Patriarch as political liability

by Viacheslav Polosin, Nezavisimaia gazeta 25 July 1996

Polosin has been an Orthodox member of the Russian parliament's committee of religion from the start. In this article he gives an explanation for the fact that in specifically Muslim districts, Dagestan, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan, Yeltsin did relatively poorly in the first round of the presidential elections and then led substantially in the second. His basic thesis is that Muslim voters perceived him as the choice of Patriarch Alexis in the first round, but in the second they perceived the patriarch as Ziuganov's ally. In the campaign for the first round Muslim religious leaders strongly advocated Yeltsin, but the voting masses did not follow their leaders because they resented the prominence and apparently preferential treatment given by Yeltsin's government to the patriarchate, which they viewed as according Islam second-class status. But the patriarchate's sympathy for Yeltsin did not help Yeltsin with Orthodox voters, either, since many Orthodox voters dissent from the patriarchate's doings. So after the first round Yeltsin distanced himself from the patriarchate, but Ziuganov made an ostentatious display of courting the patriarchate, including a two-hour meeting with Alexis. Consequently, Muslim voters expressed their fear of Orthodoxy as a kind of official religion of Russia by voting against Ziuganov.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Musul'mane prinesli Borisu El'tsinu pobedu

(posted 25 July 1996)

Journalist regrets weaknesses of Russian religious broadcasting

by Oleg Mramornov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 20 July 1996

Recalling that just a few years ago Russian television was filled with religious broadcasting, journalist Oleg Mramornov conducted a survey of the fare of a couple of weeks ago.

On Monday, 8 July, there were no religious broadcasts.

On Tuesday, 9 July, the broadcasting company Orthodox World put on a program describing the lives of the day's saints.

On the same day a news program carried two substantial reports. One described the activity of an orphanage run by the Christian Democratic Union, headed by Alexander Ogorodnikov. Most of the financial support of the institution comes from European donors. Mramornov regretted the lack of domestic support. The second report showed a woman tearfully describing how her daughter and granddaughter had been "ensnared by the nets of the Jehovah's Witnesses." The result was that the old woman had been abandoned by her family. Then a man told how his daughter similarly had been ensnared by the "Mother of God Center." The report concluded by stating that 3 to 5 million Russian have been "attracted into the activity of the so-called totalitarian sects." The journalist lamented that legislators are reluctant to create legislative restrictions on the totalitarian sects. "It seems that only Father Oleg Steniaev, who created the Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Nontraditional Religions," is fighting with totalitarian sects. He has saved several hundreds from the sectarians."

On 13 July Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, conducted the "Pastor's Word" program.

On Saturday night there was a broadcast of the folk healer, V.A. Mironov, who promised amazing results from magic. The view of Mironov's office in Moscow showed a portrait of Patriarch Alexis II. "It is doubtful that His Holiness the Patriarch would approve the presence of his image in the office of a folk healer."

On 14 July, Sunday, there was an effective broadcast on TV-6 called Canon. It included biblical readings by an actor, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk answering questions, and accounts of the lives of saints from Tver.

The journalist lamented the loss of the vigorous religious broadcasting that resulted from Gorbachev's reforms in the late 1980s.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Nazvalsia tselitelem--tseli

(posted 21 July 1996)

Victims of Uzbekistan's dictatorship

Ekspress khronika, 19 July 1996

The article contains a list of names of 51 victims of the government of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, many of them Islamic religions leaders. The occasion of the article was the reception of Karimov in Washington by President Clinton.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Prezident SShA podderzhal kommunisticheskii rezhim

Complete English translation

(posted 21 July 1996)

Two-year term for C.O.

Ekspress khronika, 19 July 1996 (full text translated)

Moscow. On 10 July the case of Vitaly Nechaev, one of the members of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses who refused military service, was heard in the Cheremushkin court. The judge sentenced Nechaev to two years in prison.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Prigovor otkazniku ot voennoi sluzhbi

(posted 21 July 1996)

Holy Synod meets Thursday

Segodnia, 19 July 1996 (full text translated)

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church created a jubilee commission under the presidency of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Russia for planning and conducting the celebration of the second millennium of the first advent of Jesus Christ, according to an announcement on Thursday from the department of external church relations of the Moscow patriarchate.

According to a representative of the patriarchate, at the session of the synod on Thursday questions connected with ecclesiastical education were discussed. The synod reorganized the Kostroma church school into a seminary and resolved to open an ecclesiastical seminary in Belgorod. The department of external church relations underscored that it was decided to open three new monateries in the dioceses of Alma-Ata, Izhevsk, and Syktyvkar. The Holy Synod decided that the next ordinary session of the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church will be convened from 18-22 February 1997.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Pravoslavnye sozdali komissiu

(posted 19 July 1996)

Discussion of philanthropy

by Kseniia Zueva, Literaturnaia gazeta, 11 July 1996

A roundtable was held at the St. Daniel's monastery, "Philanthropy as the basis for cooperation of the church, entrepreneurs, and the state in solving the spiritual and social problems of Russia." Patriarch Alexis opened the meeting by observing that in five years 12,000 church buildings and 350 monasteries had been restored, many of them with support from businesspeople. Conversely, the church had assisted medical programs, education of nurses, and retirement homes and orphanages.

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov moderated the round table, at which numerous specific cases of support from entrepreneurs for the church were cited. It also was observed that the role of business in supporting the church is often not recognized and philanthropic activity often is abused by businesses in the form of avoidance of taxes and public posturing. The duma passed a law "On philanthropic activity and philanthropic organizations" to prevent abuse, but implementation of the law leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, tax relief for philanthropy is very slight.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Pomogut li tserkvi "novye russkie"?

(posted 17 July 1996)

Patriarch's visit presages restoration of monastery's life

Segodnia, 15 July 1996

Segodnia reported the visit of Patriarch Alexis to St. Petersburg and to Valaam monastery, northwest of the city, in the company of many dignitaries. The specific purpose of the visit was to reconsecrate the shrine of the founding saints of the monastery; the longer range significance of the visit was as one step in the reclaiming of the islands for their monastic purposes.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Valaamskaia obitel na puti k uedineniiu

English translation

(posted 15 July 1996)

Religious believers of diverse confessions supported Yeltsin

by Dasha Progon, Segodnia, 5 July 1996

by Hegumen Innokenty, Segodnia, 11 July 1996

In the aftermath of the presidential elections, the Segodnia newspaper published two articles about how people of various religious groups voted. The 5 July issue reported that an assortment of religious believers, including Mormons, True Orthodox, and other sectarians, also sided with the incumbent. In the 11 July issue an Orthodox monk expressed his pleasure that many Orthodox faithful spurned the calls of some Orthodox priests to support the communists and voted for Yeltsin, but he also vented some bitterness about the Moscow patriarchate as well as those priests.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Progon, Ne golosuiut tolko monakhi

English translation


Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Innokenty, Krushenie ziuganata

English translation
(posted 14 July 96)

Who voted for Ziuganov? peasants and seniors

by Father Georgy Chistiakov, Russkaia mysl, 20 June 1996

by Father Georgy Chistiakov, Russkaia mysl, 27 June 1996

In two articles published between the primary and final rounds of the presidential election, Father Georgy Chistiakov described the democraphic patterns he detected in the balloting. In the first article on 20 June he dealt with the evidence that the support for Ziuganov resided overwhelmingly in the countryside and that the cities voted equally overwhelmingly for Yeltsin. He explained this pattern by the thesis that residents of the countryside are idlers, who would prefer to spend their days drinking instead of working, and are not religious believers. He credited the communists with success in destroying religion among countrydwellers. Overall, by their votes these people declare that they consider it better to live badly, under communism, than to have to assume responsibility for their welfare. In the second article on 27 June Father George dealt with the age patterns of the vote. Young people voted overwhelmingly for Yeltsin, as did people who were born before the revolution. The people who voted for Ziuganov were in their fifties, sixties, and seventies--citizens who in their youth experienced the enthusiasm of the Stalinist years of industrialization and substantial improvement in standard of living.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Posle vyborov

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Mezhdu pervym i vtorym turom

(posted 14 July 96)

Alexander Lebed explains his remarks about religion

by Michael Specter, New York Times, 14 July 1996

In an interview he specifically requested, Alexander Lebed tried to correct the impression that he has demonstrated anti-Jewish attitudes in a well-publicized interview last month. Specifically, he was criticized for omitting Judaism from the list of traditional religions in Russia. (See excerpts from the interview.) It seems significant now that Lebed did not, at the same time, attempt to amend his remarks about foreign sects.

New York Times, 14 July 1996

(posted 14 July 96)

Threats to freedom of protestant churches in Muslim republics of FSU

by Mexman Gafarly, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11July 1996

Ekspress khronika, 5 July 1996

An interview with the president of the president of the commission on religious affairs of the republic of Kirgizia underlies an article that deals with rapid growth of both protestant sects and fundamentalist Islam in the republic.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read):Ugroza mezhreligioznogo konflikta
English translation

A Protestant religious congregation called "Word of Life" was refused legal registration by the Ministry of Justice in Azerbaijan.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read):Protestantskoi obshchine otkazano v registratsii
English translation

(posted 11 July 96)

First step toward new law on religion in Russia

by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service

The Duma took another small but significant step on 10 July toward whittling away the rights of freedom of conscience recognised by Russia's landmark 1990 law on freedom of conscience.

Full text of KNS article: Duma gives preliminary approval

(posted 11 July 1996)

Complaint against procommunist Orthodox priests

Russkaia mysl, 4 July 1996
In an open letter to Patriarch Alexis, about a dozen Orthodox clergymen and more than ten laypeople complained about the support that some Orthodox clerics gave to the communist party's presidential candidate G. Ziuganov and they notified him of their public proclamation against that support. The writers cited specifically a joint statement signed by Ziuganov, in the name of the communists, and a group of eleven clergy, supposedly in the name of the church. They characterized this appeal for voters to support Ziuganov as a "blasphemous attitude toward the Orthodox church," a "violation of the memory of the church's recent sufferings," and a repetition of the activity of the renovationists of the 1920s. Those priests involved they characterize as "fallen" and "falseprophets" and wolves in sheep's clothing.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read):Sviateishemu patriarkhu Moskovskomu i vseia Rusi Aleksiiu

English translation

(posted 11 July 96)

Alexander Lebed distinguishes between traditional and nontraditional religions in Russia

The National News Service of Russia provided an almost full text of the recent speech that has been quoted extensively in the American press because of national security chief Alexander Lebed's negative characterization of foreign religious groups. Lebed's actual words are available here. He distinguished between religions traditional for Russia, Orthodoxy, Buddhism, and Islam, on the one hand, and others, of which he specified Mormonism and Aum Shin Rykyo, which he called "scum." The latter, he said, should be placed outside the boundaries of law. (It may be noted that several religions are not included in either the traditional or nontraditional group: Catholics of the Latin and Eastern rites, Protestants with a long history in Russia, including Lutherans and Baptists, and native paganism, which is manifesting substantial resurgence in various regions.)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): excerpts from Lebed speech
(posted 2 July 1996)

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