RUSSIA: Escalation in Missionary Expulsions.

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service, 25 October 2002

Since the mid-1990s Keston News Service has been hearing about foreign religious workers forced to leave Russia. Until recently, however, they were usually reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardising the religious communities they had left behind.

There appears to be a certain escalation in such cases nevertheless. In November 1997, Novosibirsk-based Catholic Bishop Iosif Werth told Keston that approximately half his priests were experiencing difficulties in obtaining visas, which were often issued for only three months at a time. These problems began approximately two years earlier, he said, and became sharply worse at the beginning of 1997: "Just as we were being told that preparations were underway for a new law on religion."

Despite fierce lobbying to the contrary, the October 1997 law on religion turned out to contain only one provision specifically restricting foreign religious workers. This stipulated that religious organisations held the "exclusive right" to invite them to the Russian Federation.

A national security policy approved by Vladimir Putin almost as soon as he became acting president in January 2000 goes further, however. Among threats to national interests and security it cites "cultural-religious expansion of neighbouring states into Russian territory." More pointedly, it regards "the counteraction of the negative influence of foreign religious organisations and missionaries" as essential to national security.

A spokesman for the FSB (former KGB) in Moscow has insisted to Keston that the organisation does not blacklist foreign religious workers. One deported American Protestant's experience of having local FSB officers question his family's translators, friends and students in an attempt to "connect the Christian activity we do with spying" is typical, however. As one Catholic priest recently remarked to Keston, Putin's re-activitation of the former KGB means "waking sleeping dogs who are used to biting certain types of people."

The following list details foreign religious workers currently barred from Russia whose identities are known to Keston. Most of those who had visa applications rejected were previously engaged in religious activity in Russia for at least one year. A few who have had visas revoked - such as German Lutheran Wolfgang Spieth and American Protestants Samuel and Harriet Caldwell - have been omitted from the list since they have subsequently been allowed to return.

While those on the list have in common their being barred from Russia, the circumstances of their cases vary significantly. Whereas the young American Mormon missionaries deported from Pskov region were discovered on the territory of a military installation, Catholic priest Fr Stefano Caprio noticed during a brief visit to his native Italy that his multi-entry visa had been removed from his passport. He has still to receive an explanation.

The degree to which the absence of foreign religious workers affects local religious communities in Russia also varies considerably. Whereas Protestant churches are able to switch to indigenous pastors relatively easily, Catholics require ordained clergy for worship, and it takes up to six years to train them. The first three indigenous Catholic priests to be trained in Russia since the 1917 Revolution graduated in only 1999, and the Church consequently relies heavily upon foreign personnel. In a similar position are Russia's Buddhists, who frequently regard only Tibetan and other foreign teachers as possessing the necessary authority to afford them spiritual guidance.

The list gives the following details: Month of non-admittance to the Russian Federation, Name, Confession, Citizenship, Particular area of activity in the Russian Federation (if any), Method of non-admittance to the Russian Federation.

March 1998, DAN POLLARD, Baptist, US, Khabarovsky Krai, Visa denied

April 1999, WARREN WAGNER, Evangelical, US, Udmurtia, Visa denied

September 1999, CHARLES LANDRETH, Church of Christ, US, Volgograd, Visa revoked

October 1999, Pastor EBERHARD BEHRENS, Lutheran, German, Volgograd, Visa revoked

June 2000, DAVID BINKLEY, Church of Christ, US, Magadan, Visa revoked

June 2000, JUNSEI TERASAWA, Buddhist, Japanese, Visa denied

July 2000, BOGDO-GEGEN Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche IX, Buddhist, Tibetan refugee status, Visa denied

September 2000, GEOFFREY RYAN, Salvation Army, Canadian, Rostov-on-Don, Visa denied

February 2001, Fr STANISLAW OPIELA, Catholic, Polish, Visa denied

July 2001, CRAIG RUCIN, Evangelical, US, Udmurtia, Deported

August 2001, LARRY LITTLE, Church of Christ, US, Komi, Visa revoked

October 2001, CHARLES THARP, Church of Christ, US, Komi, Visa revoked

November 2001, CLAYTON WHIDDEN, Church of Christ, US, Rostov-on-Don, Visa denied

December 2001, Br BRUNO MAZIOLEK, Catholic, French, Yaroslavl, Visa denied

February 2002, PAUL KIM, Evangelical, South Korean, Kalmykia, Visa revoked

February 2002, AUTUMN NEWSON, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

February 2002, MATTHEW CRAIN, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

February 2002, WESTON POPE, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

April 2002, Fr STEFANO CAPRIO, Catholic, Italian, Vladimir, Visa revoked

April 2002, Bishop JERZY MAZUR, Catholic, Polish, Irkutsk, Visa revoked

June 2002, Pastor ALEKSEI LEDYAYEV, Pentecostal, Permanent resident of Latvia, Visa revoked

June 2002, RONALD COOK, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

June 2002, VIRGINIA COOK, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002, JEFFREY WOLLMAN, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002, SUSAN WOLLMAN, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002, JORDAN WOLLMAN, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

August 2002, Fr STANISLAV KRAJNAK, Catholic, Slovak, Yaroslavl, Visa denied

July 2002, Fourteenth Dalai Lama TENZIN GYATSO, Buddhist, Tibetan refugee status, Visa denied

August 2002, CHALYSHAN SEIDI, Muslim, Turkish, Bashkortostan, Deported

August 2002, VICTOR BAROUSSE, Pentecostal, US, Irkutsk, Visa denied

September 2002, Fr JAROSLAW WISNIEWSKI, Catholic, Polish, Sakhalin, Visa revoked

September 2002, Fr EDUARD MACKIEWICZ, Catholic, Polish, Rostov-on-Don, Visa revoked

September 2002, LEO MARTENSSON, Evangelical, Swedish, Krasnodar, Visa revoked