East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 1, No. 4, Fall 1993, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

Religion and Law in Russia - A Timeline

October 25, 1990 - Soviet Parliament adopts legislation granting full freedom of conscience, replacing 1929 Stalinist law on religion.

January 1, 1991 - Russian government formally abolishes the repressive Soviet Council for Religious Affairs.

November 1992 - Patriarch Alexei II writes Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov urging legislation to deny the registration of "rich foreign religious organizations" for 5 to 7 years.

February 4, 1993 - Nezavisimaya gazeta reveals that on November 23, 1992, the Russian Parliament appointed a new consultative council of the Parliament's Committee on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Belief, Mercy, and Philanthropy, headed by Fr. Vyacheslav Polosin.

March 22 and April 20 - President Boris Yeltsin meets with Patriarch Alexei II and other religious leaders and appears sympathetic to legislative measures to put limits on foreign religious activity in Russia.

June 30 - At the Christian Resource Center (CRC) in Moscow, most Western missionaries first learn from Russian government officials of the imminent passage of restrictive amendments to the 1990 law on religion.

July 12 - Protestant leaders present a petition to Khasbulatov and to Polosin opposing changes in the 1990 law.

July 14 - Russian Parliament members receive a letter from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II urging them to pass the proposed religion law revisions; these revisions pass by a large majority.

July 15 - Yeltsin spokesman Anatoly Krasikov tells the press he sees "no reason" for the president to oppose the July 14 religion law revisions.

July 15 - U.S. Senator Richard Lugar sends a letter to Yeltsin urging him not to sign restrictive legislation on freedom of conscience.  Eventually 170 congressional representatives co-sign Lugar's letter.

July 17 - Russian Protestant leaders send an open letter of protest to Yeltsin.

July 19 - Polosin holds a press conference with Western media defending the July 14 amendments.

July 20 - Yeltsin's office receives the July 14 amendments and has 14 days to sign or veto them; attorney Anatoli Pchelintsev opens a legal office in Moscow to defend the rights of religious believers and to help register foreign Christian workers.

July 21 - Protestants in Moscow hold a press conference to protest the proposed legislation.

August 3 - Yeltsin meets with Polosin to discuss the July 14 amendments.

August 4 - Yeltsin returns the amendments to Parliament unsigned.

August 8 - Parliament receives a letter from Yeltsin outlining suggested revisions to the July 14 legislation.

August 27 - Parliament passes a revised version of its July 14 amendments claiming, falsely, to have incorporated Yeltsin's suggestions, Parliament maintains that Yeltsin's signature is a formality and that the new version will become law in three days.  Also on August 27 a puzzling Associated Press news service dispatch contends "Moscow Declines to Restrict Foreign Religious Activities."

September 17 - Yeltsin's legal advisors treat the August 27 legislation as a new law, thus giving the President two weeks to sign or veto it.  Yeltsin asks Polosin's parliamentary committee on freedom of conscience to rewrite the law bringing it into conformity with international norms of human rights.

September 21 - Yeltsin dissolves Parliament and calls for elections for a new legislature on December 11-12.

September 21-October 4 - Parliament, under siege by Yeltsin forces, confirms its August 27 law on religion.  "President" Alexander Rutskoi signs the law.

October 5 - Yeltsin forces capture the Russian White House; arrest Khasbulatov, Rutskoi, and others; and in effect nullify Parliament's revisions to the 1990 law on religion. 

Information for timeline compiled by Elaine Springer, director of cross-cultural communications at Peter Deyneka russian Ministries, and EWC&MR editor Wil Triggs.

Religion and Law in Russia - A Timeline, East-West Church & Ministry Report, 1 (Fall 1993), 4.

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1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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