at the discretion of the court this violation of the law faces three years in a penal colony. For desecration of churches, mosques, and synagogues, the total fine will be 500 thousand rubles and a prison term of up to five years. The Code of Administration Violations of Law can be supplemented by an article, "public desecration or damage of religious and liturgical literature," having a fine of 50 thousand rubles.

Virtually all of the hearings' participants called the law defective and in need of clarifications. Thus the head of the OP Commission on Inter-ethnic Relations, Nikolai Svanidze, called attention to the fact that the legal act will protect only "religions constituting an integral part of the historic heritage of the peoples of Russia." "We have in our country pagans who may pray to Perun or even a roadside stump, and nobody will protect their feelings," Mr. Svanidze declared. "The law violates the constitutional provision of the equality of religions." This same thought was continued by the head of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Sergei Riakhovskii, who previously had supported the bill. "As a protestant I consider my faith a part of the heritage of Russia, but the law does not enumerate the religions," he complained, and he threatened to sue in court "sect fighters and bigots who insult us."

"Just what are believers' feelings?" Mr. Svanidze continued to take apart the text of the bill. "If it is possible to hurt them, that means you believe badly."

"Well, this is just too much," Vsevolod Chaplin said in outrage; he is the head of the synodal Department for Relations of Church and Society. "The formulation 'believers' feelings' exists in the Code of Administrative Violations of Law. Offending them is more dangerous than any domestic squabbles; it could even lead to civil war." He was supported by the head mufti of Moscow, Albert Krganov: "A real moral degradation is underway in society; this concerns Muslims. It is necessary to respect their feelings." He said the government should respond to various "tense situations;" otherwise the opposition will lure believers into rallies. A former Duma deputy, the head of "Young Russia," Maksim Mishchenko, began reading collected excerpts from the Bible and then declared: "Faith is the last hope of the state before the aggressions of transnational corporations."

Other participants in the discussion nevertheless criticized the bill and the famous lawyer Genri Reznik stated that the amendments themselves foment inter-ethnic strife. "The State Duma has assembled a troop of illiterate people. They adopt laws that evoke fright in lawyers," he stated and he addressed the representation of the RPTs: "Father Vsevolod, do we really have persecution of the church now?" After receiving an affirmative answer, Genri Reznik said indignantly:  "Tell the truth, Father Vsevolod. Are worship services really prevented now or is there massive desecration of churches? You yourself are substituting the institution of the church for faith."  It has even reached the leadership of the country; in the attorney's opinion, the uproar surrounding "Pussy Riot" was evoked "not by the deed of the songstresses but by the stupidity of the authorities."

Participants in the hearings suggested that the draft law be reworked. "It is necessary to change the concept. It is necessary to introduce the concept of 'religious space,' where the traditions of believers will operate," Joseph Diskin suggested. "Churches, mosques, and other houses of worship should be marked with a special sign. Museums get such a sign. Believers will know about the threat of hurting their feelings and begin to attend such places at their own risk."

In his turn, the first deputy secretary of the Public Chamber, Mikhail Ostrovskii, suggested, instead of the bill, to develop a kind of "social contract" between believers and nonbelievers.

However the majority demanded complete withdrawal of the bill from the State Duma. "This document violates so many legal norms that it should not even be discussed," declared the religious studies scholar and doctor of juridical sciences Anatolii Pchelintsev. "Sophomores in law school cope with the writing of laws better than these deputies."

"Too many people are not dealing with the problem seriously," Vsevolod Chaplin told the hearings' participants. "If because of hurting believers' feelings blood is shed in our country, it will be on your conscience, gentlemen." (tr. by PDS, posted 65 October 2012)

Russian original posted on, 5 October 2012

Interfax-Religiia, 4 October 2012

The head of the synodal Department for Relations of Church and Society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, sees a political subtext in criticism of the draft law on the protection of believers' feelings.

"The formulation 'believers' feelings' is already present in existing law, in the Code of Administrative Violations of Law. There is nothing new in this formulation. Why are people now trying to dispute it? I think that it is on the basis of purely political reasons," the priest declared at a discussion of the bill on Thursday in the Public Chamber.

In his opinion, some people "do not at all want" for these actions to be stopped, which are now being conducted against temples, synagogues, and mosques. The representative of the church pointed out that there are many such general formulations like "believers' feelings" in Russian legislation.

"Here if you will: national strife. What kind of thing is national strife? Nobody can tell you with precision. Then let's remove the wording from the legislation," he noted with irony.

Father Vsevolod recalled that according to the constitution the government is obligated to protect the rights and freedom of person and citizen, including the right to freedom of religious confession "which is unthinkable without protection of certain symbols."

"They tell us that the government should protect only the person. I do not agree with this in principle," he emphasized, recalling that the government protects not only a person but also symbolic values: graves, state symbols, monuments of culture.

"And while values which are significant also for nonbelievers are protected quite stiffly, they suggest to us that religious values be protected by a fine of 500 to 1,000 rubles; this is a double standard and it is wrong. In our country worldviews are equal," the priest declared.

He supposes that the bill will still be changed and he pointed to the importance of the fact that already in the current version, a court gets broad possibilities "both for severity and for mercy."

In his turn, the first deputy chairman of the Central Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims, mufti of Moscow and the Central Region of Russia, Albir Krganov, put the stress on law enforcement practice. He recalled that recently a court in Orenburg banned Islamic works. "Who are the experts? Teachers in schools? Some teacher of sports writes an expert analysis that a book that Muslims have had for a thousand years cannot be used. Similarly when there is the law (on protection of believers' feelings—IF), if it will be applied in that way then, of course, we will have very big problems," the mufti added. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 October 2012)

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,