Jehovah's Witness musician seeks refuge in West


Portal-Credo.Ru, 31 July 2017


The leader of the rock group "Nol" ["Naught"], Fedor Chistyakov, who is on a road tour in the United States, announced that he will not return to Russia. He made this decision after the Russian Supreme Court on 17 July turned down the appeal of the Jehovah's Witnesses, finally recognizing the organization as extremist and prohibiting its activity on the territory of the country, "Open Russia" reports on 31 July.


"I simply was left with no choice," Fedor Chistyakov declared.


Chistyakov said that he had never thought about emigration, but his decision was changed when he learned about the ban in Russia of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, of which he is a devotee.


"The only thing is that when I look at a mirror in the morning, every time I am not able to believe that I, Fedor Chistyakov, am an extremist and a threat to the national security of Russia. I do not engage in a struggle with the regime. Moreover, I treat the government with respect. But I was played like a card in a great political game. This is some kind of insanity," Chistyakov added.


On 20 April the Supreme Court found the organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses" extremist and banned its work on the territory of the RF. Before that, the Ministry of Justice suspended the activity of one of the central offices of Jehovah's Witnesses because of the ruling of several dozen of the materials of the religious organization to be extremist. (tr. by PDS, posted 31 July 2017)

Jehovah's Witness musician explains his move to the United States



Musician Fedor Chistyakov has departed Russia because of religious convictions, but he promised to return. To be sure, only on tour.


Live on-air broadcast [Fontanka. Office], the newly-minted resident of New York described what happened.


--Nikolai Neliubin: Have you really immigrated into the U.S.A.?


--Fedor Chistyakov: It's not quite like that. Now in Russia such circumstances have emerged, which make it difficult for me to reside in that territory. But this does not mean that I intend to totally break off all cords and sink everything here. For example, in the fall, concerts of the group "Nol" are being planned, which we promised long ago, and all this should happen if there is no force majeure. On 18 November in Moscow and 23 November in St. Petersburg. And so the territory of physical location has changed in a greater amount of time.


--Have you requested political asylum?


--I will not discuss that question. I will only say that I already have everything in order. I have a labor agreement.


--Did the ban of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia influence the decision to remain in the U.S.A.?


--This decision placed all members of the organization, including me, outside the law. Therefore how can I be and live on the territory of the country, where I have been placed outside the law? The answer is simple: I can't. Everything proceeds from here.


--Have you personally, or your loved ones, received any kind of signals or threats after the Jehovah's Witnesses were recognized as outside the law?


--Yes, they have been received. For example, they came to the home of one of my comrades and took away all his computers and a search was conducted in the house. Because he is a member of the organization. This is a nightmare for me. I have a studio in my home and I allowed them to begin during working hours to dig and look for signs of extremism. In the end this is simply humiliating. The issue is not some kind of danger but about the state in which you find yourself. All the time you are waiting for something to happen. I make long-term plans connected with music. For six months—releases and albums. But I cannot promise anything. They may suddenly arrest me tomorrow, for example. And I will not be able to fulfill my promises.


--But you did not previously identify yourself with the organization publicly in any way. What are you afraid of, if you did not propagate anything?


--In the city of Orel they put a citizen of Denmark in jail. The investigation of this matter has shown that an accusation was not even formulated, that this man is sitting in prison. This is a travesty of justice. There are no laws or constitution or norms that preserve human rights. So long as nobody is interested in you, you can frolic, but if a difficult question arises you can prove nothing and you will take off.


--Yes, but now you have said openly why you left, and how can you now give concerts in Russia? How do you avoid those risks of which you spoke?


--In accordance with my convictions, I have planned events every week that are connected with worshiping God. This is exactly what they consider to be extremism. And for example, if I arrive for concerts, then this is a specific purpose—I come and I leave. But if I live there, then I must do everything secretly somewhere.


--That is the "substance of a crime," a religious ritual, which you will not perform in the Russian federation?




--How did your loved ones in Russia and colleagues in the U.S.A. take the news of your move?


--There are different opinions. Both those who support me and those who are frankly rude. The most polar points of view.


--And how about your musicians?


--I think we will continue to work with the musicians and there will be some joint activities.


--Can you explain the logic of the ban of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia? Why was this done?


--The most awful and terrible thing is that this logic cannot be found. It is inexplicable. The Jehovah's Witnesses have many opponents. But why this decision was necessary for the Russian authorities, I do not understand. They say that it is the property, which they intend to take away. But that is kopecks on the scale of the state. In nazi Germany they persecuted Witnesses. But in the U.S.A. you go into the subway and read the advertisement, that if you face signs of discrimination—racial, religious—you can go one place or another.


--Well, if someone promises you that everything will be fine for you there in Russia, will you return?


--You understand, this is just what is the essence of Russian life. There is no law. Today it is said; tomorrow it is forgotten. Or it will all be changed. And who needs me?


--I will ask more simply: what needs to change in order for you to return?


--So I have not disappeared anywhere. I intend to arrive. I intend to conduct musical activity, but remotely.


--And if the ban in Russia is cancelled?


--It's hard to say. Now the situation generally in Russia is quite alarming. Not only for the Witnesses. It is just that all the foundations are falling and crumbling. And until a definite order arises, it will be dangerous to be there.

I recently read that one lawyer was not able to get an answer on a legal case; he was not answered. He published an open letter in the newspaper. And it was possible to read how the case was conducted. The trial was supposed to reveal the truth, but there was not objectivity there. Russia is the most free country: it is possible to pass laws and not enforce them; it is possible to adopt a constitution and throw it away. Everything is possible. It is a bit difficult if you wish to have such rights.


--You will be told this: it is this way everywhere in the world, but on a different scale.


--I do not intend to disagree with this. But so long as it does not affect someone personally, it is possible to be philosophical. But when some problems begin, then you simply make a decision about how to solve these problems from a practical point of view. I do not intend to say whether it is worse or better in America. It is completely different.


--What do you think about how all the situation is developed on the planet? Is the alarm that you experienced in Russia not also in the U.S.A.?


-Within Russia it is very alarming. In the main this is happening because of the news media. When you open the news and you read the subtitles, you are freaked out by some of these subtitles. You are freaked out right and left. And here (he looks out the window) life is calm. Here there is really nothing. It is possible not to think about this if one doesn't want to, if one doesn't open the browser. In Russia this is hard to get. You go out onto the street and you immediately read something on posters. Here there is a feeling that it is not clear where the policy is. It also is not clear where the police are. They are somewhere at the side, but you do not see them. I am talking about New York. And it is more peaceful. As regards real threats. . . the situation is unpleasant. It is like the cold war again. One can say that it is already going on. It left and it came back. Everything is repeated. It is all over again. And you are really tired of it all. Of course, I still have hope, but I am not going to talk about this, because in the RF this is now considered forbidden. There is little hope for the Russian federation now. [. . .]


--Thank you, Fedor, for the "intercontiental conversation"


--Like an orbital station!


--According to the votes in our official group, 84.8% of respondents said that they understand those who leave ("Yes. This is any person's right."); 8.5% found it hard to answer. Only about 7% answered: "No. With whom do we remain?". Interesting result?


--Very interesting. And it is very encouraging that there are so many people who respect the rights of others. At least on Fontanka. Office. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 August 2017)

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