20 September 1999

CHRISTIAN LITERATURE CONFISCATED FROM EVANGELICAL CONGREGATION BY KRASNODAR AUTHORITIES. By Aleksander Shchipkov, Keston News Service In July the entire stock of religious literature belonging to the Krasnodar church of the Evangelical Christian Missionary Alliance (ECMA) was removed from the bookstore by persons unknown.  The church had intended to use the literature for its missionary work.  Senior pastor of the church, SEMYON BORODIN, informed Keston News Service. A few days later, Pastor Borodin was invited to the department for law and order at the local administration of Krasnodar.  The head of the department, ALEKSANDR ULKO, informed the pastor that the  books were being held by the local administration and asked for an explanation as to their content.  The official was particularly interested in a book entitled ‘Who is Persecuting my People?’, which analyses the twentieth century persecution of the Jews from a New Testament perspective.  When Borodin asked that the books be returned to their rightful owners,  Ulko gave an evasive response, saying that this question could not be quickly resolved because the governor of Krasnodar, NIKOLAI KONDRATENKO, was taking a personal interest in the case. Kondratenko, born in 1940, was the deputy general director of the ‘Reservtabak’ enterprise.  Subsequently he was elected as a people’s deputy of the USSR and belonged to the Communist group of deputies.  He was the leader of the Kuban regional patriotic union ‘Otechestvo’ (Fatherland) and is a supporter of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.  He gained notoriety  in 1990, when,  as chairman of the Krasnodar regional soviet, he publicly defined democracy and zionism as one and the same.  These remarks were recorded in the publication ‘Political Extremism in Russia’ (Moscow, Panorama, 1996, p.18). On 10 August the newspaper ‘Krasnodarskiye izvestiya’, which supports the mayor of Krasnodar, VALERI SAMOILENKO (a member of Moscow mayor YURIY LUZHKOV’s movement ‘Otechestvo’ and an opponent of the governor), cited extracts from Kondratenko’s speech at the festival ‘Harvest 99’.  The governor stated that it was not the workers who featured in television programmes, but ‘the mafia, performing Jews and sycophants’ The ECMA was founded in 1994 and is one of the most active Protestant organisations in the Krasnodar region.  It adheres to the traditional doctrines of the Baptist Church and is very active in missionary work.  It believes that it is dangerous to undermine national consciousness and that the Christianisation of a people must therefore take place in the context of the native culture.   According to Borodin, in 1997 the mufti of Maikop (capital of Adygei) and a representative of the Adygei federal security services visited the ECMA offices complaining that its missionaries were preaching Christianity in Adygei and that they had translated the New Testament into Adygei.  They called this activity ideological diversion and demanded that the ECMA cease its missionary activity among the Adygei, who by tradition are part of the Muslim culture.  The confiscation of literature by the department for law and order is seen by the ECMA as a means of exerting pressure on the organisation and is linked by the ECMA with the criminal case brought against one of the members, NIKOLAI ALYOSHIN. Alyoshin, a scientist at the Rice Institute, professor and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Technological Sciences, Nikolai ALYOSHIN.   ALYOSHIN was accused of embezzling five thousand roubles and was sentenced to two years imprisonment.  ECMA’s lawyer,  ALEKSANDR ANTIPYONOK, was council for the defence and succeeded in obtaining a review of the case.  On 9 August Alyoshin was released. The ECMA is divided into several dioceses (Krasnodar, Adygei, Kalmykia, Stavropol and others) which are registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.  The Krasnodar diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, according to president of the ECMA Pavel BOTANOV, has expressed its displeasure at the fact that a Protestant denomination should use the term ‘diocese’ which in Russia is associated with Orthodoxy On 13 August the newspaper ‘Kuban sevodnya’, which supports governor Kondratenko, published a series of articles aimed against the Protestant churches.  In an article ‘Freedom of Religion or Absurdity?’ the authors ask the governor to ‘address a worrying situation’ connected with the activity of a large charismatic Protestant church in Krasnodar, ‘Vifaniya’ (Bethany).  (This congregation is not a member of the ECMA). The church’s missionary tent was likened to a temple of the devil. An article ‘It is impossible not to be concerned’, protested that ‘at the corner of Sedin and Golovatsky streets close to the church of Saint Gregory the Victorious, Baptists and Evangelicals have built a ‘multistorey building in a severe gothic style’.  The author called the builders ‘heretics’ but did not specifically identify the church.  KNS discovered that the building in question belongs to a resident of Krasnodar who has no connection with any religious activity.  An article entitled ‘The Mayor Creates Obstacles’  criticised the mayor of Krasnodar, Samolenko, for not allocating land next to the Centre for Armenian Culture (the Southern Russian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church is active in Krasnodar) for the building of an Orthodox church. In a telephone conversation with  KNS, the head of the department for law and order, FYODOR DYAVOCKHKA, said that the books belonging to the ECMA had not been confliscated but that they ‘had been found and placed in the cellar of the department building’.  Dyavochka commented that ‘in the good old days this literature would have been dealt with differently’, but today their content does not arouse any interest.  When KNS asked why the books had been placed in the legal affairs department building  and whether every article found in the town was kept here Dyavochka refused to reply. Dyavochka said that he was unaware of the fact that governor  Kondratenko had a personal interest in the content of these books and added that in general it was impossible to make an assessment of the nature of this literature, its religious and political slant, because there was nobody in the department with expertise in this field. LILIYA ZUB, the head of the section for relations with religious organisations in the region, said in a telephone conversation with KNS that she had been given copies of all the books which had been taken by the authorities for expert assessment of their content.  As an expert on religion, Zub defined the books as Christian, with a Protestant orientation and no illegal or anticonstitutional content. She did not know the owner of the books, but she considers that the books should be available in town libraries and in Sunday schools. Dyavochka announced that the administrative authorities of the Governor do not need these books and that the ECMA was free to reclaim them.  Botanov, the President of the ECMA, said that the department for law and order had not informed him of their intention to return the confiscated religious literature. (END). 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