Russian anti-sectarian crusaders suffer loss of leverage


Unconventional Religiosity, 27 March 2015


The Russian Ministry of Justice approved the new composition of the expert council. The previous membership was dismissed because of outcries in the press that were initiated by sectarians.


Representatives of Scientology and Jehovah's Witnesses spoke out against the previous membership to a great extent. They call it pro-Orthodox and also tried to discredit and sue its members.


The new membership of the expert council has become more closed for news media. It includes Vladimir Olgovich Bobrovnikov, Nina Vitalievna Volodina, Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin, Alexander Ilich Kudriavtsev, Vladislav Igorevich Petrushko, Elena Dmitrievna Rutkevich, Roman Anatolievich Silantiev, Valerii Arkadievich Smirnov, Leonid Rudolfovich Siukiyainen, Igor Nikolaevich Yablokov. Viktoria Alekseevna Burkovskaia became chairman of the council. These facts indicate that the actions of sectarians for destabilizing the situation regarding the council have failed. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 April 2015)



Religiia i pravo, 24 March 2015


By order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation, the new membership of the expert council for conducting state religious studies expert analysis under the ministry has been approved. The membership of the council is substantially changed. Viktoria Alekseevna Burkovskaia, a professor at MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations] and doctor of juridical sciences, was elected chairman of the council.


The previous composition of the council was formed in 2009, and A.L. Dvorkin was elected chairman of the council, which evoked a wave of criticism on the part of individual scholars and public figures, several religious leaders of Orthodox and non-Orthodox confessions, and Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia V.P. Lukin.


The more objectionable figures have been excluded from the current membership of the expert council: A.V. Kuzmin, A.V. Vasilchenko, E.O. Mukhtarov, L.E. Semenov. However the most controversial figure, A.L. Dvorkin, remains as before a member of the council. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 April 2015)




[. . .] This is good news and bad. Good—seven persons who are biased against "sects" were removed from membership. Bad—Alexander Dvorkin remained a member and Viktoria Burkovskaia became chairperson.


It is important to note that the membership of the council was substantially reduced: instead of 24 persons there are now 11 members. In all, 17 persons were removed. Seven persons retained their position and there are four new members.


Of the 17 members removed, seven were biased toward "sectarian studies." In the new membership of the council, four persons sympathize with Dvorkin's ideas and seven may be called neutral. In relative terms, the percentage of "sectarian studies" minded persons in the old council was 61%; in the new, 39%. One may speak about the "sectarian studies scholars" as having lost their positions.


Now by name:


Removed from membership:


Alifanov, Vladimir Vladimirovich: deputy head of Department for Cooperation with Public and Religious Associations of the Department of Culture and Education of the government of the RF.


Belov, Vladimir Nikolaevich: doctor of philological sciences, head of the Department of Philosophy of Culture and Cultural Studies of the philosophy department of Saratov State University. Director of the Center for Orthodox Culture and Religious Anthropology. He was the academic advisor of the sectarian studies scholar Alexander Kuzmin when the latter defended his kandidat's dissertation on sects (of which a large part was discovered to be plagiarism).


Berenson, Elena Alexandrovna: director of the staff of the organization Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Associations in Russia.


Vasilchenko, Andrei Viacheslavovich: kandidat of historical sciences, researcher on the Third Reich; he spoke out against "sects" along with Evgeny Mukhtarov.


Kitinov, Baatar Uchaevich: kandidat of historical sciences, head of the Department of World History of the Russian University of Friendship of Peoples; he teaches in the diplomatic academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; deputy chairman of the Association of Traditional Buddhist Communities.


Kovalenko, Mikhail Igorevich: psychologist, professor of the International Academy of Psychological Sciences.


Kuzmin, Alexander Valerievich: sectarian studies scholar from Saratov, member of RATsIRS [Russian Association of Centers for Study of Religions and Sects] and FECRIS [European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Sectarianism], cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church. More than half of his kandidat's dissertation on the topic of sects was plagiarized.


Popov, Sergei Alexandrovich: chairman of the State Duma Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations, from 2007 to 2012, and then chairman of the Duma's Rules Committee.


Mukhtarov, Evgeny Olegovich: sectarian studies scholar from Yaroslavl without higher education, member of RATsIRS and FECRIS, composer of a biography of A. Dvorkin, journalist.


Redkozubov, Andrei Dmitrievich: teacher of Arabic language and Islamic studies in PSTGU [St. Tikhon's Orthodox Humanities University], works in the Department for Cooperation with Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies of RPTsMP, under the leadership of Father Dmitry Smirnov.


Savin, Alexander Viktorovich: kandidat of philological sciences, teacher of religious studies in PSTGU and in the South Russian Humanities Institute.


Sarychev, Andrei Grigorievich: advisor to the Department for Affairs of Religious Organizations of the Department for Affairs of Noncommercial Organizations of the Russian Ministry of Justice.


Semenov, Lev Efimovich: sectarian studies scholar, member of RATsIRS, teaches at PSTGU in department of missiology, Orthodox priest.


Shershneva-Tsitulskaia, Irina Alexandrovna: kandidat of historical sciences, docent of the Department of Theory and History of State and Law of the Russian Legal Academy of the Russian Ministry of Justice.


Shchipkov, Alexander Vladimirovich: kandidat of philological sciences, advisor of the president of the Federation Council, chief editor of portal Religiia i SMI [News Media], chairman of Club of Orthodox Journalists, chairman of Guild of Religious Journalists.


Engel, Valery Viktorovich: kandidat of historical sciences, director of the Religious Organizations of Orthodox Judaism of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, first vice-president of the World Congress of Russian-speaking Judaism.


Yakupov, Valiulla Makhmutovich: kandidat of historical sciences, deputy chairman of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan for Work with State Structures.


Retaining their position in membership:


Bobrovnikov, Vladimir Olegovich: kandidat of historical sciences, senior academic fellow of the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, specialist on the history and ethnography of Muslim societies.


Burkovskaia, Viktoria Alekseevna (chairman): doctor of juridical sciences, professor of the Department of Criminal Law of MGIMO, attorney with the firm Egorov, Afanasiev, Puginsky, and Partners. From 2000 to 2009 she worked in NII [Scientific Research Institute] of Problems of Strengthening Legality and Law and Order of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian federation. She has been speaking out against sects at least since 1998. Both of her dissertations (kandidat's and doctor's) contain negative statements against various religious organizations. She simultaneously heads the Expert Religious Studies Council of the Directorate of Justice for Moscow.


Volodina, Nina Vitalievna: doctor of philosophical sciences, doctor of juridical sciences, professor of the Department of Humanist, Social, Economic, and Information Law Disciplines of the Academy of the Prosecutor General's Office of RF. A number of websites have reported that in 2011, plagiarism was discovered in two of her dissertations in philosophy.


Dvorkin, Alexander Leonodivich: graduate of Fordham University (New York), president of RATsIRS, and No. 1 sectarian studies scholar.


Rutkevich, Elena Dmitrievna: kandidat of philological sciences, head academic fellow of the Institute of Sociology of Russian Academy of Sciences.


Silantiev, Roman Anatolievich: doctor of historical sciences, docent of the Department of Cultural Studies of Moscow State Linguistic University, director of Rights Advocacy Center of the World Russian People's Sobor (established by RPTsMP), employee of the Department of External Church Relations of RPTsMP, sectarian studies scholar and colleague of A. Dvorkin.


Yablokov, Igor Nikolaevich: doctor of philological sciences, head of the Department of Philosophy of Religion and Religious Studies of the philosophy department of Lomonosov MGU, chairman of the Dissertation Council for Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics, member of the Expert Council of VAK [Higher Accreditation Commission] of Russia for Philosophical and Sociological Sciences. Author of textbooks in religious studies.


New members of the council:


Kurdyavtsev, Alexander Ilich: kandidat of historical sciences, aide to the chief of staff of the Public Chamber of the RF. Former employee of Council for Religious Affairs of the USSR Council of Ministers of, former director of Department for Affairs of Public and Religious Associations of the Russian Ministry of Justice (2003-2004). From 2004 to 2010 he was executive secretary of the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations of the Russian president. From 2006 he was deputy director of the Department for Humanitarian Policy and Public Relations of the Russian presidential administration for domestic policy.


Petrushko, Vladislav Igorevich: kandidat of historical sciences, professor of PSTGU, where he has taught church history since 1995 (in the same year he graduated from the pastoral theology department of this same university). Since 2002, executive editor of the Orthodox portal In the 1990s he took an active part in tele-game "What? Where? When?, and once he won the grand prize, the Crystal Owl.


Smirnov, Valery Arkadievich: deputy chief editor of magazine Nauka i Religiia. Also known as Mark Smirnov, his monastic name. Originally studied in church schools in St. Petersburg and then became rector of an Orthodox cathedral in Vyborg. From 1991-1995 he was editor of the program Religiia v Sovremennom Mire on Radio Liberty in Munich A. Dvorkin also worked there in 1991. Presumably at the same time Valery ministered in a Catholic church. From 2002 to 2010 he was head of the religion column in Nezavisimaia Gazeta. Since 2009 he has been deputy chief editor of magazine Nauka i Religiia.


Siukiyainen, Leonid Rydolfovich: doctor of juridical sciences, professor of the Department of Theory of Law and Comparative Jurisprudence of the Higher School of Economics. In 1969 he graduated from MGIMO with a specialty in International Economic Relations. Specialist in questions of Islam; in 1988 he defended a doctoral dissertation on the topic Islamic Law: Theory and Practice. Since 2003 he has taught in the Higher School of Economics.




The change in the membership may be called positive, if one views from the point of view of the fact that a step was made in the direction of its neutrality. Although several more such steps wait to be made. The fact that the most biased expert, A.L. Dvorkin, remains a member of the council evokes extreme perplexity. Here's how the portal ReligioPolis comments on this fact:


"In all likelihood, the controversial character remaining in the membership of the council and representing himself, inter alia, as a creature of the 'titular' confession is the result of a compromise to which the ministry could have been forced. However, because of several original peculiarities of the character and unpredictability of the 'American professor' in contrast to other lobbyists for clerical regulation in evaluation of religious diversity, his presence on the council does not obviate certain risks for the reputation of the ministry."

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