East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 5, No. 4, Fall 1997, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

The Impact of the 1997 Russian Law on Religion

Mark Elliott, compiler
Aug. Semnadtsat (25 miles [40 km] west of Moscow) Pentecostal Authorities banned Pentecostal rental of local school for Sunday worship. Officials "cited both the new federal legislation, which at that point  was still more than four months away from final passage, and complaints by a local Orthodox priest." Keston News Service (KNS), 15 Oct. 1997
28 Sept. St. Petersburg Salvation Army Rental contracts for worship space  in two locations were canceled based on the new law.  One hospital director  familiar with Salvation Army work with AIDS patients said, "We want them to stay, and if necessary, we will fight for them." John Varoli, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 30 Oct. 1997; KNS, 15 Oct. 1997
29 Sept. Noginsk (30 miles [50 km] NW of Moscow) Ukrainian Orthodox Police transferred control of Epiphany Cathedral from Ukrainian Orthodox to Moscow Patriarchate, following a court ruling. Moscow Times, 11 Oct. 1997, 1-2; Reuters, 7 Oct. 1997
29 Sept. Moscow Hare Krishna Increased police harassment of Hare Krishna since Yeltsin signed new religion law, including authorities preventing activists from selling religious literature. BBC World  Service, 29 Sept., cited in CSCE Bulletin, 20 (Oct. 1997), 107.
30 Sept. - 27 Nov. Tuim (Khakassia Region, 300 miles [480 km] east of Novosibirsk, Siberia) Lutheran 30 Sept.--Local authorities sent letter to Evangelical Lutheran church canceling its registration, based on new religion law;  Khakassia Ministry of Justice reversed this decision on 10 Oct., following Western protests and calls from Moscow from Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's office;  27 Nov.:  Local officials announced decision to seek annulment of Lutheran registration through the courts. Vsevolod Lytkin, Radiotserkov, 18 Sept. and 13 Oct. 1997. KNS 1, 7, and 10 Oct. and 1 and 3 Dec 1997
First week of Oct. Gatchina (just south of St. Petersburg) Pentecostal Local Communists seek to ban Pentecostals from renting public facilities.  Mayor has defended Pentecostals for their charitable work. Igor Nikitin, "Communists Fail to Close Church in Gatchina," forwarded by Ray Prigodich, 27 Oct. 1997
Oct. Syktyvkar (capital of Komi Autonomous Republic, 600 miles [1000 km] NE of Moscow) Evangelical Christian - Baptist (ECB) The new, modern, centrally located ECB church and four-story building with seminary and rehabilitation center for paraplegics disturb local Orthodox and Patriarch Alexis II. Local officials intimidate pastor Pavel Kobzar with allegations of an improper building permit and tax issues. He fears officials will "attempt to use the new law to close the church and possibly arrest him." E-mail report from Beverly Nickels, 15 Oct. 1997
Oct. Moscow Eastern European Outreach (EEO) The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs informed Jeff Thompson, EEO executive director, that it will not renew its agreement with EEO for work in prisons in 1998. Letter from Jeff Thompson, 27 Oct. 1997
8 Oct. Moscow Evangelical Christian - Baptist (ECB) ECB leader Yuri Sipko noted increased discrimination by local authorities denying Protestants the right to rent public facilities for worship. KNS, 15 Oct. 1997
15 Oct. Briansk Jewish Rejection of registration application. KNS, 29 Oct. 1997
16 Oct. Riazan (120 miles [200 km] SE of Moscow) Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) Local court decision displaced ROCA congregation in favor of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Church of the Epiphany.  Case is under appeal. KNS, 3 Dec. 1997; ITAR-TASS, 30 Oct. 1997
19 Oct. and 2 Nov. Iskitim, Novosibirsk Region, Siberia Protestant Six Orthodox believers broke up a service; twelve young men interrupted worship of 150, shouting, "Do not believe the foreign sect." Yury Koslesnikov, Radiotserkov, 20 Nov. 1997
30 Oct. Reutov, Moscow Region Presbyterian Rejection of registration application. KNS, 26 Nov. 1997
Nov. Rostov-on-Don Hare Krishna Two Orthodox priests and a group of Cossacks violently interrupted worship; eleven Krishnaites were hospitalized Yury Koslesnikov, Radiotserkov, 20 Nov. 1997 
13 Nov. Siberia Catholic Many foreign priests serving in Siberia are experiencing difficulties with their visas.  Catholics also face steep arbitrary rent increases. KNS, 24 Nov. 1997
18 Nov. Buzuluk, Orenburg Region, Urals (620 miles [1000 km] SE of Moscow) Adventist Citing the new law on religion, city officials canceled evangelistic services a few days before meetings were to begin.  Regional authorities had granted permits.  Buzuluk mayor refused to turn on fax machine in order not to receive notice from Moscow that Adventists, in Russia 110 years, should be allowed to hold meetings.  Services were moved to Orenburg Adventist News Agency, 25 Nov. 1997; Adventist Dept. of Communications phone communication with East-West Institute, 17 Dec. 1997
19 Nov. Saransk, Mordovia (340 miles [550 km] SE of Moscow) Protestant Evangelical pastor Anatoly Bogatov facing vandalism, threats of physical violence, and eviction. E-mail appeal distributed by Anatoly Bogatov 
22 Nov. Staryi Oskol (200 miles [320 km] south of Moscow) Pentecostal Pastor Sergei Matiukh wrote a letter to the Helsinki Group summarizing harassment:  mayor tearing church sign from building; police intimidation; local press claiming American missionaries are secret intelligence agents. Igor Alenin, Radiotserkov, 22 Nov. 1997 
29 Nov. - 7 Dec. Ioshkar-Ola, capital of Mari El Republic (450 miles [725 km] east of Moscow) Evangelical Christian - Baptist (ECB) On 29 November, Mari El Republic President Viacheslav Kilitsyn withdrew permission for a local ECB church to host preaching in the Lenin Palace of Culture by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association evangelist Viktor Hamm, scheduled for 10-14 December.  Kilitsyn reversed his decision on 7 December and the meetings were held.  E-mails from Robert Hoskens, 29 Nov. and 2, 4, 5, 7 Dec.; KNS, 5 Dec.1997

Mark Elliott, compiler, "The Impact of the 1997 Russian Law on Religion," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 5 (Fall 1997), 6.

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1997 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664

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