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Registration of new Pentecostal union

by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 29 May. On 26 May the Christian Charismatic Association was registered at the Ministry of Justice of Russia. This was announced by the president of this association, bishop and pastor of the "Dew" church, Pavel Saveliev, when he addressed the opening of the general conference of the Associated Union of KhVE. The association now comprises more than thirty churches which are scattered in Moscow, cities of the European part of Russia, the Caucasus, Siberia, and the Far East. Twenty of these churches already have received reregistration in the Ministry of Justice of Russia. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 1 June 1998)

Rights defender, Orthodox priest greet Pentecostals

by Igor Alenin, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 29 May. From 27 to 29 May the first congress of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) was held in the Ismailovo theater concert hall in Moscow. As is known, on 30 March the announcement of the official reregistration of the KhVE was issued.

On the second day of the congress the delegates were greeted by Valery Vasilievich Borshchev, a deputy in the State Duma and well known rights defender, Konstantin Leonidovich Blazhenov, a commissioner for religious affairs of the government of Moscow, and Fr Oleg Steniaev, a representative of the Orthodox church for whom, he admits, "Pentecostalism is his first love," since he received a Bible and the first answers to his questions in a Pentecostal church. In addition to these three persons, the stage was mounted by one of the leaders of the "Spiritual Regeneration" organization, George Lowe. The pastor of the "Word of Life" church, Kristen, called people to missionary service in his sermon. Several dozen pastors responded to his call, who upon their return home will summon their flocks to missionary service. (tr. by PDS)

by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 29 May. On 27 May the General Conference of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, (Sergei Riakhovsky, president) opened in the theater concert hall of the Izmailovo hotel complex. The conference was attended by leaders of more than ten associations and unions that are a part of this union, as well as pastors and leaders of churches that also are members of the union. In all around 2,000 persons were present at the conference. The motto of the general conference is "In essentials, unity; in secondary matters, freedom; in the rest, love." At the ceremonial opening of the conference words of welcome were brought by president of the union, Bishop Sergei Riakhovsky, Bishop Ruslan Belosevich, Bishop Pavel Saveliev, and also guests, the Vice President of the KhVE (Pentecostal) Union of Russia, Nazar Reshchikovets, represenatives of the Pentecostal unions of Norway, Sweden, German, and USA. A massed choir of the Word of Life, Dew, and Church of God (Moscow) churches and musicians from these churches provided musical ministry.

In his welcoming speech to conference participants Bishop Sergei Riakhovsky declared that the Associated Union of KhVE was created on the principle of autonomous centralization. "This term corresponds to the spirit of our union and to the vision which we have for our union," he emphasized. With regard to the new law on freedom of religion he said: "This law was supposed to separate the 'sheet' from the 'goats,' those who please the state from those who 'not for us' in the state's opinion. But today God has united those who possibily would not be able to gain state recognition and in a marvelous way has created this extraordinary structure under the name Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith," he continued. Further in his speech he briefly touched on issues which could become, in his opinion, matters uniting this union with other Christian confessions. Thus, in particular, he declared: "I frequently call myself Orthodox because I believe orthodoxly; I call myself Catholic because I am part of the universal church; I call myself a Baptist because have been baptized on faith; I call myself Pentecostal because I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit; I call myself a charismatic because I believe in the mighty power of God and his miracles." In conclusion Sergei Riakhovsky emphasized that the KhVE union, which he directed, wishes to cooperate productively with all other unions of Christians that exist today for the good of the Lord Jesus Christ. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 1 June 1998)

Regional officials interpret law restrictively

by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov, Kemerovo
29 May 1998

In the near future the [Evangelical Christian-Baptist] senior presbyter for Kaluga and Tula regions, Vladimir Baluev, plans to meet with representatives of the administratin of Tula region. The subject for conversation is misunderstandings between the church and state authorities. At issue are two specific events.

In Tula, the district administration interrupted an evangelistic activity in the local house of culture. The basis was that Christians from America participated in preaching the gospel, supposedly in violation of the law. The administration appealed to the procurator's office with a request to respond to this violation. However the procurator found nothing criminal in the activity of the EKhB church. In the end, the evangelistic activity was allowed and it continued another two days.

In a neighboring city of Venev the EKhB church was evicted from a rented movie house by decision of the state authorities. For what? Supposedly to avoid interconfessional strife, according to the administration's explanation. The issue was that this theater also was rented by the church of Seventh-day Adventist Christians. Vladimir Baluev shrugs his shoulders in amazement: "We have not had any kind of strife or conflicts. They meet at their time and we at ours." Still greater amazement is evoked by the eviction of the Adventists also. But perhaps the authorities are concerned that nobody be offended? However, that could hardly be. Parishioners now are forbidden to meet together in general in any municipal institution.

It should be said that services in the movie house have been going on already for about two years. Its director agreed to renew the lease soon. But parishioners for now must meet in an apartment. It is cramped and stuffy. But they endure and pray for the officials. God grant that their hearts be softened and that Vladimir Baluev can succeed in reaching mutual understanding in the upcoming meeting. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 1 June 1998)

Patriarch rebuffs mediation, persists in curbing reformists


The latest issue of Pravoslavnaia Obshchina published a letter sent last fall to Patriarch Alexis II, signed by leading Orthodox theologians in Paris, along with the patriarch's response saying that they had been misled by false and tendentious information regarding Fr Georgy Kochtekov. Pravoslavnaia Obshchina also published an letter addressed to the patriarch objecting to the patriarchate's rescinding of official approval of Fr Kochetkov's school.

Letter no. 1

To: his holiness Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus

Your Holiness.

Permit us to address you in order to express the pain which is evoked in us by the tension that has been created between Fr Georgy Kochetkov and those who accuse him threatening the very existence of Orthodoxy by his so-called innovations. We grieve that Orthodox brothers with whom we are in spiritual communion, whatever the orientation to which they adhere, are conducting a war among themselves. We understand that the Russian church, after decades of persecution, should first of all restore the traditional spirit of the liturgy which has been handed on from generation to generation. But we also understand those pastors who, appealing to tradition--prepared in the nineteenth century, expressed in the church council of 1917, and condinuted in the works of many theologians in emigration--wish for their parishioners to participate more consciously and fully in the liturgical life, particularly in a language comprehensible to all. It is necessary to prepare believers for this and to achieve agreement, to the extent possible. As regards the sacred mysteries, we can rely only on the Holy Spirit, on whom our unity is based. We prayer that this atmosphere of distrust and passion will be dispersed and that an end will be put to the accusations that sometimes are so sharp that they contradict that peace which is not from this world which Christ has given us.

Both in France and the West the path leading to the unity of Orthodox is a hard one. We always saw in the Russian church, in its inexhaustible spiritual wealth, the ideal of fervor and unity of its constituent parts despite variety. We wish to assure you of our support: in yourself you symbolize the unity by which all measure themselves.

Assuring you of our profoundest respect, we ask your patriarchal blessing.

Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinsky
Fr. Mikhail Evdokimov
Elena Arzhakovskaia-Klepinina
Elena Bobrinsky
Vsevolod Gusev
Olivie Kleman
Nikolai Lossky
Veronika Lossky
Nikita Struve
Ivan Chekan

Letter no. 2

From: Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and all-Rus
119034, Moscow, Chisty Lane, 5

No. 4772, 3 November 1997

Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinsky, dean, Saint Sergius Theological Institute, Paris

The disorders of contemporary church life grieve all true members of the Orthodox church. We also are grieved that in the mass media and in current discussions "of wide circles of the world public" that are not impartial the causes of the difficulties that have arisen are systematically misrepresented and responsibility for them is moved "from the sick head onto the healthy one."

As regards Fr Georgy Kochetkov and the tensions arising around him, the issue is not his desire to create a liturgical life that is more comprehensible for contemporary belivers and to help them to participate more fully in it--we all want this--but in the serious ecclesiological, disciplinary, and spiritual distortions of church life whose danger and harm for the existence of the Russian Orthodox church remain unknown to many in the West. The incident of overt violence committed by Fr Georgy and his adherents on the second priest of the parish was carefully investigated by an authoritative commission, headed by a bishop, and required legal and necessary punishment. I think that for the unity and peaceful life of the church it is not helpful to encourage mindless pride which leads to mindless deeds, tendentious criticism, and distrust and disrespect for the church leadership. It seems to me that for the ruling bishop, the problems arising in his diocese are no more removed and no less understood than for those who sympathize from afar, from another country and another jurisdiction. Your letter gives the impression that you have received one-sided information and that you are insufficiently acquainted with the real church life in Russia.

I thank you for the assurance of your support in church unity and of me personally. I take this as your intent not to support further those who are fomenting dissension.

Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II

Letter no. 3


To his holiness, most holy patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Alexis II

Your holiness, most holy Master!

We appeal to you as the supreme primate of the Russian Orthodox church as well as the ruling bishop of Moscow with a respectful petition regarding the Saint Filaret advanced school, which has been subject to unjust attacks in the press and now has been deprived of your episcopal blessing, which is uncomparibly more grievious to us.

Your holiness. We know the founder of the school and its activity and for us it is not possible to see what has happened in any other way than as a tragic mistake that can have terrible consequences. Founded in the memorable year of the millennium of the baptism of Rus and actually having begun its unofficial activity much earlier, during the years of the atheistic regime, and having already provided genuine spiritual help for thousands of people who came to God and became true servants of the Russian Orthodox church, and well known to many in Russia and abroad, this school cannot and should not be outside the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate. This is unbearable for our sincere feelings and we do not see the reasons for it. The school always has submitted to your decrees and to the directives of the department of religious education. As regards the attempts of Archpriest Oleg Klemyshev to take over the spiritual direction of the advanced school and the public institute, they are baseless inasmuch as the educational institutions which are at issue are not and never have been institutions of the parish; they were established much before the opening of the parish of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki and existed all these years in relationship to other parishes of our church as well.

In view of all that has been said we humbly beseech you, your holiness, to attend to our testimony of the sincere attempts of the Saint Filaret's School and Public Institute and all their teachers and students, always to remain under your episcopal omophor, without deviation, continuing to work for the welfare of the holy Orthodox church and our fatherland, and we pray you to bless their labors.

We hearty wishes for God's gracious help for you in your burdensome ministry and a request for prayers, the unworthy servants of your holiness and pilgrims
Academician S.S. Averintsev,
Prof. E.M. Vereshchagin
Academician I.I. Vinogradov
Archpriest Sergius Gakkel
Prof. Ya. N. Zasursky
Prof. Llivie Kleman
E.D. Klepinina-Arzhakovskaia
Nikita Struve

(tr. by PDS)

Russian text

(posted 31 May 1998)

Reformists attacked by reactionary bishop


Story from the life of a provincial inquisition

by Maxim Shevchenko
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 29 May 1998

At the beginning of May an event occurred in Ekaterinburg which is difficult to believe. By direction of a local hierarch, Bishop Nikon of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturie, books by fathers Alexander Schmemann, John Meyendorff, and Alexander Men were removed from the library of the local ecclesiastical school and burned. Recently the editors of NG have learned details of this auto-da-fe which is without precedent since the time of the bolshevik persecution of the church.

On 5 May 1998 at a session of the ecclesiastical consistory (diocesan council) of the Ekaterinburg diocese, attended by the full staff under the direction of Bishop Nikon, questions were raised about control of the reading of parishioners and the distribution of Christian literature by clergymen and parishes of the diocese. The session was attended by priests who were ordered not to distribute books by certain writers who, in the opinion of the leadership of the diocese, are "heretics." As a result of certain decisions of the session, about which the church public knows little, on that day the diocesen ecclesiastical school received orders by telephone from the ruling bishop, Nikon, for an immediate and public act of burning books by fathers Alexander Schemann, John Meyendorff, and Alexander Men on the grounds of the school. The telephone order was taken personally by the dean of the ecclesiastical school.

Eyewitnesses report that on 5 May at approximately 2:20 p.m. the students and some priests assembled in the yard of the ecclesiastical school. The books were brought out of the building and burned in a large iron crate. At about the same time the ecclesiastical dean of the city of Ekaterinburg, Fr Nikolai Ladiuk, arrived at the school, but he talked only with the dean of the school. The students were given no explanations.

Reporters from the local television station (10th channel) called the censor of the Ekaterinburg diocese, Fr Avraam, requesting comment on the event. The censor confirmed in conversation with reporters that the books were burned, but he refused to be interviewed. According to some reports, in 1994 this priest participated in the destruction of books by Nikolai Berdiaev and Alexander Schmemann on the grounds of the monastery of which he was the abbot.

It should be explained that fathers John Meyendorff and Alexander Schmemann are the greatest Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century. All of their lives, just like Fr Alexander Men, they have devoted to proclaiming Orthodoxy and their books, which reached USSR during the soviet period with great difficulty, served as consolation and hope for thousands of believers. However, it is possible that the Ekaterinburg inquisitors were not believers at that time. The thirty-eight-year-old Bishop Nikon in 1978 was a student in an accounting course and he still had not completed his theological academic work by correspondence course.

Besides all this, the works of the above-named fathers have frequently been published and reprinted in Russia, including editions with the blessing of the most holy patriarch.

There is nothing new in the position taken by the leadership of the Ekaterinburg diocese. According to testimony from those who had the good fortune to study under Fr John Meyendorff, even during his lifetime he had to endure the sectarian tricks of schismatics from RPTsZ. There were known cases when he, an Orthodox priest, arrived at a church of the emigres and he not only was not invited to the altar but was not even permitted to kiss the cross after the liturgy. Now this amazing philosophy of schism within Orthodoxy has arrived and been confirmed within the parishes of the Russian Orthodox church under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus. Church people are being carefully divided into "clean" and "unclean." "Orthodoxy or death," the frightening slogan that is more natural on the lips of the executioner than the priest, is resounding ever more loudly. For many the word "Orthodoxy" has become incompatible with the words "life" and "love."

The events in Ekaterinburg were predictable. If not there, then they would have happened some place else, for example, in Tomsk, where the recently appointed Bishop Arkady has taken up the destruction of Orthodox education, or in Voronezh, or in Altai.

The Ekaterinburg auto-da-fe was accompanied, appropriately, by a trial of the heretics. Three priests suspected of sympathy with the Moscow priest Georgy Kochetkov (NG has published the most varied points of view on the conflict in his church last year) were forced to swear on the Bible. They were required to condemn the heresy of fathers John Meyendorff, Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Men. Two did so, but one refused.

We shall produce the text of the decree signed by Master Nikon and addressed to this priest: "For the welfare of the church, because of violation of clerical vows given before the throne of the Lord, stating 'I will observe the teachings of the faith and teach others under the direction of the holy Orthodox church and of the holy fathers,' and for persistence in error and allegiance to new doctrines which contradict the traditions of the holy fathers and do not have the approval of the plenitude of the Orthodox church, and for persistent refusal to aid in the exposure of dangerous and heretical notions, which was unequivocally expressed in front of the ruling bishop and members of the ecclesiastical consistory, from 5 May 1998 you are forbidden to perform your clerical ministry for the rest of your life, without the right of giving blessing and wearing the cross and vestments."

One wishes to believe that a response to the actions of the bishop and consistory would nevertheless be forthcoming from church leadership in the name of the "whole plenitude of the Orthodox church." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: V Ekaterinburge szhigaiut knigi

(posted 29 May 1998)

Conscientious objection law stalled


As long as there is no appropriate law, the whole country helps objectors

by Oleg Odnokolenko
Segodnia, 28 May 1998

The long delayed law "On alternative civilian service," which was adopted on first reading back in 1994, recently was consigned to the duma committee on defense (until recently a second, parallel version of the law was being prepared by the Committee on Affairs of Public Associations). True, a lot of time already has been lost in duma debates. So there is little hope that the parliament deputies will manage to review the law before vacation.

Meanwhile the need for adoption of the law was again confirmed by the spring recess. A few days ago the Antimilitarist Radical Association (ARA) again expressed its position. The members of its general council consider that alternative service must have a purely civilian character and not exceed the term of military service by more than fifty percent, while the right to "alternative assignment" should be granted on the basis of a draftee's application.

The strongest argument of the antimilitarists is article 59, part 3, of the constitution of RF, which even in the absence of a law provides a bases for any conscript to demand alternative work in place of military service. How this can be done, how a rock-hard military person can be persuaded that one's religious beliefs or convictions (most military committees do not perceive the difference between these two words) forbid bearing arms the attorneys in the staff headquarters of ARA are explaining to the draftee in extremely qualified terms.

This is the formal, but not very easy, way of avoiding the burdens of unnecessary military service. It requires special courage, definite personal wit, and good lawyers in order to resist the state machine as represented by the military committees. Out in the countryside where traditional attitudes are strong on this matter (courts do not take "conscientious objectors" seriously out there) the chances of winning such a court case are almost nil. Duma deputy Valery Borshchev, the president of ARA, is barely managing to win over draft-age Russians to his campaign of civil disobedience.

Draftees prefer less politicized means to avoid being soldiers or sailors. Whoever is a bit richer can buy his way out (isn't this why working for the military committees is so popular with officers?). Whoever is a bit simpler or poorer is driven into hiding. There are even more refined means. For example, renouncing Russian citizenship for the critical period (until about age 28). There are a couple dozen ways of more or less "honest" conscientious objection. Such instructions now may even be read on the Internet.

The Ministry of Defense and other power agencies are not about to do anything for objectors "as a class" because no agency is in a position to change public attitudes about a "constitutional duty." The army itself recently has become a less attractive institution: there are no guarantees that the army will not be thrown into the next "hot spot," the army is as poor as an ex-convict, and personal rules and habits rule military collectives in defiance of the codes. Draft evaders already number in the tens of thousands.

Great hopes are placed in the professional army which was supposed to be in place by 1 January 2000, according to presidential decree number 722 of 16 May 1996 (which hardly anyone noted). The achievement of this idea would make a law "On alternative civilian service" irrelevant. But everyone knows that preelection decrees become unimportant after elections. The appearance of a professional army has been postponed almost officially to 2005; professional soldiers simply are not paid. As General Vladislav Putilin states, the maintenance of a professional soldier is four times as expensive as a conscript. Even now, in a period of military reform, the budget line for "financial allowance" is funded at only 40%. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, apparently in order to avoid social catastrophe in the army, has authorized supervisors to take funds out of other expense lines.

The commanders await the appearance of a law "On alternative civilian service" with trepidation. Whatever, it will provide additional possibilities for not serving in the kind of army we now have. Even now, without the law, symptoms of massive "religiosity" are emerging among draft-age youth, in which those beliefs that forbid bearing arms predominate. Will the Ministry of Defense take each case to court? It lacks the energy and means, in the absence of firm criteria, for determining the sincerity of "religious nonviolence." In 1997 around 700 men were assigned to alternative service. Only a couple dozen showed up.

So only ex-convicts do not need to hope for either the appearance of an army with a human face or the approval of a humane law. In the past up to six percent of draftees had records. Now since last year the Ministry of Defense and other power ministries have rejected them, and its hard to imagine that these guys were upset about it. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Alternativa sluzhbe v armii--tiurma

(posted 29 May 1998)

Old Believers criticize religion law


Authorities have taken revolutionary path

by Alexis Yurievich Riabtsev, assistant director of the Old Believers Research Center, and aide to the Old Believer metropolitan of Moscow and all-Rus, Alimpy.
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 20 May 1998

One could write a detective novel about how representatives of the Old Believer metropolia tried to obtain the text of the law or how they tried to express their rejection of many of its provisions to state workers, deputies, and the general public. They managed to do very little.

For example, when Metropolitan Alimpy spoke at the session of the Council on Relations with Religious associations of the presidency of RF, his speech was ignored completely by all the mass media. He managed also to schedule a meeting of representatives of Old Believer confessions with leaders of two parliamentary fractions, but the subsequent voting showed that the Old Believers got no benefit from these meetings whatever.

So, what do Old Believers not like about the new law? First, it expresses the interests of the Moscow patriarchate and, in our opinion, not even the whole RPTs but only its present leadership. Even the prefatory preamble does not evoke sympathy because it divides religious confessions into categories, and many other provisions preserve the property and authority rights and privileges of the leading persons of RPTs in first place. The Moscow patriarchate has finally been transformed from a religious organization into a religio-political organization, that is, it has virtually returned to the prerevolutionary situation of the Most Holy Synod.

The Orthodox Old Believer church always has tried to remain separate from politics. One should not confuse the church with individual Old Believers who at times have occupied personally a very active political position (Morozov, for example, financed the bolsheviks while Riabushinsky, Kornilov). The reader who is far-removed from interconfessional disputes can say: "What is it to us that some fuddy-duddy Old Believers feel themselves put upon? Our native Russian state has been strengthened and has flourished by leaning on the favored RPTs."

Without going into the stupidity about "democracy" and "human rights," I will introduce one concept. Because of the sinfulness and imperfection of this world any state is forced to take actions that are incompatible with Christianity. If in doing so it portrays itself as a bulwark of Orthodoxy, then the volume of lies, sanctimony, and hypocrisy in politics with grow apace, but the power of the state and its authority will be undermined. Precisely so a church that is close to the state and is forced to bless and justify its nefarious actions will lose much in the eyes of its adherents.

Both the government and the opposition have greatly overestimated the political influence and moral authority of the Moscow patriarchate. Similar mistakes have been made by those who imagine that its support will lend great legitimacy to the present authorities or to those that may replace them.

The method of struggle with foreign and totalitarian sects chosen by the composers of the new law does not evoke the approval of Old Believers. They decided to make it difficult for sects to register and not to give them rights of legal entity. These provisions of the law make one raise a large number of amazed questions. Why was it decided that "totalitarian sects" want to register? Why is it better for the state if sects operate without control, since by the new law they are not even obliged to give notification of their activity? Why did they figure that sects cannot receive status of legal entity by another means? For example, at one session of the Commission on Questions of Religious Associations of the government of RF a representative from the Far East reported that in their region all the congregations of followers of Moon have reregistered as public organizations.

During the centuries of persecution Old Believers worked out their own firm attitude toward freedom of conscience. Toleration is an absolute value, the sign of a strong and confident government. If I do not doubt the truth of the teachings of my church, then I do not need the help of the government in confessing and preaching my faith. Of course, if I am not convinced myself, then I must fight against "proselytism." But if Catholicism, for example, is a heresy, then there can be no talk about some agreement with them (I take my flock from this territory and you, from that one). If it is not a heresy, then why divide the territory?

One understands nothing. It makes the head spin. They say: what kind of people are you? You are for the totalitarian sects; you don't care about the poor young people who are forsaking their families and falling into the paws of the "white brotherhoods" and "mother of God" centers. Care indeed! We care very much; only this is not a religious problem. It is the consequence of the crisis of the family which is overtaking our society inexorably. But even many unfortunate parents who have lost their children to the sects can be criticized. As they say, forgive for Christ's sake, but one must drink a little bit, watch a little television, even get divorced "because of personality incompatibility," and be more concerned for the children. Otherwise the form of addiction which your children take up (religious, alcohol, or some other kind) will not make much difference.

The old song about "human rights" in Russia is again resounding from the West. Again they have started talking about receiving persecuted dissidents. Of course, "among the powerful the powerless always are guilty." In Russia's present weakness the West can always easily find an ordinary basis for interference in our internal affairs, but why should we create these bases in a vacuum and reduce the costs to the foreign intelligence services?

Old Believers find point 5 of article 3 of the new law completely unacceptable: "No one . . . may be forced . . . not to participate in worship services, or other religious rituals and ceremonies, or in the activity of religious associations." In the first place, this means that it is forbidden to exclude anyone from a religious organization by any means whatever. Second, this means that it is forbidden to establish special rules for visitors in a church other than the generally accepted rules of conduct on the street, that is, to require observance of special forms of clothing (for example, to require women to wear a kerchief or men to take off their hats), to require the unbaptized not to attend the liturgy of the faithful, etc. Third, it means that a legal basis has been created for ecumenical prayers, for no one, even the infidel, may be prohibited from praying along with the Orthodox in Orthodox churches, by whatever means the infidel may want, so long as the means not offend too strongly against public order.

Old Believers have not managed to legalize their rights either to the long-ago nationalized property or to recently donated property. Legislators refused to put into the law a provision that the property transferred to religious associations be certified as to its confessional provenance. Old Believer icons, bells, and other liturgical objects henceforth would have been transferred to RPTs exclusively were it not for good people in the criminal justice system, ministry of culture, and customs who recently have begun to cooperate actively with the Old Believer metropolia.

However it is too soon to rejoice. The Moscow patriarchate on 31 March received 563 liturgical objects from the storehouse of the State Depository of RF. For several months the Old Believers have been asking that they be shown the property being transferred. Finally thanks to the good will of the administration of the State Depository they managed to see it on the eve of the transfer to the patriarchate. And what was the result? Seventy one objects were of undoubted Old Believer origin. That's not a small amount if one considers that in the last nine years in all about 300 objects were transferred by various agencies to the Old Believer metropolia. It is impossible to blame the depository workers; they are not required to study the intricacies of interconfessional differences. The representatives of the patriarchate should show more propriety and integrity.

The legislation on religious cults in all countries has been produced over a long period of time and with great efforts to take into account often mutually exclusive interests. It has been achieved by inserting many amendments into existing laws and other legal acts. Our legislators could have taken this path and gradually perfected the previous law of 1990, but unfortunately they took a revolutionary path. We shall hope that with subsequent amendments the unsuccessful (in our opinion) law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" will be improved and corrected. True, the hope is a weak one. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: God posli zakona

(posted 28 May 1998)

Clinton: Russia not discriminating against religions

For Immediate Release May 26, 1998

May 23, 1998

Presidential Determination No. 98-23


SUBJECT: Assistance Program for the Government of the Russian Federation

Pursuant to section 577(a) of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1998 (Public Law 105-118), I hereby determine and certify that the Government of the Russian Federation has implemented no statute, executive order, regulation, or similar government action that would discriminate, or would have as its principal effect discrimination, against religious groups or religious communities in the Russian Federation in violation of accepted international agreements on human rights and religious freedoms to which the Russian Federation is a party. During the period under review, the Government of Russia has applied the new Russian Law on Religion in a manner that is not in conflict with its international obligations on religious freedom. However, this issue requires continued and close monitoring as the Law on Religion furnishes regional officials with an instrument that can be interpreted and used to restrict the activities of religious minorities.

You are authorized and directed to notify the Congress of this determination and to arrange for its publication in the Federal Register.

[Some indication of the thinking of the US Department of State that underlies the president's memorandum may be found in a statement "US Policy toward Russia" given before the subcommittee on Europe of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Sestanovich, Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, on May 20, 1998. Supporting testimony, "Should the Smith Amendment Sanctions Be Implemented?", was provided by attorney Lauren Homer.]


WASHINGTON, May 26 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday that Russia has not carried out a law widely seen as discriminating against minority religions, permitting continued U.S. aid to Moscow.

The law, enacted in September, names Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism as Russia's traditional religions and imposes a variety of regulations on minority and foreign faiths.

Under U.S. law, Clinton must certify that Russia's Law on Religion has not been implemented for U.S. government aid to continue to flow to Moscow.

Clinton made this judgment on Tuesday, but said Russia's record on the matter bears continued scrutiny.

``Russia has applied the new Russian Law on Religion in a manner that is not in conflict with its international obligations on religious freedom,'' Clinton wrote in a ``presidential determination'' released by the White House.

``However, this issue requires continued and close monitoring as the law ... can be interpreted and used to restrict the activities of religious minorities,'' he added.

Among the faults that critics have found with the law are that it imposes a 15-year waiting period for religious groups to register, limits unregistered groups to informal, private practice and puts severe restrictions on foreign missionaries.

The law, signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in September, has been sharply criticised by members of the U.S. Congress, the Clinton administration and human rights groups.

[Union of Councils for Soviet Jews issued a critical response: "UCSJ Questions President's Determination That Discriminatory Law On Religion Has Not Been Implemented"]

(posted 28 May 1998)

Protestant unions plan work

by Lilia Solomonva, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 27 May. On 27 May the first organizing conference of the Russian United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Sergei Riakhovsky, president, began its work at the movie house concert hall at the Ismailovo complex. Conference organizer Mikhail Odintsov told the Radiotserkov reporter that 2,000 participants participants are expected, including pastors and leaders of churches which are joining the union. Today they number about a thousand. Conference participants plan to discuss projects for the next four years as well as strategy for joint activity of the churches of the union in the field of God. At the meetings, which will be held three times daily, Pastor Sergei Riakhovsky and other pastors of churches and leaders of Christian organizations constituting the union will deliver sermons and teachings. (tr. by PDS)

by Lilia Solomonva, Radiotserkov, Moscow

MINSK, 27 May. Last week the 47th congress of the Euro-Asian Federation of EKhB Unions, which unites the national Evangelical Christian-Baptist (EKhB) unions of the countries of the former USSR, with the exception of the Baltic countries, in the capital of Belarus. As the press secretary of the EKhB union, Dmitry Beliaev, told the Radiotserkov reporter, the participants in the meeting, representing ten republican and regional Baptist unions, discussed the specifics of ministry of the EKhB churches in CIS countries. Congress participants expressed their support for maintaining unity within the bounds of the federation, which comprises more than 4,000 local churches. The new president of the Euro-Asian Federation of EKhB Unions is the president of the Belarussian EKhB churches, Pastor Alexander Firisiuk, who replaced in this office the leader of Kazakhstan Baptists, Frantz Thiessen. Elected as vice presidents were Peter Konovalchik (Russia) and Viktor Popovich (Moldova). (tr. by PDS)

by Lilia Solomonva, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 27 May. In 1991 the international organization of the Salvation Army revived its activity in Russia. The first soldiers of the Salvation Army appeared in our country before the October revolution, in 1913, and continued their work until 1923.

The Salvation Army is best known not only for preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, but also for supporting people in their needs. In particular they help the unfortunate, feed the homeless, and give them necessary medical aid. At present this organization has created affiliates in 22 cities of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Crimea, including Moscow, Petersburg, Rostov on Don, Tbilisi, Kiev, Donetsk, Yalta, and others. In St. Petersburg the Salvation Army opened its rehabilitation center for drug addicts and alcoholics.

In an interview with Radiotserkov reporter, the leader of the Salvation Army in Russia, Lieutenant Kenneth Bailey, declared that plans for the near future for the organization include extending activity to the north of Russia, in particular into the cities of Vyborg and Murmansk, as well as opening a representation in Kaliningrad. "In Moscow we already have six local churches and we hope that their number grows along the the growth of the number of Russians who believer in our Lord Jesus Christ," Kenneth added. (tr. by PDS)

by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 24 May. The meeting of the presidium of the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (KhVE) of Russia, under the presidency of Vladimir Murza, was held 17-18 May in Moscow. Those present included Vitaly Maksimiuk, Pavel Bak, Ivan Marchuk, Viktor Tatach, and other members of the presidium. Among questions discussed the principal one was the adoption of charters of regional departments, local churches, and KhVE Bible schoools and institutes of Russia. Also discussed were problems of registration of KhVE churches with agencies of the state in the countryside as well as mutual relations of churches within the bounds of the KhVE union and the development of a coordinated plan of work. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 27 May 1998)

Interdenominational procession planned

by Lilia Solomova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 27 May. On 30 May the seventh annual Jesus March will be held in Moscow. This year the Jesus March is being conducted under the motto "Prayer for the Persecuted Church." Its route will go along the central streets of Moscow and will begin on Arbat Square at the monument to N.V. Gogol from where the columns will pass along Znamenka and Bolshaia Yakimanka streets and come out at the main entrance of Gorky Park. There a street meeting will be held with a musical presentation with choirs and music groups from Moscow and the suburbs. Among them will be the churches "Dew," "Word of Life," the Church of God, and others. At the meeting the pastors from these churches will speak along with representatives of the Russian Orthodox (Moscow patriarchate), Lutheran, and Baptist churches and representatives of the international organizations Jews for Jesus and Salvation Army. As the organizer of the march, assistant pastor of the Dew church, Sergei Koleshnia, told the Radiotserkov reporter, last year in 1997 around 7,000 persons participated in the Jesus March. "This year we have received notices about participation from churches and religious organizations which previously had not attended the march. So we hope that this year there will be around 10,000 participants," he added. The Jesus March will also be held in Vladimir and Smolensk. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 27 May 1998)

Support for restored cathedral strong

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 26 May. Many of our countrymen are ready to make a personal contribution for the final, completion stage of the reconstruction of the cathedral of Christ the Savior, irrespective of sex, age, educational level, and occupation, according to data from a survey of the Moscow service "Opinion," received yesterday by ITAR-TASS.

According to the telephone survey conducted in mid-May of more than 1,000 respondents, 52 percent of them expressed the desire to make a contribution for the worthy affair. 39.3 percent of those questioned categorically rejected the possibility of their participation. Incidentally, in 1994, at the very beginning of the construction of the cathedral, the number of the latter group was much less, 26.6 percent. This probably gives evidence of the worsening of the material well-being of people rather than a change of attitude toward the very idea of the rebirth of the sanctum.

Almost half of the respondents, 49.2 percent (in 1994 this figure was 44.6) consider that all people should help in the completion of work of restoring the cathedral. Only 13.6 percent are convinced that this is a task for believers themselves, and 6.1 percent consider it the prerogative of the church. An equal number, about 8.4 percent, shared the opinion of those who are sure that the expense should be borne by the state and businessmen-sponsors. It is interesting that four years ago public opinion was inclined toward a more active participation of the state (14.9%) and businessmen (12.7). Few (3.8%) opposed the very idea of public contribution for the cathedral.

To the question whether it was necessary to restore the national shrine, respondents were more or less unanimous: 68.1 percent said yes and only 10.4 percent were opposed. But the most paradoxical result was that the overwhelming portion of those surveyed, 86.6%, criticize all the problems connected with the restoration of the shrine, but speculatively since they have never in these years crossed the threshold of the restored cathedral. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 27 May 1998)

Unification Church wins case


Press release
26 May 1998

On May 21, 1998, in the Kuzminsky District Court of Moscow the final hearing of case No. 7C "N.V. Babkin, N.K. Russkikh and others vs. the Unification Church of Russia concerning compensation for moral damage" took place.

In several interviews with the mass media the plaintiffs insisted that they had presented undeniable evidence of the destructive effects of the Unification Church's activities on themselves and their adult children who are members of the Unification Church. The chairman of the St. Petersburg Inter-regional Committee for Defense Against Totalitarian Sects, N.K. Russkikh, insisted that the Unification Church had caused her severe moral damage by "zombie-izing" and committing "psychological assault" on her adult daughter. She and the other plaintiffs stated that their children becoming members of the Unification Church had caused them physical and moral damage.

In the course of the case the plaintiffs could produce no evidence of any damage suffered by them because of the Unification Church. The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Office of Public Prosecutor of Moscow's Kuzminky and Presnya Districts produced no evidence of any legal violations by the Unification Church. The psychological examinations of the plaintiffs' adult children carried out by psychologists from the Legal Expert Medical Service of St. Petersburg City Administration confirmed the absence of signs of "dependent mental disorder," and the psychologists' report pointed out that conflict situations had existed in the families long before the children joined this church.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs' case.

May 26, 1998 (courtesy of Konstantin Krylov)

(posted 27 May 1998)

Implementing the law


by Liubov Volkova
Rossiiskaia gazeta, 22 May 1998

In our country the church is separated from the state. Nevertheless mutual relations between them are necessary. How can these relations be worked out? How to guarantee genuine freedom of religious profession as declared in our constutition is the task that must be resolved by the Oversight Working Group of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations under the presidence of RF, whose first session was held yesterday in the administration of the presidency. The federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" which came into effect last fall is having a hard time. There was the danger that the executive power would use the articles of the law to indulge in the restriction of constitutional rights of so-called nontraditional religious and religious minorities. As is known, President Boris Yeltsin retracted his veto of the law only after complex negotiations and agreements with religious leaders.

Nevertheless a decision to analyse the course of the implementation of the law was made. As reported in the administration of the presidency, within this time a number of regulatory documents have been approved, in particular the rules for review of application for state registration of religious organizations with agencies of justice, "On procedure of registering, opening, and closing representatives of foreign religious organizations in RF," and others.

How to effect in reality the right to freedom of conscience and the complex questions of taxes, education, and many other items will be discussed at sessions of the Oversight Working Group by attorneys, theologians, experts, and delegates commissioned by religious organizations to represent their interests. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Svobodna li sovest

(posted 26 May 1998)

Moscow church construction leads to conflict


by Alexandra Tolstikhina
Segodnia, 26 May 1998

The Russian Orthodox church has been drawn into conflict with residents of Enisei Street in the northern district of Moscow. Two thousand local residents protested against the construction of a church in the only well-appointed place for relaxation in the microdistrict, a square not from from the "Babushkinskaia" metro station. According to our information, this actually is the first case of a mass outcry of Muscovites against an initiative of the Orthodox church. The church is in an extremely delicate situation; the priests do not want to hurt relations with the local population, but it is practically impossible to change plans.

The construction of the church complex of Serafim of Sarov is planned for the square on Enisei. According to plan, on the 0.7 hectare area a church for 800 parishioners will be built along with six small buildings for the clergy and housekeeping needs and a parking lot. However, opponents of the building affirm that the complex simply cannot physicially fit within the boundaries of the intended territory and it will take up more than a third of the square. Besides, in order to reach the square it will be necessary to make a long circuit around the church fence.

Residents suggest also that since there already are three churches relatively nearby, there is no pressing need for another church. Appealing to the law "On defense of the rights of citizens in making urban construction decisions," passed last year, and the recent order of the mayor requiring conduct of a discussion on urban contruction plans with residents, the initiative group is threatening to sue. For the time being on the "disputed" territory there is a wooden chapel. In it services and Sunday school classes for children and adults are already being conducted. Parishioners living in the neighborhood are satisfied, it seems. When they are out for walks they visit the priest for a blessing and discuss their daily problems with him.

Believers, however, are in the minority. The other residents, who do not oppose the construction of a church in principle, insist that it be done somewhere further away, on one of the empty lots. Recently residents held a demonstration on the square and sent a resolution to the prefect and the district administration. The parish priest, Fr Sergei, described the emerging situation: "We have gotten into an ethically complex situation; the construction can provoke conflict between residents and parishioners. We would agree to any other parcel; however now it is impossible to change anything. We would have to redraw the plans and get permits all over again. It is hard to imagine how much time and money this would take."

Chances for a review of the plans are rather small. At the Moscow government inspection office the Segodnia reporter was assured that cases where an already approved plan are reviewed are extremely rare. It is possible only when the plan includes violations of city construction codes. The appeals of the residents to the law on defense of citizens rights also can be refuted. The parcel for construction of the church was allotted in 1992 and the plan was approved in 1996, that is, before the city law which they cite came into effect. Thus, most likely the conflict will come out this way: the church building will be constructed but the church will suffer substantial moral loss. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Ateisty predpochli skver khramu

(posted 26 May 1998)

Conflict between center and provinces


MOSCOW, 25 May. An investigation conducted by the Ministry of Justice has shown that many of the 27 regional laws in the area of religious rights and human freedoms do not accord with the constitution and federal legislation, according to a statement from minister of justice Pavel Krashennikov as a press conference today. In sum, of the 3089 legal regulations of the component elements of the federation which were analyzed in the past year by judicial experts, the Ministry of Justice ascertained that more than a quarter were unconstitutional. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 26 May 1998)

Despite pessimists, Mormons achieve legal status


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Russia's Ministry of Justice has granted official recognition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several other denominations, lessening fears that foreign-based faiths would be expelled.

Signed Thursday in Moscow, the certificate of registration allows the Mormon church to continue its humanitarian and missionary efforts and provide meeting places for its roughly 8,500 members in Russia. The church announced the development on Friday.

``This is a happy day,'' said Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the faith's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who oversees Mormon operations in the former Soviet Union. ``Life can continue for us now.''

Not that the church ever stopped its longtime work in Russia, where it supports seven missions and sends more than 700 missionaries door-to-door seeking converts. Holland pointed out the church has had a presence Russia for the past 50 years, although only in significant numbers during the 1990s.

``This will come as an immense relief for our members as well as the missionaries and the parents of missionaries,'' Holland said.

Without the official sanction of the government, the church's missionary program could have been shut down, its meeting halls closed and its members even prevented from congregating under a law implemented by the government of Boris Yeltsin some 18 months ago.

The proclamation set up Russian Orthodoxy as the country's pre-eminent faith and was intended to sharply limit the practice of some religions until they had been established for at least 15 years.

The proclamation was opposed by the Clinton administration, the Vatican and human rights groups as an infringement on civil rights and possibly opening the door for religious persecution.

Russia's Orthodox Church and a broad spectrum of nationalists fought hard to pass the law, arguing that the country is being flooded by alien religions -- everything from Mormons to Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1996, the 10 million-member faith was targeted by Alexander Lebed, Yeltsin's former security adviser, as ``mold and filth which have come to destroy the state.'' Yeltsin officially apologized this spring.

In response, Holland said the church subsequently mounted a ``strong, vigorous course -- and we think a successful and pleasant one -- where people got to know us.

``The simple fact of the matter was that people, including General Lebed, said `I don't really know who Mormons are but I hear about them,''' Holland said in an interview at church headquarters.

While Holland insisted the church did not resort to any ``hardball tactics,'' considerable pressure was brought to bear on the Yeltsin administration by powerful Mormons, including four U.S. senators -- Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett of Utah, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Harry Reid of Nevada.

Smith, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in July pushed through an amendment that would have cut as much as $200 million in foreign aid if the religious restrictions were implemented.

The Smith amendment, Holland said, simply ``got everyone's attention.''

Reid also used his close relationship with Vice President Al Gore to ``make this an item on his agenda'' when Gore last met with Yelstin.

In Russia, local Mormon officials contacted leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church to dispel any concerns they might have over the church's intentions.

``We have tried to stress from the beginning that this is a church in Russia for Russians,'' Holland said.

Holland lavished praise on Yeltsin and his Ministry of Justice for working with the church, both in pushing for its acceptance as a registered faith as well as for their cooperation in the safe return of a pair of Mormon missionaries kidnapped by bandits in Saratov in March.

- May 15, 1998

(posted 25 May 1998)

Plans for Nicholas' funeral finalized

by Georgii Bovt
Segodnia, 20 May 1998

The ceremony of burial of tsarist remains is approaching but the sides still have not decided whom they are burying.

Yesterday marked 130 years from the birth of the last Russian tsar. On that day also the working group for planning the ceremony of burial of the remains of the royal family, otherwise known as the Nemtsov Commission, gathered for a session. The ceremony of burial of the remains, which are located currently in Ekaterinburg, has now been worked out to the minute.

The ceremony will begin in the afternoon of 15 July in Ekaterinburg. All movement of the remains of the royal family will take place in the presence of officials of the procuracy general, local procurators, and members of the commission on identification of the remains. They will participate in sealing the caskets with the remains of Nicholas II and members of his family. On the afternoon of 16 July, an airplane will fly from Ekaterinburg to Petersburg with the remains. The actual ceremony of burial will take place on 17 July (the day of the shooting in 1918) in St. Petersburg. It will begin with a liturgy in the presence of delegations from foreign countries, representatives of the government, and currently healthy relatives of Nicholas II.

Until now, one thing remains unclear: will the president of Russia and Patriarch Alexis II be present? It seems they will not be, although the question of participation of the clergy in the ceremony will be revisited by the synod of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) on 9-11 June.

The ceremony of burial and farewell promises to be expensive. Yesterday the governors' offices of Ekaterinburg and St. Petersburg were supposed to present to the commission their respective calculations, although earlier it seemed they intended to carry out this good deed free of charge, at their own expense. According to our information, the Nemtsov Commission took up the estimate, but its members preferred not to disclose details. According to leaked information, the financial question still has not been resolved.

Obviously, in committing the remains of the last tsar to the ground the present authorities would like to bury all doubts about their authenticity as well. The church would like to get away from the discussion of the question of canonization of Nicholas, since the hierarchy is not able to agree on the question of his personality (while the tsar already has been canonized by the Church Abroad, which RPTs does not recognize). The nine skeletons found near Ekaterinburg in 1991 have been subjected to careful genetic tests in Russia, Great Britain, and USA. The conclusion was unanimous: the remains are authentic. However this does not prevent noting that the remains of Tsarevna Anastasiia and Tsarevich Alexis were not found.

The state and the church today have agreed on one thing: they still have not been able to address the nation with a united or a distinct opinion regarding the role and place of Nicholas in both Russian history and contemporary history. In view of the absence of such clarity in the minds of politicians, church leaders, and the average citizen, on 17 July they wish not simply to bury the royal remains but rather to commit them to obscurity. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Vlast i tserkov dogovorilis

(posted 22 May 1998)

Implementing the law


by Alexander Rudakov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 22 May 1998

Yesterday in the administration of the president of RF there was a session of the Oversight Working Group for Analysis of the Process of Implementation of the Federal Law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations." Participants in the session included representatives of federal ministries and departments, the largest religious confessions, and rights' defense organizations. The session was conducted by the executive secretary of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations of the presidency of RF, Andrei Loginov. Loginov said that the most important task of the Oversight Working Group was the widest possible and most objective collection of information on violations of the rights of believers in the process of implementing the federal law on freedom of conscience and he summoned representatives of religious confessions to engage actively in this process. Analyzing the course of implementation of the federal law on freedom of conscience, Andrei Loginov especially pointed to the legislative and executive practices of component regions of RF, where new and relatively harsher in comparison with federal law requirements on religious associations have been established, which contradict the federal law and explanations of the Ministry of Justice. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Svoboda sovesti pod nabliudeniem

(posted 22 May 1998)

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