Alexander Verkhovsky, Olga Sibireva. Restrictions and Challenges Related to Freedom of Conscience in Russia in 2009

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».

Legal regulations concerning religious organizations : Problems relating to places of worship : Favors granted by the government to certain religious organizations : Other examples of discrimination and undue interference : Religion in the military and other uniformed forces : Religion and secular education : Lack of protection from defamation attacks : Measures against incitement to religious hatred

The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis presents its fourth annual report on the freedom of conscience in the Russian Federation.

This report is based on data collected through the SOVA Center monitoring program. This information is presented in its entirety in the Religion in a Secular Society section (, including references to media and web sources. Throughout the report, we only reference sources which are not to be found on the website.

The developments which occurred in previous years and were presented in our previous report [1] are not described here; therefore some parts of this report only provide recent updates of relevant stories. This report does not attempt to describe in detail the past year's developments in the public religious sphere; specific events mentioned here usually serve to illustrate the observed trends.

Issues and stories which we believe to be related to misuse of anti-extremist legislation are presented in a separate dedicated report [2]. The latter also contains a separate chapter on violations of the freedom of conscience.


The year 2009 was characterized by the same freedom of conscience problems as were the previous few years. In particular, these included problems with construction and sometimes with preservation of religious buildings, even though the situation slightly improved in this sphere. We observed few, if any cases of inappropriate liquidation of religious organizations. But these positive developments do not mean that the overall situation is changing for the better, quite the contrary.

There are still many cases of discrimination against certain religious minorities.

We refer in particular to unprecedented persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2009. It is noteworthy that the traditional complaints against them, such as their ban on blood transfusions, were not a primary focus of the recent campaign, which started with multiple inspections of the Witnesses' organizations across the country by various authorities and led to numerous proceedings to ban Witnesses' organizations and publications as extremist. Alongside government pressure, there were a growing number of attacks by private individuals. Charges of extremism were in fact based solely on the Witnesses' declarations of the ultimate truth of their faith. Since the entry into force of a ban on one of their regional organizations and the listing of a few dozen of their publication titles in the federal list of banned extremist materials, the Jehovah's Witnesses' presence in Russia is under threat.

The scale of this campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses, a large and respectable religious organization with broad international connections, raises questions about its causes. Most repressive campaigns have clear, if not formally publicized, underlying motives. For example, Muslim groups have been targeted in connection with the fight against terrorism (even though the association may be questionable or even far-fetched), and Falun Gong followers have come under pressure for the sake of good relations with China. The unusually massive confiscation of church buildings from the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) benefits the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). However, we do not see any obvious causes for pressure against the Witnesses.

Some other religious groups, in particular the Scientologists, Falun Gong and also certain Muslim and Protestant groups, were subjected to less visible, but increasing pressure of various kinds.
In many cases, they were accused of extremism without any legal justification. We now have every reason to reconfirm our last year's finding that the anti-extremist legislation has indeed become the main instrument of restricting the freedom of conscience. This applies not only to persecution for one's faith, but also, increasingly, to persecution for blasphemy, although this trend, fortunately, has not caught on.

The year 2009 was marked by significant departure from the constitutional principle of secularism. This departure was perhaps the most significant since the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Conscience in 1997, or at least since 2002 - a year when various types of relationships between the state and religion with special privileges for "traditional religious organizations" were widely discussed.

President Dmitry Medvedev, unlike his predecessor, chose to take decisive steps to get closer to these organizations, especially the ROC. Not limited to symbolic gestures and financial support, which marked Vladimir Putin's policy, landmark decisions were taken in 2009 in two areas of particular importance to the ROC and other leading "traditional religions" - namely, priests in the military and religious instruction in schools.

Neither of the decisions per se may be described as violating the freedom of conscience. On the contrary, providing an option of learning about religion in general schools could serve to reaffirm the freedom of conscience. The benefit of a chaplain for religious servicemen is even more obvious. However, voluntary choice is crucial for the freedom of conscience. One can doubt whether voluntary choice will be consistently respected in schools, and one may be certain that it will not be respected in the army. So the challenge now is to monitor the situation in schools and in the army on a regular basis.

The President's decisions brought the government's collaboration with selected religious organizations to a new level. Previously, this collaboration had taken the form of unofficial arrangements and private agreements with certain parts of the bureaucracy, and the choice of preferred religions was not formalized other than in the "traditional religions" rhetoric. Now for the first time the "traditional four" religions are explicitly mentioned in the Presidential decrees and other regulations, effectively establishing different treatment of different religions. Explicit acceptance of "traditional religions" as exclusive partners of the state is perhaps the most significant step away from secularity in the entire post-Soviet period.

One may still hope, however, that the officially accepted idea of "traditional religions" may evolve and the list of "recognized religions" (to use the term adopted in several European countries) chosen by the state for closer formal collaboration may still expand. In December 2009, the President signed a decree establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican, which could be the beginning of such expansion. Yet any formally adopted list of "recognized religions" is fraught with discrimination against the followers of the others faiths, and given the Russian history of public policies towards religion these concerns do not seem far-fetched.

The President's steps towards meeting the expectations of the "traditional four" can be interpreted to reflect a policy of cautious engagement between the Russian government and society, characteristic of 2009. If this understanding is true and the trend continues, we may eventually see the government's cooperation with other religious organizations as well.

But the same measures can be understood as steps towards closer relations with the ROC, which is usually the driver of engagement with the government and the main beneficiary of the results achieved. It is clearly reflected in the situation with chaplains in the Russian army. It is clearly seen in the policy of Vladimir Putin's Government towards religions. We do not refer to support of the ROC and a few other religious organizations, but to the drafting of a policy framework for continued financial support and massive transfers of property (notably, Putin had pursued a more impartial policy towards religions during his presidency). This explicit reliance on the ROC and to some extent on the "traditional four" religions suggests that the government may be trying to construct an official ideology. If this interpretation is true, then, regardless of what we may think of such ideology construction, one might expect further departure from secularity and more discrimination on religious grounds.

Legal regulations concerning religious organizations

In 2009, a few important laws concerning religious organizations entered the approval stage.

In February, the Ministry of Economic Development announced that they were working on a bill allowing religious organizations to become owners of assets they currently use, including religious buildings, land and movable property.
The bill provides for certain restrictions on the use of such property by religious organizations once they own it. In particular, they will not be allowed to change the designation of such property or pass it on to third parties for ten years. Moreover, appropriation of buildings and facilities to be used for religious purposes requires satisfactory relocation of any previous tenants based on such property. A religious organization may not own any monument or group of monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Many real estate experts believe that once the bill becomes law, the Russian Orthodox Church may be the largest private owner of property in Russia. The museum community are concerned that the transfer of property to religious organizations may result in the loss of many historical treasures.
On 5 January 2010, Vladimir Putin said during his meeting with Patriarch Kyrill that the Ministry of Culture was drafting a bill on restoration of religious sites of historical and artistic value owned by religious organizations. The upcoming bill would also regulate the transfer of formerly secular buildings to religious organizations.

At the moment, however, both bills are far from being adopted.

In 2009, the Ministry of Justice seriously upgraded its "expertise" in what appears to be an effort to strengthen their policies in the sphere of freedom of conscience.

On 18 February 2009, the Ministry of Justice published an executive order concerning "theological expertise." The document set forth a new procedure of state-led theological review and invalidated the old procedure dating back to 1998, whereby only new religious groups were subject to "theological review" to determine whether they qualify as "religious organizations" for the purpose of official registration in Russia. The new regulation significantly broadens the scope of theological review. The Justice Ministry officials may now seek its Expert Board's opinion on whether or not a group should be considered extremist if its member is charged with extremism or any of its materials are found extremist. In principle, this kind of review is appropriate, and the involvement of experts is desirable, but the idea of testing the entire organization for "extremism" whenever an affiliated individual commits an offense appears questionable, particularly if applied to massive religious organizations, such as the ROC.

Equally unacceptable is the idea of applying additional tests to religious organizations to see "whether their actual practice is consistent with the doctrine basics, forms and methods declared at official registration." It means that the Ministry of Justice via its experts may test religions for strictly following their rules and practices, e.g. whether any of the ROC's parishes may be guilty of heresy.

The Ministry of Justice set up its Expert Board in April to include only representatives of "traditional" religious organizations, undermining all hope for unbiased opinion. The Board is chaired by Alexander Dvorkin, President of the Russian Association for Study of Religions and Sects known for his religious affiliation and lack of theological education, as well as for his aggressive attitudes towards many religious minorities, even the Pentecostals (Dvorkin and his associates on the Board describe them collectively as "totalitarian sects"). The appointment was met with numerous protests from religious organizations, theologians and human rights defenders; a campaign No to Inquisition! was launched under the auspices of the Institute of Religion and Law. However, the Ministry of Justice dismissed the protest as unsubstantiated and failed to find any problem with the Expert Board's attitudes.

Similar boards were set up in Tatarstan, Arkhangelsk and Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous District.

However, in 2009 Dvorkin's board considered just one case on the merits - registration of a Yazidi community - and gave a positive opinion. So far, the main negative effect of the new Board has been its legitimation of Dvorkin's idea of repressive control over religious practice in principle, rather than actual persecution of specific groups.

In September, the Ministry of Justice also established a Scientific Advisory Board to check religious materials for extremism. Members of the Advisory Board include academics and representatives of religious organizations, its Chair is Vitaly Naumkin, director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, and his deputy is Alexander Zaluzhny, Professor of the National Security Department in the Russian Academy of Civil Service. The Board's function is to review any materials referred by judicial and law enforcement authorities, the Ministry of Justice, individual citizens and organizations. The Board then issues a non-binding, advisory opinion to be published on the Ministry of Justice website. Should the Board find signs of extremism, the opinion must be forwarded to the prosecutor's office.

The Ministry of Justice established its academic board in response to numerous requests from the leaders of Russian Muslims to improve the procedure of checking religious texts for extremism, since the former practice had negatively affected the freedom of conscience in general and many Muslims in particular. It is also possible that the establishment of an academic board was designed to offset the effect of Dvorkin's board.

Incidentally, towards the end of 2009, Naumkin's board received a complaint from the Living Word Pentecostal Church in Saratov against Alexander Kuzmin, a member of Dvorkin's board, for his "anti-sectarian" publications.
We are not yet aware of any results of the new board's deliberations.

A few parliamentary bills were dropped.

In October yet another draft of the would-be law against missionary activity was published; the Justice Ministry had been working on the bill for a few years. This time the bill was titled "On Amending the Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations and the RF Code of Administrative Offenses." In addition to formerly rejected provisions on "licensing" requirements for missionaries, the new draft would bar individuals convicted "for inciting ethnic and religious hatred or other extremist offenses" from being founders or members of religious organizations. Given the vagueness of the term "member of a religious organization," this would certainly be a repressive provision. The proposed amendments were opposed by religious organizations perceiving them as a prohibition to spread their faith. The text of the bill was eventually removed from the Ministry of Justice website.

Once again, an attempt was made to regulate the practice of healers and clairvoyants. In January, the Moscow City Duma member Nikolai Gubenko proposed licensing their practice and setting up a professional board to tell real psychics from fakes. The bill was rejected.

In November, the State Duma member, Communist Boris Kashin introduced a bill to amend the Federal Law on the Russian State Anthem. His proposal was to delete the word God from the national anthem and replace the phrase "native land that God protects" by "native land that we protect." He argued that the current wording "is not consistent with the views" held by a significant proportion of Russian citizens who consider themselves atheists.

We also noted a number of regional initiatives. In October, the Legislative Assembly of the Jewish Autonomous Region passed a law exempting religious organizations from property tax.

In December, the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Belgorod proposed to amend the local law on missionary activity. According to prosecutors, the current "ambiguous interpretation of the term 'representative of a religious organization' prevents legal prosecution of people who distribute banned religious literature."

Problems relating to places of worship

Problems with the construction of religious buildings

In 2009, as in previous years, many religious organizations faced difficulties relating to construction and use of religious buildings. Muslims faced such problems particularly often.

The local administration in Perm does not permit Muslims to build a cultural center, which includes a mosque. The bureaucrats insist on public hearings, despite the fact that the prosecutor's office has confirmed they are not necessary in this particular case. In 2009 the city began the construction of an Orthodox church on the site of the Boeing 737 crash. According to the Perm Mufti Hamit Galyautdinov, the decision discriminates against Muslims, since the plane crash victims included people of different faiths, whereas the bureaucrats only permitted to build a Russian Orthodox church on the site. Mufti Galyautdinov also noted that the Mayor of Perm Igor Shubin had promised to build more Orthodox churches and chapels in the city, but "no mosques, synagogues, or, say, Buddhist temples were mentioned in this regard."

In Ozersk, Chelyabinsk Region, for three consecutive years the city administration has refused to allocate land to Muslims for their construction.
In Orel, the Muslim community has been asking the authorities since 2000 for a land plot to build a mosque. In 2009 the situation remained unchanged, and the bureaucrats continued to refuse to allocate a plot.

The Muslim community in the village of Komsomolskoye, Chuvashia Republic, have been trying for five years to secure a land plot for a mosque. The head of district administration advised the Muslims "to consult with traditional religious leaders" of the district. "Do not forget that the village of Komsomolskoye is an ancient Christian settlement,". he said.

In late 2008, the administration of Novocheboksarsk took away a land plot allocated to local Muslims in 2007 for building a mosque. In response, the Muslim community appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in February 2009 asking them to intervene and support the construction of a mosque.

Problems with the construction of mosques sometimes arise even in traditionally "Muslim" regions. For example, the construction of a mosque in Cherkessk keeps being postponed year after year since 2008. The former President of Karachay-Cherkessia Mustafa Batdyev promised to make room for the construction, and the mosque design was commissioned in Turkey by the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. However, the construction was not started in 2009, since all prospective sites in the city center had been sold out to private owners, while areas on the outskirts were not acceptable to the Republic's Spiritual Administration of Muslims.

In December 2009, the Izhevsk Administration refused to issue a permit for construction of the Faith Working Through Love Evangelical Christian church, even though the construction was started back in 2002 after all required paperwork had been filed and the project had been approved at a public hearing, and the foundation and basement were already built.

In February, a group of MPs from the Great Hural of Tuva appealed to the Human Rights Centre of the World Russian People's Council reporting difficulties with the construction of an Orthodox cathedral in honor of the Iberian Mother of God in Kyzyl. Its construction stalled in 2006 when it was 60% completed. According to the authors of the appeal, the problem was not just a shortage of funds, but also a negative attitude of the local authorities.

Problems relating to existing religious building

It is fairly rare that houses of worship are taken away from religious groups. All the more surprising were the seizures of temples from the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC).

In 2009, proceedings initiated by the Federal Property Management Agency (Rosimuschestvo) ended in seizures of ROAC's churches in Suzdal. On 5 February, the Arbitration Court of Vladimir Region ordered confiscation of 13 temples, including Tsarekonstantinovsky Cathedral, in favor of the State. The appeal court upheld the verdict. In December, three of these temples were handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate. In parallel, proceedings started to confiscate a number of ROAC's rural churches. In February 2010, three of ROAC's rural churches in Suzdal District were seized, thus ending a unique situation for Russia where the Moscow Patriarchate did not dominate over an alternative Orthodox jurisdiction in a particular city. ROAC lost its main churches in this massive confiscation campaign unprecedented since the first half of the 90-ies.

In July, the Arbitration Court of Samara Region ordered the Christ to the People Protestant Charitable Mission to vacate the premises of the former Vympel cinema theater in Samara. The building had been rented out to the community in 1996 and adapted to be used as a church. Recently the city Department of Property Management found numerous irregularities in the use of the building as well as a delay in the rent payment. The court ordered termination of the contract with the church community.

In late 2008, the Vladivostok Administration refused to renew a contract with the Saint-Evsevy parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR); the contract allowed the parishioners free use of the municipally-owned Saint-Evsevy Cathedral. The administration failed to explain the reasons for termination of the contract. In December 2009, the Vladivostok Department of Municipal Property ordered the parish tot vacate the premises within a month.

In 2009, the conflict around the Moscow Church of the Resurrection in Kadashi escalated again. Back in 2007, the parishioners sought and won a court order to protect the land adjacent to the church, but in 2009 the construction of a Five Capitals residential complex resumed in the immediate vicinity of the church, threatening its safety and violating the law on the protection of monuments. Throughout the year, the defenders of the church held a series of pickets.

Positive resolution of conflicts around religious buildings

In January, the Arbitration Court of Samara Region satisfied the request of the Federal Property Agency to terminate the contract with the Jewish Community of Samara (member of FJCR) for the use of the Choral Synagogue building. The reason was the failure by the community to fulfill their obligations concerning the maintenance of the building. However, Rosimuschestvo renounced its claims in October.

In Krasnodar Krai, the administration of Novorossiysk attempted to evict the Lutheran community from their church by terminating the lease contract citing "inefficient use" of the religious building. However, in December, the Office for Protection, Restoration and Maintenance of Historical and Cultural Treasures (Heritage) in Krasnodar Krai dropped their claim.

Throughout 2009, a longstanding conflict continued over the Holy Trinity Church in Lipetsk used by the Baptists since 1988. In 2007 the local government handed the church over to an Orthodox parish. The matter went to court, and at the same time local Orthodox believers staged pickets demanding that the Orthodox diocese should have the church. A compromise was finally reached: the city council donated a former boiler house to the ROC so they may pass it on to the Baptist community in exchange for the renovated building of the Trinity Church. On 3
February 2010, proceedings before the Arbitration Court of Lipetsk ended in a settlement between the Baptists and the Orthodox.

Since late 2008, the administration of Voronezh had attempted to evict the Roerich Center from their premises, despite a lease contract valid until 2017. In 2009, the local bureaucrats won 10 lawsuits against the Center. The basement where the Center had been located was handed over to the Ministry of Defense to be put up for auction in Moscow on 9 September, along with other military property. However, on 4 September the Leninsky District Court in Voronezh prohibited the auctioning of the space.

This case is notable for the fact that local residents supported the "nontraditional" religious organization, which is not common for Russia. Residents of the building where the basement served as premises for the Center had attempted at first to legalize their ownership of the entire building to keep the organization on the premises, but lost their claim. Once the court stopped the auctioning of the basement, local community groups took the case to court in Voronezh asking the judge to find the city government's actions unlawful.

In March, a Muslim prayer hall opened in Balashikha, a city outside Moscow. The Muslim community had been active in Balashikha for 15 years without a space of their own, so they had to gather in a residential house for their ceremonies. In 2007, the Council of Muftis listed Balashikha among the cities where local authorities refused to allow the construction of a mosque.
The authorities in Murmansk permitted the construction of a mosque; Muslims in Tambov and Maloyaroslavets (Kaluga Region) were provided with space for worship.

Since 2008, the public of St. Petersburg had sought permission to build a Church of All Saints Glorified in the Russian Land in the city's Victory Park. In October 2009, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko announced the construction of a chapel in the park on the site of a former crematorium that existed during the WWII Siege of Leningrad.

The developments in Novy Urengoi may be described as somewhat positive. The local authorities suspended their decision to take down one of the city's two active mosques. According to the Mayor's office, the mosque did not fit into the architecture of the city. The authorities advised the community to move to a new mosque, but the latter belonged to a different Muftiat. The Muslims organized a signature-collecting campaign against the pending demolition of the mosque. Local public hearings on urban development resulted in a decision to postpone demolition of the mosque "due to the crisis and shortage of money in the budget for developing the neighborhood." .

Favors granted by the government to certain religious organizations

Just as in previous years, the federal and regional authorities allocated public funds towards restoration of religious buildings, many of which are cultural monuments. The funds were allocated from the public budgets of Moscow, Karelia, Komi, Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov, Tver and other areas. In most cases, the Orthodox Church was the recipients of public funds, but other religions also accessed funding.

The funding process is likely to be regulated in the future. In November, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered to set up a working group to advise the authorities on matters of restoration of cultural heritage objects used for religious purposes. The working group is instructed to prepare and submit to the President and the Government their recommendations concerning legal, financial and procedural aspects of monument restoration.

The 2010 budget includes 2 billion rubles for the maintenance of historical monuments already owned by religious organizations; this amount is 25% lower than the corresponding expenditure in 2009 (probably due to overall budgetary problems).

Major state-owned companies and government agencies try to keep up. For example, Rossiysky Kredit Bank donated 1.5 million rubles and the Kursk Regional Court contributed 270 thousand rubles to the Kursk Korennaya Pustyn. The Gazprom Dobycha Yamburg Company contributed $ 1 million rubles as part of their 2009 charity program for the construction of a mosque in Novy Urengoi.

A range of fundraising strategies were used to collect money for the construction of churches. For example, in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Region, 120 thousand blank payment forms were printed to facilitate contributions for the construction of a church in honor of St. Seraphim of Sarov. 100 thousand of them were dropped in the mailboxes of local residents, along with utility bills, and another 20 thousand were supplied to banks and to the Orthodox parish. The forms contained bank details of the Seraphim of Sarov parish, so a potential donor would just enter the amount of contribution to make a donation.

As before, in 2009 property was transferred to religious organizations, in most cases to the Russian Orthodox Church. Usually, previous owners or tenants were relocated to similar premises, but conflicts did occur from time to time.
For example, in September, the villagers of Elizarovo, Pskov District, sent a letter to their local legislature expressing concern over plans to create protected areas around the Spaso-Elizarovsky Monastery. The villagers were not informed of the terms and conditions on which 3000 hectares of land and about 10 villages had been included in the monastery's protected area. The villagers already had a negative experience with the monastery that had blocked access to a store located in its territory of the monastery despite a court ruling that access should be maintained.

Nevertheless, on 29 October, legislators of the Pskov Regional Assembly approved the protected area of the Spaso-Elizarovsky Monastery with a promise that the lives of local communities would not change. Severe restrictions were imposed on the monastery, which is now obliged to coordinate some of its actions with the regional committee on culture.

Serious conflicts were associated with the transfer of valuable museum exhibits to the Church. In 2009, Russian art historians and restorers continued their signature-collection campaign begun in 2008 to appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kyrill against potential handing over of Andrei Rublev's Trinity icon from the Tretyakov Gallery to Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra. The appeal was signed by some 900 people. The Trinity is still in the Tretyakov Gallery, but in 2009 some other old icons were transferred from museums to churches.

In particular, on 30 November a decision was made to hand over the Toropetzkaya Our Lady Icon (currently in the Russian Museum) temporarily to the Alexander Nevsky Church in the suburban village of Knyazhye Ozero. The Restoration Board meeting convened to discuss the possibility of lending the icon to the church did not include any representatives of the Russian Museum's Early Russian Art Division, but did involve Sergei Shmakov, the head of the company which had built the Knyazhye Ozero residential area. Earlier, the museum staff had emphasized that the icon could not be safely transported and offered making a copy for the church.

In 2009, the Ryazan Kremlin Museum's years-long confrontation with the Ryazan Eparchy continued. In March, workers hired by the Eparchy carried out all museum exhibits from the Glory of the Fatherland room. In July, Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev announced the establishment of a commission to prepare the transfer of "movable property of religious nature" from the reserves of the Ryazan Museum of History and Architecture to the Ryazan Eparchy. On 19 August, 155 items from the museum were handed over to the Eparchy for temporary use free of charge.

Mikhail Lopatkin, former director of the Solovki Museum, was elected head of the Solovki village in October and replaced by Archimandrite Porfiri (Shutov) as the museum director. Before the appointment, the latter had served as treasurer in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra and had no professional training to manage the museum. However, in December a Public Supervisory Council of 25 members was set up to monitor the situation in the village and the museum. The Council will cooperate with the director in developing joint programs, addressing the needs of the local community and coordinating the actions of the local administration, the monastery and the museum. This gives hope that the actions of the new museum director will be monitored.

As a positive example of engagement between the Church and a museum, we can mention an agreement signed in May between the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum and the ROC Eparchy in Vladimir to preserve the frescoes in the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir. The Eparchy promised to cancel the evening service in the cathedral, except for holidays, and the museum agreed to restrict tourist visits to see the frescoes. Under adverse weather conditions, the administration would close the cathedral to all tourists.

We noted some other forms of support extended to religious organizations.

In some regions, as before, the authorities made some religious holidays non-working days, which was certainly convenient to believers. In Perm, at the request of Orthodox believers, a day of voluntary Saturday work (subbotnik) was rescheduled from Holy Saturday to another day. The Legislative Assembly in St. Petersburg declared Easter a day off for the entire city.
In January, the Prefecture of the Central Administrative District in Moscow denied permission to hold a picket against potential autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. While the denial was explained by formal reasons, informally the Prefect's office quoted a letter they had received from the Moscow Patriarchy saying that the organizers of any "spiritual" events should first be referred to the Patriarchy for approval.

In July, Deputy Secretary of the United Russia General Council Presidium, Head of the State Duma Committee for Labor and Social Policy Andrei Isayev and Secretary of the United Russia General Council Presidium, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin met with Patriarch Kirill. According to Isayev, MPs agreed to send their lawmaking plans to the Patriarchy and consult with the Church in advance on all controversial matters "in order to avoid misunderstanding."

The obvious protection enjoyed by the ROC leads to indirect pressure against any people perceived (or potentially perceived) as the ROC's opponents, not limited to religious minorities.
In May, the Pskov Drama Theater canceled a tour featuring the Jesus Christ - Superstar rock opera. Zinaida Ivanova, Chair of the Pskov Committee on Culture, referred to the local Eparchy's ban of the show and demanded that it should be canceled.

In March, the Victor Savin Academic Theatre (Komi Republic) canceled a comedy show, The Iron Woman, featuring a priest performing a wedding ceremony. The scene in question lasted no longer than five minutes, but the management of the theater decided to cancel the show due to Lent. It is unknown whether this decision was preceded by any action of the Orthodox Eparchy, but perhaps the theater administration decided to be on the safe side remembering the clergy's attempt to ban Shostakovich's Balda opera in 2006.

Other examples of discrimination and undue interference

Liquidation of religious organizations

It is possible that the number of religious organizations closed for failure to submit their reports was lower in 2009 than before. Anyway, we have no information on organizations closed for this reason.

Moreover, certain previous inappropriate decisions were revoked. Leninsky District Court in Yekaterinburg quashed the decision of the Federal Tax Service in Sverdlovsk Region to revoke the registration of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Krasnoturyinsk. The organization was liquidated in 2007, but did not receive a notice of liquidation until 2008. Now the community can restore their registration.

In addition, courts refused to liquidate the Ufa Center of Dianetics and Scientology (prosecutors had accused the center of selling vitamins illegally) and the Light of the World Church in Samara (accused of educational activities without a license).

The Ministry of Justice continued its practice introduced in the previous year of issuing early warnings to religious organizations facing closure. For example, in October it was revealed that 580 of the 1087 the Muslim communities in Tatarstan had not filed the required reports in time. The Ministry of Justice office in Tatarstan informed the delinquent groups that they still had an opportunity to file the required reports and avoid liquidation.

As in previous years, Scientologists faced a particularly difficult situation. As can be seen from the following examples, it was due to the fact that the activities of Scientologists are poorly aligned with the existing Russian legislation making a distinction between religious, commercial and social activities.

In April, Oktyabrsky District Court in Rostov-on-Don liquidated the Mission of Dianetics and Scientology [3] for teaching Ron Hubbard's ideas in general schools. The court held that such lessons required an educational license which the organization did not have. At the same time, the group faced criminal charges of illegally running a business operation.
The Dianetics Humanitarian Center in Naberezhnye Chelny was also closed for providing educational services without a license. In this case it was not about teaching in a general school, but about instructing their own followers, which does not require an educational license. The court relied on the opinion of an expert who stated that the organization exerted "social and psychological influence on the people who attended the classes." In addition, the Scientologists were also accused of running a medical service (which was probably just interpreted as being medical).

A Dianetics Humanitarian Center was liquidated in Barnaul. Industrial District Court found a violation in their "religious activities aimed at dissemination and teaching of Scientology," i.e. the nongovernmental association was dissolved for their religious preaching.

The prosecutor's office warned the Hubbard Humanitarian Center in Omsk telling them to stop their activity which was allegedly dangerous to the public - namely, teaching their students the methods of Scientology. The authorities opened a criminal case under Art. 238(1) of the Criminal Code ("Provision of services that do not meet the requirements of safety and health of consumers").

Scientologists were not the only ones affected by wrongful prosecution for educational activities without a license. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a local organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and its president were fined for providing educational services without a license, i.e. for organizing conversations in English between local believers and visiting Mormons.

However, some sanctions imposed for educational services were well-justified. Vyborgsky District Court in St. Petersburg, in response to the prosecutor's petition, ordered the Good News Christian Mission, a private general school, to obtain a license for educational activity. The school administration faced administrative charges under art. 19.20, Part 1, of the Code of Administrative Offenses ("Running a nonprofit operation without a required license").

Also in St. Petersburg, the prosecutor's office in Vyborgsky District found a violation of the secularity principle in the admission procedure to Menachem, a private Jewish school/daycare. The procedure allowed the school to deny admission to children lacking documentation to prove their Jewish ancestry on the maternal line. The prosecutors reminded them that Russia is a secular state and any restriction of citizens' rights, including the right to education, on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion is unacceptable. The school agreed to amend its by-laws, and the proceedings against it were closed.

A positive development worth mentioning was a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that upheld the right of two Scientology groups - in Surgut and in Nizhnekamsk - to be officially registered under the Russian law and awarded 20,000 to each applicant as compensation.

In April, the Ministry of Justice reinstated the registration of the Salvation Army Moscow branch that had faced the threat of closure since 1999. The European Court of Human Rights judged against the removal of their registration back in 2006.

Discrimination against "nontraditional" religious organizations

As in previous years, pressure against new religious movements (NRM) and other religious minorities continued. Officials and certain activist groups perceived them as "nontraditional" and found their activities illegal and dangerous. Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Falun Gong, and also some Protestant groups faced unceremonious pressure more often than others.

For example, on 9 June, law enforcement officers wearing masks broke into the Hubbard Humanitarian Center office in Moscow and searched it. The search warrant was served to the Center later; it mentioned a criminal investigation against the Centre, but failed to indicate the relevant article of the Criminal Code. The search was allegedly triggered by some expert findings which none of the Center's staff were informed about.

A large-scale campaign was waged against the Jehovah's Witnesses. In early 2009, their offices were subjected to literally hundreds of different checks and inspections, and it is clear from some of the documents obtained by the Witnesses from law enforcement officials that these checks had been initiated from the federal center at the level of the Prosecutor General or higher [4].

In 2009, some members of the Protestant Churches and the NRM were arbitrarily detained. In June, on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao, people were detained in Moscow and Yekaterinburg for practicing Falun Dafa. One of the detainees, a woman from Moldova visiting Russia, was deported to Chisinau as "a particularly dangerous person." The Falun Dafa Information Center's website was temporarily unavailable for viewing.

Baptist preachers were detained in Kaliningrad on two occasions. In July, following their arrest, members of the Baptist community were called to the prosecutor's office and told that they could not engage in religious activities in Kaliningrad Region without official registration (the community belongs to the Baptist Council of Churches that refuses to register as a matter of principle).

In September, two Baptists were arrested for singing psalms in the streets. Police said they were not permitted to hold a public meeting. During their detention, a police officer said, "You have your laws, but we have our instructions" and accused the detainees of extremism. Allegedly for breaking the rules of public rallies (art. 20.2, part 1 of the Administrative Code), the detainees were fined 2,200 rubles.

In some regions, a number of different authorities jointly step up pressure against Protestants and NRM. For example, the police, the FSB, the prosecutor's office, juvenile workers and environmentalists in Ryazan Region raided a tent camp set up by 70 or so members of the Hope Church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Korablinsky District. The police searched the camp in front of young children, and Pastor Andrei Krylov was called to the Criminal Police Chief, where his photograph, full face and profile, and fingerprints were taken. The campers were accused of swimming in the wrong place (where the locals and other holiday-makers were free to swim) and violating the environmental safety and were told to take down their camp. A representative of the district administration told the pastor that their religion was the reason behind the raid.

Unfortunately, it was not the only case in 2009 where the children of believers were affected. In March 2009, a conflict occurred in the ABC Academy kindergarten in Stavropol: the administration prohibited their staff members who were Pentecostals and their children who attended the kindergarten from speaking about their faith, and the director told the children of Pentecostals that they were "sectarians." In response to the Pentecostals' outrage over this unwarranted discussion of religion with their children, the director threatened to fire the parents. The Juvenile Inspector of Octyabrsky District of Stavropol was called, but once told about the parents' religion demanded explanations from the parents, but not from the director. The prosecutor's office failed to see any violation of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and refused to initiate criminal proceedings against the kindergarten administration. Then the child welfare authorities, acting on the prosecutor's request, visited the homes of the Word of Life Church members on the ground that some families had adopted children.

Not only faith-related activities of Protestants and NRM, but also their social and educational programs were often opposed by bureaucrats, law enforcement agencies, and the public. In May, the Ministry of Education of the Komi Republic ordered the Syktyvdinsk municipal department of education to stop a campaign in local schools to prevent drug use, alcoholism and smoking; the campaign was organized by the Vozrozhdenye Foundation close to the local Exodus Protestant Church.

In Bashkortostan, the regional Office of the Federal Service for Drug Control opposed the Scientologists' Narconon program.
As before, the Feel the Force of Change anti-drug campaign carried out by Protestant churches in a few regions aroused official discontent. In 2009, the campaign was opposed in Lipetsk, Ryazan, Saratov, and Yaroslavl. The prosecutor's office in Komi initiated an examination its legality.

A conflict that started in 2008 over Krishnaits' houses deemed by the local residents to be a settlement of "sectarians" continued in the village of Kandinskoye, Tomsk Region. In 2009, prosecutors took the matter to court demanding the buildings to be taken down since allegedly they had been built on agricultural land. Rosselkhoznadzor, the agricultural agency, announced plans to recultivate the lands.

The situation of foreign clergy

A number of foreign religious leaders were expelled from Russia in 2009.

In February, Pervorechensky District Court in Vladivostok ordered expulsion of Isroel Zilberstein, Chief Rabbi of Primorsky Krai and a U.S. citizen. The reason given was that the purpose of stay specified in the rabbi's visa did not match his actual activities. Isroel Zilberstein had applied for a work visa, more appropriate to his circumstances, but it had been denied. The Regional Court upheld the ruling, and Isroel Zilberstein left Russia without waiting for proceedings in the court of second instance.

In March, Zvi Hershkovich, Chief Rabbi of Stavropol and a Canadian citizen was expelled from Russia by decision of a district court finding a violation in the fact that the rabbi had failed to inform Immigration Service of his change of residence within three days. The Regional Court upheld the ruling.

Baptists in Ivanovo unsuccessfully challenged the decision taken in 2008 to expel missionary Chris Willeck, a U.S. citizen. In May, Ivanovo Regional Court upheld the deportation decision, relying on a statement by a local FSB officer who did not explain whatever violation had allegedly been committed by Chris Willeck, but said instead that the missionary's "stay in the Russian territory is a potential threat to the security of the Russian Federation," and "the court may not interfere" with the FSB's authority and decisions.

In January 2009, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that his agency was prepared to consider a possibility of the Dalai Lama XIV visiting Russia, but the Russian Buddhists have not yet succeeded in getting a visa for the Dalai Lama.
In February, the European Court of Human Rights satisfied the application of the Unification Church missionary Patrick Nolan against Russia. In 2002 the missionary was denied entry to Russia (it was actually his return to Russia: Nolan had lived in Russia for a long time and had a child in marriage with a Russian woman). The court found the ban unfounded. However, in this case it may not be possible to correct the violation on the basis of the ECHR judgment, since according to some reports Patrick Nolan is no longer a member of the Unification Church [5].

Other cases of discrimination and undue interference

As before, there were a few cases where officials directly interfered in the affairs of religious organizations - even "traditional" ones. For example, in November the local authorities in Kemerovo replaced the imam of a local mosque whom they had appointed in 2008: Tagir Davletkulov was replaced by Tagir Bekchintaev from the Omsk Muftiat. The opinion of the Muslim community was ignored once again.

More often than in 2008, we found cases of individual discrimination based on religion. In certain areas Muslim women were not allowed to wear a headscarf in educational establishments, such as secondary schools of the village of Batrak, Kamensky District, Penza Region, and the village of Shamhal-Station in Dagestan. Female students in Arsk Teachers College of Tatarstan complained that they were not allowed to wear the hijab.

In September, at the request of Muslim female students and their parents, the administration of the Kazan School of Olympic Reserve dismissed Nikolai Blinov, the ultrasound doctor, since the sharia does not allow women to be seen by a male physician. The school is a public institution funded from the federal budget. Later, Yekaterina Kosurova, spokesperson of the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism, said that the reason for the doctor's dismissal was a suspected breach of professional ethics.

In May, the administration of the College of Electronic Technology in Kuznetsk, Penza Region, insisted on dismissal of a female teacher, Nuria Sabitova. In late 2008, she was allowed to take leave without pay to perform the Hajj, but then the college administration told her to write a letter of resignation. In addition, the college director demanded that she should not wear a headscarf to work. Once the local Muslim community intervened, the college no longer insisted on her dismissal, and the director apologized.

In May, a second-year Muslim student was expelled from the Novocherkassk Higher Military School of Communications. According to website, he was expelled for praying Namaz on the school premises.

In early 2009, during the Smolensk mayor election campaign, a newspaper was circulated titled A Special Issue of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists (ECB) for Smolensk, alleging that the Union supported a particular candidate, Sergei Maslakov. The newspaper circulated on behalf of RUECB contained offensive statements against the Orthodox believers and false quotes from RUECB leader Yuri Sipko, discrediting the Baptists. The leader of Smolensk Baptists asked the prosecutor to investigate and take action required by law. Candidate Maslakov was later withdrawn from the elections.

Religion in the military and other uniformed forces

In 2009, a decision was made to create the institution of clergy in the Russian army following a few years of debates.

In July, President Dmitry Medvedev said he supported the idea of having clergy in the Army and the Navy "representing the traditional Russian religions," and suggested that the appointment of clergy should be sensitive to ethnicity and religion of the servicemen in each unit and formation.

On 25 November, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov officially announced the introduction of military clergy in the Russian Armed Forces in 2010.

On 1 December, the position of Assistant Commander for Working with the Believers - such is the official name of the Russian chaplains - was introduced. In the same month, the Defense Ministry announced the establishment of a special office responsible for working with religious servicemen and managing the chaplains. It was decided that the group of clergy would be sent to the Russian military bases abroad, to the North Caucasus Military District, and to other military units during 2010.

All official documents referred to the "traditional four" i.e. Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. Thus, the notion of "traditional religion" that used to be just a figure of speech is now legally determined.

However, despite the President's mention of "traditional religions" current plans concern only the Orthodox chaplains: in December, military training was organized for them in Rostov Region. Commenting on the results of this bootcamp at the Bishops' Meeting in February 2010, Patriarch Kirill noted that the majority of would-be chaplains had no idea, "where they were and why ... In the end, most of them dropped out, explaining that they could not sustain this type of service."

Despite the shortage of trained chaplains, in February 2010 their job descriptions were adopted and salaries were set ranging from 25 to 40 thousand rubles depending on the location (higher than the average salary of a Russian officer).

The fact that non-Orthodox believers will face infringement of their rights was already clear in February 2010, when the request of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Nizhny Novgorod to introduce Muslim chaplains was denied.
Religious organizations and uniformed forces in a number of regions continued to enter into cooperation agreements. The Federal Bailiffs Service involved religious leaders particularly often. In June, Arthur Parfenchikov, Director of the Federal Bailiffs Service, signed a protocol of cooperation with Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, President of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Interaction with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies.

Cooperation between bailiffs, the Orthodox Eparchies and Muslim Spiritual Administrations was reported in Bashkortostan, Buryatia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Tatarstan, Yakutia, the Jewish Autonomous Region, Altai and Stavropol Regions, Leningrad Region, and Ryazan Region.

In April, Bishop Konstantin Bendas, First Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists circulated an appeal to their clergy mentioning "increasingly frequent attempts to recruit informants from among the parishioners, staff and clergy of the Protestant churches by members of the Federal Security Service."

Most likely, this practice is not limited to Evangelical Christians.

Religion and secular education

As in the army, an important development occurred in the sphere of education in 2009, preceded by several years of debate. In July, President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that a number of regions may introduce pilot courses in general schools in the history of religion, basics of secular ethics and basics of religious culture focusing on the "traditional four" religions. It was expected that students and their parents would choose from the six mentioned courses and pick at least one. It was assumed that classes should be formed for each course, even if the request came from a small group of students.

This arrangement is a compromise between the main participants of prior debates, with the exception of religions outside the "traditional four."

In August, the Ministry of Education and Science confirmed that the pilot courses would start in 19 regions of six federal districts and involve only the fourth grade students, totaling about 20 thousand classes in 12 thousand schools, or about 256 thousand students and 44 thousand teachers. The first pilot lessons are due to begin in the spring of 2010, but it appears that the textbooks and teaching manuals are not ready yet (not to mention the training of teachers).

In November, the RF Government approved a plan for piloting a course in the Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics in 2009-2011. In December, the course curriculum, developed with input from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Education, the Federal Institute for the Development of Education, the Academy for Continued Training of Teachers, and representatives of religious organizations, was finally approved.

The pilot course is limited to an average of one lesson in two weeks, according to the Ministry of Education plans as of early 2010.

Even though the course is described as a study of culture, the "basics of religious cultures" parts are largely faith-oriented. For example, the editorial board responsible for writing the textbooks and teachers manuals for the Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture course for fourth-graders chose a text proposed by Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev from all options.

Neither the supporters of teaching religion in schools, nor its enemies were satisfied with the proposed version of the pilot course. In July, a group of academics, human rights advocates, and parents started collecting signatures for an appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev protesting against "clericalization of general schools." In October, at the opening of the Fifth Annual International Conference on Religion, Conflict and Peace in St. Petersburg State University, students organized an anti-clerical campaign and distributed leaflets.

In contrast, the Orthodox activists were unhappy with the fact that the parents in most regions opted for a course in the basics of secular ethics, rather than a course in the Orthodox culture. In Krasnoyarsk Krai, for example, 58.2% of all students in pilot classes chose secular ethics, and in Novosibirsk and Kaliningrad 60% opted for the secular course. In most cases, the basics of the world religions was the second most popular pilot course, followed by the basics of Orthodox culture. There were a few exceptions: 55% of students in Tambov Region and 60% in Smolensk Region opted for the Orthodox culture course. In Chuvashia, the majority (42.9%) were in favor of the course in world religions, 31% opted for the Orthodox culture course, and 24.4% chose secular ethics. Courses in Islam, Judaism and Buddhism were chosen by a minority of students in most regions.

In some places, the ROC attempted to change the situation in their favor. For example, in January 2010, Archbishop of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursk Vincent (Morar) came to Kamensk-Uralsky, Sverdlovsk Region, and met with school teachers for an "explanatory conversation" after 93% of local parents had opted for a course in secular ethics for their children. The Archbishop was supported by Mayor Michael Astakhov. As a result, the city administration offered the parents of fourth-graders another opportunity to choose between a course in secular ethics and a course in one of the main religions.

Attempts to influence the students' and their parents' choice of courses were reported from the other side as well. In December, Bishop of Ulan-Ude and Buryatia Savvaty (Antonov) accused the administration of School № 2 in Cheboksary of forcing the fourth-graders to choose a course in secular ethic. In his blog, the bishop published a picture of the course application form given to fourth-grade students with a pre-written phrase "I choose the Fundamentals of Secular Ethics."

Despite the above facts, the choice of secular ethics is likely to reflect the actual preference of the Russian public who may show an attitude of loyalty towards the Orthodox Church, but would rather not allow their children to be instructed in the traditions of any particular religion.

In the early 2009, Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko appealed to Dmitry Medvedev to lift the prior requirement to develop a system of theological education. The Minister said that dissertations in theology may be defended under academic specialty 09.00.13 Study of Religion, Philosophical Anthropology, Philosophy of Culture, and there is no need for a separate academic specialty of Theology. In February, the Ministry confirmed that it was not planning to create a new academic specialty in Theology because it was disadvised by experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

However, the Ministry officials have changed their mind since then. In February 2010, Director of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology and Innovation Department Alexander Naumov said that the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Union of University Presidents, Rosobrnadzor Agency, and the Higher Attestation Commission (HAC) were prepared to add Theology to the list of academic specialties. This process should be completed by April.

As in previous years, schools collaborated with religious organizations in different regions of the country. Agreements on cooperation with Orthodox Eparchies were signed in Tver, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, and Leningrad Region. The government of Kirov Region signed a cooperation agreement, covering the educational sphere among other things, with the local Muslim Spiritual Authority. The University of Kabardino-Balkaria agreed to cooperate with Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic organizations in their republic.

Lack of protection from defamation and attacks

The fact that the activities of certain religious organizations spark protests among some members of the public should be considered a natural and normal part of public life. The same applies to criticism against certain religious beliefs and practices. But unfortunately, the public and the authorities do not always keep within the limits prescribed by law to avoid inciting hatred and violence against others based on their religion.

Some public protests were based on discriminatory ideas. For example, the construction of a mosque in Syktyvkar was opposed by three national-patriotic organizations in Syktyvkar (Rubezh Severa, Slavic Union and DPNI), and they started collecting signatures against the construction. In December, members of Rubezh Severa submitted 3,200 signatures to the local United Russia Party office.
The prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the signature collection campaign. In January 2010, Chief Investigator of the Komi Republic Nikolai Basmanov supported the mosque. In February, the local United Russia Party Executive Committee held a round table that supported the construction. However, shortly thereafter, the leader of Rubezh Severa Alexei Kolegov said that the decision to build a mosque would be further discussed at public hearings and called for a signature campaign to challenge the decision.

In this case, the authorities did not surrender to the pressure from part of the local public to discriminate against Muslims, while the campaigners, as far as we know, refrained from incitement.

However, officials often fail to remain impartial with respect to advocacy groups opposing certain religions. This is particularly true of the multiplying "antisectarian" centers established in 2009 by Orthodox Eparchies in Voronezh, Murmansk, and Perm.

In May, the Law School of St. Petersburg University held a conference titled Totalitarian Sects and Human Right to Security organized by the Russian Association for Study of Religions and by the European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Sectarianism (FECRIS). In Europe, FECRIS have a reputation of radical opponents of NRM and some other religious minorities. The Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov sent a welcoming note to the conference participants. The conference organizers had announced his participation in the event, but the Minister sent a written address instead and had a private meeting with the participants. A few days before the conference, Chairman of the Ministry of Justice Expert Board and well-known Russian "antisectarian" Alexander Dvorkin was elected Vice President of FECRIS. Thus, the Minister of Justice continued his policy of cooperation with groups that explicitly call for discrimination of religious minorities.

Undoubtedly, murder and attempted murder are the most serious forms of pressure on religious and other ideology-based groups. In 2009, a number of attacks and killings of Muslim religious leaders were reported in the North Caucasus, but, as in previous years, it is not clear whether religious hatred was the actual motive of the crimes. However, the motive of religious hatred was clear in some other violent crimes committed in 2009.

On 19 November in Moscow, Father Daniel Sysoev of the Apostle Thomas Church in Moscow, a priest known primarily for his missionary work among Muslims and tough anti-Islamic preaching, was shot dead in his church. Another person was wounded. The investigation is ongoing, but one of the theories is that it was murder on religious grounds, since Fr. Daniel had repeatedly received threats from people who called themselves Muslims. On 5 December, another priest of the same church was attacked and beaten.

In August, a fortuneteller was shot dead in Ingushetia. Since attacks against fortunetellers in the North Caucasus have been reported in the past, we can assume that in this case the motive of religious hatred was involved as well.
In Kaluga Region in June, a man admitted to killing another on religious grounds: since the victim was a Satanist the perpetrator believed that "as a religious person, it was his duty to fight the enemies of Christ." The findings of the investigation are unknown to us.

The campaign of administrative pressure again Jehovah's Witnesses had apparently provoked violent attacks against members of this religious organization, occurring with increasing frequency since the beginning of autumn. According to the Jehovah's Witnesses' press service, between September and December 2009 a total of ten attacks were reported in Moscow, Yaroslavl, Tyumen, Penza and Rostov Regions, Chelyabinsk, Voronezh, and Novorossiysk. In most cases Jehovah's Witnesses were attacked as they went door-to-door to spread their messages.

Another attack occurred in Novokuibyshevsk, Samara Region, where a local resident threatened preachers with a knife. In this case, the offender was punished: in December he was sentenced to 16 months of prison, suspended for one year.

Vandal attacks against religious sites continued. In 2009 a total of 50 acts of vandalism against churches and prayer houses were reported (compared to 36 in 2008). The largest number of attacks (21) targeted Jehovah's Witnesses premises (partly due to the campaign against them and partly to the fact that they published detailed data on their locations). Vandals also attacked 12 Orthodox buildings, six Muslim buildings, four each of Jewish and Protestant buildings, and one each of Catholic, Pagan and Armenian buildings.

This number includes a store in Makhachkala selling Islamic literature that was attacked by vandals twice in the course of the year. In March, about 50 people entered the store, said that the owner was disseminating Wahhabi literature and carried out some of the goods from the store (part of the goods were later returned to the owner). In August, the store was set on fire. The owner believes that supporters of Sufi Islam dominant in the Republic of Dagestan were behind the arson attack.

As before, dangerous acts of vandalism, such as arson and throwing stones and other objects at buildings, were fairly common. Fortunately, no people were hurt in such attacks.

Orthodox churches suffered from arson attacks on a number of occasions. Attackers threw several Molotov cocktails through the window of a synagogue in Khabarovsk. There were two unsuccessful attempts to set fire to a Baptist prayer house in Vladivostok.

Ultranationalists from Straight Edge in Petrozavodsk ransacked the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. They used cans of paint to smash the windows, and then an explosion was heard from the building. The same Straight Edge group claimed responsibility for the pogrom in the Christian Cultural Center in Kirov - again, the attackers threw cans of paint at the building.

There were 49 reports of cemetery vandalism (compared to 42 in 2008), including 41 in Orthodox cemeteries, six in Jewish cemeteries, and one each in Muslim and Armenian cemeteries. In most cases, cemetery vandalism was likely to be associated with random aggression, but the number of religiously motivated acts of vandalism apparently increased as well.

The Dmytrovo-Cherkassky cemetery in Tver was attacked by vandals four times during the year: in April, in July and twice in September. To remind, the same cemetery was vandalized in 2006.

In addition, four Orthodox worship crosses, two cross-stones, an icon, a bell, a Menorah, a Hanukkah, a pagan idol and a sacred tree were vandalized.
Federal and regional media continued to publish xenophobic reports concerning religion.

In particular, on 2 June, the Rossiya Federal TV Channel showed Alexander Khabarov's Fishers of Men film as part of its Special Correspondent series. The author talked about the dangers allegedly posed by Jehovah's Witnesses, the Society for Krishna Consciousness, Scientologists, and other "sects." It was not the first "antisectarian" show broadcast by Rossiya. In March 2009 the Press Complaints Commission, having considered a complaint from the Light of Awakening Church, acknowledged that the report about this church broadcast by Rossiya in October 2008 was not true and was defamatory to the religious organization.
In September, representatives of Christ the Savior Baptist Church in Syktyvkar complained to prosecutors' offices of Syktyvkar and the Komi Republic about a publication in Eparchialnye Vedomosty Orthodox paper of 8 July 2009. The article titled Caution: Destructive Movements, Sects and Cults! was offensive towards "sectarians" and according to the plaintiffs, had provoked an attack against a Baptist prayer house. Back in 2008, the prosecutor's office investigated a similar publication in the Eparchialnye Vedomosty and found no signs of incitement to religious hatred. This time, prosecutors made a reasonable decision: they refused to open a criminal case under Art. 282, but warned the author of the article and the paper against publishing defamatory statements offensive to followers of other religions.

The Press Complaints Commission satisfied a complaint filed by the Diocesan Administration of Evangelical Christian-Baptists in the Southern Federal District. The complaint concerned a June 2008 publication in Pravda Chto? (Is it True That?) paper circulated in Volgodonsk, Rostov region; the article in question was titled "Exodus" Is Not an Option. The Press Complaints Commission found signs of hate speech in the article, and said that the author's view of the Pentecostals was biased and incompatible with international freedom of conscience standards and with the Russian Constitution. However, they failed to find any signs of deliberate incitement to religious hatred.

Measures against incitement to religious hatred

The definition of extremism in the Russian legislation is extremely vague, especially as it relates to religion. Therefore counteraction to extremism includes measures to protect "religious sentiments" understood as protection of religious beliefs, practices and symbols from criticism and prosecution of those who incite hatred on religious grounds, not to mention perpetrators of violence and vandalism for the same motives.

Incidents of inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremism legislation are detailed in a separate report. Unfortunately, such incidents are increasingly common; in 2009 they affected Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Falun Gong in particular. Here we mention only those episodes where we find that anti-extremist legislation was applied (or was not applied) for good reasons, including controversial cases were we tend to believe that the position of the law enforcement agencies and the courts was legitimate.

Above, we referred to certain cases where law enforcement agencies refused to institute criminal proceedings in connection with intolerant statements of little public danger. We can add another case of this type: the prosecutor's office in Komi, at the request of Komi-Memorial NGO, reviewed anti-Semitic publications in the Eparchialnye Vedomosti Orthodox newspaper in 2008, and refused to institute proceedings under Art. 282 of the Criminal Code.

On the other hand, in March, criminal proceedings were opened under Art.282 (1) against Archimandrite Seraphim (Levitskikh). Back in 2007, the priest visited a penitentiary colony in the village of Voskhod, Varnavinsky District of Nizhny Novgorod Region (the priest served in the Eparchy of Vyatka). Besides conducting confessions, the priest handed out video tapes of the film Russia With a Knife in its Back: Jewish Fascism and the Genocide of the Russian People, previously banned as extremist material (later, in 2010, the film author Konstantin Dushenov was convicted).

In October, a case went to court under Art. 282 (1) against Svetlana Shestakova, a teacher of the Tyumen Oil and Gas University Humanities College. In April 2008, Ms Shestakova made offensive remarks against Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Krishnaits during her lecture delivered as part of a continued training course in Fundamentals of Religious Culture.


[1]A. Verkhovsky, O. Sibireva. Restrictions and Challenges in 2008 on Freedom of Conscience in Russia //Xenophobia, Freedom of Conscience and Anti-extremism in Russia in 2008. M.: SOVA Center, 2009. P. 47-74 (see the original version at /religion/publications/CC329D6/CC32B93).
[2]Alexander Verkhovsky. Inappropriate enforcement of the anti-extremist legislation in Russia in 2009 // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia 2010. 13 April (/en/xenophobia/reports-analyses/2010/04/d18482/).
[3]Like some other Scientology groups mentioned here, they were not registered as a religious organization.
[4]See details in: Fagan Geraldin. Russia: Nationwide strike at Jehovah's Witnesses / / Forum-18. 2009. March 13 (
[5]Igor Bogdanov. How I was a follower of Sun Myung Moon / / Alexei Smirnov's blog. 2010. 26 February (