Continued religious conflict in West Ukraine


Nezavisimaia gazeta, 28 August 1996

The newspaper reports new incidents in the ongoing dispute in Ukraine among the nationalist Ukrainian Orthodox, Greek Catholics, and the Russian Orthodox churches in Ukraine. For earlier reports on Ukrainian problems, see below and the article Suppression of Orthodox in western Ukraine.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Napadenie na lvovskogo episkopa

English translation: Attack on Lvov bishop

(posted 31 August 1996)

Traditional Russian religions reviving


Metaphrasis, 15-22 August 1996

In Yakutia the Kut-Syur philosophical society is busy spreading the Yakutian religious faith.

The 'Russian Spirit' neo-Pagan festival was held August 7-18 in Tambov

Text Religious revival in Yakutia

(posted 28 August 1996)

Dissident priest continues to hound patriarch


Ekspress khronika, 16 August 1996

Former prisoner of conscience Gleb Yakunin kept up his gadfly behavior* by criticizing the participation of Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II in the presidential inauguration of Boris Yeltsin. He labeled the patriarch's brief statement, that did not include a prayer but a simple blessing, a "crude violation" of the constitution and an "insult" to much of the population of Russia.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Zaiavlenie komiteta zashchita svobody sovesti

English translation: Declaration of the committee for the defense of freedom of conscience *

See Yakunin's harsh criticism of the patriarch for his KGB past and actions with respect to the Estonian Orthodox parishes.

(posted 28 August 1996)

Estonian Orthodox settlement


Segodnia, 24 August 1996

Yesterday in Tallin conversations of delegations of the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchates were completed. Hegumen Elisei, a member of the Moscow delegation, reported that "the meeting marked the transfer of the two sides from confrontation to cooperation. Questions of the juridical status of the Orthodox parishes of Estonie were reviewed as well as the composition of a list of parishes which will be in canonical subordination to either Moscow or Constantinople. In two parishes which still have not determined their status it was decideed to hold meetings of parishioners devoted to selection of the jurisdiction of the churches. In the course of the conversations discussion was begun regarding the possibility of official registration of parishes of the Moscow patriarchate in Estonia."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Zavershilis peregovory

(posted 26 August 1996)

Protestants threatened

Segodnia, 16 August 1996 (partial text)

The procuracy of the Yaroslav district sent a notice to the leaders of a local protestant organization, "The New Generation Christian Center," in which it warned that their activities violated human rights. Workers of the procuracy adjudged the methods of religious influence upon youth as sessions of mass manipulation of the psychology of people after they analyzed video materials from a conference of the "Christian Youth International," which was conducted in Yaroslav. In the opinion of law enforcement agencies, the preachers of the protestant religion used "direct hypnosis." . . .Sessions of mass healing in Russia a forbidden by article 57 of the Russian Federation law "On Maintenance of the Health of the Population." . . . If the protestants do not settle down, the procuracy will prohibit the activity of the religious association on the territory of Yaroslav district.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Protivopravnye protestanty

(posted 26 August 1996)

Hints of restrictions of foreign religious activity in FSU

Metaphrasis, 2-8 August 1996

The Russian weekly report of religious news cited several recent cases from various parts of the former Soviet Union where local authorities threatened to restrict the activity of foreign religions. Most such threats are aimed at western protestants or modern cults, but some occasionally put the freedom of Russian Orthodox believers at risk. According to Metaphrasis, the Altai legislature prepared a draft law titled "On Proselytizing in the Altai Territory" with the assistance of the Orthodox diocese headed by Bishop Antony of Barnaul. A spokesman for the bishop said that the law was needed because of "unbridled and continuous propaganda on the part of non-Orthodox denominations, which may become harmful to the physical or moral health of the population." The city of St. Petersburg has prepared a law limiting public activity of "nontraditional cults." In Omsk region the cahirman of the committee for ethnic policy, religion, and public associations projected legislation to outlaw "totalitarian sects" like the Korean Unification church and the American David Berg's "Family." In Lviv, the mayor's office rejected the request of the parish of Saint George for the church property, justifying it with the charge that Orthodox believers of the Moscow patriarchate have no business in western Ukraine. On Ukraine, see the report Suppression of Orthodox in western Ukraine.

In May, Keston New Service reported that the number of Russian provinces which have enacted laws or executive decrees restricting foreign religious activity had reached seventeen--about one-fifth of all the provinces in the federation--including the Khabarovsk and Primorsky territories in the Far East and Yaroslav region near Moscow.

Dissident priest complains about government persecution

by Gleb Yakunin, Ekspress khronika, 9 August 1996

Former parliamentary deputy, prisoner of conscience, and Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin published a strong protest against Yeltsin's war on crime as it was declared in a document published on 24-25 July. Among the program's profilactic measures for preventing crime is this order: "Develop materials regarding the social and medical consequences of the activity of foreign religious organizations in Russia. Prepare suggestions for the regulation of the activity of such organizations on the territory of Russia and also for the criminal liability of leaders and members for inciting interconfessional conflict and suborning civil disobedience by groups of the population that have fallen under their influence, and draft a federal law 'on freedom of conscience and religious organizations.'"

Yakunin complains that the government thereby categorizes all foreign religious organizations as potential criminals and observes that since there is no legal definition of a "foreign religion" it could be construed as applying to Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews, as well as Catholics, protestants, and Krishnaites.

Yakunin asserts that the only foreign religious organizations that have been proven criminal (the Japanese Aum Sinrikyo and Ukrainian White Brotherhood) have been dealt with by the courts and there is no other known foreign group that engages in criminal activity. He equates the notion that religious activity might be treasonable with the imagination of the Communist newspaper Pravda or the "maniacal raving" of General Lebed, who threatened to repress Mormons.

Yakunin pointed out the ambiguity in the ideas of stirring up interconfessional conflict and suborning civil disobedience. For example, the patriarchate's intolerance and "anticonstitutional propaganda of religious preference" and its withdrawal from the International Association of Religious Freedom (see next story) incite interconfessional conflict, as does the "mixture of Orthodoxy with political fundamentalism" promoted by followers of the late metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Ioann.

Further, he says, the purpose of the duma's law on freedom of conscience should be protection of religious rights, not combatting crime. He concludes that the real purpose of the government's action is "police repression of religion," and he protests against it in the name of the Social Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience, of which he is president.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Gosudarstvo vozobnovliaet bor'bu c religiei

(posted 11 August 1996)

Moscow patriarchate disagrees with religious rights group

Ekspress khronika, 9 August 1996

The Russian Orthodox church recalled its representatives to the International Association of Religious Freedom, an organization that includes many Russian religious groups. Metropolitan Kirill, president of the church's department of external relations, cited three reasons for the move: incompatibility between the church's and the association's respective views on church-state relations, participation in the association by "schismatic" Orthodox bodies with whom the patriarchate cannot have fellowship (the Russian Orthodox Free Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox church, Kiev patriarchate), and the disproportionality between the church's role in the association and its real "significance in the country." The president of the Russian division of the Association of Religious Freedom is Valery Borshchev, vice chairman of the duma's committee on religious questions (see Duma deputy cautions about patriarchate's aspirations.)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): RPTs zaiavliaet ob otzyve svoikh predstavitelei iz mezhdunarodnoi assotsiatsii religioznoi svobody

(posted 10 August 1996)

Religious turmoil in Azerbaijan

by Arif Useinov, Segodnia, 2 August 1996 Entire text translated.

Baku. Recently leading Azerbaijani newspapers simultaneously attacked Christian missionaries and agents of various western humanitarian and philanthropic organizations. According to data of the newspaper "Panorama," at present in Azerbaijan 216 registered religious organizations are active but 580 organizations, representing various Christian sects, are working illegally.

The administration of the Islamic university in Baku has reported that in a brief time 2000 citizens of Azerbaijan, mostly girls who were drawn into the activity of sects, embraced Christianity. In regard to this the director of the Muslim administration of the Caucasus, Hadji Allakhmukiur Pashazade, appealed to leaders of the mosques and medressas to increase their propaganda of Islam among youth into order to end the flow of youth into Christian congregations. The establishment leaders are especially concerned because missionaries are renting with millions of manats the largest halls for their proclamations. Leaders of the Islamic clergy insist upon a review of the law on freedom of conscience and cults in order to restrict the activity of followers of religions that are alien to Azerbaijan.

In the opinion of the leader of the Russian Orthodox church in Baku, Father Alexander, the sects that have proliferated in the republic have no relationship to the Orthodox church and the acceptance of Christianity by a few individuals is not a mass phenomenon. Father Alexander considers that the schismatic activity of the sectarians has significantly increased not only in Azerbaijan but throughout the region. (end)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): V Azerbaidzhane polumesiats opiat; vrazhduet s krestom

See Threats to freedom of protestant churches in Muslim republics

(posted 8 August 1996)

Orthodox dissidents described

by Alexander Burtin, Moscow News, 18-23 July 1996

A correspondent of MN visited a rural community where about 30 families of True Orthodox Tikhonite Christians reside.

Full English text: Stations of the Cross

(posted 5 August 1996)

Patriarchate and government sign agreement

News briefs
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 3 August 1996

Yesterday the commander of Russian border troops, General Lieutenant Pavel Tarasenko, signed a cooperative agreement with Orthodox Archbishop Vladimir of Dushanbei and Central Asia The document states that the purpose of the agreement is "to restore the fundamental tradition of Orthodoxy within Russian military forces and to strengthen the moral and spiritual bases within the hearts of the defenders of the sacred borders of the motherland (rodina)." The document further affirms that the Russian Orthodox church values the defense of the borders of the fatherland (otechestvo), and that it always has considered such a sacred achievement (podvig) to be a manifestation of supreme love to the fatherland.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Tadzhikistan, vchera komanduiushchii gruppoi

(posted 4 August 1996)

Duma deputy cautions about patriarchate's aspirations

by Petr Kutsenkov, Russkaia mysl, 1 August 1996

Valery Borshchev, vice chairman of the Russian duma's committee on religious organizations, told a correspondent of Russkaia mysl that he fears that the Moscow patriarchate is endangering its reputation by continuing demands for changes in the Russian law on freedom of conscience. Specifically, the head of the patriarchate's department of external church relations, Metropolitan Kirill, asked that the law be amended to remove its provision that "It is not permitted to establish any special privileges or restrictions for one or several religious organizations," and to forbid "independent activity of foreign religious organizations" in Russia.

The draft of a law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations (Associations)" was worked out by the committee and adopted on first reading on 10 July. (See DUMA GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO LAW SHRINKING RIGHTS OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES) A second reading, when other amendments may be introduced to the Duma and the law passed, will come up in the fall. Two days earlier Kirill sent a letter to Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of the "national sovereignty" faction, proposing changes in the law.

Russkaia mysl's correspondent interviewed Borshchev to get his reactions to the letter. Borshchev seemed to resent Kirill's action because Kirill had participated in the hearings that produced the law and had heard the committee's rejection of his wishes because of their unconstitutionality. He criticized the patriarchate for wanting the constitution changed so that their desired restrictions could be adopted.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8 capacity to read): Novyi zakon o svobode sovesti i religioznykh organizatsiiakh

(posted 1 August 1996)

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