Challenges to Freedom of Conscience in Russia in 2022

with the participation of Alexander Verkhovsky

We present a report[1] that is based on data gathered in the course of monitoring conducted by our Center. The data is presented on the Center's website in the “Religion in Secular Society” section (, including links to sources in the media and on the Internet; only the sources not noted on the website are referenced in the report. Only necessary updates are given on the events of the previous year [2]. It is not our intent to provide a comprehensive description of all events in the socioreligious sphere; the events mentioned in the report tend to be illustrative of noted trends.

Problems and stories related to the abuse of anti-extremism legislation are mainly presented in a separate report devoted to that topic [3].

Projects That Have Not (Yet) Been Developed
Decisions of Higher Courts
Problems Concerning the Construction of Temples
Problems With the Exploitation of Existing Buildings
Conflicts Over the Transfer of State Property to Religious Organizations
Recognition of the Activities of Religious Organizations as Undesirable
Criminal Prosecution
Liquidation of Religious Organizations
Restriction of Missionary Activity
Other Examples of Discrimination
Positive Verdicts
Protection from Above
Protection from Below
Violence and Vandalism
Defamation of Religious Minorities


The major trends we have observed over the past few years have remained: the pattern of discrimination against religious minorities has continued, and the state has continued to play a major role in restricting religious freedom.

The list of religious organizations whose activities have been recognized as undesirable in Russia was expanded to include two Ukrainian-based Charismatics’ organizations. Believers of the organizations that were previously recognized as undesirable, mainly the New Generation, were subjected to administrative and criminal prosecution.

Criminal prosecution also continued against members of other religious organizations, most notably Jehovah's Witnesses. Although the intensity of repressions against them, in terms of the number of new cases, has decreased, the sentences have, on the contrary, become harsher, and previous acquittals have been reversed. At the same time, older people and people with disabilities continue to be sentenced to real prison terms.

Administrative prosecution of believers for "illegal missionary work" remained at the same level and affected representatives of all religious groups, although Protestants, as before, were prosecuted under Article 5.26 of the CAO more often than other believers.

Criminal prosecution for insult of religious feelings was carried out almost as actively as in the previous year, and as before, the state was the frequent initiator of such prosecutions. Public defenders of the believers’ feelings were active a little more frequently than in previous years, and for the first time after a couple of years of silence allowed themselves a few cases of threats and even certain violence.

At the same time, the situation with the construction and operation of religious buildings has improved somewhat. In Moscow, the construction of modular churches was not accompanied by conflicts, with perhaps just one exception, while in the regions, in many cases opponents of construction limited themselves to expressing their discontent on social networks. When protests grew into something more serious, participants in the conflict often managed to reach a compromise. Conflicts over the use of existing buildings seem to have decreased even in comparison to last year, when we noted a decrease in their number, and conflicts over the transfer of state property, including museum property, to religious organizations were noticeably less frequent than before.

Religious leaders reacted to the armed conflict in Ukraine in a variety of ways, ranging from full support for the actions of the Russian state to condemnation thereof. The reactions of clergymen were, of course, more diverse and at times stronger than those of the leadership. Some of those who voiced their critical attitude were held accountable, both administratively and criminally. For example, priest Ioann (John) Burdin, rector of the Church of Resurrection in village of Karabanovo, the Kostroma region, was fined under Article 20.3.3 part 1 of the Administrative Code (public actions aimed at discrediting the Russian Armed Forces) after he announced his position during the sermon, as was protodeacon Andrey Kuraev, who posted his opinion on the social network.

A hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad under the omophorion of Metropolitan Agafangel, Nicander (Evgeny Pinchuk) was first fined under the same administrative article for criticizing the actions of the Russian army, and then convicted under Part 1 Article 280.3 of the Criminal Code (the same actions, committed repeatedly) for his critical post on VKontakte. A criminal case was immediately initiated against priest Ioann Kurmoyarov, banned from serving, on the more serious charge of spreading 'fake news' about the army actions with the motive of hatred (Paragraph E, Part 2, Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code), and he has been in custody since June.

In addition, Mexican-born priest Fernando Vera, rector of the Catholic parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Moscow, was expelled from Russia right before Easter for his criticism of the fighting in Ukraine. Some clergymen left Russia on their own.

But so far, in summarizing all the events of the year, it is difficult to say how the armed conflict, which has had such a profound effect on many aspects of life in Russia, has affected the situation with regard to freedom of conscience.

Legal Regulation

In 2022, several laws and regulations were passed that affected in one way or another the existence of religious organizations.

On November 23, the State Duma approved in the second and third readings a bill that was approved by the Federation Council on November 30 and signed by Vladimir Putin on December 5, prohibiting rallies, marches, demonstrations, and assemblies near a number of sites, including religious sites.

At the time the bill was introduced to the State Duma, experts and religious organizations were concerned about the amendments related to religious organizations. According to Hegumenness [Mother Abbess] Ksenia (Chernega), head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Legal Administration, the amendments contradicted Paragraph 3 of Article 16 of the Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. The amendments contradicted Article 16 (3) of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. "The bans established by the bill would apply to public religious ceremonies, including prayers, religious processions on the territories of medical and social welfare organizations not included in the list established by Article 16 of the aforementioned law. For example, a public religious ceremony would not be allowed on the premises of a hospice, rehabilitation center, etc. Also, it will be impossible to hold such religious rites on the territories of sports grounds, railway stations, and airports," said the Hegumenness [4]. However, by the time the law was passed, all these contradictions had been eliminated. According to the Hegumenness, lawmakers took into account all the wishes of the ROC.

Around the same time amendments to the Law on Customs Regulation in the Russian Federation and on the Introduction of Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation were adopted and signed. These amendments expand the list of organizations claiming gratuitous receipt from the customs of goods transferred into state ownership. NPOs engaged in charitable activities, including religious organizations, were added to this list.

On December 15, 2022 the State Duma passed in the second and third readings a law On Amendments to Article 5-1 of the Federal Law on State Support of Cinematography of the Russian Federation and Articles 1 and 17 of the Federal Law on Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development. The draft law simplifies age marking for works of literature and art. Among other things the adopted amendments stipulate that the Bible, the Koran, the Tanakh, and the Kangyur, as well as works of literature included in the general education program not be marked. The bill was approved by the Federation Council on December 23rd and signed by Putin on December 29th.

Around the same time the Federation Council approved and the President signed the law on the unified system of personal data, adopted by the State Duma on November 21 in its third reading. The ROC has prepared its own amendments to this law. The purpose of the amendments was to ensure that citizens refusing to submit to biometric identification would not be discriminated against. Patriarch Kirill made an appeal about this matter to Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in December. The legislators took into account the opinion of the ROC and by the second reading finalized the bill so that the compulsion of citizens to pass biometrics was prohibited by law, and responsibility was established for such coercion.

Projects That Have Not (Yet) Been Developed

In July the Russian Orthodox Church offered its additions to the amendments being prepared to Article 26 of the law Fundamentals of Legislation on Culture and Articles 7 and 16 of the law On the Museum Fund and Museums in the Russian Federation. The bill had not yet been submitted to the State Duma in August. According to Hegumenness Ksenia (Chernega), head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Legal Administration, the Church suggests that “museum objects and museum collections of religious purpose included in the state part of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation and owned by the state could be transferred for free use to religious organizations with the permission of the federal executive authority in the field of culture on the basis of relevant agreements in accordance with the procedure established by the Government of Russia”[5].

These amendments were proposed shortly after Andrei Rublev's Trinity icon was loaned to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius for worship in defiance of the museum's position. At the time of writing, the amendments had not been submitted to the State Duma.

In December, Nina Ostanina (CPRF), head of the Duma Committee on Family Affairs, announced her intention to draft a bill to toughen criminal liability for fraudulent healings, although most previous attempts to legislate in this area had previously completely failed.

We should note two more initiatives of an "anti-sectarian" nature that have not yet been developed. In July, participants of a meeting of the section on neutralizing internal threats to national security of the Security Council’s scientific committee announced that the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience "should not violate the foundations of the constitutional order... have a negative impact on national defense and state security," and proposed fixing in the Russian legislation the concepts "destructive religious sect," "foreign religious organization," "traditional religion (confession)" and "non-traditional religion (confession)," "religious extremism," "religious radicalism," and "religious fundamentalism.”

In October, Duma deputy Alexei Chepa (A Just Russia party) sent a letter to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov with a proposal to ban the ideology of Satanism and Satanist organizations. According to the deputy, followers of Satanist cults, supported by the US Department of State, became more active in connection with military actions in Ukraine and threaten the security of the Russian Federation.

Decisions of Higher Courts

Mention should also be made of the November Supreme Court review of cases involving the transfer of religious property to religious organizations. The Supreme Court has practically consolidated the existing status quo by defining religious property ("built not only for the implementation of the main activity of religious organizations aimed at the communal confession and dissemination of faith, but also for the direct provision of this activity") and stating that only state or municipal property may be transferred, and also by stating that the absence of information on the cadastral registration of the disputed property cannot be a reason for refusing to transfer it to a religious organization.

Perhaps the most important for this review is Paragraph 2, which states that when deciding on the transfer priority is given to the purpose for which the building was built, “and not the functional purpose and type of use of this property at the present time. Changing the purpose of the property in the course of its operation by a non-religious organization and using it for other purposes does not affect the definition of the property as immovable property of religious purpose, if the court has established that the object was built to carry out one of the activities of religious organizations, established by the Law on the Transfer of Religious Property to Religious Organizations” [6].

On the one hand, for religious organizations, this simplifies the process of substantiating claims, because in most cases the religious designation can be confirmed by an archive certificate. On the other hand, as lawyer Sergei Chugunov of the Slavic Legal Center notes, this clause will make it virtually impossible for some religious organizations, particularly Protestant ones, to obtain property, since during the Soviet era, having no possibility of building houses of worship, religious organizations were forced to build and use residential and other premises for liturgical purposes[7].

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation in November refused to consider the complaint of Baptists from Anapa, who asked to clarify how the communal confession of faith differs from the creation of a religious group. Believers asked for an explanation whether Articles 28 and 30 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation comply with the provisions of the first sentence of Paragraph 1 of Article 7 and the first sentence of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations.

The applicant, together with his fellow believers, had been professing his faith since 1996 without creating a religious group, since such a concept did not exist in the legislation at that time. In 1997, the concept of religious group appeared in the Law On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations, and in 2015, amendments to Article 7 of this law obliged representatives of such groups to submit notifications about the beginning of the group's activities. At the beginning of 2022, the court, at the request of the prosecutor's office, banned the activities of the religious group that had never been created by the applicant for failure to provide the appropriate notification, and it was not possible to appeal this decision.

The Constitutional Court registered the complaint, but refused to consider it. In the ruling on the refusal, the CC cites its previous decisions, reducing the essence of the complaint to the implementation of missionary activity, although the complaint did not address this activity at all.

Problems Concerning Places of Worship

Problems Concerning the Construction of Temples

As before, religious organizations occasionally encountered difficulties with the construction of religious buildings. In most cases, as in previous years, these problems were due to the poor choice of site for construction - often in green areas - and the refusal to hold public hearings or holding them with violations, as a result of which the opinion of local residents was not taken into account. As in previous years, most of these conflicts were related to the construction of Orthodox churches. Protests against their construction were noted, in particular, in Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Murmansk, Samara, Severodvinsk, Togliatti, and Ulyanovsk.

In Moscow we have information about only one major conflict around the construction of a temple, in Salaryevo: the local residents were unhappy about the selected site near the metro station Filatov Lug, next to the Salaryevo Park residential complex, because the construction of a church there required cutting down a part of the Ulyanovskforest park. Opponents of the construction proposed to move it to another place where it would not entail the destruction of the forest. Moreover, they were not happy about the fact that, due to the location of the residential complex on the territory of two administrative units, Sosenskoye and Moskovsky, simultaneously, the residents of one of the settlements could not, for purely formal reasons, participate in the hearings. Opponents of the construction appealed to the Prosecutor's Office, to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and to Patriarchal Vicar Metropolitan of Kashira, Feognost (Guzikov) with a request to intervene. We only know about the Prosecutor's office’s response: it did not find any violations in the choice of construction site.

In other regions, similar conflicts occurred regularly. For example, residents of Ulyanovsk protested against the appearance of a temple in the green zone on Karbyshev Street (the Novy Gorod district). The participants of the July gathering wanted a park to be planted there, and also expressed concern about possible inconveniences from the close proximity of the temple to residential buildings and a school. Representatives of the district administration assured the protesters that the lease of the site for the temple construction was in accordance with the results of public hearings, but could not explain when exactly these hearings were held and who participated in them.

In Togliatti, the conflict over the construction of a temple in the park of the Rusich recreation center continued. Residents demanded cancellation of the construction permit, since the location of the future temple is too close to residential buildings, and it would be necessary to tear down a playground to make space for its construction. Officials and the city duma supported the construction, referring to the fact that this temple also appeared in the general plan approved in 2011 after public hearings. In the summer, the dismantling of the playground at the construction site began, but the authorities promised to restore "small architectural forms" after the construction of the temple, as well as build an observation deck (the park is located on the banks of the Volga) and a public toilet. It should be noted that the deputies reproached the diocese for not being ready to communicate and cooperate with the local population. “The diocese should also give explanations and hang a poster of some kind. In the 15th quarter they built a sports ground next to the temple, held a grand celebration, and thus managed to ease tensions. As a result, the religious building is being slowly completed there, and there is practically no outrage,” the deputy Nikolay Ostudin said at a duma meeting [8].

Residents of the town of Volzhsky of the Volgograd region appealed to V. Putin to intervene in the situation with the construction of the Church of St. George the Victorious on the intersection of Karbyshev Street and 87th Gvardeiskaya Street without prior public hearings. The townspeople would prefer a kindergarten, a school, a medical center, or a public recreation space to be constructed there. Their appeal was forwarded to the local administration.

Residents of Obninsk, the Kaluga region failed to challenge the decision of the Obninsk City Court, which recognized the construction of the Church of Alexander Nevsky in the Old City as legal.

Often, the townspeople’s protests were limited to statements in social networks, and the conflicts did not spill out beyond them. For example, the mayor of Novokuznetsk offered citizens a choice of three sites for a new chapel, but the online poll participants rejected all three, saying that the city needed not religious objects, but playgrounds, sports facilities, and schools.

Makhachkala residents expressed outrage in social networks at the upcoming construction of an Orthodox temple in a park on the shore of Ak-Göl lake. Discussion participants considered the construction of a religious facility to be inappropriate, given the insufficient number of schools. Some pointed out that the stone laying ceremony at the construction site took place before the permits were issued, which is a violation of the law.

Residents of the Snegovaya Pad’ district of Vladivostok expressed dissatisfaction on social networks with the allocation of a plot for the construction of a temple without their consent. They would like to see another object in that location, such as, for example, a kindergarten, and are also concerned about possible felling and inconvenience "from noise and tramps," which, in their opinion, accompany the appearance of the temple.

In the spring, the majority (62%) of participants in a survey conducted by Nizhny Novgorod activist Sergey Gostev spoke out against the construction of new churches in the city.

We know of only one conflict related to the construction of religious buildings by other religious organizations: it has been going on since 2021 around the construction of a cathedral mosque in Kazan. In May, the republic's leading architects spoke out against the construction of the mosque on the site of Kyrlay Park and called for the construction to be moved to another site, but their opinion was not taken into account. In August, at the request of the republican Ministry of Construction, Architecture, and Housing, the Kazan City Duma approved amendments to the city's rules on land use and development, increasing the allowed size of land plots for "religious ceremonies," which would allow the building of a mosque on the disputed site.

In a number of cases, the authorities sided with the opponents of construction, or the opposing sides managed to reach a compromise. Thus, in Nizhnevartovsk, following the results of a vote organized by the municipal authorities, the Department of Architecture and Construction of the city administration recommended rejecting the plan for building a temple on Heroes of Samotlor street. The townspeople felt that they could not sacrifice a green area for the construction of a religious object.

In Samara, RosReestr supported local residents who opposed the chapel in the courtyard of the house on the Sixth Lane. It was built back in 2011, against the townspeople’s will, but in 2022 the construction of the bell tower caused a new wave of discontent. The regional Ministry of Construction confirmed that it had not issued a permit for the construction of a religious object on this site. Rosreestr and the Ministry of Internal Affairs started checking the legality of the construction of a religious object on that spot.

Irkutsk residents failed to challenge the 2021 court decision that recognized as legal the decision of the mayor's office to allocate a plot for the construction of the Church of Alexander Nevsky in the Primorsky district of the city. However, they managed to achieve a reduction in the area and height of the temple under construction and an increase of the green zone to be landscaped after construction completion.

In Krasnoyarsk, the long-term conflict over the construction of the cathedral on Strelka [old city district on a river island] was resolved. After public protests, the diocese agreed to build a small wooden church instead of a cathedral at the confluence of the Yenisei and the Kacha, to be included in the pedestrian route that starts on the embankment.

We should add that in October, the curator of the modular temples construction program Vladimir Resin admitted that temples should not be built in parks: "We have sometimes been criticized for building in parks, and yes, I think we should not build in existing parks. But improving the territory, creating landscaped park spaces around temples, building a park and a temple at the same time – that is the best solution for the city.” [9]

Problems With the Exploitation of Existing Buildings

As in previous years, religious organizations occasionally encountered difficulties in operating existing buildings, but we know of fewer such cases than in 2021.

Perhaps the most notable of them is the attempt of the Perm administration to take away from the New Testament Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) the building of the Lenin Palace of Culture, purchased by the religious organization from the former owner, LLC Motovilikha Plants, in the mid-2000s. The Department of Land Relations demanded 11.8 million rubles from the religious organization through court – the debt for the use of the site on which the palace of culture is located, since it is publicly owned, with interest for the period from March 1, 2018 to February 28, 2021. In May, the Arbitration Court of Perm Krai partially satisfied the demand of the city authorities, ruling that the religious organization should pay the mentioned amount, but refusing to charge interest on it. It was not possible to challenge neither this decision, nor the refusal to grant a deferral on the payment of the debt.

Simultaneously, the authorities were trying to persuade the religious organization to sell the building, but found its price unacceptable. In December, at a meeting of the Perm City Duma, Communist Party deputy Gennady Storozhev proposed switching from beliefs to administrative methods, citing Stalin's experience: “In addition to financial means, there are probably administrative ones. We can recall Joseph Stalin, who said: an individual cannot resist the power of the state. Why do we have a rather dubious entity opposing the power of the state?”[10]

In March, the authorities of Novosibirsk terminated the contract with the Muslim community Ikhlas on the gratuitous use of the building of the historical mosque. The reason was a number of violations – fire safety requirements, anti-terrorist protection, as well as migration legislation: according to law enforcement agencies, the head of the religious organization, imam Rafail Suleymanov, used the building as a hostel for migrants. A case was initiated against the imam under Part 1 of Article 3221 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of illegal migration). In May, the mosque building was handed over for operational management to the regional Inspectorate for the Protection of Monuments.

The conflict continued around the Buddhist monastery of Shad Tchup Ling on Mount Kachkanar in the Sverdlovsk region. In March, after the expiration of the time period for the voluntary compliance with the 2014 court decision on the demolition of the monastery buildings, the mining company Evraz began demolition. The outbuildings were demolished, while religious buildings were left standing. The company has even built a road to the buildings. The Buddhist community relocated to the village of Kosya, where they were going to build a new monastery. In May, the Way of the Buddha religious organization appealed to the Sverdlovsk Arbitration Court with a lawsuit against the vice-governor and Evraz management demanding guarantees of the inviolability of the Buddha monument and stupas located within the Kachkanar monastery grounds, which the community was forced to leave. The court dismissed the claim without consideration, considering that it was filed by a person who does not have the appropriate authority.

The confiscations of property from Jehovah's Witnesses continued. During the year, the courts of Volgograd and the Volgograd region declared void transactions on the transfer of property of religious organizations to other owners in Volgograd and Surovikinsky district. In Kabardino-Balkaria, the court invalidated the transaction on the transfer of the property of Jehovah's Witnesses in May to the Swedish organization. These decisions entail the transfer of property to the State.

The Church of the Last Testament once again failed to challenge the 2021 decision on the confiscation of its land plot: in January, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation refused to consider the religious organization's complaint by the judicial board for economic disputes. And in March, a criminal case was initiated under Part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code (abuse of official authority with serious consequences) in connection with the approval in 2010-2012 of the general plan, according to which the lands of the Cheremshansky Village Council were allocated for Vissarionites’ settlements.

Orthodox Christians sometimes encountered problems concerning their premises, too. For example, in Chelyabinsk, due to the extension of Kashirin Brothers Street, it was necessary to move the temporary building of the Church of St. John the Theologian. The project for the new road is still being finalized, the fate of the temporary church has not been definitively determined, but the parish is ready, if necessary, to move the structure to another part of the site, although it recognizes that the move will not be easy since, in addition to services, Sunday school classes are held inside the temporary church building.

Sometimes difficulties concerning the use of buildings arose through no fault of the authorities. For example, the Murmansk Full Gospel Church was forced to put the church building up for sale due to a decrease in the number of parishioners.

Religious organizations apparently managed more often than a year earlier to defend the premises they used, including in court. Thus, the Church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Ukhta managed, after several years of litigation, to achieve recognition of its ownership of its house of prayer. The city administration had refused to issue an operation permit because shortly after the completion of construction, the city council changed the building rules, as a result of which the house of prayer was located in an area where the construction of religious objects was not allowed. The Ukhta City Court sided with the religious organization, noting that a change in the zoning of the city territory cannot serve as a basis for non-recognition of ownership of an object of immovable property in the absence of other violations.

In Syzran, the court rejected the demand of the city administration to demolish the Fayzulla Mosque, which the city authorities considered an unauthorized construction, since the building was built on a plot intended for residential construction, the plot was not properly documented, and the staircase went beyond the boundaries of the plot.

In Moscow, a Diamond Way Buddhist Center defended its rights to a building in Kalanchevsky Lane in court. Court hearing was required due to the fact that the former owner of the building was declared bankrupt and the bankruptcy trustee tried to get the sale recognized as fictitious. The court overturned the bankruptcy of the seller and stopped the attempts to challenge the sale.

Several Orthodox parishes in various regions were able, after filing court claims, to formalize ownership of the buildings they used. For example, in Moscow, the patriarchal compound in Zaryadye claimed ownership of several outbuildings on Varvarka, and the parish of Michael the Archangel in Ovchinniki secured ownership of the parish house building, which the city property department considered an illegal construction.

The Arbitration Court of Tatarstan granted the claim of the Kazan Diocese to the administration of Kazan for recognition of ownership of the administrative building in the courtyard of the church of the Hieromartyr Kirill, Metropolitan of Kazan, on Chistopolskaya Street, for the commissioning of which the authorities were refusing to issue a permit for a very long time since its area exceeded that specified in the building permit documentation.

In Vologda, the parish of the Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos in Kirillovskaya Yamskaya Sloboda achieved recognition of its ownership of this temple, which is an object of cultural heritage. In Samara, the Orthodox parish in the name of the Holy Martyrs Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov, and their mother Sofia obtained through court the confirmation of its ownership of the baptistery buildings on Chapaevskaya Street. The parish of the Church of the Nativity of Christ in the village of Sablino in the Sasovsky district of the Ryazan region registered ownership of the temple, which it used for many years and bore "the burden of maintaining the above-mentioned object." And in the Oryol region, the Pokrovsky (Intercession) parish of the village of Stanovoy Kolodez of the Oryol district achieved ownership not only of the church building used since 1999, but also of the buildings of Sunday school, chapel, and hotel.

Perm City Hall announced its intention to file a lawsuit against the Armenian church Surb Grigor Lusavorich with a request to vacate the land plot on Chkalov Street, the lease of which expired in 2020. The church announced a counterclaim to the court, but then it became known that the parties managed to reach an out-of-court settlement, and the city administration no longer intended to seize the plot from the religious organization.

Conflicts Over the Transfer of State Property to Religious Organizations

State and municipal property was still periodically transferred to religious organizations, and, as before, most of it was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church. For example, in Moscow, the church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the Streshnev-Golitsyn estate, used by the parish since 1992, was transferred to the ROC. And in Toropets, the Tver region, the Rzhev diocese was given the Trinity Church and three cells buildings with a fence, part of the Trinity-Nebin Monastery and a cultural heritage object of federal significance.

Sometimes property that did not have a religious purpose was transferred to religious organizations. For example, in Syktyvkar, the former maternity hospital building was transferred to the diocese to accommodate an Orthodox gymnasium. The contract on gratuitous use was concluded with the charitable foundation for the construction of the Orthodox gymnasium at the Holy Ascension Church of Syktyvkar, which, in accordance with the contract, must ensure the safety of the transferred building, a cultural heritage object.

In some cases, religious organizations were unable to obtain the desired property. Thus, the Property Relations Committee of St. Petersburg refused to transfer to the local branch of the Caritas Roman Catholic Charitable Society the building of the former shelter for boys on Kirillovskaya Street. The committee's refusal was explained by the fact that the building was not built directly for Caritas and was not a religious property, although the organization provided an archival certificate indicating that the building and the site belonged to Caritas. However, the committee found that the building could not be transferred to a religious organization.

Typically, property transfers went in a peaceful manner. In Nizhny Novgorod, the mayor's office ignored the public discussion participants who spoke out against the transfer of a kindergarten building to the local diocese and proceeded to hand the building over; apparently, the conflict did not escalate following the transfer.

In all cases known to us, transfer of property belonging to museums and educational institutions to the ROC went on as normal, with the authorities offering compensation to organizations whose property was seized or the parties reaching a compromise. For example, the building of the Faculty of Social Technologies of the North-Western Institute of Management of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, which until 1917 housed the Alexander-Mariinsky House of Charity for the retired and orphaned clergy, was handed over to the parish of the Cossack Cathedral of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in St. Petersburg. It was agreed that the university will use the building for another five years until a new premises is found. In Nerekhta, the Kostroma region, where the Church of the Epiphany, which housed a museum, was handed over to the ROC, it was decided to transfer the exhibits to other museums, and the diocese undertook to restore the church and not impede tourists' access to it.

The only conflict concerned the temporary transfer of an icon stored in a museum to the Russian Orthodox Church: in July, contrary to the opinion of the museum community, at the request of the Patriarch and with the permission granted "as an exception," the Rublev’s Trinity icon was delivered from the Tretyakov Gallery to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in honor of the celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the uncovering of the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh. This transfer, albeit temporary, caused a wide public outcry, as experts warned that changing the storage conditions, even for a short time, could be disastrous for the icon. Nevertheless, the relic spent three days in the Lavra.

In Ryazan, the conflict that had been going on since 2021 over the transfer of the building of French School No. 6 to the diocese has come to an end. In March, the Arbitration Court of Appeal approved a settlement agreement between the Ryazan Diocese and the administration of Ryazan, according to which the school building was transferred to the ownership of the diocese, and the latter concluded a contract with the school on the gratuitous use of the building for a period of seven years. During this time, the city administration is to commission a new building for the school.

Discrimination Based on Religion

Recognition of the Activities of Religious Organizations as Undesirable

On November 18, the Prosecutor General's Office added two Charismatics’ organizations based in Ukraine to the list of organizations whose activities in Russia are deemed undesirable: the religious organization All-Ukrainian Spiritual Center Vozrozhdenie [“Revival”] (religious organization “All-Ukrainian Spiritual Center ‘VIDRODZHENNYA’” [spelled in Ukrainian]) and the associated Vladimir Muntyan’s charitable foundation Vozrozhdenie ("CHARITABLE FOUNDATION "VIDRODZHENNYA" OF VOLODIMIR MUNTYAN" [Ukrainian title cited]). In their activities, the Prosecutor General's Office saw a threat to the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation, without specifying what exactly that threat was.

Believers from religious organizations previously deemed undesirable were subjected to both administrative and criminal prosecution. For example, in several regions, the believers of New Generation were searched as part of the case under Article 2841 of the Criminal Code (organization of the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization, in respect of which a decision was made to recognize its activities undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation). In a number of cases, violence was used against believers: Novokuznetsk pastor Alexander Grishin was forced onto the floor by the security forces, scaring the child who was present. In Moscow, on charges under Part 3 of the same Article, the pastor of another church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals), Christ the Savior, Nikolai Ulitin, was imprisoned.

In the Ulyanovsk region, a case was opened against a 57-year-old resident of Dimitrovgrad under paragraphs "a, b" of Part 2 of Article 171 (illegal entrepreneurship by an organized group with the extraction of income on a particularly large scale) and part 2 of Article 2841 of the Criminal Code. In particular, he is charged with raising funds in support of World Institute of Scientology Enterprises International (WISE Int.), recognized as undesirable.

Several participants of the pastoral conference held in Ramenskoye in December 2021 were prosecuted under Article 20.33 of the Administrative Code (participation in the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization, in respect of which a decision was made to recognize its activities as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation). Under this Article, the pastor of the Novokuznetsk New Generation church Egor Sigarev was fined 7000 rubles, the pastor of the Sochi New Generation church Arthur Megrikyan – 5000 rubles, and pastor Jan Schneider – 5000 rubles.

The New Generation pastor in Kemerovo, Andrei Matyuzhov, was also fined 5000 rubles under the same Article for republishing materials of the foreign New Generation on his page in a social network and for publishing an interview with the leader of the Ukrainian New Generation, Andrei Tishchenko.

And in Anapa, at the request of the prosecutor's office, the court blocked the VKontakte page of the Church of Christ the Savior, of the New Generation movement. The court, following the lead of the prosecutor's office, found that the group, numbering 200 users, poses "a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation."

Criminal Prosecution

The criminal prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses continued. During the year, new criminal cases on the continuation of the activities of an extremist organization, according to the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves, were initiated against 77 people (against 142 people in the year 2021).

There were 59 guilty verdicts under Article 2822 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization) and Article 2823 (financing the activities of an extremist organization) (in 2021 – 68) against 118 persons (in 2021 – 105). At the same time, the penalties became harsher: 45 people, including elderly, women, and people with serious health problems, were sentenced to real terms ranging between one year and four months and seven and a half years in prison. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the average sentence was five and a half years (in 2021 – five years). 61 believers received suspended sentences (68 in 2021) of up to six and a half years. 11 people were sentenced to fines between 350000 and 600000 rubles (in 2021 – 10) and one to compulsory labor.[11] (Four people sentenced to real and two to suspended terms of imprisonment, whose sentences were later canceled, are not taken into account here. Although the sentences may be reviewed, and people punished.)

One of the cruelest sentences was handed down to 53-year-old Andrei Vlasov: in May, the Central District Court of Prokopyevsk sentenced him to seven years in a general-regime colony, despite the fact that he has a group II disability and cannot move on his own. The verdict was approved by the Kemerovo Regional Court.

There was a Polish citizen Andrzej Onishchuk among the convicted, whom the Pervomaisky District Court of Kirov sentenced to six and a half years’ probation in June.

In 2022, several acquittals of Jehovah's Witnesses were canceled, including the very first one, handed down in 2021 to Dmitry Barmakin.

At the end of February 2023, at least 123 people were held in colonies and pre-trial detention centers, the oldest of whom is 71 years old. According to the Jehovah's Witnesses, from the moment the ban was imposed on its headquarters and local organizations and until the end of 2022, criminal prosecution has already affected 674 believers.

As in previous years, as part of the criminal cases, searches were conducted in the houses of Jehovah's Witnesses, during which numerous violations were committed, including the unjustified use of violence. For example, in Ivanovo in November, security forces forced a 60-year-old believer onto the floor and handcuffed him, although he did not resist. In September, in Tolyatti, the security forces broke into the believer Alexander Chagan’s home, breaking a window, handcuffed the owner, and one of the officers insulted the believers. During the year 2022, according to Jehovah's Witnesses, 200 searches were conducted; a total of 1874 searches have been carried out since the introduction of the ban.

Criminal prosecution of representatives of other religious organizations continued. For example, the rector of the Nizhny Novgorod Pastafarian Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Mikhail Iosilevich, was sentenced in May to one year and eight months in prison under Article 2841 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for cooperation with Open Russia.

In September, charges were confirmed in the case of the leaders of the Church of the Last Testament, Sergei Torop (Vissarion), Vadim Redkin, and Vladimir Vedernikov, initiated in 2021. They are charged with Part 1 of Article 239 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a non-profit organization that encroaches on the personality and rights of citizens), paragraphs "a" and "b" of Part 3 of Article 111 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (intentional infliction of serious harm to health), paragraph "d" of Part 2 of Article 112 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (intentional infliction of moderate harm health), and for Vedernikov also Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud). The case was referred to the court.

Liquidation of Religious Organizations

We have information about three cases of liquidation of religious organizations. In October, the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court granted the claim of the regional prosecutor's office for the liquidation of the Church of the Last Testament, finding that the religious organization “threatens the interests of society and the state, encroaches on the personality, rights, and freedoms of citizens, and entails damage to morality and health of citizens.” Note that the criminal case, in which the same charges are being considered, has not yet been completed.

In November, the Altai Regional Court granted the claim of the regional prosecutor's office to ban the activities of the religious group Allya-Ayat (Elle Ayat) on the territory of the region. The court agreed with the prosecutor's office's opinion that the practices used by the group (drinking special tea, turning to the sun’s energy, pronouncing the “formula of life” – have no medical foundation, and therefore, the group encourages its followers to abandon official medicine using "psychotechnologies of mind manipulation", that is, poses a danger to the health of citizens.

Another religious organization was liquidated in Perm: in April, the Perm Regional Court granted the claim of the Ministry of Justice on the liquidation of the Association of the Holy Spirit for the Unification of World Christianity – the Church of the Unification of Perm. However, the initiator of the liquidation was the religious organization itself: its believers, the followers of the South Korean preacher Sung Myung Moon, decided to continue in the form of a religious group.

Restriction of Missionary Activity

The persecution of religious organizations for "illegal" missionary work continued. At the time of writing, the statistics of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the application of Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code (violation of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and on religious associations) was available only for the first half of 2022: compared to the same period of 2021, the number of cases increased slightly – 159 cases were heard (153 in the first half of 2021). 94 persons were punished in these cases: 43 individuals, 50 legal entities, and one official (in 2021 – 92, 56, 33, and three, respectively).

As before, fines were most often imposed as punishment (82) and written warnings were issued in 12 cases (in 2021 – 89 and nine, respectively). Sometimes additional punishment was imposed: in seven cases it was confiscation, in one – administrative expulsion[12].

Protestant organizations continue to be the main target of law enforcement under this article. For example, the Evangelical Christian church Tabernacle of Faith in the Samara region and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kaspiysk were prosecuted under Part 3 of Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code. According to the same part of the same article, the Adventist pastor Timofey Boronin in Prokhladnoye and the Seventh-day Adventist church in Nartkala were fined 30000 rubles (both cases in Kabardino–Balkaria). In the Belgorod region, a baptist was fined 6000 rubles under Part 4 of the same article for distributing literature near a military camp.

However, the representatives of other religious organizations were also prosecuted for "illegal" missionary activity. Thus, the imam Emir Medzhitov in Dzhankoy was fined 20000 rubles under Part 4 of Article 5.26 for holding Friday prayers in a mosque where he was not formally an imam. A Catholic priest Tomasz Vytrval was fined 30000 rubles under Part 3 of the same article in Yalta. And the fine issued to the Old Believers community of Simferopol under Part 3 of the same article for failure to indicate the full name of the organization in online publications was replaced by a warning.

Foreign citizens were often prosecuted for "illegal" missionary work. For example, in the Yaroslavl region, Tajik citizen Umedzhon Toshev was fined 30000 rubles and deported from Russia under Part 5 of Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code (conducting missionary activities in violation of the legislation on freedom of conscience, committed by a foreign national) for holding namaz and preaching without being the leader of a religious organization and without documents certifying his authority to conduct missionary activities. In the Smolensk region, a Pentecostal Victor Romanov, a citizen of Ukraine, was fined 30000 rubles for conducting missionary activities without documents certifying his authority, and in the Kemerovo region, a citizen of Azerbaijan was fined the same amount for the same offense.

Foreign believers were also prosecuted under Article 18.8 of the CAO (violation by a foreign national or stateless person of the rules for entry into the Russian Federation or the regime of stay (residence) in the Russian Federation). For example, in the Sovetsko-Gavansky district of Khabarovsk Krai, a U.S. citizen was fined 2000 rubles under this article and deported from Russia for preaching to the local Pentecostal community. In the opinion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the court, this did not match his declared purpose of stay. A French citizen was prosecuted under the same article for giving a lecture to Krishna believers in Omsk.

Other Examples of Discrimination

As in previous years, there were facts of police interference in the life of Muslim organizations. For example, in December, security forces in uniform and masks broke into the dining hall of a mosque in Khabarovsk, beat and forced onto the floor the imam and the believers who gathered there after prayer, broke down the door to the prayer room, and scattered literature, including the Koran, and religious objects. Believers went to the police with complaints, demanding that a case be opened under Articles 167 (intentional destruction or damage to property) and 148 of the Criminal Code (insulting religious feelings).

Believers often faced refusals to allow alternative civilian service based on religious beliefs. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses received such refusals twice – in the village of Yemelyanovo, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and in Krasnoturyinsk in the Sverdlovsk region.

In Nevelsk, Sakhalin region, the court not only refused to allow Jehovah's Witness Yevgeni Kulakov alternative civilian service, but also fined him 120000 rubles under Part 1 of Article 328 of the Criminal Code (evasion from military service). The court relied on testimony, which Kulakov described as false, that claimed that in his student years he participated in military exercises and thus misled the state when he declared that his beliefs did not allow him to take up arms. At the same time, the organizer of the exercises assured the court that no shooting training took place on that day.

All the examples of non-state discrimination known to us were related to the unwillingness of heads of educational institutions to allow Muslim women to attend classes wearing headscarves. For example, female students at Astrakhan State Medical University complained that they were not allowed to attend classes wearing headscarves, even if they were the color of the medical uniform. The students were publicly insulted and pressured.

Similar conflicts occurred in schools, particularly in Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, Moscow, and the Moscow region. In Tyumen, it took the intervention of the authorities to resolve the conflict: after negotiations with the school principal, Deputy Governor Alexei Ryder, and the girl's parents, the Deputy Governor guaranteed that the incident would not happen again, and the family of the schoolgirl gave up their intention to go to court. In Balashikha, Moscow region, due to the school management's refusal to allow a student in a headscarf to attend classes, the parents were forced to switch to homeschooling. In Chelyabinsk and Moscow, parents announced that they were preparing lawsuits against school administrations.

Positive Verdicts

Sometimes believers and religious organizations were able to protect their rights, including through the courts.

We know of several cases where believers were able to defend their right to alternative civilian service due to their religious beliefs. In particular, Igor Kuzan, a Jehovah's Witness from Bratsk, Danila Zaitsev, a Pentecostal from Gus-Khrustalny, the Vladimir region, as well as believers whose confessional affiliation is unknown to us, Ildar Mikhalev from Aleksandrov, Ilya Zyryanov from Slobodsky district of the Kirov region, and two conscripts from Sortavala, managed to challenge decisions of draft committees to deny them ACS.

In November, after the partial mobilization had already been announced, the Gatchina City Court of the Leningrad region ruled that the decision to draft Pavel Mushumansky, who had previously done alternative civilian service instead of regular military service, was illegal. It is noteworthy that while the case was being considered, the court took interim measures: it suspended the decision on mobilization and obliged the command of the unit where Mushinsky had been sent to return him to his place of residence so that he could attend the hearings.

Kirill Berezin, a mobilized resident of St. Petersburg, was twice denied alternative civilian service by the courts, but his unit command agreed to give him a job that did not require the use of weapons.

Sometimes believers were also able to challenge prosecutions for "illegal" missionary work. For example, Gamzat Mamedov, a resident of Maikop, was able to challenge a fine under Article 5.26 of the Administrative Code for distributing As-Salam newspaper at the local market: The Supreme Court of Adygea overturned the rulings of the courts of previous instances, because the protocol was drawn up with violations.

In Komi, the Christian Evangelical Church of Vuktyl managed to defend in court the right to provide humanitarian aid to the poor. The city prosecutor's office demanded that the clause in question be removed from the statutes of the religious organization. Vuktil District Court upheld the prosecutor's claim, believing that the provision of humanitarian aid was not related to the organization of joint confession and propagation of faith, and therefore did not meet the Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, which defined the goals of a religious organization. The church appealed the decision, noting that such a requirement "affects confessional issues, violating the principle of separation of state and church.” The judicial board of the Supreme Court of the Komi Republic sided with the religious organization and partially reversed the decision of the district court, finding the aforementioned requirement excessive.

Some organizations succeeded in obtaining a positive decision from the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, these decisions came into effect when Russia announced that it no longer recognized its jurisdiction. Several such decisions concerned Jehovah's Witnesses.

For example, in February, the ECHR issued a judgment in the case of Cheprunovs and Others vs. Russia, which brought together five complaints from the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses, a local religious organization from Kostomuksha and several believers from other regions, challenging the legality of searches carried out in their homes in 2010-2012. The Court ruled that the searches had been unnecessary, while Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, had been violated with regard to the believers. The court decided to pay one of the applicants, Elena Chavychalova, 37 euros in compensation for the fine she had paid, 500 euros to two other applicants jointly for the personal belongings seized from them during the search, and 5000 euros jointly to all the applicants.

In June, the ECHR considered 20 complaints by Jehovah's Witnesses from 1444 applicants, both individuals and legal entities, under the case Taganrog LRO and Others v. Russia. In particular, the case considered a complaint against the dissolution of the local Jehovah's Witnesses organization in Taganrog; a complaint against the banning of Jehovah's Witnesses literature and imposing administrative responsibility for its distribution; and a complaint against the dissolution of centralized and local religious communities and the criminal prosecution that followed. The court did not consider the other complaints, expanding its decision to them by analogy. The court found that several articles of the Convention had been violated with respect to the believers: in the case of the liquidation of the Taganrog local organization - violation of Articles 9, 10 (freedom of expression), and 11 (freedom of assembly and association), in the case of the liquidation of the centralized and local religious communities - violation of Article 9 read in the light of Article 11, in the case of criminal prosecution after liquidation - violation of Article 5 (right to freedom and personal inviolability) and Article 9, and in the case of confiscation of the property of religious organizations - Article 1 of the Additional Protocol to the Convention (protection of property).

The ECHR ordered Russia to release the imprisoned believers, halt their criminal prosecution, return their seized property or compensate them for the material damage caused, and also to pay 125000 euros jointly to all participants in compensation for the legal costs and 15000 euros in moral damages to the applicants subjected to criminal prosecution, 7500 euros to the applicants who were members of the liquidated organizations and who were brought to administrative responsibility, and 1000 euros to the other applicants.

In July, the ECHR found a violation of Articles 9 and 11 of the Convention in the 2012 liquidation of the Russian Orthodox Free Church and considered it as state interference in the affairs of religious associations. The court ordered the Russian Federation to pay Bishop Irinarkh (Nonchin) 7500 euros in moral damages to the religious organization within three months.

In November, the European Court of Human Rights, considering the case Tsvetkov and Others v. Russia, which brought together the complaints of several applicants who had been prosecuted under different articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses and who considered their trials insufficiently impartial, found a violation in their trials of Article 6.1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (right to a fair trial) and ruled to pay them compensation. In particular, compensation in the amount of 3900 euros was awarded to Daniil Pugin, who was arrested in 2019 for four days for petty hooliganism for participation in protests against the construction of a church in Yekaterinburg.

Protecting the Feelings of Believers

Protection from Above

Law enforcement under Part 1 of Article 148 of the Criminal Code (public actions expressing clear disrespect to society with the aim to insult religious feelings of believers) was as active as the year before: we know of eight convictions under this article, the same number as in 2021[13]. All of them were either for photographs and videos published on social networks, which depicted people in a manner inappropriate from the point of view of law enforcement officers, against the background of sacral objects, most often Orthodox, or for making offensive remarks about believers. We are not aware of any convictions or new cases under Part 2 of the article on similar actions "committed in places specially designated for religious services, other religious rites and ceremonies.”

For example, in St. Petersburg, blogger Irina Volkova was convicted for a photograph published on Instagram where she is sitting against the background of St. Isaac's Cathedral with her skirt pulled up, from under which underwear is visible. The court sentenced her to 180 hours of compulsory labor. However, the punishment imposed most often under this article was fines, the largest of which, 80000 rubles, was imposed on a resident of St. Petersburg, Andrei Kurdov, for a photograph of himself and his friend with their pants pulled down against the background of the Church of the Savior on Blood. The friend was not convicted because of his age – he was 15 years old at the time of the photo shoot. A female resident of Kaluga was fined 25000 rubles for a photograph against the background of a church, on which the subject's skirt is raised and her underwear is visible, and a St. Petersburg resident Sergey Kondratiev was fined 15000 rubles for a video clip in which he kisses a man against the background of a church.

In other cases, sentences under Article 148 were handed down in combination with other charges. Two people were sentenced to real prison terms. Agame blogger from Armavir, Sergei Orlov, who published a video with obscene statements about Muslims, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment under Part 1 of Article 148 of the Criminal Code and Part 1 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and storage of drugs without intent to sell). Given that he had previously been given a suspended sentence for theft, the court imposed a cumulative sentence. Yuri Svishchev, an Arkhangelsk resident, was sentenced to two and a half years under Part 1 of Article 148 and Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement of religious hatred and enmity) for publishing texts aimed at inciting religious hatred. A resident of Sevastopol was sentenced under Part 1 of Article 148 and Part 2 of Article 280 (public calls for extremist activities) to one and a half years of suspended imprisonment with one year probation and a ban on the administration of groups online. The sentence was imposed for calls to violence on ethnic and religious grounds.

During the year, new criminal cases were initiated under the same part of the same article - in most cases also for "obscene" photographs against the background of shrines or for insulting statements. For example, a case was opened against the blogger Polina Morugina (Polina Face) for the Instagram post of a photograph of herself posing nude in front of the Church of Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fili, Moscow. In 2023, the court already sent Morugina to compulsory treatment. Another case under this article was initiated against the 50-year-old resident of Dzhankoy for "images and expressions offensive to an Orthodox believer."

One case concerning insulting religious feelings was dismissed in court due to reconciliation of the parties: this is the case of Maria Katanova, in which six other people were charged alongside her. The case was initiated because of a video in which the model posed against the backdrop of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque wearing an unbuttoned coat, niqab, and underwear.

We know that a number of cases concerning insulting religious feelings were initiated following complaints by offended believers, such as the case of blogger Maria Chistyakova (Marie Govorie ["Speak, Marie”]), against whom a complaint to law enforcement agencies was filed by the Sorok Sorokov movement back in 2021. The case was initiated because of the publication on Twitter of a photograph of Chistyakova in her underwear with the image of the Virgin Mary and the caption "May 2 - World Tuna Day. Happy holiday!" (in 2021, the celebration of Easter according to the Julian calendar fell on this day). However, as before, frequently it was law enforcement officers themselves who initiated cases under.

Here is another example of protection of religious feelings “from above.” In November, the Ministry of Culture refused to issue a film distribution certificate to the film company Lunapark for the Monastery TV series based on subparagraph 'G' of Paragraph 18 of The Rules for Issuing, Refusing to Issue, and Revoking a Film Distribution Certificate, which states that “in other cases determined by federal law” a film distribution certificate shall not be issued. According to the Ministry of Culture, in this case there was an insult to religious feelings.

Such a conclusion was made on the basis of an expertise commissioned by the Ministry and carried out by the Russian Orthodox Church, which concluded that "the script presents a distorted view of monastic life in the women's monasteries of the ROC, and consequently forms a false impression of Russian Orthodoxy.” According to the plot, the main character is hiding from bandits in the monastery. It is noteworthy that the very first episode of this series, shown by Kinopoisk, was watched by more than 250000 viewers, a record number of subscribers for this online film service. Immediately afterwards, Ivan Otrakovsky, the leader of the Army of the Defenders of the Fatherland organization, appealed to the Investigative Committee to ban the online shows of this series and bring the organizers of the show to justice.

Protection from Below

The activity of public defenders of religious feelings has slightly increased compared to the previous year. From time to time, they expressed dissatisfaction with various social and cultural events that seemed to them to be offensive. As in previous years, most of the outrage came from defenders of the feelings of the Orthodox.

The only case of such discontent not coming from Orthodox believers that we are aware of concerned a photo shoot organized by the Irkutsk magazine and carried out at the old Jewish cemetery in Lisikha. The townspeople and the Jewish community were outraged by the fact that the fashion shoot was carried out against the backdrop of the graves. Aaron Wagner, a representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Russia in Irkutsk and the Irkutsk region, also considered the shooting at the cemetery to be offensive. Ruslan Bolotov, Mayor of Irkutsk, responded to the complaints of the citizens by reminding them that “the memorial complex is a place of memory that must be honored. Regardless of religion or nationality.” The police started an investigation into the photo shoot at the cemetery, but the magazine's editorial board issued an apology and assurances that the organizers of the shoot had no intention of offending anyone. The photo shoot, the editorial staff explained, was part of the Heirs project, where "young Irkutsk residents, heirs of well-known families who are building their careers, reflect on their future and on what they can do for Irkutsk.”[14] The Jewish cemetery was selected as a location for the shooting because it is a historical site and has long been used exclusively as a promenade.

All other complaints came from Orthodox activists, who found all sorts of reasons to claim that their feelings had been insulted: from the packaging of baked goods with an image of Prince Vladimir with a cross in his hand, which a resident of Belgorod reported to the governor as desecration of a holy object, to a complaint about "propaganda of Satanism" in the Moscow family cafe AnderSon, which journalist Anna Palyukh (Shafran) filed with the prosecutor's office because the cafe hosted a kids' Halloween party and a toy monster workshop. In most cases, these complaints entailed no consequences.

In November, the Sorok Sorokov movement appealed to Russian Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova with a request to ban concerts, musicals, and plays based on Harry Potter scheduled during the New Year and Christmas holidays and replace them with Russian fairy tales. According to the applicants, the story of the boy wizard "is a brilliantly designed quintessence of the foundations of Western culture: rationalism, individualism, and materialism, imbued with spiritual values that are alien to us.”

In October, the Zov Naroda (Call of the People) movement appealed to Vitaly Milonov, a State Duma deputy from the United Russia party, who, in turn, appealed to the Perm Region Prosecutor's Office to check the activity of the Satan Ball theme party organizers at The Friends club in Perm. According to the applicants, at the party, "mockery of Christian symbols and trampling of traditional moral values as well as praise of Satan who is the enemy of God that is mentioned in the Constitution of the Russian Federation was taking place," and the organizers should be prosecuted under Part 2 Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls for extremist activities using the internet) and Paragraph B of Part 2 of Article 282.

In the spring and summer, the concerts of Philip Kirkorov at the Kremlin Palace, marking the singer's jubilee, caused indignation among the faithful. Orthodox believers found one of the songs offensive, when the artist and his dancers walked and danced on a cross with a "crucified" actress inside. In May, the Tsargrad society appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office with a request to open a case under Article 148 of the Criminal Code against the singer. The orthodox activists' appeal was supported by Alexander Borodai, member of the State Duma, but the police saw no grounds for the case, especially since the singer apologized to everyone who was offended by this song and explained that he dedicated it to his deceased mother and had no intent to engage in blasphemy.

Nevertheless, protests by believers continued, and in some regions, such as Pyatigorsk, Stavropol, and Maykop, Kirkorov's performances were canceled, although the singer promised that in his tour he would not use on stage the cross that had caused outrage.

This is not the only example of events being canceled under pressure from fighters against the insulting of religious feelings. For example, the organizers of The Most Magical Festival around Halloween at the I. Babushkin Park in St. Petersburg were forced to cancel it due to complaints from "the parental community," who saw the festival as an “adapted ‘Satanic cult.’” A petition to cancel the festival gathered about 3000 signatures.

We also know of isolated incidents when defenders of religious feelings used or threatened to use force. For example, a passenger in the Moscow Metro forced another passenger out of the metro car with the intention of reporting her to the police: in his opinion, appearance in a public place with a canvas bag with a print of Andrea Solario’s painting Salome with the Head of John the Baptist with the caption "Did you leave your head at home?" [a typical teacher’s answer to a homework left at home claim] fell under Article 148. At the police station, the man said he was "not ready yet" to file a statement. It is worth noting that the police officers did not support him, but, on the contrary, reproached him for using force on the girl and driving her to a nervous breakdown.

Sorok Sorokov activists threatened the owner of the barbershop called Children's Torture Chamber on VDNH exhibition grounds Timur Gaziyev, demanding to change the name of the establishment and remove the logo with the devil. Orthodox defenders of religious feelings accused him of being a Satanist. The barbershop caters to children with developmental disabilities, and as the owner Gaziyev explained, the logo with the horns is a caricature of himself "because for many parents and children haircuts are torture." At the beginning of 2023, the barbershop was still operating.

It is noteworthy that, as in the previous year, official representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in most cases did not demand harsh punishment for “blasphemers,” and often responded to events that angered the Orthodox public in a more restrained manner than those who fought to protect religious feelings. For instance, Head of the Synodal Department for Relations with Society and the Media Vladimir Legoida, commenting on the scandalous concerts of Kirkorov, said that he too considered the song with the cross as outrageous and insulting to the Orthodox, but at the same time he was calling for "neither a 'witch hunt,' nor a 'hunt for hunters.’”: “All this is counterproductive. All I urge is to be sensitive and considerate of each other.”[15]

His deputy Vakhtang Kipshidze, commenting on a November incident in St. Petersburg, where a customer at a Perekrestok supermarket demanded that the stand with Halloween pumpkins be removed and threatening to bring a case under Article 148 of the Criminal Code against the store, said that selling such pumpkins does not offend Orthodox feelings and there is no need to ban Halloween paraphernalia if it does not violate decency. “I repeat: an Orthodox person is not scared by a pumpkin or a hat. We are more concerned about those people who try to flirt in this way with symbols that are often occult and anti-Christian," he said.[16]

Insufficient Protection from Defamation and Attacks

Violence and Vandalism

We have information about only one attack based on religious hatred, during which two Muslims were injured in Crimea - the chief imam of the Simferopol district Enver Bakiyev and Deputy Mufti of Muslims of Crimea Raim Gafarov. In April, they were beaten up in the mosque of Pionerskoye village by the worshippers of another village. The attackers shouted insults and accused the victims of unbelief. According to the Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Crimea and Sevastopol, the attackers were Salafists. One of the suspects, a 44-year-old resident of the village of Pionerskoye, was charged under Part 3 and Paragraph B of Part 4 of Article 148 (illegal obstruction of worship, including the use of violence).

The level of religiously motivated vandalism remained unchanged: we know of 12 such cases, the same number as the year before.

Almost half of these attacks, five (four a year earlier), involved attacks on Orthodox sites, and three were arson attacks. For example, in March in Nizhny Novgorod region intruders set fire to a chapel and damaged a baptismal font near the village of Bolshoye Kozino in Balakhna district. Two local residents, aged 18 and 19, were soon detained and confessed to committing acts of vandalism while intoxicated. A case was opened against them under Article 167 of the Criminal Code (intentional destruction or damage to property). In the Smolensk region in May, three teenagers set fire to icons in a chapel in the village of Kokhanovo, the Krasninsky district, while shouting slogans in support of Ukraine. A resident of Moscow tried to set fire to the Church of St. Mitrofan on Kavkazsky Boulevard in November: he poured and set fire to a flammable liquid, but the fire was immediately noticed by a guard and put out - only the sidewalk and the porch floor were damaged. The intruder was detained, but could not explain his motives.

In two other cases crosses were damaged. In the village of Fryanovo near Moscow and the neighboring villages of Golovino and Mavrino in the Shchelkovsky district, worship crosses were cut down in March. A criminal case was opened under Article 214 of the Criminal Code (vandalism). In Aktanysh village, the Aktanyshsky district of Tatarstan, a cross on one of the Orthodox cemetery graves was damaged again. A year earlier, an Orthodox burial there had caused discontent among radical Muslims who repeatedly desecrated the grave, leading to a scandal that required the intervention of the President of the Republic: Rustam Minnikhanov then issued a stern warning to the head of the district Engel Fattakhov. Fattakhov called the 2022 incident a provocation, apologized to the relatives of the deceased, and resigned because he had been unable to prevent another act of vandalism. A criminal case was initiated.

Note another case of vandalism against an Orthodox Christian site, where the hate motive is not clear to us, but the case was opened under Part 2 Article 214 of the Russian Criminal Code (vandalism motivated by religious hatred). In August, a resident of the Moscow region broke a window and got inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, switched on the fire-extinguishing system, and flooded two basement floors. The intruder had been previously convicted of robbery and drug dealing. The court sentenced him to imprisonment.

There were five vandals’ attacks against Jewish sites. For one of them, this was not the first time: in Kaliningrad, intruders broke windows while trying to break into a structure built over the grave of 19th century preacher Israel Salanter in the old Jewish cemetery on Litovsky Val. In Rzhev, an elderly local resident damaged the Star of David on the monument to ghetto prisoners at the Memorial cemetery. The vandal was detained, but could not explain his motives. In August, an unknown person broke a window in the Moscow Choral Synagogue and wrote "No strength left" [Can’t handle it / Fed up] on the wall. At the same time, threatening letters were found in the synagogue's mail.

In two other cases, vandals painted anti-Semitic graffiti: in January, in Kaliningrad, the bartender of one of the local establishments, while under the influence of alcohol, drew a swastika in front of the synagogue building and later repented of what he had done; in May, at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, unknown people wrote "Jude" on one of the tombstones of the columbarium, which the cemetery staff removed after a visitors’ complaint.

We know only one case of vandalism against Muslim sites: in Moscow, in March, an attacker threw a smoke bomb at the Cathedral Mosque on Prospect Mira. The man was detained.

And finally, in May, during the celebration of the Buddha's birthday, vandals in the Republic of Altai in the Ak-Koby tract near the village of Boochi in the Ongudai region damaged a suburgan [a memorial] that had already been attacked in 2022. It is noteworthy that some of the participants in the discussion of the incident in social networks argued that the suburgan was constructed there illegally, and that Buddhism was being forcibly imposed in the republic.

Defamation of Religious Minorities

Apparently, the mass media published more defamatory materials about religious minorities than a year earlier. A significant portion of them were related to the information campaign that accompanied the August searches of members of the New Generation Pentecostal churches in several regions. Major media outlets, including federal TV channels, used "anti-sectarian" rhetoric in their coverage of these events and referred to New Generation as nothing less than a "sect" (including RIA Novosti, Kommersant, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, and Izvestiya). Information that the organization's activities were deemed undesirable in Russia was in many cases supplemented by accusations of supporting the Azov battalion, convincing followers of "the need for a violent change of state system in Russia and a number of other countries of the former Soviet Union"[17] and traditional anti-sectarian clichés.

For example, Komsomolskaya Pravda invited a well-known "sectologist," the head of the missionary department of the Novosibirsk Eparchy, Priest Alexander Novopashin, who "explained" to readers that New Generation was "an occult sectarian movement whose teachings are a blasphemous parody of Christianity," "a commercial project disguised as a religious cover," which "is viewed by the transatlantic special services as a serious instrument in the spiritual reorganization of Russia.”[18]

However, perhaps the most notable "anti-sectarian" piece was the column, penned by Assistant Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Alexei Pavlov and published in Argumenty i Fakty in October, where he wrote about the need to "de-satanize" Ukraine due to the activation of pagan cults[19]. This publication caused a broad public response, because the Chabad Lubavitch movement was mentioned among the dangerous "sects" that had become more active in Ukraine, and the author was directly accusing it of extremism. Readers, and first and foremost Jewish organizations, rightly saw in this a manifestation of anti-Semitism. Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev had to apologize for his subordinate, explaining that the column was solely Pavlov's own opinion and did not express the position of the Council. Later, in 2023, Pavlov was dismissed from his position.

In addition to Chabad Lubavitch, Pavlov referred to other religious organizations as "sects," including the Word of Life Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, the Church of Scientology, and a number of neo-pagan organizations, but Patrushev saw no need to comment on Pavlov's defamatory statements about those.

We should add that focusing the reader's attention on the real or alleged opinion of representatives of the religious organization about the military action in Ukraine in order to project a negative image of this religious organization was used quite often. For example, the Bryanskie Novosti newspaper in March devoted an article to the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith and its Bryansk branch and the "anti-Russian propaganda" allegedly carried out by its pastor. The article reminded readers that in 2020 "it was a parishioner of this church who became the coronavirus 'patient zero' in the Bryansk region.”[20]

Other organizations also were targets of defamation. For example, a Novosibirsk issue of Argumenty i Fakty in August retold a report from the missionary department of the Novosibirsk diocese that warned city residents "about recruitment into the extremist sect Ata Zholy (the Way of the Ancestors). It spoke about the particular "danger" of this organization for "suggestible and weak-willed" people and the fact that it is banned as extremist. In the same article, the authors mentioned the Vissarion’s community (referring to the Church of the Last Testament) and the criminal case against its leaders, apparently expecting the reader to associate this organization with extremism as well [21].

Religious Leaders and Military Action in Ukraine

Almost the entire year 2022 passed against the backdrop of the armed conflict unfolding in Ukraine. This conflict has directly or indirectly affected almost every aspect of public life, including, of course, the lives of religious communities. In this report, we do not attempt to cover this multifaceted impact and will limit ourselves to a brief overview of how the attitudes of the country's key religious leaders to the conflict have changed. We understand that the leaders' positions do not exhaust or determine the diversity of reactions and actions within their respective faiths. Moreover, even the leaders themselves may have expressed different views, depending on the general political situation and the context of their statements. Therefore, our task in this section is simply to paint an overall picture. For this purpose, we will rely on the first reactions of these leaders on February 24, or in the days following it, and on their statements toward the end of the calendar year, when it is customary to summarize its results in one way or another.

Patriarch Kirill, in his address on the evening of February 24, described the hostilities that had begun as "calamity," called for their immediate end, and, before that, for the protection of refugees and the avoidance of civilian casualties. The patriarch also addressed a thought that was important for him about the spiritual unity of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples going back to the baptism of Russia, and at that time he saw that unity as the key to overcoming "the divisions and contradictions that have led to the current conflict.”[22]

Political neutrality was soon abandoned by the patriarch. And if we look at the main final speech of the year – the traditional report at the Moscow Diocesan Assembly – we will see a firm approval of the president's decision to start military operations and an equally firm approval of their continuation. The unity of the peoples, which was spoken of as spiritual, is now understood directly as the existence of a "single people of Holy Russia" (although its identity has not yet been fully described), among which external, satanic forces sowed enmity, started "internecine warfare," and were going to spread it to the entire canonical territory of the ROC. Which is quite a sufficient reason for Russia's "entry" into the already existing "armed confrontation," understood as a continuation of the civilizational conflict with the West, about which the patriarch has been writing for more than 20 years. The patriarch, of course, did not forget the humanitarian aspects of the conflict either, but along with the support for refugees and the civilian population of the frontline territories – all major religious associations have been doing this and continue to do it – he also approved the material support of the warring army. However, it is possible to talk not only about the completely loyal patriotic support for the military and some other actions of the government, but also about their interpretation in religious terms – as a fight against Satanism and the "civilization of death."[23]

Almost all the major Muslim leaders from the very start expressed their support for President Putin's decision much more definitely. On February 24, the Presidium of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims (CDUM) of Russia Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin published a statement repeating mainly the arguments and even the phraseology of the president's morning speech and thus supporting his decision. There was no religious reasoning in the statement[24]. The Head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims (CDUM) of Russia, Mufti Albir Krganov, made a similar statement[25]. The Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, led by Mufti Ismail-Hadji Berdiev, was somewhat delayed in taking an official position, but in its statement of March 16 not only repeated the same arguments, but also added that preventive strike is approved in Islam. Accordingly, the Muslims fighting on the Russian side and killed in the conflict must be considered shahids[26]. (Patriarch Kirill came to a similar idea much later[27].) Two weeks later, the head of the Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus added that after an unconditional military victory, a referendum should be held, which could also result in the annexation of Ukraine to Russia (it is not clear whether the entire territory is implied here)[28].

Subsequently, these organizations did not change their views, but deepened them. The collection of aid for Russian army on the front lines was also carried out[29]. Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin said that the military confrontation in Ukraine is a "confrontation with Dajjal, the Antichrist (the US acting in this role)”[30]. And the Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, speaking in the fall in support of mobilization, argued, among other things, that "it is not Ukraine that is at war with Russia today, but NATO. The same NATO which, for far-fetched reasons and sometimes for no reason at all, destroyed millions of Muslims in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan.”[31]

Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin, Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation, was one exception. On February 24, he called for peace [32], and subsequently mostly avoided talking about the ongoing armed conflict, even in speeches whose subject matter might suggest this[33]. Still, on February 23, 2022, Mufti spoke in support of the DPR and LPR joining Russia[34], and in September called on imams to support the mobilization and added that “our cause is right and just.” [35].

On February 25, Rabbi Alexander Boroda, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, also made an appeal for peace[36]. He concluded his New Year's greeting with a wish for peace[37]. No other statements about the armed conflict have been made by the FJC leaders, except that in early March Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar offered mediation in peace talks[38]. Adolf Shayevich, the other Chief Rabbi of Russia, from the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Associations, did not make any statement at all, and gave the most evasive answer to questions about the "special operation," while emphasizing his wish for the conflict to end[39]. Meanwhile, Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Golschmidt (Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Associations in Russia) left the country in early spring and later claimed that he was pressured to support the official position on Ukraine (activists from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia denied any pressure)[40].

Head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia, the leader of the Buryat, Tuvan, and Altai Buddhists, Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheev, said at the beginning of the conflict that Buddhists should fight for reasons of patriotism and cited Genghis Khan as an example, puzzling historians and religious scholars[41]. He added nothing of substance to this until the end of the year. But the leader of Kalmyk Buddhists, the Dalai Lama's representative in the CIS countries and Mongolia, Thelo Tulku Rinpoche, did not speak out earlier, had hardly or not at all been to Russia since March[42], and in September, speaking from Mongolia, he said that he supported Ukraine in this conflict and had not spoken up earlier in order to not cause problems for his communities. But he remained president of the Union of Buddhists of Kalmykia until January 2023, when he was forced to resign after being declared a foreign agent [43]. It should be noted here that although Buddhism is one of the four "traditional religions," since the early 2000s only the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia has been officially represented at the federal level, for instance, in the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation and in the Interreligious Council of Russia.

The situation is different in the leadership of Russian Lutheranism. Dietrich Brauer, Archbishop of the main organization, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, as a member of the above mentioned Council, had a negative attitude toward the actions of the Russian government, but did not declare it in Moscow; instead, he left for Germany in early or mid-March and from there announced: "I clearly and publicly distance myself from this war, which is not just a war against Ukraine, but a war against humanity." He also claimed that religious figures had been pressured by the state[44]. The General Consistory of the ELCR’s statement on the situation was not issued until March 18, when Archbishop Brauer had already been gone, and signed by his deputy, Vladimir Provorov; it contained a call for peace, a rejection of political positions, and a willingness to help the refugees[45]. It was not until June 1, however, that Archbishop Brauer resigned from his position, having already been removed from the presidential Council (along with a representative of the Russian Catholics). The General Synod of the ELRC accepted the resignation and Provorov was elected the new archbishop, but for Dietrich Brauer the title of Archbishop-Emeritus was created. In addition, he temporarily retained the post of Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the European part of Russia[46]. He was later succeeded by Bishop Andrei Jamgarov; the former and the current Heads of the ELRC do not cooperate[47]. The latter is still against any political assessment of what is happening in Ukraine and is in favor of peace[48].

As early as February 24, the leadership of the Russian Catholics made a demand for an immediate peace, and its wording was quite sharp: "Let our contemporaries know that they will have to give a strict account of the military actions they have taken.”[49] Later, in connection with the mobilization, the Conference of Catholic Bishops repeated the call for peace, and to resolve the moral choice that the mobilization posed to the faithful, it referred them to the Catechism, which, among other things, defines in paragraph 2309 the conditions for the lawful self-defense of the country[50].

On February 25, Metropolitan Korniliy, the head of the Russian Old-Orthodox Church, addressed his co-religionists in Russia and Ukraine, urging them not to harden their hearts. The appeal did not call for the restoration of peace[51]. In March, Metropolitan Korniliy called for assistance to refugees, as well as “praying for peace and unity of the Slavic Orthodox peoples,”[52] but at the round table in the Duma he also spoke about Nazism in Ukraine and “the physical extermination of Russians in Donbass” and reminded in this regard that "it is not for nothing that the chief carries the sword.” [53] And in his October report to his church’s Holy Council, he called the annexation of four Ukrainian regions to Russia not only a strategic, but also a spiritual achievement. He also concluded, directly from President Putin's remarks, that the fight was not just against the West, which "prepares for us both moral and material slavery," but against the devil, and concluded his speech by promising that "the enemy will be defeated, victory will be ours.” [54]

Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky, Chief Bishop of the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), the largest Protestant denomination in Russia, called for peace and restraint on February 25; his address began with the words "the terrible thing has happened.”[55] When Bishop Ryakhovsky made a short speech without a clear political message, but with the words “we have no other way to defend the truth today” at the World Traditional Religions against the Ideology of Nazism and Fascism in the 21st Century roundtable at the State Duma on March 29th, he had to, after remarks by a number of pastors, explain himself and make it clear that he did not mean to support political decisions of one kind or another, but rather called for acting as Christians and in accordance with military circumstances, and that “he personally did not sign statements in support of the ‘special operation to denazify Ukraine.’”[56] In connection with the mobilization, the Spiritual Council of the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith reiterated the call for peace and added that "one should do as one's own Christian conscience commands.”[57] The October Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith Council called for avoidance of any political discussion[58].

The leadership of another major Pentecostal denomination, the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, announced a prayer marathon for peace on February 26 [59]. Head Bishop Eduard Grabovenko spoke in June of having to “ask for forgiveness from our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”[60] The Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith has not changed its position since then.

Russian Seventh-Day Adventists responded to the outbreak of hostilities with a call for more active prayer. There was no call for peace[61]. It should be noted that Russian and Ukrainian Adventists are united in one Euro-Asian battalion.

On February 24, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists called on believers to pray for peace[62], and on the same day, the heads of the unions of Baptist churches of countries from Moldova to Kyrgyzstan, including President of the RUECB and of the Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christian Baptists, Pastor Peter Mitskevich, appealed to President Putin to “stop and sit down at the negotiating table.”[63] Two weeks later, Mitskevich, along with the leaders of the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance, sent an appeal to the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and France, calling for a speedy peace and the repair of the damage already done[64]. Since then, the position of the RUECB has remained unchanged.

[1] The author of the report is one of the founders of SOVA Center.

[2] Olga Sibireva. Freedom of Conscience in Russia: Restrictions and Challenges in 2021 // SOVA Center. 2021. 11 April (

[3] See: Maria Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremism Legislation in Russia in 2022 // SOVA Center. 2023. April (coming soon).

[4] The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned about the prospect of a ban on marches near religious sites // Pskov Newswire. 2022. 10 June (

[5] The Russian Orthodox Church proposed amendments to the law on the transfer of relics from museums // RBK. 2022. 22 July (

[6] Review of judicial practice on disputes on the transfer of religious property to religious organizations // Website of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. 2022. 16 November (

[7] The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation approves review of judicial practice on disputes on the transfer of religious property to religious organizations // Telegram channel of lawyer S. Chugunov. 2022. 21 November (

[8] Lipov A. Why are the people unhappy? Perhaps we're not working enough? // Volny Gorod [Free Town] Togliatti. 2022 (

[9] A Duma deputy close to the ROC admitted that temples should not be built in parks // Politsovet. 2022. 5 October (

[10] The leader of Perm comments on the buyout of the Lenin Palace of Culture from the Evangelists // Business Class. 2022. 20 December (

[11] For more on prosecution of Jehova’s Witnesses, see: Kravchenko M. Inappropriate Enforcement…

[12] Summary statistics on the activities of federal courts of general jurisdiction and magistrate judges for the first half of 2022 // Website of the Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. 2022. 14 October (

[13] For more on enforcement under Article 148 of the Criminal Code, see: Kravchenko M. Inappropriate Enforcement… (

[14] apologized for the photo shoot at the cemetery // 2022. 19 August (

[15] Legoyda on the appearance of the cross on stage at Kirkorov’s concert: Is this an intentional introduction of division into our society? // Rossijskaya Gazeta. 2022. 3 May (

[16] The Russian Orthodox Church does not consider carved Halloween pumpkins a violation of religious feelings // 2022. 28 October (

[17] In Russia, searches carried out in the cells of a religious sect that supports Azov // Izvestiya. 2022. 14 August (

[18] The Novosibirsk branch of the New Generation sect was searched // Komsomolskaya pravda. 2022. 15 August (

[19] Alexei Pavlov. What is brewed in the "witch's cauldron". Neo-pagan cults are gaining strength in Ukraine // Argumenty i Fakty. 2022. 25 October (

[20] Anti-Russian agitation in a Pentecostal church reported in Bryansk // Novosti Bryanska. 2022. 17 March (

[21] Novosibirsk residents warned of recruitment into an extremist sect // Argumenty i Fakty – Novosibirsk. 2022. 13 August (

[22] Address by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to the archpastors, pastors, monastics, and all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church // 2022. 24 February (

[23] Report of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill at the Moscow Diocesan Assembly // 2022. 22 December (

[24] Statement of the Enlarged Plenum of the Shura – the Presidium of the Central Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Russia // CSAM (CDUM) of Russia. 2022. 24 February (

[25] Mufti Krganov: For eight years the West has ignored and is ignoring the suffering of the people of Donbass // Rossijskaya gazeta. 2022. 25 February (

[26] Statement of the Leaders of Muslim Religious Organizations of the Russian Federation // The Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus. 2022. 16 March (

[27] Patriarchal Sermon on the Week 15 after Pentecost after the Liturgy in the Alexander Nevsky hermitage // 2022. 25 September (

[28] Head of the Coordination Center of Muslims about the futility of negotiations // The Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus. 2022. 30 March (

[29] For example: Employees of Russia's CDUM put together parcels for soldiers taking part in a special military operation // CDUM. 2022. 13 November (

[30] Address by Talgat Tadzhuddin, Grand Mufti of Russia // World Russian People's Council. 2022. October (

[31] Address by leaders of Muslim religious organizations // The Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus. 2022. 30 September (

[32] Mufti Gaynutdin's call for peace // Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation. 2022. 24 February (

[33] For example: Mufti Gaynutdin: Russia has asserted its status as a state-civilization // Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation. 2022. 1 November (

[34] Russian Muslims support the recognition of the LNR and DNR, said the head of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims // RIA Novosti. 2022. 23 February (

[35] Address by Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin at the Plenum of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation // Council of Muftis of Russia. 2022. 23 September (

[36] Appeal of Rabbi Alexander Boroda, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, in connection with the recent events // FEOR. 2022. 25 February (

[37] New Year Greetings by President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Rabbi Alexander Boroda // FEOR. 2022. 30 December (

[38] Paul Korobov. "I'm ready for any kind of mediation." // Kommersant. 2022. 3 March (

[39] Rabbi Shayevich: This did not happen even during the Cold War // RIA Novosti. 2022. 28 Octobe (

[40] Melnikov Andrei. The rabbis gave the congregation “recognizance not to leave” // NG-Religii. 2022. 6 September (

[41] Buddhist leader on the military operation: “It is not for nothing that our boys carry the glory of Genghis Khan” // Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 2023. 3 March (

[42] Political emigrants appearing among the clergy // Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 2022. 24 December (

[43] Buddhism and war. Kalmyk Supreme Lama recognized as a “foreign agent” // OVD-Info. 2023. 2 February (

[44] Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, Head of the ELCR, leaves Russia. Interview // Institut religii i politiki. 2022. 18 March (

[45] Statement by the General Consistory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia // ELCR (

The date determined based on: Vinokurova Lyubava. Consolation and help // Moskovskaya nemetskaya gazeta. 2022 (

[46] Provorov Replaces Brauer as Archbishop of the ELC Russia // Institut religii i politiki. 2022. 9 June (

[47] Vinokurova Lyubava. "Church is a place for thinking people." // Moskovskaya nemetskaya gazeta. 2022. October (

[48] 10 December 2022. The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Moscow has become a platform… // Lutheranskaya Vera VK account. 2022. 19 December (

[49] Address of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation // The Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation. 2022. 24 February (

[50] The Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation: “To be peacemakers and defenders of justice, full of humility” // 2022. 28 September (http://рускатолик.рф/obrascenie-mobilizacia/; Catechism of the Catholic Church (

[51] Appeal to the Old-Orthodox Believers of the Russian Federation and Ukraine // Russian Old-Orthodox Church in VK. 2022. 25 February (

[52] Appeal to the members of the Russian Old-Orthodox Church, all Old-Orthodox Believers and all those who are not indifferent and sympathetic // Russian Old-Orthodox Church in VK. 2022. 21 March (

[53] Metropolitan Korniliy participated in a roundtable meeting of the State Duma // Russian Old-Orthodox Church. 2022. 29 March (

[54] Report of Metropolitan Korniliy to the 2022 Holy Council // Russian Old-Orthodox Church. 2022. 20 October (

[55] Statement by Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky (on behalf of the Spiritual Council of the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith) concerning the situation in Ukraine // Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith. 2022. 25 March (

[56] Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky published a video explaining his words at a roundtable in the Russian State Duma // InVictory. 2022. 18 April (

[57] Official statement in connection with the announcement of partial mobilization in Russia // Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith. 2022. 23 September (

[58] Final Statement of the Council // Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith. 2022. 20 October (

[59] Message from leadership of the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith Pentecostals to all churches // The Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in VK. 2022. 26 February (

[60] Head Bishop of the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith Eduard Grabovenko said that Russian Christians should ask Ukrainian Christians for forgiveness // Vo svete. 2022. 8 July (

[61] Call to Prayer // Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 2022. 10 March (

[62] Address by the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists on the situation in Ukraine // RUECB. 2022. 24 February (

[63] Appeal to the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin // RUECB. 2022. 24 February (

[64] Address to Presidents // RUECB. 2022. 10 March (