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Jehovah's Witnesses build center in St. Petersburg

Blagovest (Samara), no. 22, November 1996 (complete text)

Saint Petersburg. With permission of the administration of Saint Petersburg, construction has begun in one of the northern regions of the city on an administrative center of the "Jehovah's Witnesses" of Russia. Approval for construction, which is projected to be completed in 1998, was signed by the former major Anatoly Sobchak in his last days in office.

The decisive argument in favor of construction for the city investment commission was the claim that the administration's department on relations with religious associations does not intend to be an administering agency. At the same time numerous complaints against the Jehovhists from the Committee on the Defense of the Family and Personality were ignored.

The adoption of a favorable decision by the city administration for construction of a "Kingdom Hall" of the Jehovists near the "Akademicheskaia" metro station was successfully prevented by the efforts of relatives of victims of the sect.

As is known, "Jehovah's Witnesses" are a pseudo-Christian sect that is growing extremely vigorously in Russia. Experts on new religious movements note the special danger of the sect for society. One fearsome deception of the Jehovists is the categorical prohibition on blood transfusions. The sectarians believe that "to receive blood into the body either through the mouth or veins is a violation of the law of God." The religious prohibition on the simplest of medical procedure makes "Jehovah's Witnesses" guilty of the death of people, adults, children, and infants, who could have been saved by a blood transfusion.

For related material consult sources under the "Jehovah's Witnesses" link in the Subject Index.

Partial list of churches in St. Petersburg.

(posted 5 January 1997)

Latvian military service law denies conscientious objectors

by Igor Frolov

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 26 December 1996 (excerpts)


At the beginning of November 1996 the Sejm of Latvia adopted on third reading the law regarding military service obligation. It is difficulty to recall another law draft that evoked such stormy and prolonged disputes both within and outside the walls of the Latvian parliament. . . .In the opinion of the President (Guntis Ulmanis) the creation of a completely professional army in the near future is impossible primarily because of the lack of money. Besides, with obligatory service it is impossible to create a mobilized reserve. . . .

The second cause of prolonged debate was the problem of conscription of students. The intellectual level of Latvian soldiers leaves much to be desired. . . Only 10-12 percent of soldiers have a high school education and around 80% have not even finished elementary school. . . .Thirty percent of the soldiers do not know the official state language. . . .

The parliament rejected alternative service on the premise that in the country there is no need for workers and officially there is no religious confession registered whose teachings prohibit service in the army. . . .The higher clergy of the Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox churches appealed to the parliament not to draft into military service students in ecclesiastical educational institutions during the time of their studies. The embassy of the Vatican also sent a note with a similar request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. . . .

After long discussions a compromise was reached. The final version of the law provides for a reduced period of service from 18 to 12 months. Citizens between 19 and 27 are subject to conscription. . . .Priests of official religious confessions and students of ecclesiastical seminaries are not subject to the draft. . . .The principle of conscription of students is as follows: upon graduation from high school young men may enter a institution of higher learning and upon completing the bachelor's degree may enter directly into graduate school. Those who receive a graduate degree are exempt from draft. A student can be drafted if he receives his bachelor's and within one year does not begin graduate study. . . .

For related material consult sources under the "Conscientious objectors" link in the Subject Index.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Diskussia o dolge patriota

(posted 5 January 1997

Emigre Russian newspaper warns about legislation against sects

by Andrei Zubov and Tatiana Venslavskaia

Russkaia mysl, 3 September 1996

During the time when there was a Soviet Union, the Paris-based Russkaia mysl persistently defended freedom of conscience, when atheism persecuted religious faith. Now it defends freedom of conscience against a post-soviet inclination to privilege traditional religions against new sects. At a time when representatives of Russian Orthodoxy and protestantism both are pressuring the Russian parliament to pass new laws restricting the activity of what they call "totalitarian" sects, Russkaia mysl published a letter from a victim of one of these sects, graphically describing the brutality of the fanaticism that the new situation has made possible. The paper then appends a surprising commentary that questions attempts at a legislative solution of the undeniably inhumane situation.

"Currently in Russia thirteen thousand officially registered religious organizations of various denominations are working side-by-side. But this figure does not convey, nor can it convey, the complexity and contradictions of religious life that are evoked by the appearance in such a short time of a countless number of fictional religious and public organizations that have processed registrations but really do not exist. . . ."

". . .The state opened a wide highway for false prophets, false deities, false mothers of god, but it did not prepare to defend the future of the children of those citizens who would trust these religious renegades. What will facilitate the opening of the eyes, hearts, and souls of those who are seeking God? New legislation about freedom of conscience and religious profession? Complete information about the activity of various religious organizations and the tragic consequences of dealing with them? Perhaps, religious education and information about the difficult historical development of the religious awareness of humanity? But in the first place the active concern of society, that is, of all of us, about the question that threatens today's Russia."

For related material consult sources under the "Conscience, freedom of" link in the Subject Index.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Esli vy veruiushchie
Full English translation:If you are believers

(posted 3 January 1997

Letter writer defends Orthodox "fundamentalists"


by Vladislav Tomachinsky, chief editor of Tatiana's Day newspaper

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 7 December 1996

These days it is not necessary to trouble oneself searching for arguments. It suffices simply to charge that the thinking of an opponent reminds one of communism. Or fascism. Or, what's worse, sectarian. This has turned out to be such a worn-out, although nevertheless real, approach that one wants to say: "Change the metaphor, sir." So here's Alexandra Kolymagina in her article "Where the spirit is there is freedom" who heartily exploits the favorite image. Ms Kolymagina denounces the Orthodox "fundamentalists," to whom she ascribes "sectarian psychology, totalitarian thinking...the heritage bequeathed to us from the soviet decades." The article continues "the literary tradition" of numerous articles in the press directed against the Russian Orthodox church. In the Orthodox church there are dogmas, canons, and a hierarchy, and the principle of obedience operates. Evidently this can serve, in the opinion of the "lovers of freedom" as proof of its "totalitarianism." This proves their misunderstanding of the nature of the church, headed by Christ Himself, that is Truth and Love themselves, in contrast to totalitarian systems where falsehood and violence are the chief and only levers. Conunterfeit currency can be distinguished from the real only by careful inspection; they appear alike as two drops of water. Any totalitarian system presents itself as a parody of the divine order, for the father of lies and father of all violence, the devil, cannot devise anything new but can only distort what the Creator made.

In the opinion of the English writer George Orwell, contradiction and rapid alterations of the dogmas represent one of the basic signs of a totalitarian administration: "Controlling thought, it does not establish it as a single thing. Dogmas are set forward which are not subject to discussion although they can be changed from day to day." Orthodox know that the doctrine of God cannot be changed inasmuch as God himself is unchanging. Freedom also consists in the freedom of a person to accept or reject the revelation given to him by God.

Following the logic of contemporary secular publicists, one can expect that they would accuse Christ Himself of totalitarianism ("Whoever is not with me is against me," Mt 12.30), of the search for enemies ("One's enemies will be those of hiis own house," Mt 10.36), of obscurantism ("The one who loses his soul for my sake will find it," Mt 10.39), and obfuscation ("I did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword" Mt 10.34). And besides, that he "is completely unreceptive to ambiguous thinking" ("I am the way, the truth, and the life," Jn 14.6), to use the words of Mother Maria Skobtsova cited in Kolymagina's article.

(full text, tr. by PDS)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):S Aleksandroi Kolymaginoi

(posted 27 December 1996)

Plans for burial of imperial family caught in bureaucracy

by Ilmira Stepanova

Russkaia mysl, 25 December 1996

For some time we have been promised periodically that any day now the ceremonial burial of the remains of the imperial family will happen in the Peter-Paul cathedral. The last time was at a special press conference when Mayor Anatole A. Sobchak declared that the ceremony will be held on Forgiveness Sunday, the Sunday before Great Lent. Presently the Petersburg mayor was summoned to a session of the Holy Synod where he was asked to explain what he had in mind. It seems there wasn't to be such a burial.

Already for several years the remains of the last Russian emperor, his family, and special servants have been locked up in one of the Ekaterinburg morgues. The Russian prosecutor general almost instituted a criminal case for displaying the bones of "unknown persons." However the session of the state commission on the burial has been frequently postponed and now it is planned only for January.

The fault in all this is simply bureaucratic. The point is that Petersburg mayor Sobchak is a member of the commission, as are the deputy ministers of several departments, and these people now are not in office. Appropriate changes must be made, but up to this time nothing has been done. In order to finish the additional medical and biological studies on which the Most Holy Patriarch has insisted, more money is needed (which, incidentally, is not very much). However not one kopeck has been allocated for this purpose; until the commission is working there is no financing.

And now on its part the Russian Orthodox church has finally taken concrete steps: the matter of canonization of the Romanovs will be brought up at the local council which is to convene in February of next year. This means that the church will be forced to give an official answer whether it recognizes the conclusions of Russian and foreign experts about the genuineness of the "Ekaterinburg" relics. Moreover, the procedure for canonisation requires an indication of whether sacred relics exist or not. If the question remains open in the opinion of the members of the synod, they can use a formula like: "leaving to the will of God. . . ."

Although the synod undoubtedly will state its opinion on the matter of the subsequent fate of the remains, neverless the last word lies with the state commission. Incidentally, in distinction from Saint Petersburg, which is wisely and silently leaving the issue for the time to the providence of God, Ekaterinburg is taking vigorous action. The governor of that city has already frequently declared: "We will bury them only in our city!" In Petersburg such words also have been heard often.

(full text, tr. by PDS)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Tsarskoe selo

Related items:
Efforts to honor last tsar proceed slowly , 3 December 1996
Orthodox Church plans canonization of last tsar, 21 October 1996
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 October 1996 Confessions, by M. Shevchenko.

(posted 27 December 1996)

Sociologist questions magnitude of "Islamic Renaissance" in Russia

by Tatiana Varzanova

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11 December 1996

The writer addresses the existence of an anti-Muslim attitude identified among about five percent of the population of Moscow, attributing it to an exaggeration of the size of the Muslim population of Russia. Instead of the more than twenty million, or fifteen percent of the population, that the press speaks about, Varzanova concludes that less than four percent of the population practices the religion of Islam. This conclusion comes from surveys conducted in 1993 and 1996. These surveys found that up to 43% consider themselves Orthodox. In Moscow, 66% identify themselves as Orthodox and 1.8%, Muslim.

She concludes with the counsel: "Wouldn't it be better for Muslim strategists to foresee the reaction of opposition to the strengthening of the Islamic factor in the internal political life of Russia, the certainty of which is evidenced by anti-Muslim moods even in the public atmosphere of multinational Moscow, two thirds of whose population have long considered themselves Orthodox."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Konfesii
Full English translation:Confessions

(posted 26 December 1996)

Moscow mayor supports Orthodox Serbs

Segodnia, 26 December 1996

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov considers that "the Dayton peace is unjust as it applies to Orthodox Serbs." He expressed his opinion yesterday at a meeting with a representative of the Serbian Democratic Party Alexander Bukha, the minister of defense of the Serbian Republic Milan Ninkovich, and the director of the humanist-cultural center of the Republic of Serbia in Moscow Todor Dutina. Luzhkov stated: "The Dayton agreement is an echo of the fact that Russia is not now in a strong position. However we shall rectify affairs and regain authority and strength. . . ."

Luzhkov stated: "The Dayton agreement is an echo of the fact that Russia is not now in a strong position. However we shall rectify affairs and regain authority and strength."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Luzhkov chitaet deitonskii mir nespravedlivym

(posted 26 December 1996)

Nationalist newspaper criticizes weakness of proposals to amend religious liberty law

by Oleg Kuznetsov

Zavtra, 10 December 1996 (excerpts)

At the end of November in the State Duma of Russia, on the initiative of the LDPR fraction, there was a discussion of the draft of the federal law "On introducing amendments and supplements in the RSFSR law 'On Freedom of Religious Confessions'."

One of the speakers, Deacon Andrei Kuraev, noted that the law passed on first reading placed no serious impediments to the activity of destructive sects. The law gives equality of rights to the Russian Orthodox church and any occultic organization with a murky and partially criminal past. . . .

At the discussion in the Duma there was talk that certain forces need to challenge the epidemic of occultism in our country and rebuild social consciousness on fundamental harmony. For example, the teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses requires its adherents to refuse military service and voting. This organization numbers in Russia 600,000 persons and its growth rate is about 40-50 percent per year.

Security agencies in a number of countries have established that the church of Scientology has created an enormous information network that collects military and secret intelligence. In our country this church also has penetrated the military-industrial complex. Workers at the Perm motor factory who did not want to study dianetics (scientology) were illegally fired. As a result of intense struggle with Duma sectarians the LDPR fraction managed to bring up for review the question concerning the removal from the draft of the law of point 6 of article 3, "On the freedom of conscience of children." These is some hope that it will become impossible to attract children into totalitarian sects with impunity. . . .

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Sektualnaia revoliutsiia
Full English translation:Sectarian Revolution

Related article on sects by Oleg Kuznetsov.

(posted 26 December 1996)

Conservative Orthodox metropolitan answers liberal criticism of proposals to amend religious liberty law

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 16 December 1996

by Nikolai, metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas:

The metropolitan responds to a very long article published in October by a former advisor to President Eltsin.

The following excerpts come from his letter:

The writer is greatly concerned and worried that in the "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" that is being drafted priority will be given to one religion, the Russian Orthodox church. . . .

Like a red thread running throughout the article there is the thought that the Russian Orthodox church always was subordinate to the state and ideologically enslaved to it. Well, what's so bad and shameful? "By Me tsars rule and sovereigns enact justice" (Pr 8.15). "Let every soul be subject to higher authorities, for there is no authority but from God; existing authorities are established by God" (Rm 13.1). . . .

So what is there in the church's service to the benefit of the state that is shameful? The church has always served its homeland not out of fear but for the sake of conscience, and the state in its turn has cared for and is concerned about the church as for a mother. And this union, signified once in the Byzantine double-headed eagle, can only be welcomed. . . .

Mister Krasikov confidently declares that the Russian Orthodox church cannot stand competition and seeks to be defended by the state. In the first place, our church is not about to compete with anyone, and in the second, why would you seek defense from a state whose citizens you already have been educating for many centuries? Orthodox priests, according to the writer, "neither are able nor wish to work as missionaries." Well this is a sore point. Indeed our church for the time being is short of highly educated, qualified ministers (it was Orthodox priests who were shot and rotted away in the camps and not the sleek envoys from overseas). Of course we have problems with our means of mass information and publishing and with everything that is essential for missionary activity. The Orthodox church is supported by the grandmother who lights a candle to the Most Holy Mother of God for her dead son, but for the western missionaries it is entirely different. . . .

Of course, Orthodox do not have the protestant aggressiveness or the pressure by which the crafty sectarians approach people who seek the truth but who are spiritually weak. . . .

We are not for isolation. And we are not for a return to the past. But we are not for forgetting it either. Let each person freely choose a confession of faith, but the preeminence in law should go to the traditional, historically proven faith of Russia, the Orthodox church. And as one of its pastors, I try to lead my flock to the light of the true faith along the path which our Savior, the apostles and father, the holy martyrs and confessors commanded for us. . . .

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):S Anotoliem Krasikovym
Full English translation:With Anatoly Krasikov

Original Krasikov article:
Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Gosudarstvo, tserkov i religioznaia svoboda
Full English translation:State, Church, and Religious Freedom

(posted 25 December 1996)

Liberal Moscow paper criticizes plans to canonize imperial family

by Sergei Bychkov

Moscow News, no. 47, 4 December 1996

In the ongoing discussion inside Russia regarding the upcoming canonization of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, the liberal Russian press has taken a generally unsympathetic stance.

Bychkov divides his criticism between the tsar himself, questioning whether he deserves veneration, and Metropolitan Yuvenaly, questioning why he changed from his earlier opposition to canonization. (It should be noted that Bychkov's hostile approach leads him to make several inexact statements about the Russian revolution and about the church's process for canonization.)

Full English text:Canonizing last tsar

An analogous liberal critique of canonization from Nezavisimaia gazeta is available at the following location: Confession.

Related items:

Orthodox Church plans canonization of last tsar, 21 October 1996
Efforts to honor last tsar proceed slowly , 3 December 1996

(posted 12 December 1996)

Reformist and conservative Orthodox political unions

by Oleg Mramornov

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11 December 1996

As 1996 ended the Orthodox Christian Russian public undertook two new attempts to formulate principles of Christians politics in accord with present realities and to energize its socio-political forces.

The founding conference of the All-Russian Christian Union (VKhS) met 3 December. The Declaration of this new Christian association says: "VKhS is a public movement whose purpose is to unite citizens of Russia who believe that Christian principles should be the active factor of the communal life of the country." It also declares the principles of the unity of Christians of various confessions who embrace diverse political convictions and of the organizational independence of the union from structures of the Russian Orthodox church, while at the same time recognizing that Orthodoxy is the basis of the spiritual and cultural identity of our people. Declaring itself a secular organiations that is independent from the Moscow patriarchate, VKhS speaks in its Declaration of broad support of the Russian Orthodox church.

VKhS is open to people who hold other religious convictions or to those who have none but who recognize the value of Christian morality and are prepared to build the communal life of the new Russia on religious ethical principles for its humanization. The motto of the newly founded Christian organization is the statement of the blessed Augustine: "In the main things, unity; in uncertain things, freedom; and in everything, love."

In his report Mikhail Men, the president of the organizing committee of VKhS who is the president of the State Duma committee on culture and the son of the late Father Alexander Men, declared that at the base of the general crisis that Russia now is experiencing lies a most profound spiritual crisis and that it is necessary to find Christian ways to overcome this crisis. "The common national idea which really unites our society and will give it the necessary impulse for a resolution of the problems it faces can be none other than a Christian idea."

The assembly also was addressed by the priest of the Moscow church of saints Kosma and Damian, Father Alexander Borisov and others.

On 5 December another part of the Orthodox public, united under the aegis of the Orthodox Political Conference (PPS), distributed at its regular meeting an Appeal whose heading bore the words of Saint Prince Alexander Nevsky: "God is not in strength but in truth!" The Appeal, in particular, speaks about loss in contemporary political practice and public consciousness of spiritual and Christian values, declaring that "Orthodox patriotic phraseology is being used in order somehow to conceal the religious and ethical weakness, love of power, and egoism of the majority of those who today consider themselves the masters of the country." PPS decided to create a permanently functioning council with the goal of consolidating its political energies and with the intention of making this council, after having overcome the deception of embracing the charismatic leader, a basis for a future all-Russian Orthodox National Movement. The session of PPS included archpriest Vladislav Sveshnikov and president of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods Kirill Sakharov. Opposition to the current course was stronger and sharper among the PPS than the VKhS.

The new Christian initiatives evoke the pertinent question: is a transformation of Evangelical Truth into political hostility and darkness possible, especially in conditions of the discord among Russian leaders of the Christian community? For service of the Truth, for Christians, means first of all service of unity in Christ. That unity is what was commanded by the words of Christ Himself: "May they all be one."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Dva soiuza

(posted 11 December 1996)

Proposal for a "structured confessional field" in Russia

by Alexander Olegovich Morozov,
assistant editer of Metaphrasis Religious Information Service

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 11 December 1996

Despairing of the seemingly futile attempts to amend the existing Russian law on freedom of religion, Morozov suggests that the government act to create a "structured confessional field." Such an arrangement would categorize religions into four classes that would replace the current "American model" of the equal status of all religions.

Morozov criticizes the activity of the International Association of Religious Freedom, which, he says, prevents a realistic resolution of the problems in church-state relations because it insists on the retention of the "American model."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Ne popravki a novaia skhema

Full English translation:Not amendments

Related items:
Patriarchate disagrees with religious rights group, 9 August 1996
Update on draft of religion law , 29 November 1996
Soviet-type legislation threatens evangelical activity , 25 November 1996
Council on Relations with Religious Associations of the presidency of the Russian Federation, 22 November 1996
Alarm about proposed amendments to religion law, 3 October 1996
Dissident priest continues to hound patriarch, 28 August 1996
Hints of restrictions on religion in FSU, 12 August 1996
Moscow patriarchate continues to lobby for changes in religion law, 1 August 1996

(posted 11 December 1996)

Orthodoxy in Ukraine

by Oleg Varfolomeyev

OMRI Daily Digest
No. 237, Part II, 10 December 1996

The leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret, called for unification of the country's splintered Orthodox church, RFE/RL reported on 9 December. Filaret said a united Orthodox church must be created in Ukraine to mark the anniversary of Christ's birth in 2000. He also announced plans to meet for the first time with the leader of Ukraine's Russian-based church, Patriarch Volodymyr Sabodan. The Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was formed in 1992, after Filaret broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has been traditionally dominant in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church enjoyed the support of Ukrainian nationalists and former President Leonid Kravchuk. About 35 million of Ukraine's 52 million people are estimated to be Orthodox. --

(posted 11 December 1996)

Restrictions on religious practices in Russia

by Lawrence Uzzell

Moscow Times, 26 November 1996

. . . Russia's 1993 constitution guarantees religious freedom to all--at least on paper. But in fact, Russians have less religious freedom today than when the constitution was adopted. Away from the scrutiny of the Moscow press, roughly one-fourth of the country's provinces have adopted flagrantly unconstitutional measures which restrict the rights of religious minorities. The rapid spread of such measures, and the courts' failure to curb them, suggest that Russia is not even trying to become a state governed by law. . . .

Full English text: Stifling the unorthodox

Related items: Soviet-type legislation threatens evangelical activity

Hints of restrictions on religion in FSU

Orthodox conference warns against reduction of nuclear arms

Segodnia, 13 November 1996

As Christians, we cannot tempt other nations with unilateral disarmament.

A November conference at the monastery of Saint Daniel in Moscow, which met with the blessing of the patriarch, enunciated militaristic views.

Based on the premise that "in the present difficult times there remain for Russia only two hopes for salvation, Orthodoxy and strategic nuclear weapons (SNW) and Washington is trying to achieve the curtailment of both native Orthodoxy and SNW," the conference concluded that "the nation is being deceived by a false pacifism and has not been taught to love our blessed Orthodox weapons."

One speaker, Pavel Florensky, a corresponding member of the academy of natural sciences, declared that since Russia's atomic bomb was developed "in the Hermitage of Sarov (Arzamas-16), then the entire Russian nuclear arsenal at the present time is under the control and protection of Saint Serafim of Sarov. This is what distinguishes our SNW from the Satanic American arsenal, which was used to destroy hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Pravoslavnoe iadernoe oruzhie

Full English translation:Orthodox nuclear weapons

(posted 9 December 1996)

Orthodox church honors sixteenth-century saint

by S. Beliaev

Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, September 1996.

In an event that reminds one of medieval history, the Orthodox church exhumed the remains of a man whom a church council condemned as a heretic in 1525 and gave them the honor due a saint. In 1988 the millennial council of the church canonized Maxim the Greek.

The picture above shows the moment of prayer conducted by Patriarch Alexis II before the casket was raised from the ground and taken into the church of the Holy Spirit.

The journal of the patriarchate reported the archaeological excavation which exposed a body from which a sweet-smelling fragrance exuded, a traditional sign of sainthood.

Full text translation: Obretenie sviatykh moshchei

Orthodox church supports panslavism

by Alan Kasaev

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 6 December 1996

A conference devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgrade Slavic Congress of Victors over Fascism will be held tomorrow (7 December) in the Central House of the Russian Army. This conference was organized by the International Union of Public Associations "Panslavic Sobor," which was created last year. This organization continues the tradition of the All-Slavic Committee, which was created in Belgrade in 1946 and included representatives of all Slavic republics of the world. The Panslavic Sobor today unites peoples, parties, and movements that advocate the strengthening of friendship among the Slavic nations that are related to each other by descent and culture. The movement includes writers, film directors, journalists, representatives of the Russian Orthodox church, military personnel, and Cossack chiefs (hetmen). The forthcoming conference will include delegations from Slavic governments and the Slavic diaspora of the countries of the anti-Hitlerite coalition, diplomats, representatives of government agencies, including also representatives of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The keynote speech at the conference will be devoted to the hundredth anniversary of the great Slavic commanders Georgi Zhukov and Konstantin Rokosovsky.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Konferentsiia vseslavianskogo sobora

(posted 6 December 1996)

Update on law concerning religious groups


Ekspress khronika, 29 November 1996

Moscow. The results of the work on the draft of the law "On Freedom of Religious Confessions" was discussed on 21 November by a session of the committee on affairs of public associations and religious organizations of the political council of the presidency of Russia. A member of the committee, Mikhail Severtsev, told the meeting that more than three hundred amendments had been made in the draft. He said that the draft has been supplemented by articles regarding discrimination of religious bases and missionary activity. Severtsev also declared that the law "On Freedom of Religious Confessions" will not regulate matters "connected with medical activity, that is, with parapsychology and extrasensory perception," since "such matters are not religious."

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8):Podgotovka zakona

(posted 4 December 1996)

Orthodox deacon describes sects, recommends state policies

by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Russian Orthodox University

A frequent writer on current religious matters in Russia, Kuraev declares: "Time has come to lift the taboo from antisectarian polemics. For several years now the Russian Orthodox church has been warning that Russia and her citizens have become the object of spiritual aggression in the true meaning of this word. . . . There is nothing 'undemocratic' in warning people of the danger brought to them by the methods and the aims of certain religious organizations."

After describing briefly the activities of several sects in Russia, and the ineffectiveness of state response to them, Kuraev suggests several approaches to religion for government officials.

"The state should publicly announce its attitude to various confessions. A list should be made of all the sects, the activity of which in Russia should be prohibited a priori. . . . In case the state does not consider that a sect presents social or personal danger for its citizens, but it has reasons to treat it with caution, it should declare that it does not want to cooperate with the said religious organization. . . . It would be desirable for the state to conclude clear cooperation agreements with the confessions which are traditional for the peoples of Russia--Orthodox church, Islam, Judaism. Cooperation in this field should provide for coordinated school curricula, free television and radio time for preaching, cooperation programs in the armed forces, prisons, and hospitals, coordinated state participation in the restoration of churches, mosques, and synagogues which are culturally and historically valuable. . . . As to the other confessions which have decent reputations but which are not traditional to Russia, the state should create the conditions necessary for their independent activities. if they wish, they may buy television and radio time, cooperate with state schools with parent, teacher, and pupil approval, rent state audience space at their own expense. . . .If a religious organization pursues political aims, it should be regarded as a political organization. We consider a religious organization as political if its sees its final task in establishing a certain new order on earth. Among such religious-political organizations we find, for example, those para-Christian sects which preach the idea of "chiliasm," a "millennial" Kingdom of Christ. . . primarily the sects of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Unification Church. According to the Constitution and Russian legislation, such religious organizations should be deprived of . . . the right to receive financial support from abroad."

It should be noted that Deacon Kuraev speaks as an individual and not the representative of an ecclesiastical or political organization. Patriarch Alexis II wrote a letter to the chairman of the Russian State Duma on this topic in April 1996.

Full English text: Aum shinrikio scandal (posted 4 December 1996)

Efforts to honor Nicholas II proceed slowly


December 3, 1996

Following a description of a museum exhibit about the royal family in Ekaterinburg, Yeltsin's political home, the CNN report includes the following observations:

The Orthodox Church had planned to build a proper memorial to the Czar, who was the spiritual leader of the church, but financing fell through.

And at the murder scene, now identified with a stone marker, volunteers are trying to complete a small wooden chapel to commemorate the family, but with difficulty. One volunteer said the chapel had been burned down twice by people who don't want Russia to revive its royal past.

The Orthodox Church says it wants to confer sainthood on Czar Nicholas. But it is stumped in that effort as it tries to overcome a lack of public support for religion itself.

An Orthodox Church priest told CNN that the resurgence of interest in religion, so apparent after Communism was overthrown in Russia, has abated. People found little value in church-going, he said, because the roots of their faith had been withered by 70 years of political repression.

The Communist legacy persevered in Ekaterinburg in many other aspects. The city voted last year to keep Communist street names around the city squares, which are dominated by statues of Communist leaders.

But even here, people are beginning to show moral revulsion against the crimes of the Communists. The city recently dedicated a memorial to the millions of innocents killed in the Soviet gulag prison camps.

Full text of CNN report: Romanovs wax

(posted 4 December 1996)