Vol. 3, No. 4, Fall 1995, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe
In the Former Soviet Union Is There Freedom of Conscience for All?
In recent months EWC&M Report editors have received an
increasing number of firsthand reports of Russian Orthodox pressure
upon local authorities to block Evangelical Christians's rental of
public facilities, such as theaters and concert halls.
Evangelical seminaries from St. Petersburg to Moscow to Krasnodar
likewise are experiencing difficulty in their attempts to purchase or
rent property. In the past year more than a dozen Evangelical
Christian-Baptist churches in the Moscow oblast (region) alone have
been thwarted by officials and Russian Orthodox in their attempts to
purchase or rent property for the purpose of conducting worship.
One Evangelical Christian-Baptist (ECB) church official reported that
this past summer at an ECB Sunday service east of Moscow, Orthodox
protestors struck Evangelicals with icons as they arrived for worship.
In 1995 the largest Pentecostal congregation in Moscow received numerous bomb threats which halted worship ten times (News Network International, 28 July 1995, 4).
Russian monarchists, in their support of Orthodoxy, increasingly attack
democracy and "various cults and heretical confessions" as "alien to
the Russian people" (OMRI Monitor, 26 July 1995).
A foreign missionary in Saransk, Mordovia, was arrested in July 1995 for alleged currency violations (Komsomol'skaya pravda,
11 July 1995, 1), while in another city the same charge was used to
confiscate a missionary family's belongings and to evict them from
Restrictions in the Russian Republic on minority religious activity and
on foreign missionaries have been enacted by regional government bodies
in the Amur, Khabarovsk, Kostroma, Kazan, Primorski, Tver, Tula, and
Tyumen, and are threatened in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. (See the
following "Appeal for Religious Liberty" and Keston News Service,
October 1995, 9.)
On 27 October 1995 police beat Baptist Anna Zhidkova and removed four
foster children from her home in Ulyanovsk (Larry Uzzell, Keston
Institute press release, 3 November 1995).
In April 1995 police conducted raids on Evangelical Christian-Baptist,
Armenian Missionary Association, and Jehovah's Witnesses churches in
Yerevan. Also in April in the town of Gyumri unknown persons
threw Molotov cocktails into a kindergarten attached to an Evangelical
church and a grenade into a Pentecostal home church. According to
News Network International
(19 May 1995, 31), "There is hardly an interview with a senior Armenian
bishop that does not include some derogatory reference to the 'sects'
and a call for their activities to be restricted." Armenian
Apostolic Archbishop Kerekin Nersessian suggested that the incidents
"might have been provoked by the groups themselves." Other groups
suffering arrests or attacks in Armenia include Seventh-day Adventists,
Bahais, and Hare Krishnas (National and International Religion Report, 29 May 1995,
In May 1995 Uzbekistan began imposing greater restrictions on the
printing, importation, and distribution of Christian literature.
And in June 1995 Uzbek authorities expelled Campus Crusade workers from
Tashkent and closed three churches. While the Uzbek constitution
guarantees freedom of religion, a contradictory 1991 law claims to
protect the right of its citizens to "profess and spread their faith,"
but also bans "missionary activities" (News Network International, 19 May 1995, 6-8).
Mark Elliott, "In the Former Soviet Union Is There Freedom of Conscience for All?," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 3 (Fall 1995), 6.
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© 1995 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
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