KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 4, Articles 19-21, 18 April 2000
Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
I. TURKMEN POLICE ILLEGALLY USING DEPORTED BAPTISTS'
II. BELARUS POLICE OFFICIAL INSISTS ON DEPORTATION OF
III. KURSK MAYOR TREATS BAPTISTS AS `SPIRITUAL ENEMIES'
Tuesday 18 April 2000
TURKMEN POLICE ILLEGALLY USING DEPORTED BAPTISTS'
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
In the wake of the deportation since December 1999 of six foreign Baptist
families from Turkmenistan, reports are emerging that the property of two of
the six in the capital Ashgabad is being used by the local police or by police
officers individually, despite the fact that the property still belongs to those
who have been deported. Officials of the Ashgabad police have refused to
discuss the issue with Keston News Service.
According to information from the Council of Churches of Evangelical
Christians/Baptists reaching the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries,
local Baptists report that the police have appropriated the homes of ANATOLI
BELYAYEV and VLADIMIR CHERNOV in Ashgabad, as well as Chernov's
car. `On 16 April, when two Christian ladies stopped by the house of Anatoli
Belyayev in Ashgabad, they learned that the house is not empty,' Russian
Evangelistic Ministries told Keston. `It is occupied by a certain ASHIR
AMAMEDOV, an agent of the Criminal Investigative Unit. This is not the only
case when property belonging to those Christians deported from the country is
being redistributed to police. Thus, the house of Vladimir Chernov, for
instance, is now occupied by the family of a police officer. Police also changed
the licence plates on Chernov's car, a VW Golf, and are now using it for police
The Chernov family - Vladimir and his wife OLGA (who are Ukrainian
citizens) - were deported by plane from Ashgabad to the Ukrainian capital Kiev
on 24 December 1999. The Belyayev family - Anatoli, his wife NATALYA
and their daughter (who are Russian citizens) - were deported by plane from
Ashgabad on 11 March. However, their property in Turkmenistan still belongs
to them. `The properties, two homes and the vehicle, are still owned by the
Chernovs and the Belyayevs,' Russian Evangelistic Ministries reports. `They
were never confiscated de jure.'
Keston telephoned the Ashgabad police headquarters on 18 April, but an
officer who declined to give his name refused categorically to discuss the issue
of the Baptists' property. `We do not give such information by telephone.'
When asked why police officers were reportedly living in Belyayev's and
Chernov's homes and the police were using Chernov's car, the officer repeated
his statement and then put the telephone down. Keston also contacted the
National Security Committee (KNB) in Ashgabad on 18 April, but was told
that the official who could answer questions on the subject was away on a work
Communities of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists
refused registration in the Soviet period and they have maintained this policy in
all the former Soviet republics. Although published Turkmen laws do not
specifically outlaw unregistered religious activity, the government consistently
treats unregistered activity as illegal. Keston has repeatedly sought to clarify
which law specifically forbids unregistered religious activity, but officials at
the government's Gengeshi (Council) for Religious Affairs, the Foreign
Ministry in Ashgabad and Turkmen embassies in London and Washington
have been unable to give Keston such information or have declined to answer.
Daily prayer vigils in support of the Baptist Church in Turkmenistan are still
being held outside the Turkmen embassy in Moscow, and similar vigils are also
being held in other foreign capitals.
Russian officials have done nothing to aid the deported Russian citizens (see
KNS 14 March 2000). `They haven't said anything about the course of action
they are going to pursue, though they are grateful for concern expressed on
behalf of the Russian citizens,' Russian Evangelistic Ministries reports.
`Ukrainian officials said that the only action they could take, as a government,
was to offer Vladimir and Olga Chernov a place to stay in Ukraine, since they
are Ukrainian citizens. They are not going to raise this issue with the Turkmen
Tuesday 18 April 2000
BELARUS POLICE OFFICIAL INSISTS ON DEPORTATION OF PRIEST
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
As the standoff continues over Father ZBIGNIEW KAROLYAK, priest of the
Catholic parish of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the western town of
Brest, the local police chief has insisted to Keston News Service that Father
Karolyak must leave the country and that deportation will go ahead if he does
not choose to leave. The police chief denied that the expulsion order had
anything to do with Father Karolyak's activity as a Catholic priest and was
solely related to his presence in Belarus without registration. However, an
official of the Brest Council for Religious and Ethnic Affairs denied to Keston
that any force would be used to deport Father Karolyak, insisting that he could
serve in a Catholic parish in any part of the country except the Brest region.
Meanwhile, the parish's lawyer reports that so far the situation in the parish is
calm, with services continuing. `The police have not yet undertaken any actions
to deport Father Karolyak forcibly,' IGOR KABALIK told Keston by telephone
from Brest on 18 April. Kabalik reported that Father Karolyak is continuing to
hold services in the parish church (last Sunday was Palm Sunday in the
Catholic Church, with Easter Sunday at the end of this week), while
parishioners are still guarding their priest to try to prevent any moves to deport
On 13 April the police chief of the Leninsky district of Brest, ARKADY
KOSTYUCHIK, fined Father Karolyak - a Polish citizen - for remaining in the
country without registration and ordered that he leave Belarus by 10 o'clock in
the evening of 14 April. Father Karolyak then received instruction from the
head of the Catholic Church in the country, Cardinal KAZIMIERZ SWIATEK,
that he remained parish priest and should therefore stay in his parish (see KNS
14 April 2000).
In a telephone interview from Brest on 18 April, Kostyuchik told Keston that
Father Karolyak should either gain registration or leave Belarus. `He does not
want to get registration - he has demonstratively refused to register,'
Kostyuchik insisted. `He has been warned verbally and in writing.' But
Kostyuchik maintained that `the question is now different'. After what he
described as two violations of the law on registration by the priest it is `now a
question of deportation'. Asked when this was likely to take place, Kostyuchik
told Keston: `We are waiting for the question to be resolved by Zbigniew
Karolyak and the people who stand behind him.' He declined to elaborate.
Asked why Father Karolyak has not received registration, Kostyuchik
complained that the priest `is trying to dictate conditions'. After questioning he
admitted that the lack of registration resulted from the refusal of the
government's Council for Religious and Ethnic Affairs to approve the Catholic
Church's request for approval for Father Karolyak to work as a priest. `But this
is not within my competence,' Kostyuchik declared. `He can receive
registration from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to remain in Belarus whether
or not he has permission from the Council for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, but
he cannot receive this now because he has twice violated the law on
However, Kabalik rejected Kostyuchik's claims that his client refuses to
register, placing the blame for his lack of registration on the Council for
Religious and Ethnic Affairs. `At the end of each year Cardinal Swiatek writes
to the Council with a list of the foreign priests to extend their registration and
presence in the country,' Kabalik told Keston. `Each year a whole series of
these names are crossed out on various pretexts.' Kabalik explained that under
Belarusian law it is for a religious organisation to invite foreign clergy if they
wish and the state can only give or withhold permission. He insists that the
responsibility for registering Father Karolyak lies with the Pinsk diocese of the
Catholic Church, as the inviting body, and not with the priest individually.
`The Pinsk diocese does want to register him, but the Council has refused
permission for him to work as a priest, so they can't register him. The police
want Father Karolyak to register individually as a private person, as then he
wouldn't be able to serve in the church.'
Kabalik reported that on 17 April Cardinal Swiatek wrote for a third time in
two weeks to the chairman of the Brest regional executive committee, VASILI
DOLGALYOV, asking for Father Karolyak's case to be resolved, but he has
received no reply so far to any of the three letters. `The local authorities don't
want to discuss this.'
Despite Kostyuchik's talk of possible deportation, VASILI MARCHENKO of
the Brest Council for Religious and Ethnic Affairs was adamant that no force
has been or will be deployed against Father Karolyak. Speaking by telephone
from his office on 18 April, he noted that the priest is still holding services and
that he has functioned as parish priest without permission from the state
authorities for more than three years without being touched. But he insisted that
Father Karolyak must leave. `No one is talking of deportation, but we want him
to realise of his own accord that he must leave. It is a question of an
Asked why if the Cardinal and the parish wish him to remain parish priest
Father Karolyak has been denied permission from the Council, Marchenko
responded: `He has broken the law several times.' Asked to specify which
particular law, Marchenko declared: `He did not conduct himself properly.'
However, despite repeated questioning Marchenko failed to name even one law
that Father Karolyak had broken, although he insisted it would be a `long story'
to discuss all the priest's offences. Marchenko accused the parish council of
refusing to act in accordance with the law by insisting on keeping Father
Karolyak as the parish priest. Several times he stressed that no-one in his office
was `guilty' of anything. Despite his claims that Father Karolyak had broken
the law on several occasions during his nine years' service as parish priest in
Brest, Marchenko claimed that he could continue to work as a priest in any
region of Belarus outside the Brest region. `It is the Council's prerogative to
decide this.' He denied that such state dictation as to where a religious leader
should appoint religious personnel violated the separation of church and state.
Tuesday 18 April 2000
KURSK MAYOR TREATS BAPTISTS AS `SPIRITUAL ENEMIES'
by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service
A group of Baptist pastors who sent an appeal in mid-February to the then
acting president, VLADIMIR PUTIN, protesting what they claim is
`discrimination' against them by the city government of Kursk near Russia's
border with Ukraine, are still waiting for a response. The pastors expressed
concern at violations of the law on religion and fears that the actions of Kursk's
mayor, SERGEI MALTSEV, are stirring up religious tensions. Maltsev's
frequent attacks on non-Orthodox faiths have created a climate where no non-
Orthodox groups can acquire land to put up a church, the Baptists claim. A
religious affairs official in the mayor's office denied these claims to Keston
News Service, but a religious affairs official of the provincial administration
confirmed that the mayor refuses to allow any non-Orthodox groups - including
Baptists and Muslims - to acquire a place of worship in the city centre.
GENNADY LIKHIKH, senior pastor of the Evangelical Christian/Baptist
Churches in the province, complained that acquiring land for a church is their
`biggest problem'. `In 1995 we were allocated some land to build a church,' he
told Keston on 3 April. `While the building was being planned the authorities
extended the terms of the lease. However, in 1998, when plans had been
finalised, the mayor refused to extend the lease and we lost all our money. We
have other difficulties in a new district, we were offered three alternatives.
When we agreed to one of the options offered to us, the mayor once again
withheld his signature and told us that we would only ever be able to build at
the bottom of a steep ravine. We know from his speeches that the mayor
considers Baptists to be spiritual enemies.'
IGOR PETROV, Senior Pastor of the Kursk Grace Evangelical Baptist Church,
told Keston: `Last autumn Mayor Maltsev callled on the local population t
"fight against spiritual enemies" - in other words against Baptists. We were
allocated a plot of land but for two years were unable to begin building work
and the land was taken away from us. We obtained a second plot and obtained
the approval of all the necessary agencies, but everything has been held up
because the mayor has not given his approval.' Petrov highlighted what he felt
was the undue influence of the Orthodox. `The Orthodox Church is very active
in the Kursk province and has established close relations with the authorities.
They are building churches on a system of mutual payments. The Russian
Orthodox bishop (Archbishop YUVENALY of Kursk and Rylsk) says that we
are a harmful sect. In Orthodox Churches the priests are more concerned about
whether their parishioners have been to a Baptist service than any other "sin"
needing absolution before communion.'
Pastor Petrov is particularly disturbed by what he perceives as growing
restrictions on religious freedom resulting from Mayor Maltsev's favouritism
towards Orthodoxy. `On a number of occasions in recent months he has not
only demonstrated that he favours the Russian Orthodox Church, but openly
promotes the idea of its spiritual and political superiority,' Petrov claimed. `As
a result the agencies under the authority of the mayor are at best afraid of
having any official dealings with our church, and at worst actively block any of
Petrov maintains that the Baptists have been experiencing increasing
discrimination since 1998. At the end of that year Kursk radio stopped
broadcasting the Baptist programme `Peace to your souls', demanding a large
sum of money for air-time, while at the same time Orthodox programmes were
being broadcast free of charge. Baptist congregations have been repeatedly
refused permission to rent municipal buildings such as houses of culture,
cinemas and public halls. Pastor S.V. POPOV of the Light of the Gospel
Evangelical Baptist Church has faced obstruction from the authorities in his
attempts to build a church. Churches led by pastors V.N. GUTOROV and A.
ZAICHENKOV have experienced similar difficulties: in 1998 Maltsev was
quoted in secular and Orthodox media as saying that Baptists should not be
allowed to build a church within one kilometre of an Orthodox church.
In September 1999, Maltsev ordered the removal of a noticeboard belonging to
the Kursk Grace Church and originally erected with the permission of the city's
chief architect. When the architect objected to this order, the mayor threatened
him with dismissal. The sign has since disappeared without trace. On 14
September 1999, the Russian Orthodox radio programme `Kolokol' broadcast
an interview with Maltsev, in which he stated: `We should beat back our
enemies, the spiritual enemy, who even today is judging the head of the town
for removing these Baptist notices. I am being judged for doing this. Everyone
is trying to cause division in our Russian homeland. There are attempts from
every side. For this reason we need to stand together.'
However, TATYANA MIKHINA, consultant on religious organisations at the
mayor's office, rejected the Baptists' claims. She told Keston on 4 April that the
sign belonging to the Baptist `Grace' church was taken away `for health and
safety reasons'. On the question of the construction of the first church building
she declared that `the Baptists did not manage to do anything in the time period
agreed'. The second church building was not approved `because of town
planning requirements - the Baptists should make enquiries at the architecture
department'. Asked by Keston why the mayor refuses to meet the Baptists
Mikhina stated that `the boss is not refusing to meet them, he is a very open
and tolerant person'. By the end of the discussion it had become obvious that
Mikhina herself last met the Baptists `at the beginning of 1999'.
Kursk's Baptist leaders reject these claims. On 4 April Pastor Petrov stated that
`in the architecture department they told us that after pressure from Maltsev
they had been instructed to say that the land was being used for the
construction of a commercial centre or a medical centre, but in fact nothing is
being built on the plot'. He was told that if the department had Maltsev's
signature the church could begin building tomorrow.
On the subject of the church noticeboard, Pastor Petrov told Keston:
`Archbishop Yuvenaly was travelling around Kursk, saw our sign and became
extremely agitated. He went to the governor's office, Maltsev was there.
Maltsev immediately went to the department of architecture and ordered the
chief architect to take away our sign, because of its proximity to an Orthodox
church and a war memorial. He refused on the grounds that everything had
been done correctly by the Baptists and they had paid the fees - why could the
Orthodox display their information and not they? Maltsev sacked the chief
architect, but reinstated him two weeks later. The sign disappeared in the
ALEKSANDR SHAPOVALOV, the official responsible for relations with
religious organisations in the Kursk provincial administration, told Keston by
telephone on 3 April that the mayor's office was responsible for the situation:
`The mayor's office has been allocating land on the outskirts of the town which
is unsuitable, but the governor's office does not have authority over him.'
Shapovalov acknowledged that the Baptists are the second largest religious
denomination after the Orthodox. `The majority of the Kursk population,
however, is Orthodox and this is why problems exist. No one will give any
space to non-Orthodox groups in the town centre. Muslims applied for
permission to build a mosque in the centre of Kursk and were refused - but
then who would give permission for an Orthodox church to be built in the
centre of a town in Iran?' (END)
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.