COBA Print version. Published on
Original: /en/religion/publications/2011/04/d21460/
Age limit: 18+

Freedom of conscience in Russia in 2010: Restrictions and challenges

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 : Laws adopted in 2010 : Initiatives that have not yet been accepted
Problems relating to places of worship : Problems with the construction of religious buildings : Problems relating to existing religious buildings : Positive resolution of conflicts
Preferential treatment accorded to certain religious organizations
Other examples of discrimination and undue interference : Liquidation of religious organizations and denial of registration : Discrimination against ‘nontraditional’ religious organizations : Other cases of discrimination and undue interference
Religion in the military and other uniformed forces
Religion and secular education
Lack of protection from defamation and attacks

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

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

Developments which occurred in previous years and were presented in our previous report are not described here;[1] this report only provides necessary updates. 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 observed trends.

Issues and stories which we believe to be related to misuse of anti-extremist legislation are presented in a separate report.

This report does not cover the religious situation in the North Caucasus.


The year 2010 was characterized by continuation and development of the same trends described in last year's report.

The most significant of these trends, clearly reflecting one of President Dmitrii Medvedev's policy priorities, is the government's increasingly close relationship with selected religious organizations. The list of selected religions is essentially based on the ‘traditional four’ consolidated in Russian legislation in 2009, but this list is by no means definitive. In certain matters Protestants are included de facto, and in other cases Buddhists may be excluded. In other words, the state invites religious leaders to compete for the opportunity to meaningfully interact with the authorities. This appears to be part of a broader drive towards expanded, yet selective interaction between government and civil society institutions.

Apparently, it means that the heated discussions about secularity of the state are coming to an end. Earlier this year, a few important related personnel changes occurred.

In January the Ministry of Justice dismissed two officials who used to oversee relations with religious organizations – Deputy Minister Aleksei Velichko and Head of Non-Profit Organizations Department Sergei Milushkin. According to Director of the Institute for Law and Religion Roman Lunkin, Velichko supported the ‘anti-sect fighters’ led by Alexander Dvorkin of the Expert Board (the Board's activity was suspended soon after its establishment) and was behind the legislative amendments restricting missionary activity.

In early March, Executive Secretary of the Government Commission for Religious Associations Andrei Sebentsov was fired; this former member of the Government Administration was known for his consistent and well-balanced approach to protecting the constitutional principle of secularity. In April, it was reported that Domestic Policy Advisor of the Presidential Administration Alexander Kudriavtsev had resigned from his position.

Also in April, another official of the Presidential Administration Ivan Demidov was promoted; among other things, Demidov oversees relations with religious organizations. Demidov's known contacts with conservative Orthodox leaders do not make him the best person for this challenging job. Perhaps promoting an official linked with politically focused Orthodox Christianity makes sense to President Medvedev, who is apparently much closer to the Russian Orthodox Church than his predecessor.

While Medvedev's pro-Orthodox course is readily supported by a number of senior officials and governors (often resulting in outrageous incidents such as those in Kaliningrad and Belgorod regions), Russia's secularized society, in particular the bureaucracy, resists this trend. Permission to teach religion and ethics in schools as a pilot course did not result in any significant advantage for Orthodox Christianity. The implementation of a law introducing chaplains into the army stalled throughout 2010. Similarly, a presidential bill on the transfer of real estate to religious organizations made no progress for the entire year.

Recently the latter law came into effect, and we can expect numerous disputes involving claims to property, particularly by the ROC. In 2010, the museum community saw firsthand how pushy and aggressive the ROC can be in claiming its privileges.

The situation as regards religious discrimination was contradictory. On the one hand, we observed fewer instances of direct discrimination against religious minority organizations – in particular, cases such as closure of prayer houses and denial of registration.

On the other hand, more cases of religious discrimination were reported. The level of hate-motivated vandalism and violence remained as high as before.

Bureaucratic arbitrariness is not limited to those groups which are often described by their opponents as ‘totalitarian sects’ or ‘non-traditional Muslims’, but affects a broad range of religious groups, such as Baptists or Buddhists.

And of course, inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation affecting freedom of conscience remains an acute problem (discussed in detail in another report published by SOVA Center). Jehovah's Witnesses are increasingly persecuted; often they are harassed by various low-level bureaucrats as well as private individuals.

Legal regulations concerning religious organizations

Laws adopted in 2010

Several important pieces of legislation concerning religious organizations were adopted in 2010.

The most important of them was a law regulating the transfer of state or municipal property to religious organizations; the drafting of this legislation was first initiated in 2009.

The law permits relevant federal, regional or municipal authorities to hand over any property designed to be used for religious purposes to religious organizations; it may be either a transfer of ownership or gratuitous lease for a specified period.

The law requires recipient religious organizations to take all measures necessary to preserve the cultural heritage sites they take possession of, including measures to carry out restoration work and provide public access. The law also says that cultural heritage sites of federal importance may only be handed over to centralized religious organizations, and all such transfers should be transparent to the public.

The new law, even though it does not apply to property owned by the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation, nor to the National Archive Fund and the National Library Fund, evoked protests in the museum community.

The protests did not help, and the law was finally adopted by the Duma in November and entered into force on 3 December 2010.

A similar regional law had been passed (but never applied) in St Petersburg in May and was made obsolete by the new federal law. In Kaliningrad, a similar regional law was adopted on 28 October, but a large-scale transfer of property had preceded its adoption (see below).

In March, the State Duma adopted in the second and third readings a bill to regulate support of public benefit nonprofit organizations. Under this draft, religious organizations were included as public benefit entities entitled to state support of their charitable projects, including financial and in-kind support, information sharing, and professional advice. The bill was signed into law by the President on 6 April.

On 27 December 2010, the President signed a piece of legislation to make it easier for highly qualified foreign employees and their families to enter and stay in Russia. The new law enables foreign specialists applying for work permits to extend their residence permits and to obtain entry permits for their family members at the same time, regardless of the foreign workforce quotas. However, the law does not allow Russian employers to hire such highly qualified specialists to engage in preaching and other religious activities, such as performing religious rituals and providing religious instruction. One wonders how this law will work, since highly skilled foreign professionals with degrees in theology are employed by many religious organizations, including the ROC, as well as by Catholics and Muslims.

A new law was adopted which is symbolic rather than practical. In May, amendments to the Law on Russia's Days of Military Glory and Memorable Anniversaries established a new holiday to be celebrated on 28 July – the Baptism of Russia Day. It should be noted that some regions announce public holidays on certain religious days. In particular, Kalmykia celebrates the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha as a local holiday.

Initiatives that have not yet been accepted

In February, the Constitutional Court ordered the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to adopt an amendment to article 392 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to expand the list of grounds for a review of domestic court judgments by adding that such a review may be triggered by a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Currently the CPC lacks such a provision, although it is included in the codes of criminal and commercial (‘arbitration’) procedure. The lack of a similar provision in the civil procedure made it possible for courts to ignore the ECtHR's decisions concerning religious organizations.

However, the Federal Assembly has not yet responded, even though it is required by law to comply with Constitutional Court decisions.

In January, St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko responded to a parliamentary inquiry made in 2009 concerning sacrificial slaughter in Apraksin Dvor on Eid al-Adha. The governor acknowledged that the sacrificial slaughter in Apraksin Dvor in the center of St Petersburg violated a number of regulations but she refused to consider adopting a local law to regulate sacrificial slaughter, as requested by MPs.

Member of the Federation Council Amir Galliamov came up with a ‘symmetrical response’ to the Baptism of Russia holiday and proposed adding the Adoption of Islam Day to the list of national holidays. The idea was endorsed by the legislature of Tatarstan but was not widely supported.

In March, Communist MP Boris Kashin made yet another attempt to remove the word ‘God’ from the Russian anthem. In 2009, a similar attempt failed due to absence of any official opinion from the government. This time, MP Kashin received a negative opinion from the Deputy Chair of Government Administration Sergei Sobianin, yet continued trying to persuade other MPs to change the lyrics of the national anthem.

Problems relating to places of worship

Many religious organizations continued to face difficulties related to the construction and use of religious buildings.

Problems with the construction of religious buildings

As in 2009, Muslims faced obstacles to the construction of mosques more often than other religions.

One of the biggest disputes involved residents of Tekstil’shchiki district in Moscow opposing plans to build a mosque in nearby Volzhskii Boulevard.Both proponents and opponents of the proposed mosque have staged frequent street protests since September 2010, and local residents initiated a petition to stop the construction.

Locals residents argued that a new mosque would hamper car parking, cause some of the trees to be cut down (the mosque was to be built on a vacant land plot), encourage negativity against dog owners, etc. Some of the protests were organized by My Backyard (Moi Dvor), a social movement completely controlled by the ultra-right. The campaign against the construction involved ultra-nationalist organizations such as the Russian All-National Union (Russkii obshchenatsional’nyi soiuz, RONS), the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (Dvizhenie protiv nelegal’noi immigratsii, DPNI), and others.

In October, municipal authorities of the South-Eastern Administrative District appealed to the Mayor of Moscow asking him to consider moving the construction to another location. In February 2011 Vice Mayor of Moscow Alexander Gorbenko confirmed that no mosque would be built in Volzhskii Boulevard.

Local residents in Penza also protested against the construction of a mosque in their city. In September, they began a petition to move the construction to a rural area densely populated by Muslims. Residents expressed their outrage at the decision to build a mosque in the city without consultating the local community, and protested against the potential destruction of a birch grove in which the construction site is located .

The municipal authorities in Tiumen declined the regional Spiritual Directorate of Muslims’ request to allocate a land plot for a mosque. Earlier, the city authorities had offered the Muslims a land plot for constructing a mosque soon after the problem of overcrowded mosques in Tiumen had been raised during a meeting between President Medvedev and the Russian muftis. In September 2010, however, the authorities withdrew the offer, saying that in accordance with the city development plan the land was to be used for other purposes.

Protestants also faced difficulties with their construction projects. Bishop Konstantin Bendas from the Russian Association of the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) complained of non-availability of land for construction, saying that since 2000 Pentecostals have filed nearly a thousand requests for land plots to build houses of prayer, but only about a dozen have been awarded.

The dispute around the construction of a church for the Faith Working Through Love (Vera, deistvuiushchaia liubov’iu) Evangelical Christian Church in Izhevsk remained unresolved in 2010. In 2009 the city administration barred the congregation from using a land plot allocated to them in 2000, arguing that the construction of the church had violated certain rules, but failing to specify which rules. The prosecutor’s office reviewed the case and confirmed the ban on the use of the building, so the congregation had to move their services to a hangar.

The city administration in Tver denied Evangelical Christians-Baptists (ECB) permission to renovate a house of prayer in Zavolzhskii district, saying that ‘this area is not designed to be used for facilities associated with religious worship.’ It should be noted that the Baptist congregation had used the property since 1986, and in 2008 the City Planning Board decided in favor of its renovation.

Local residents in several cities protested against the construction of Orthodox churches. In Ekaterinburg, plans to build an Orthodox church in the centrally located Labor Square were opposed by the local community, including the City Head of Administration, a member of the regional legislature, and the Dean of the Department of History at Urals State University; the protesters insisted on transparency in making decisions to construct new buildings in the historical central area of the city and claimed that the construction of a church in the square would violate their rights. In response, proponents of the construction offered a compromise solution partially meeting the protesters' demands, but later the idea of building a church in the square was abandoned altogether.

Residents of Moscow’s Mnevniki, Strogino and Golovinskii districts opposed the construction of Orthodox churches in their neighborhoods, arguing that the local communities had not been consulted, while the construction in Strogino was to be located in a water protection area. Local residents in Samara were also concerned about plans to build an Orthodox church in a conservation area.

Problems relating to existing religious building

Typically, such problems arise in connection with confirmed or disputed violations of particular rules by religious organizations. However, while many real estate owners violate particular rules, relatively insignificant violations result in uncompromising responses – such as confiscation of the property – only in some cases.

In November, the administration of Sennoi Market in St Petersburg terminated their lease with Al-Fatah; the organization had been using part of the market's premises for a house of worship. The official reason given was that the religious organization had not complied with fire safety regulations in a timely manner. Shortly before the incident, Al-Fatah leader Dzhamaliddin Makhmutov received a warning from the authorities in connection with reports of a ‘sharia court’ being set up in St Petersburg.

In March 2010, the city court in Saianogorsk (Republic of Khakasia) ordered the demolition of a house of prayer owned by the Gospel Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith. The court ruled that the two-storey house was an unauthorized construction, since it was an extension of a residential house on a plot of land owned by the pastor of the church. In July, the Supreme Court of the republic upheld the decision. Shortly after the court order to pull down the building, local television aired a negative story featuring the Gospel Church.

Orthodox parishes outside the ROC’s jurisdiction are increasingly forced to fight for their property, and in most cases they lose the battle. The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) lost their appeals against the 2009 court rulings to confiscate their property around Suzdal. Moreover, another four of their churches were confiscated in 2010.

In September, the True Orthodox Church lost their church of St Dimitrii Solunskii in the village of Poselki, Kuznetsovskii district, Penza region. According to the congregation, the ROC eparchy in Penza was behind the forceful takeover supported by police and Cossacks. A few parishioners were beaten during the takeover. The local ROC eparchy had been attempting to seize the property since 2009. In July 2010, the Vesti TV channel aired a story featuring the conflict and riddled with offensive remarks about the True Orthodox Church.

However, some of the ROC's own parishes also face problems with their property from time to time. In March, the congregation of St Panteleimon church attached to Medical Center № 122 in St Petersburg complained to member of the local legislature Evgenii Marchenko that the Medical Center's administration had ‘arbitrarily closed’ the church, which had been used for worship for 15 years. The administration reasoned that they needed the land on which the church stood to expand their medical facilities and services.

The Orthodox eparchy in Syktyvkar had a dispute with the Fire Safety Inspectorate. The eparchy filed a complaint with the federal government, and the nuns of Krestovozdvizhenskii Convent held a rally. The protests occurred after the Fire Safety Inspectorate audited the premises and requested a local court ordering the nuns to vacate two buildings of the convent until fire safety violations detected by the audit were corrected.

Positive resolution of conflicts

A number of disputes around religious buildings were resolved in 2010.

Two cities in the area around Moscow are no longer on the Council of Muftis' 2007 ‘blacklist’ of communities where Muslims face particular obstacles to the construction of mosques. In October, a mosque was opened in Noginsk, and in November the Mayor of Balashikha instructed his staff to allocate a land plot for a mosque. The city administration in Syktyvkar authorized the construction of a mosque, which the nationalists opposed back in 2009.

The city administration in Vladivostok signed two new lease contracts with St Evsevy ROCOR parishioners, allowing them to use the property free of charge; the contracts had been terminated in 2009 without explanation.

Once again, a land plot was allocated to build a Krishna Temple in Moscow; its construction had been disputed for several years. In 2007, a decision was made to allocate a plot of land near Novoskhodnenskii highway, and the Head of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow confirmed the decision. However, construction never started. In October 2010, acting Mayor of Moscow Vladimir Resin signed an order allocating a two hectare land plot in the village of Vereskino near Novoskhodnenskii highway outside Moscow to the Moscow Krishna Consciousness Society.

Preferential treatment accorded to certain religious organizations

In 2010, as before, the federal and regional authorities allocated public funds to the restoration of religious buildings, including those considered part of the cultural heritage. Among others, funds were channeled towards the restoration of religious buildings in Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, and Tver regions, and in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region. The Russian Culture federal program allocated 1 billion 200 million rubles of public funds to religious organizations towards the maintenance of cultural heritage sites. As before, in most instances the recipient was the Russian Orthodox Church; however, according to our data, Muslims and Protestants also received public funds from the program, and possibly other religious organizations as well.

In addition to direct support, various authorities would sometimes solicit contributions from private donors towards the construction of religious buildings. For example, gas companies in Novii Urengoi sent out instructions to their gas mines to encourage ‘voluntary’ (under threat of dismissal) donations towards an Orthodox cathedral under construction since 2008.

In addition to financial assistance, some regional authorities granted various privileges to all religious organizations or to a select few. The City Council in Vorkuta decided to grant all registered religious organizations a discount on their lease of municipal residential property in 2011. The city authorities in Kaliningrad relieved the local Jewish community of the obligation to pay for the land on which their synagogue stands.

The authorities continued to hand over property for religious organizations to own or use for free. In most cases, property designed for religious purposes was handed over to Orthodox Christians, but we also found a few cases of property being transferred to Muslims and Protestants. The regional government in Samara handed over a former church building to the Evangelical Lutheran community, noting that for the first time in the region religious property had been handed over to someone other than the ROC.

As in the previous year, former owners and tenants of buildings transferred to religious organizations were usually offered new premises; however, we note an increase in disputes over property transfers between 2009 and 2010.

The transfer to the ROC of Cheliabinsk’s Alexander Nevskii Cathedral, previously used as an organ hall, , was opposed by local residents concerned that the precious musical instrument might be irreparably damaged if moved to another location.

The situation with property transfers in Kaliningrad region was even more controversial, since most of the surviving religious buildings there had never belonged to the ROC. Nevertheless, the regional government continued to hand over property to the Orthodox Church, ignoring other faith communities as well as the current owners and tenants. In October, the regional authorities announced their intention to hand over to the ROC certain former Lutheran and Catholic churches, many of which currently accommodate cultural institutions. During the first six months of 2010 alone, the authorities handed over to the Kaliningrad eparchy a total of sixteen buildings which had never belonged to the ROC before. Some of the properties handed over to the ROC included a number of Lutheran churches in Kaliningrad and its suburbs, several medieval castles once belonging to the Teutonic Order, a Catholic church claimed by a local Catholic congregation without a church of their own, and a few buildings occupied by cultural and educational institutions, such as a kindergarten and a music school.

Immediately following the transfer of property formerly occupied by significant cultural establishments (e.g. the regional philharmonic orchestra, the puppet theater), the eparchy signed lease agreements with those establishments which allowed them to continue to use the premises free of charge. Routine maintenance of the buildings will be financed from the regional government's budget, while the new owner, i.e. the ROC, promises to fund the capital repair and maintenance of the few major cultural heritage sites it now owns.

These massive property transfers caused public outrage, in particular amongst the staff of establishments that formerly occupied the transferred buildings. The former tenants do not trust the ROC to live up to its promises and resent the fact that the Church now owns properties which never belonged to it in the first place. There is also a lot of resentment from those religious communities which are the historical owners of the buildings, and from the local residents, cultural figures, and representatives of political parties. Plans to hand over yet another cultural site to the ROC, namely a museum commemorating the poet and artist Kristijonas Donelaitis, evoked protests from the Lithuanian Parliament; eventually the museum was taken off the list of properties to be transferred.

A number of ongoing disputes around museum property continued in 2010. In April, Archimandrite Porfiri (Shutov), abbot of Solovki Monastery and director of the Solovki Museum, signed 109 contracts allowing the monastery use of museum property free of charge. The transfers were performed in violation of the museum's charter and without authorization from its founder, the Russian Ministry of Culture.

In summer, the Ryazan Kremlin Museum had to take down its displays in the Archangel Cathedral following reports that the building would be handed over to the ROC. The displays were removed despite the fact that the Museum Development Strategy adopted in May provided for joint use of the premises by the museum and the Church. In December, the Ministry of Culture urged the speeding up of paperwork handing the building over to the ROC.

The contract to lend the icon of the Mother of God of Toropets to the Alexander Nevskii Church in the village of Kniazh’e Ozero was extended for another six months. The icon was transferred from the Russian Museum to the village church outside Moscow in 2009. Another incident of a museum lending an icon to a church was reported in Pskov. The Pskov State Museum and Reserve allowed its fourteenth century Christ Pantocrator (Eleazarovskii) icon to be temporarily placed in the Savior-St Eleazar convent (Spaso-Eleazarovskii). Preparations for this transaction had been ongoing since 2009.

There were a number of new attempts by religious organizations to take possession of certain cultural heritage sites in 2010. The local eparchy in Vladimir urged the administration of the Vladimir and Suzdal Museum to vacate the premises of St George's Cathedral in Gus’ Khrustal’nii, so the premises ‘may be used for their intended purpose.’ At that time, the Cathedral hosted a Museum of Crystal.

The Moscow Society of Church Bell Ringers claimed the church bells currently used by the Bolshoi Theater.

In a few cases a peaceful settlement of disputes between museums and the ROC was achieved. An agreement was reached in St Petersburg whereby the local eparchy should not claim the city's major cathedrals – St Isaac's, Smol’nii, Peter and Paul (Petropavlovskii), Resurrection (Voskreseniia Khristova), and Sampson (Sampsonievskii) – currently used as public museums. Both the eparchy and the museums will continue to share the premises of these cathedrals and the church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (Spas na Krovi).

Explicit endorsement of the ROC's property claims by various levels of government frequently caused a public outcry. A series of anticlerical campaigns were reported across Russia in 2010. A new NGO for Preservation of the Cultural Environment and Respect of the Constitution (Za sokhranenie kul’turnoi sredy i sobliudenie Konstitutsii) was founded in Kaliningrad. A series of anticlerical protests were organized across Russia in December; the protesters demanded, amongst other things, the cessation of property handovers to the Church. In some places, such as Kaliningrad, local authorities tried to suppress the protests.

The government's assistance to religious organizations was not limited to funding and property handovers. In August, the Presidential Affairs Department issued an executive order concerning VIP treatment of officials and delegations at airport border crossing checkpoints in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi, granting VIP treatment, among others, to high-ranking clergy such as the Orthodox patriarch, permanent members of the ROC Synod, the chief rabbi, and the chairman of the Council of Muftis.

Administrative pressure was sometimes used for the benefit of religious organizations. In May, the Moscow city administration instructed its 124 district authorities to send at least 20 representatives each to the Orthodox religious procession celebrating the Day of Slavonic Literature and Culture. In some cases the authorities went too far in trying to protect the ‘religious sentiments’ of dominant faith communities. At the request of local Orthodox clergy, authorities in the town of Aleksin outside Tula banned a number of Maslenitsa rituals, such as the burning of a straw effigy, reasoning that ‘there was no such ritual in pre-Communist Russia.’ Also at the request of the local eparchy, municipal authorities in Briansk decided to modify the decoration of a popular fountain currently under reconstruction; the figures of devils will be replaced with those of the monk Peresvet or ‘other fairytale characters.’

Nevertheless, the authorities do not always go along with religious organizations. In Karelia, the local government's Commission for Religious Associations refused to cancel a festival dedicated to Louhi the Witch (a character in the Kalevala epic), despite protests from Orthodox clergy.

Other examples of discrimination and undue interference

Liquidation of religious organizations and denial of registration

Virtually no cases were noted in 2010 of religious organizations being liquidated for failure to comply with reporting requirements. Those incidents we do know of mostly involve organizations providing educational services. In April, the city court of Gorno-Altaisk decided to close the ‘Altai Mountains’ Muslim Non-governmental Charitable Cultural and Educational Boarding School (Negosudarstvennyi Blagotvoritel’nyi kul’turno-obrazovatel’nyi pansion Gornyi Altai) for failure to report in a timely manner on their activities, governance, property and expenditure.

The Ministry of Justice suspended the Islamic Cultural Center of Russia (Islamskii kul’turnyi tsentr Rossii), but the NGO's management offered to bring their paperwork and operation into compliance with the Ministry's requirements and the suspension was revoked.

Religious organizations are increasingly successful in defending their registration-related rights in the courts. In February the Russian government attempted to challenge the European Court of Human Rights judgment dated 1 October in favor of the Church of Scientology of Nizhnekamsk. The Court had ruled that the Church of Scientology had the right to register as a religious organization in accordance with Russian law. The ECtHR upheld this decision in March, and in July the Supreme Court of Tatarstan ordered the republic's Ministry of Justice to register the Church of Scientology of Nizhnekamsk.

Similarly, the Russian government was denied a review of the European Court's ruling that found the dissolution of Jehovah's Witnesses organization in Moscow illegal. However, Golovinskii district court in Moscow once again refused to register the congregation in February 2011.

A court in Perm ruled in favor of the local Seventh Day Adventist Church followers who challenged the denial of registration based on changes in their charter. Meshchanskii district court in Moscow overruled the decision of the Ministry of Justice Head Office in Moscow to ignore an application for registration filed by the Armenian Catholic parish of St Gregory the Illuminator (Sv. Grigorii Prosvetitel’). The court ordered the Ministry of Justice to process the application.

Frunzenskii district court in Ivanovo overruled the 2007 decision of the Ivanovo region Federal Tax Service Office to dissolve a local Krishna Consciousness Society for failure to file financial statements and for having no bank account transactions. The court ordered the FTS to reenter the organization in the register of legal entities.

The central district court in Tver dropped a case against local Mormons on grounds of numerous procedural violations. The Ministry of Justice had accused the Mormons of illegally offering English language classes. Sakhalin region Court of Arbitration quashed the administrative sanctions imposed by the Federal Migration Service on a local Mormon group for engaging in educational activities without a license.

Discrimination against ‘nontraditional’ religious organizations

As before, government officials, security agencies and some members of the public were reported to harass certain religious organizations perceived ‘non-traditional.’ As in the past year, Jehovah's Witnesses and Protestants were subject to discrimination more often than others. In contrast, there was hardly any pressure reported against Falun Gong. The single reported case we know of was the refusal of the National Museum of Kalmykia to host an exhibition of paintings offered by the Moscow branch of the organization.

As in the previous period, various ‘academic’ conferences were held under the patronage of regional administrations and often with support from law enforcement agencies and ‘traditional’ religions; participants of such conferences presented arguments warning against the dangers of ‘sects.’ Speaking at one such conference, Governor of Ul’ianovsk Sergei Morozov lobbied for legal definitions of terms such as ‘sect,’ ‘destructive cult,’ and ‘missionary work.’ The governor argued that legal definitions would help strengthen control over ‘totalitarian’ organizations.

While the alleged dangers of ‘totalitarian sects’ are mostly imaginary, the spread of Salafism may pose more of a real threat. Distinguishing between different forms of Salafism based on associated political and criminal risks should be the subject of serious research, but such research is extremely rare. Instead, sweeping judgments are common. In December, an anti-Salafi conference was held in Kazan, co-organized by the Center for Eurasian and International Studies of the Kazan Federal University and by the Russian Islamic University, with support from the National Anti-Terrorism Committee and the Russian Security Council. The conference, as expected, expressed support of Hanafi madhhab, traditionally found in the Volga region. However, one of the conference speakers, Farid Salman, alleged that the entire Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Tatarstan were Salafi.

It is not just at conferences that officials make negative statements about some religious organizations. In June, the prosecutor’s office in Barnaul urged local residents to be vigilant against ‘sects’ such as Jehovah's Witnesses. Senior Assistant Prosecutor Evgenii Serbov alleged that such faith groups play a destructive role and are dangerous to people's lives and health.

In September, the Northern State Medical University in Arkhangelsk, at the initiative of its rector, designed a course to train counselors and psychiatrists to help victims of ‘destructive cults’. According to the ‘Orthodoxy in the Northern Land’ (Pravoslavie na Severnoi zemle) website, Rector Pavel Sidorov invented ‘a new concept of preventing mental terrorism’ which regards new religious movements as ‘weapons of socio-psychological mass destruction.

Every now and then government officials and law enforcement agencies go beyond negative statements to restrict the activities of ‘nontraditional’ organizations. In March, Deputy Governor of Belgorod region Oleg Polukhin endorsed a 2010 ‘spiritual security’ action plan which introduced a spiritual security course into the curricula of the Belgorod Continuous Training University and Belgorod Seminary, and spiritual security classes for officials of ‘youth affairs departments’ in local municipalities and self-government bodies. The action plan also bans any celebration of Halloween and Valentine's Day in schools and cultural institutions, and provides for ‘anti-sectarian’ public events and media campaigns.

In August, the Employment and Social Security Department of Khanty-Mansi autonomous region designed announced their plan ‘to oppose members of totalitarian sects visiting social and cultural facilities.’ The plan included ‘voluntary enforcement brigades’ in educational establishments, ‘anti-sectarian’ media campaigns, and an obligation for health care services to report any refusals of medical treatment ‘for sectarian reasons.’ Cultural establishments were encouraged not to lease their premises to any ‘new religious movements.’ The letter was sent out to heads of various institutions and contained a list of ‘well-known destructive totalitarian sects and groups having a significant number of characteristics of such sects and groups and operating in the Russian Federation.’ The list included Protestants alongside companies such as Zepter Cookware and Amway.

The letter was followed by actions such as the setting up an ’anti-sectarian’ brigade in the Langepas Orthodox Church, searching the home of a Protestant pastor, and refusing to lease premises to a number of religious organizations.

However, the letter was withdrawn in early November, followed by apologies from the Director of Khanty-Mansi Employment and Social Security Department after the regional administration was informed by the Russian Ombudsman's Office that the contents of the letter contravened the Russian Constitution.

Disrupting religious meetings and services was another reported form of pressure. In March, armed police and attack dogs blocked access to the Lutheran Church in Kaluga during the service. Some members of the congregation were not allowed in, and the police videoed those who were already inside. The police said they had received reports of terrorist literature being distributed in the church.

In April twelve people, including FSB and Emergency Ministry officers and a few men in civilian clothes, broke into a private home disrupting Baptist prayers in Elektrostal, Moscow region. They checked everybody's IDs and searched the premises, referring to a court order which they never showed to the congregation. At about the same time police in Krasnodar disrupted a Baptist Easter service at the Olymp Stadium, citing a bomb threat. The Emergency Ministry had not received any bomb threats on that day, however, and the Baptists believe that the service was disrupted intentionally.

In July, the administration of Sosnovskii district, Tambov region, denied the Regional Association of Baptist Churches permission to carry out evangelistic activities. Shortly before the incident, a local newspaper ran an article featuring an ‘anti-sectarian’ protest organized by an Orthodox priest. Shortly afterward, a few people drove up to the Baptists' campsite and tried to provoke a fight. The police called to the scene forced the Baptists to withdraw their complaint.

In June, a magistrate court in Millerovo district, Rostov region, charged the local Baptist church a 10,000 ruble fine and also fined the head of the congregation 1,000 rubles for running a Bible study group for children. The prosecutor’s office found them to be conducting educational activities without a license. The church appealed, but without success.

Krishna devotees were arrested in Kostroma, Smolensk, Ul’ianovsk, and Khabarovsk for preaching and distributing books in the streets. In all cases they faced administrative charges for ‘unwanted religious solicitation in public places.’ The local leader of the Krishna Consciousness Society in Smolensk was warned by the authorities allegedly for violating a regional law on missionary activity, but Leninskii district court in Smolensk eventually found the authorities' decision unlawful.

 Jehovah's Witnesses were targeted more often than other faith groups. In several regions across Russia, local organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses were banned and some of their publications were declared extremist, followed by a wave of police persecution. Throughout 2010, Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested in many regions across Russia, including Amur, Belgorod, Briansk, Vladimir, Volgograd, Vologda, Voronezh, Kemerovo, Kirov, Kostroma, Kurgan, Moscow, Nizhnii Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Penza, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Sakhalin, Sverdlovsk, Smolensk, St Petersburg, Tambov, Tiumen, Cheliabinsk and Yaroslavl regions, in Altai, Trans-Baikal, Krasnodar, Krasnoiarsk and Primorskii krais, and in the republics of Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, Karelia, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvashia. In some cases, the arrested JWs faced administrative sanctions for the illegal distribution of religious literature.

Besides arrests, ID checks and even fingerprinting, law enforcement officers often broke into JW's premises, disrupting worship and searching the believers' belongings. Incidents of police storming the premises and disrupting worship were reported in Yoshkar Ola , Kemerovo, Ulan-Ude, Sverdlovsk regions, and in Altai and Stavropol krais. Searches of Jehovah's Witnesses homes were reported in Kemerovo, Omsk, Cheliabinsk and Ryazan regions, and Altai krai.

Encouraged by police and the FSB, other public and private actors discriminated against Jehovah's Witnesses. The local police department in Fokino, Primorskii krai, wrote to the Director of Teploenergo company urging him ‘to comply with the directive of the Federal Ministry of the Interior’ and screen his employees ‘for involvement with the extremist religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses.’ In Arkhangelsk region, the local Ministry for Regional Policy and Local Government sent a letter to all heads of municipalities advising them to refuse any request from the Jehovah's Witnessesto lease space for their congress. In Kirov region, the local Jehovah's Witnesses leader was fined 1500 rubles for organizing a congress and warned by the prosecutor’s office against violating the rules of holding public events. A Jehovah's Witnesses congress was disrupted in Ul’ianovsk region, allegedly for fire safety reasons.

In Sverdlovsk region, the Director of School № 10 was pressured by the FSB into firing a cloakroom attendant who was a Jehovah's Witness. Prior to this incident, another Jehovah's Witness employed by the same school had been forced to leave her job. In Kursk, a female employee of the Emergency Ministry Rescue and Relief Service was offered the choice between leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses and losing her job. She chose the latter option.

As in the previous year, the children of believers also came under undue pressure. In April, two young students of School № 1 in Volokolamsk, Moscow region, were questioned during classes; their parents were not present. A police juvenile officer questioned them about the Jehovah's Witnesses – their mother's religion – and the youngsters were forced to sign a transcript of the interview. Also in April, teachers at school № 11 in Aleksin, Tula region, following the school director's order, handed out pamphlets titled Beware! Jehovah's Witnesses A Totalitarian Sect and told the students to read it at home together with their parents. Subsequently, certain students who belonged to the JW were consistently bullied by their classmates. Teachers used intimidation in an attempt to force the children to abandon their religion.

In some cases, police actions were deemed illegal. The prosecutor’s office found that the detention and fingerprinting of Jehovah's Witnesses in Argyze and Naberezhnye Chelny (Tatarstan) and searches conducted in Yoshkar Ola and Tambov were all illegal. In March 2010 the courts in Cherepovets dropped 25 administrative cases against Jehovah's Witnesses, citing lack of evidence.[2]

Other cases of discrimination and undue interference

Some of the ‘traditional’ religious organizations also experienced discrimination.

In April, the Dalai Lama XIV was once again denied entry into Russia. In response to an appeal from Kalmykia Buddhists, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that ‘the Dalai Lama's visit to Russia would be taken by Beijing especially sensitively in the current year, the anniversary of China's and our common victory in WWII.

On many occasions, believers came under intense police pressure. In Tambov and Voronezh, the local police urged Muslim leaders to provide lists of their community members with personal data (including education levels and whether they were converts from Christianity), and also to provide details of their Muslim organization, including sources of funding. The prosecutor’s office in Voronezh found the request illegal.

In Yaroslavl region, OMON (riot police) arrested a group of people who had come to attend public hearings about the construction of a mosque in Rybinsk. The hearings never took place, and the people were held ‘for police questioning.’

In the city of Chadan (Tuva), armed police stormed the Ustuu-Huree Buddhist Temple during worship – allegedly to check whether people with prior criminal convictions were meeting there – and arrested 42 worshippers. Later five of them were charged with administrative violations under article 20.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (‘disorderly conduct’), and cannabis was confiscated from one person.

As before, cases of individual discrimination on religious grounds were reported. The city court in Vologda prohibited a local resident from taking her underage son to St Seraphim of Sarov Church, which belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The Court of Cassation upheld the ruling. In its judgment, the court relied on advice from Vologda eparchy that the ROCA was ‘a totalitarian sect’.

A court in Davlekanovo, Bashkortostan, terminated the parental rights of a Pentecostal believer at the request of her relatives who considered her ‘a sectarian’. The ruling was rendered in the absence of the defendant, and the hearing involved an ‘expert on sects’. Following intervention from the Child Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, the case was reviewed and parental rights restored. A court in Vologda region terminated the parental rights of a Jehovah's Witness who refused a blood transfusion for her daughter (note that by law, a patient or his/her legal guardian may refuse any medical treatment or procedure).

In Nizhnii Novgorod, SIZO (pre-trial detention center) № 1 dismissed its employee Evgenii Romanenko on the ground that other staff ‘were afraid to work near a sectarian,’ after they found a few Buddhist images in Romanenko's personal belongings.

Women wearing Muslim clothing were sometimes subject to discrimination. The management of a car dealer in Kazan fired a female employee for wearing a Muslim headscarf to work; according to the director, the employee’s wearing of a headscarf scared customers. Her employment contract made no mention of a dress code.

The Academic Council of Piatigorsk State Linguistic University banned all religious, particularly Muslim, dress on University premises. The ban caused a public outcry, and later the rector said that it was only a non-binding recommendation.

Moscow Troika Orthodox taxi company – which, according to their website, serves passengers of all faiths – was suspected of discriminating against some customers. Even though such cases may have been exceptional, we note that according to the said website, ‘customers are served by drivers of the Orthodox faith’ – meaning that the company readily admits to discriminatory hiring practices.

Religion in the military and other uniformed forces

On 24 January 2010, the Minister of Defense approved a policy introducing chaplains into the military. In April, the Defense Ministry set up an office responsible for working with religious servicemen, but the head of the new office – Reserve Colonel Boris Lukichev, previously responsible for relations with the ROC in the Presidential Administration – was not appointed until October. On 15 November 2010, the Russian Defense Minister Anatolii Serdiukov told reporters about plans to open a school for military chaplains, but no further announcements about it were made in 2010. Overall, the Ministry has been was very slow in taking steps towards chaplaincy – none were officially introduced in 2010.

As before, only Orthodox clergy had access to troops in most cases. In February, the 20th Army Commander, Major General Sergei Iudin denied a request by the Nizhnii Novgorod Spiritual Directorate of Muslims to introduce Muslim chaplains. Apparently, the main reason was lack of a regulatory framework, since the Commander agreed to consider a Muslim chaplain candidate ‘once the military unit has this staff position approved.

The ROC's increasing presence in the armed forces elicited criticism from top military officials. On 30 September, Russian Defense Minister Anatolii Serdiukov reprimanded Andrei Krasov director of the Airborne Troops School in Sel’tsy, Ryazan, for having an Orthodox Church of Elijah the Prophet located in the school's training ground. The Minister later explained that while he had nothing against the church and never ordered its demolition, he did not consider it appropriate to have a church located in the training ground; he also said that his anger had been triggered by the fact that there were other buildings in the training ground which should not be there. However, the International Union of Paratroopers and the Union of Russian Paratroopers later complained to President Medvedev that ‘this is the fourth military church that Anatolii Serdiukov has ordered to be demolished.

As in previous years, various legal and law enforcement departments and agencies (the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Service for the Execution of Sentences, the Federal Bailiffs Service, the Federal Drug Control Service, and the Ministry of Justice) entered into agreements with religious organizations, usually the ROC and its eparchies. These agreements sometimes had practical consequences.

In several regions, alimony defaulters were sentenced to community service projects run by the Russian Orthodox Church; clergy were also asked to talk with delinquent debtors.

In Tomsk region, Orthodox priests were assigned to every police department.

All agreements signed between the Federal Service for the Execution of Sentences and the Orthodox Church provide for prayer rooms, access to priests and availability of religious literature in prisons. Thus, prisoners – at least those who belong to ‘traditional’ religions – are allowed, unlike military servicemen, to exercise their freedom of conscience. Protestant clergy continue to be barred from the armed forces and prisons.

In 2010, inmates in a number of penitentiary colonies complained of discrimination on religious grounds, but not all of these reports were confirmed. In particular, the inmates of Colony № 12 in Arkhangelsk region complained that the administration allegedly forced them to eat pork and prohibited prayer. The prison administration admitted that they did not provide separate meals suitable for believers and prohibited inmates from using prayer rugs, but denied forcing anyone to eat pork.

It was reported in July that 80% of conscientious objectors who choose alternative civilian service over military service do so for religious reasons.

In this regard, two incidents were reported, both in Perm. A Seventh Day Adventist applying for alternative civilian service was referred to a psychiatric clinic after the local conscription board suspected that he had a mental disorder. The clinic confirmed the diagnosis and threatened to forcibly hospitalize him should he attempt to challenge the decision. The applicant, however, succeeded in having the decision reversed.

Another conscript, also an Adventist, was denied alternative service on grounds that military service did not contradict the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists. In order to keep the applicant from challenging the decision, the conscription board delayed issuing him a copy of their minutes needed for an appeal.

Religion and secular education

In 2010, schools in several regions began teaching the Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics as a pilot course following a decision made in 2009. A few regions, in particular St Petersburg, were added over the year to the 19 regions which originally agreed to pilot the course. The first results of the project were announced in 2010.

According to a survey conducted by the Russian Civil Service Academy, most students taking the pilot course (42.1%) studied the Fundamentals of Secular Ethics, 30.6% studied the Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture, 20% studied the Fundamentals of World Religions, followed by the Fundamentals of Islamic Culture (5.2%), the Fundamentals of Buddhist Culture (2%), and the Fundamentals of Judaic Culture (0.1%).

Most of the students' parents – 78% of respondents – had a positive perception of the course. Even atheist parents (71%) reacted positively to the fact that their children studied religious cultures, and only 14% were against it. Six percent of Orthodox parents were dissatisfied with the teaching of the course.

Meetings were held in pilot regions in June to discuss progress and challenges. All regions highlighted the poor quality of textbooks and inadequate training of teachers as a major challenge. This and ‘an emerging bias towards teaching Orthodox Christianity at the exclusion of others in most Russian regions’ were mentioned at the December hearings in the Public Chamber.

Rostov region decided to incorporate the Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture (FOC) as an elective course in all schools before 2012. This subject has been taught in the region since 2004, and a number of Muslim parents in Rostov region also consented to this subject being taught to their children. Some schools in Smolensk region began teaching the FOC course as a compulsory subject. In Tambov region, the regional administration supported the integration of Sunday schools into the official system of supplementary education, and Sunday school teachers are now being trained by the Orthodox Instruction Department of the regional Teacher training college.

However, in Tver region, where the majority of parents initially chose a FOC course, most parents had switched to the Fundamentals of the World's Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics modules before the end of the year.

Both the clergy and school administrations made attempts to influence parents' choice of teaching module. Archbishop Konstantin (Gorianov) of Kurgan and Shadrinsk encouraged local clergy to go to parents' meetings at schools and talk to parents about ‘ethical and spiritual education and the choice of subjects within the Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics course.’ The Archbishop noted, however, the importance of using ‘appropriate language’ and avoiding ‘criticism of other faiths.

Imam-Khatib Rustam Safin of the central mosque of Ul’ianovsk and the parents of a few students of the Mariinskii High School in Ul’ianovsk complained to the Regional Ministry of Education saying that the school ‘imposes Orthodox culture on students.’ The Regional Ministry found no violation, but imam Safin appealed to the Federal Ministry of Education, which confirmed that no religious instruction may be offered without parental consent.

In spring, Muslims from the village of Radishchevo, Ul’ianovsk region, wrote to the District Board of Education requesting a course in the Fundamentals of Islamic Culture for local schools (about 40% of local residents are Muslims). At that point, the village schools only taught the FOC and Fundamentals of World Religions courses. The District Board of Education responded that they did not have the teachers and textbooks available to teach a Fundamentals of Islamic Culture course, so the parents had to find such teachers and textbooks themselves.

In February, the Ministry of Education and Science spokesperson said that the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Union of University Presidents, Federal Education and Science Supervision Service (Rosobrnadzor) and the Higher Attestation Commission (Vysshaia attestatsionnaia komissiia, VAK) were jointly working on adding theology to the VAK list of academic specialties (it should be noted that the Ministry refused to even consider this option before). However, no decision about adding theology to the VAK list was announced in 2010.

In March, VAC added the Bulletin of St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University (Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhovoskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta) to its list of journals considered acceptable for academic publications required for a doctoral degree.

As before, regional administrations and educational establishments signed agreements with religious organizations to involve them in the educational process. Regional Departments of Education in Chuvashia, Khakasia, and Krasnodar krai signed cooperation agreements with their respective Orthodox eparchies. The contracts signed by regional administrations in Kursk and Tambov and by the legislature of Kaliningrad region with local eparchies also included provisions for the ROC's involvement in educational and cultural activities. Less often, similar agreements on cooperation in the educational sphere were signed with Muslim organizations – examples include Ul’ianovsk and Stavropol regions. In Sochi, the local Office of Youth Affairs signed a cooperation agreement with the ROC, the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims, and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Lack of protection from defamation and attacks

Several clerics were killed over the year, but religious hatred does not appear to be the cause. In Volgograd region, a man was killed because his host mistakenly interpreted his beard as an indicator that he was a Wahhabi.

There were many violent attacks against believers of different faiths. Jehovah's Witnesses were particularly targeted, often in connection with their preaching ministry. Such incidents were reported in the cities of St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kurgan, and Murmansk; in Volgograd, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Rostov regions; in Krasnodar and Stavropol krais; and in the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. In Kurgan, a child from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses was beaten by his classmates who also made offensive remarks about his faith.

Several attacks against women in Muslim dress were reported.

We have information about attacks, motivated wholly or partly by religious hatred, against Baptists, Pentecostals, Vaishnavas, and Russian Neo-pagans.

In 2010, statistics of vandalism against religious buildings and installations were as follows: 16 incidents of vandalism against Orthodox Christians, 14 against Jehovah's Witnesses, nine against Muslims, eight against Judaists, three against Protestants, two against Armenians, and one against a pagan site – a total of 53 episodes (including cemetery vandalism).

More often than before, the reported acts of vandalism were of particularly dangerous nature – assault, arson, throwing stones, window smashing. Almost all attacks against Jehovah's Witnesses buildings were of the dangerous type. It should be noted also that in Penza a series of vandal attacks were reported in the first two weeks of January alone: attacks against two local chapels and an Orthodox church involved firebombs thrown through the windows. In St Petersburg, arsonists set fire to a chapel and beat an altar boy from a nearby church. In Tver, an improvised explosive device went off outside a synagogue; no one was hurt. In Syktyvkar, a protest rally against the construction of a mosque was followed by an arson attack against the construction workers' temporary lodgings by a local Frontier of the North (Rubezh Severa) group.

We note that vandalism was not always motivated by religious hatred; sometimes it was preceded by other types of conflict. For example, members of a local community in Moscow region destroyed a chapel under construction to protest against its location on a site they had planned to use for a horse-riding school.

Cases of cemetery vandalism were fewer than last year, with 27 incidents (as opposed to 49 in 2009). Orthodox cemeteries were targeted in most cases (24); two cases of vandalism were reported against Muslim cemeteries, and one against a Jewish cemetery. Most incidents involved random vandalism, often committed by juveniles.

A few instances of xenophobic appeals made by clergymen were reported. In August, Bishop Pitirim (Volochkov) of Syktyvkar and Vorkuta, addressing a diocesan conference titled God and World Evil in Aspects of Globalization, referred to what he called ‘non-Orthodox extremism’ which he found, in particular, in the fact that the Komi republic has 90 mosques. The cleric denounced the idea of all religions being equal and urged Orthodox believers to resist this evil forcefully, i.e. should an Orthodox person encounter ‘a Jew or a heretic,’ he must ‘sanctify his hand with a blow’ and hit the opponent ‘on the mouth or on the cheek.

An Orthodox priest in Penza was arrested at the crime scene when using spray paint to write the word ‘sect’ in front of the Living Faith (Zhivaia vera) Evangelical Church. He had also threatened Protestants and their families; however, the prosecutor’s office refused to open proceedings against him. He was vocally supported by another well-known Orthodox missionary, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, who said, ‘I would like to hand out a Beware! Sect! rubber stamp to everyone, so people can mark the doors of the houses where sectarians meet.’ As in previous years, federal and regional media published xenophobic materials targeting certain religious organizations. ‘Anti-sectarian’ stories were run by the Our Hometown Saratov newspaper (Rodnoi Gorod Saratov) about the Word of Life (Slovo zhizni) Church, by the Novgorod regional TV channel about Baptists, and by the federal newspaper Ekspress-gazeta about the ‘Krishna sect.’ A number of media stories targeted Orthodox churches which are not part of the ROC.

[1]A. Verkhovsky, O. Sibireva, ‘Freedom of conscience in Russia in 2009: Restrictions and challenges’, in Xenophobia, Freedom of Conscience and Anti-Extremism in Russia in 2009 (Moscow: SOVA Center, 2010), p. 44-72 (see the original version at

[2] Other cases related to the ‘anti-extremist’ persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses are described in our report on inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation.

Page generated 02.06.2023 at 19:31