attack on evangelicals in historical context
historian of religion Elena Glavatska
the so-called "Yarovaya Law" was adopted in Russia, which is an
"anti-terrorism" package of laws that establishes new
various spheres of the life of society. The restrictions also
life: there appeared administrative accountability for violation
procedure for missionary activity (article 5.26 of the Code of
Violations of Law of the RF).
the law explained that this point was aimed against preachers of
However, in the past year and a half, it is mostly protestants
who have been
brought to justice on the basis of article 5.26, from among
movements (Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists). In
three times in 2017 the congregation of Pentecostals in Nizhny
fines on the basis of this article.
Law impacted protestant congregations was explained for
Politsovet by Doctor of
Historical Sciences Elena Glavatskaia, a specialist in the
history of religions
in the Urals and a professor of the Urals Federal University.
For a start, I would like to understand what are evangelical
on the whole?
speak about religion, whether it be protestants or any other
as a representative of the academic community I prefer to use
does that mean?
term are subsumed historically developing religious movements,
groups. That is, all the great diversity that it is difficult to
strictly. In and of itself, the term "religious denomination" is
neutral; it does not carry a prior negative sense and it doesn't
anybody. Regardless of whether one or another form is a religion
of a majority
or a minority, they all are denominations, which satisfy the
spiritual needs of
a certain part of the population in a certain historical period.
On this level
all religious movements are absolutely equal.
substantive differences among such movements of protestants as
for example, Baptists or Pentecostals?
all the diversity of protestant churches lie in the 16th century
and have the
same root—the Sacred Scripture of all Christians, the Bible and
Many profoundly believing people understood the necessity for
the Catholic Church. They were not satisfied with the
organization of the
church, its leadership, and the answers to the most important
were offered in the name of the whole church. Preachers from
among a number of
the most active and educated priests, who sought and found in
the text of
Sacred Scripture different answers, which were accepted by
society, became the
leaders of new religious communities. The difference among them
was in the time
of their creation (between the significant theses of Martin
Luther and the
appearance of Pentecostals, almost 400 years passed), details of
interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and historical destinies.
movements disappeared by the turn of the 16th and 17th
centuries, inasmuch as
their adherents were physically destroyed by the authorities.
Others were able
to become the state religions (Lutheranism is the state religion
Scandinavian countries). Inasmuch as the foundation of
protestant churches is
the New Testament [the Evangel—hence, incidentally, their common
name—evangelicals] differences in the details of specific
practices are not
always easy to distinguish. For this reason, for example, it is
impossible to distinguish Baptists and Evangelical Christians,
who appeared in
the Urals in the early 20th century. People followed their
leader and often
moved out of one group into another.
evangelicals in Ekaterinburg
evangelical societies existed in the Urals, and how did their
representatives show up here?
were not many of them. Mostly representatives of evangelical
appeared in the Urals as the result of exile. According to the
census of 1897,
in Perm province, which included the Ekaterinburg district,
about a dozen—ten women and two men. Evangelical societies were
the western provinces of the Russian empire, but the events of
the early 20th
century affected their number and distribution. The catalyst was
of 1905, which declared freedom of religious confession and
conscience, and then the February revolution of 1917, which
restrictions on the basis of religious identity.
factor that affected the development of evangelical societies
was World War I.
While in the western territories, Russian soldiers became
protestant churches. This especially affected prisoners of war,
representatives of evangelical churches gave support, since
social work was one
of the fundamental traits of these denominations. In particular,
a great role
was played by the Salvation Army movement, especially in 1917,
when support of
Russian prisoners of war on the part of the state was reduced to
a minimum. As
a result, the Salvation Army facilitated the return home to
Russia of our
soldiers from German captivity.
prisoners of war, the evangelical movement was spread in the
things. In addition, the war and revolution gave an impetus to
of the population. As a result there appeared in Ekaterinburg a
great number of
people who were able to explain in detail about new religious
attractive in these new movements for people of the Urals, who
were weary of
war, was the idea of pacifism—complete rejection of violence and
participate in military actions and service in the army. And the
complete equality and brotherhood, hard work, charity, and
And, well, not the least was the strict rejection of the use of
tobacco. These ideas and clear preaching were especially
attractive for youth
and women. Many call the 20s of the 20th century the "golden
protestantism in Russia. However this did not last long. In 1928
harsh persecution of the evangelical movement on the part of the
was noj place for alternative ideology in the U.S.S.R.
the number of members of societies of evangelical movements in
itself, up to several hundreds. In any case, this was a drop in
considering that the population of Sverdlovsk in 1926 was
140,000, more than
80% of which professed Orthodoxy. In the soviet period,
to exist in the Urals as the result of exile of dekulakization
collectivization and the mass deportation from western Ukraine
and the Baltic
republics after the annexation to the U.S.S.R. of western
territories in 1939.
Then in the years of the Great Patriotic War, there was the
of Germans from the Volga to Serdlovsk oblast, among whom were
Baptists, Mennonites, and Evangelical Christians.
isolation from home, heavy physical labor, and division of
feelings were activated in people. This affected even those who
far from faith. There appeared so-called barracks communities,
celebrated Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays. All
they could do
in these conditions was to support one another, encourage, and
in 1943 religious organizations were granted relief. Did this
as far as
I know, the changes in policy affected only the religions of the
the population of the country. And in the postwar period there
began a new
attack on protestants. At that time Baptist and Pentecostal
under repression, who were absolutely law-abiding citizens. For
preaching activity or on the basis of fabricated accusations of
were sent to the camps for terms of 5 to 10 years, and more.
revival of evangelical movements begin in the Urals?
oblast, as throughout the country, religious revival in all its
including in the format of evangelical churches, began in the
1980s. A great
role in the development of the evangelical movement was played
Germans from among the persons resettled who landed in the
Urals, and their
descendents. For them the rebirth of religion meant the rebirth
of ethnic self-awareness, which was extremely important in
conditions of the
fall of the Soviet Union. After the fall of the iron curtain and
the opening of
the borders, local congregations were able to establish contacts
protestants. In their turn, these sent missionaries and pastors
to the Urals
and helped to build churches and to regenerate religious life.
religious minorities worsens
members of evangelical movements are there in Sverdlovsk oblast?
is impossible to establish an exact number. First, many
arisen and fallen. In addition, they are not all registered.
Some were not able
to achieve this and others do not see any need, supposing that
this is their
personal affair. Second, in 2016-2017, a substantial blow was
evangelical movements on the part of local authorities, which
process of academic research on the activity of these societies,
and their numbers.
great approximation I am able to suggest that there are in
Sverdlovsk oblast up
to several hundred societies and groups of various protestant
which comprise up to several tens of thousands of believers. But
again, it’s a
drop in the bucket, considering the population of the oblast is
more than four
relationships of evangelical societies with other confessions
and the local
predictably. Here everything depends on the leadership of the
diocese and the
position of local authorities. According to our research and
attitude toward representatives of religious minorities, with
the exception of
Lutherans and Catholics, has been systematically worsening,
beginning in 2004.
This situation was especially aggravated in 2016. By the way,
conducted a study in 2004 of how active coverage of a court case
religious organization in the news media affects the attitude to
toward it. It turned out that regardless of the final decision
of the court,
even if no evidence of a crime was found, a negative attitude
religious group covered in the news media rose sharply. Thus,
the more often
protestants are brought to justice, the more intense is the
to their activity, even if the court fully vindicates them.
The law beats up on the defenseless
--When the Yarovaya Law was adopted, its
authors said that
it was aimed against Islam of a radical type. In your view, why in
such a case
do protestants often fall under its effect?
--In my view, this law has become a kind of
agencies have a great desire to enforce it, but with respect to
this becomes very complicated for a number of reasons. For
example, it is
necessary to know the language in which sermons and printed
conducted. But in evangelical denominations all activity is
conducted in the
Russian language. As a result, because of the zeal of the
apparatus, instead of a real search for the threat, an imitation
occurs. This, in its turn, leads to a division of society.
among protestants, seizures of books, arrests, and so forth
disturb the law-abiding
citizens and divert attention from those groups whose activity the
intended to stop. Well, the image of the country is suffering
--Is it possible that evangelical communities
selected for scrutiny because of their small number and
--I am absolutely sure that it is for this
reason that they
have fallen under this attack. After all, in the whole history of
existence, not one of these religious denominations has been found
extremist, to say nothing of terrorism activity. On the contrary,
to cooperate with the state and try to work in places where the
state still has
not managed to get established. All these inspections and trials
are a blow to
the charitable activity organized by Baptists, Pentecostals, and
--How do the protestants themselves think? Is
the reason for
their prosecution on the basis of article 5.26 of the Code of
Violations of Law a prejudiced attitude toward them on the part of
agencies? How reasonable is this opinion?
--It seems to me that prosecution of
evangelicals should not
be viewed as a part of contemporary state policy. It is more
personal initiative of local authorities. A part of the
apparatus actively demonstrates its adherence to Orthodoxy,
religion is separate from the state. Therefore the personal
convictions of a
representative of an agency of government and a one-sided
formulation of a view
of the history and activity of specific religious denominations
affect his prejudicial attitude toward it.
--What can the religious understandings of
of the government be based on?
--As a rule, the basis for their ideas
consists, alas, of
publications that have been produced outside of the academic
--Might this relate to the private opinion of a
the dominant religion, which has been expressed publicly?
--Yes, including that this may affect the
convictions of the law enforcer. As a result, the law itself,
the religious sphere of life, may be applied wrongly. Thus there
situations where the Bible and other Christian literature are
religious denominations are mistakenly accused of extremism.
--However, personal convictions are
insufficient for a court
to punish a religious organization. After all, expert analyses are
--That's true, but unfortunately the principle
specialists for conducting religious studies expert analysis on
order from the
bodies of government leaves much to be desired. For this there
recruited not simply "religious studies scholars" but specialists,
by the academic community, professionals who have publications in
academic journals on new religious movements. We also have such
experts in the
oblast and in the district (Urals Federal District), but they have
been summoned for cases connected with protestants.
--In November of last year Senator Elena
the preparation of a so-called antisectarian law. She said that
more than 500
religious organizations would fall under its purview. In light of
of the application of articles about missionary activity, could
such as Evangelical Christians suffer?
--I would begin with the fact that such a draft
would bring harm to all of society, regardless of religious
initiatives violate the process of the creation of civil society
and unity in
the country and case harm to its international image. Such a law
inevitably cause harm to the numerically dominant religions in
like was the case with articles about hurting believers'
Representatives of the smaller religious denominations, such as
Christians, of course also will suffer, alas. And here the
question arises, why
do we, Russians, suffer? Again I repeat: the number of evangelical
denominations in the country is a drop in the bucket, and history
does not know
of a single example of involvement in terrorist activity. (tr. by
23 January 2018)
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