The development of a policy of discrimination, which is not based on a rigid ideology and even on legislation, inevitably encounters contradictions. In some regions, communities are forbidden, in others they are allowed, some courts side with believers, while others are radically opposed. It seems that the SI communities are simultaneously in several dozen states with their own preferences for politics. The only logical idea of the fight against believers is the desire to get rid of "foreign spirituality" for the sake of "spiritual security", that is, religious xenophobia. But few can admit it openly.
The prejudice raised in the Soviet period against any systematic, disciplined religious life as such, including Orthodox, remains in Russia to this day. Most likely, this can explain the extreme hostility to Jehovah's Witnesses, who are strictly organized and preach clear religious principles, going around apartment after apartment. Hierarchy and discipline frighten those who are accustomed to calling themselves Orthodox, but do not practice religious rites, and those who are generally far from religion.
However, the persecution machine itself cannot stop – it must confirm the correctness of unjust decisions. This is precisely the reason for the need to periodically detain, search and humiliate Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as some other selected “sectarians" (Scientologists, charismatics, Mormons, etc.). The SI Management Center methodically records dozens of cases of attacks and detentions of believers, both for distributing and storing literature, and for any public manifestations of their right to freedom of religion.
For example, on December 21, 2015, the Komintern District Court of Voronezh sentenced a follower of “Jehovah's Witnesses” to ten days of administrative arrest under Art. 20.29 Administrative Code (production and distribution of extremist materials, as well as their storage for distribution). According to a report from the Voronezh department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a member of the local organization Jehovah’s Witnesses kept “extremist literature” in the garage. A total of 66 books and brochures were seized from him, while it is not known whether all the seized materials are prohibited.
In December 2015, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Stavropol sentenced local resident S. to a fine of two thousand rubles under Art. 20.29 Administrative Code (storage of extremist literature for distribution). According to the regional prosecutor’s office, S. had "discovered and seized in large quantities religious literature, which, according to the official website of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, is on the federal list of extremist materials. Thus, it was established that" C "stored extremist materials for mass distribution, included in the federal list of extremist materials. " According to media reports, this refers to the forbidden brochures of Jehovah's Witnesses.
On October 13, 2015, the Syzran City Court fined Jehovah's Witnesses for preaching on the city streets. Members of the community of Malyukov and Artyukhin were sentenced to a fine of 20 thousand rubles (each) for offering the inhabitants of Syzran the religious literature of Jehovah's Witnesses. The court found that the women “distributed religious literature that was displayed on their portable stand in a public place, [и это] was connected with the agitation of other citizens to whom they shared their views. ”
On July 21, 2015 in Krymsk, police officers and Cossacks thwarted a three-day congress of Jehovah's Witnesses and stoned believers (about one and a half thousand gathered at the congress. “On the morning of the second day, July 11,” as community members say, “those who arrived for the SI service saw around stadium of strangers who turned out to be law enforcement officers and representatives of the Cossacks.The latter behaved extremely defiantly, demanding to stop the service. Pressure was exerted on the director of the complex. They turned off the electricity in the complex. Although the believers were offended by such a gross disruption of the service, everyone remained calmly in their places. After 45 minutes the generators were delivered and the service continued. Unfortunately, aggressive people began throwing stones and cobblestones onto the territory of the complex, threatening the health of believers At the same time, police and other law enforcement officers did not stop these actions, however, unknown influential people continued to exert pressure on the leadership of the complex, demanding to stop the service s. As a result, the meeting was disrupted and the believers had to go home without completing the service, because the planned third day of the service could no longer take place. ”
The list of all kinds of cases of discrimination against specific believers can go on and on. It is worth noting that in 2015, the persecution was not only toughened, but their number increased significantly. The rhetoric of representatives of the sectarian community regarding SI has also become extremely aggressive.
Special measures against SI and other "sectarians", and most importantly, their justification, were presented on December 8, 2015 in the State Duma at a round table on the topic "Sects and destructive cults as a challenge to Russia's national security." The round table was organized by the State Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations and the Synodal Missionary Department of the Russian Orthodox Church. The host of the event was M.Yu. Markelov. The point of view of the Russian Orthodox Church was represented by the Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Missionary Department, Father Superior Serapion (Mitko) and President of the Center for Religious Studies named after St. Irenaeus of Lyons, professor of the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University A.L. Dvorkin.
The meeting in the State Duma became a program meeting – it justified the already adopted amendments to the legislation and proposed new ones to tighten control over religious associations and groups. Recall that in July 2015, amendments were adopted that each religious group operating without registration should actually notify the authorities of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation about its existence, give information about the addresses of meetings and lists of believers, which contradicts the law on personal data. Even the registered religious association does not have such requirements (only the founders of the association are given data). In addition, in a mocking manner, the 15-year period during which the new association was deprived of the rights of a legal entity was replaced by a 10-year period (the period when the community is deprived of many rights, de facto cannot engage in a mission) for a newly registered religious organization. Finally, on December 9, 2015, amendments came into force on the financial control of the activities of religious organizations – if the community received at least one dollar or euro from a foreign organization or foreign citizen, the association must separately report for Russian and foreign funds how much was received and on what and how it is spent. This information should be provided to the tax inspectorate and to the bodies of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.
Hegumen Serapion proposed to extend the status of “foreign agent” to religious organizations financed from abroad. According to one of the leaders of the Missionary Department of the Russian Orthodox Church, "there may be different religious organizations in Russia, but I would really like the followers to receive only spiritual nourishment, and not political instructions." During the discussion of the Law on Financial Control in the fall of this year, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation made proposals to create a list of “foreign agents” – religious associations. It is safe to say that within the divisions of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, corresponding lists of agent churches will be created, since many communities will have to account for any donations from abroad.
The Abbot Serapion also told how the mechanism will be used to pit one community with another and search for “sects”-foreign agents. The representative of the Missionary Department of the Russian Orthodox Church said: “We understand that sects are also a threat to Pentecostals, and to Protestant churches and to Muslim communities.” During the round table, calls were repeatedly made to find "enemies" and almost "spies" among religious organizations in connection with the Ukrainian situation and the struggle against "Western influence." The main enemies are Protestants (Christians – Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Adventists), Jehovah's Witnesses, in company with neopagans and Wahhabis extremists.
Earlier, in January 2015, after searches of the Church of Scientology in Moscow, the head of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations prot. Vsevolod Chaplin urged Russians not to collaborate with Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other US-sponsored religious groups. In his opinion, they "have a strict management vertical and a powerful data storage system, collect data about our citizens" and "would like to change the consciousness and historical path of our people."
According to Father Vsevolod, representatives of these religious movements and “other similar sects – and even to expert and humanitarian structures, being affiliates of American corporations and think tanks, in Russia are primarily engaged not in expert or humanitarian activities, but in propaganda – for example, they allegedly "there is no alternative to the Western model of democracy, financial-oligarchic capitalism, and so on." “Jehovah’s Witness is knocking on you — don’t open the door, Scientologists are inviting them — tell them that their teaching is incompatible with Christianity, and refuse further conversation, invite them to a seminar organized with Soros’s money — don’t go, they offer good money for renting the hall with those Scientologists do not buy it. ”
Following the Orthodox figures, representatives of the authorities are also pulling up. In particular, officials in the Arkhangelsk region are distinguished by xenophobic rhetoric. The FSB Directorate for the Arkhangelsk Region distributed letters about the inadmissibility of holding public events by SI communities. In November, Jehovah's Witnesses said they would sue Metropolitan Daniel for inciting religious hatred and hostility against SI. In December 2015 and. about. In an interview with the Orthodox publication, the governor of the Arkhangelsk region, Igor Orlov, stated that the authorities should confront the "sects" together with the church, and that the Arkhangelsk authorities were going to ban Jehovah's Witnesses. According to Orlov, “to respect the faith of a person is a direct responsibility of the authorities. But at the same time, there is a second duty: to confront the destructive forces that destroy human souls with the Church. Sects, all kinds of pseudo-religious movements are a system of destruction of the human inner world. The authorities should not allow this. ”
Thus, judging by the interview of the acting Governor Igor Orlov can be said that Orthodox fighters against sects (and Dvorkin annually arrives in Arkhangelsk at the invitation of the authorities and the diocese) were able to instill in officials a purely inquisitorial attitude to religion – to save souls, as follows from the rhetoric of politicians, is necessary by force.
Inside Russia, the authorities are striving to completely shut off oxygen to the SI communities and, in fact, close their access to the media and public self-defense. On December 2, 2014, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared the website of Jehovah's Witnesses jw.org and three brochures on it extremist. On January 16, 2015, the Judicial Collegium for Civil Cases of the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the court of first instance. At the same time, the Jehovah's Witnesses Management Center in Russia was not informed of the trial of the ban on the website and brochures in the Supreme Court. Earlier, in May 2014, the Tver Regional Court repeatedly refused to approve the decision of the Central District Court of Tver to ban the site and brochures. Then the prosecutor's office of the Tver region appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted her claim and banned the site jw.org.
There is also the danger of more and more lawsuits that concern the prohibition of religious literature, which, in turn, criminalizes all SI activities in Russia.
Only in September 2015, in connection with the SI complaint to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, was there a proposal to reform the law on countering extremist activity. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation rejected the complaint of Jehovah's Witnesses on the provisions of the law on countering extremism. A local organization of Jehovah's Witnesses Birobidzhan appealed to the Constitutional Court in connection with the prohibition of the Good News from God brochure, which was recognized as extremist by the Birobidzhan District Court in September 2013. The community was able to successfully challenge this ban, but already in October 2013 the pamphlet was banned by the Lenin court of Vladimir and replenished the Federal List of Extremist Materials. However, the judge of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation Gadis Hajiyev made a dissenting opinion. Hajiyev believes that in order to avoid inconsistencies in decisions, the issue of recognition of materials as extremist should be decided at the federal level, passing it to the Supreme Court. From the judge’s point of view, it would be advisable to create, along with the Federal List of Extremist Materials, a “white list” of materials in respect of which claims for prohibition were rejected. This would eliminate the issue of mutually exclusive decisions by different courts. In addition, according to Hajiyev, it should be within the prosecutor's office as a unified federal centralized system of bodies that such interaction mechanisms be established that would exclude the filing of essentially identical claims by different prosecutors.
Perhaps few people love Jehovah's Witnesses, although they don’t know anything about them, their home-to-home sermons and active distribution of literature became the subject of folklore and jokes, including in Hollywood films (“Don’t discover, this is probably Jehovah witnesses"). Of course, their strict centralized structure, with the subordination of the younger to the elders, as well as the perception of patriotism and veneration of state symbols as paganism and treason to Jehovah, is well known. However, it was precisely strict discipline and the desire to live independently that generated the equally rigid legal consciousness of the Witnesses, who in every country strictly abide by its laws.
Amid searches, checks, the seizure of books and magazines, and their recognition as extremist, Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia remain within the law. SI Moscow organization was registered in 2015, which can be considered a victory of believers in the context of criminal cases in the regions against believers for the storage of "extremist" literature or participation in a banned extremist organization. In addition, in 2013, for example, courts in Belgorod and Chelyabinsk sided with believers, defending their right to public meetings and hold their congresses. And in 2015, 22 organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses were registered in Crimea, while the process of adopting the Law on Counteracting “Sectarians” (the draft preamble refers to the sacred meaning of Crimea for Orthodoxy), under which Jehovah's Witnesses can fall, is easier for representatives of the authorities liquidate already registered religious associations.
Sadly, the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is based on a rather primitive, even everyday logic: they simply don’t like the part of society that often does not know anything about the creed and practice of SI, and for special bodies, searches, arrests and liquidations of organizations are an opportunity to fight “ Western agents, "imitating security protection. In the absence of a harsh totalitarian ideology in Russia, domestic xenophobia completely replaces any ideology, and the persecution of other believers is an important indicator of the level of not only intolerance, but also the maturation of civil society. Almost a hundred years have passed since 1917, but Russia continues to play with the feelings of believers.
This analytical review used the materials published on the website of the Information and Analytical Center “Sova” (http://www.sova-center.ru/religion).
"RELIGION AND LAW", December 28, 2015