RUSSIA: No Religious Policy Document After All?

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service, 10 September 2001

'No religion policy document is being considered and there are no plans to adopt one,' vice-chairman of the Department for Relations with Religious Organisations within the presidential administration, Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, told Keston News Service on 7 September. There was no need for anything on religious policy supplementary to the Russian constitution and current law, he suggested, and claimed that the initiative for both the ISCRL-Zhbankov and RASS draft policies originated with their authors, 'that is their right'.

Claiming to be unaware of either draft, on 30 August deputy director of the internal policy department of the presidential administration, Maksim Meyer, also suggested to Keston that the initiative for the RASS draft religion policy lay with its own religion faculty; no such commission had been issued by Vladimir Putin or the presidential administration, he maintained.

On 31 August an employee of the religion faculty of RASS, Veronika Kravchuk, told Keston that her department's draft had been formally submitted to the Department for Relations with Religious Organisations, but there had been no news of its rejection - or adoption. The religion faculty was currently working on a 'more extensive' version of the text to be published in book form in October, she said, 'so that our labours won't have been in vain'.

Speaking to Keston on 22 August, ISCRL director Igor Ponkin maintained that the RASS draft actually enjoyed support within the Department for Relations with Religious Organisations, 'although they claim to be neutral'. In his view, however, the Department was not the only route via which a draft religious policy might win official endorsement. Ponkin further suggested the presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Organisations, the government of the Russian Federation and the state security organs, but was unable to tell Keston to which he would formally submit his - as yet unfinalised - draft religion policy. (END)