RUSSIA: Salvation Army Receives Status of 'Centralised Religious Organisation'.

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service, 26 February 2001

The Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation granted the Salvation Army the status of centralised religious organisation (CRO) on 22 February, commanding officer of the church's Moscow branch Colonel Kenneth Baillie informed Keston News Service the following day.

The Salvation Army currently has local religious organisations registered in five Russian cities - St Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Vyborg, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don. It has unregistered branches in a further nine, including Moscow, where the local branch is threatened with liquidation (See KNS 23 December 2000).

CRO status means that these and future branches are now exempt from the 1997 law on religion's 15-year 'probationary period', during which – once registered - local religious organisations have to reregister annually and are denied rights such as distributing and publishing literature or inviting foreign citizens. This provision affects those local religious organisations which were not registered prior to the adoption of the law, are not affiliated to a CRO and cannot prove 15 years in the locality where they are founded. Active in Russia for only a few years before being expelled by the Bolsheviks, most of the Salvation Army's unregistered branches have been unable to prove 15 years' existence.

Under Article 11 Point 8 of the 1997 law on religion, the CRO umbrella also means that an application for the registration of a local religious organisation may not be referred by a department of justice for six months' analysis by an expert commission.

Obtaining CRO status is thus 'a major achievement', as Colonel Baillie comments. However, it encourages but does not oblige departments of justice to register local religious organisations. Speaking to Keston in January, head of the department for re-registration of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice, Viktor Korolyov, stated that the Salvation Army's situation in Moscow city would be unaffected by CRO status. 'The Moscow department of justice has the right to refuse registration if they think that something is wrong with the application,' he explained, 'centralised status doesn't really help, as the local department acts absolutely independently.' (END)