KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 9 March 2001

NEW RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT. The Norwegian group
Forum 18, with the Norwegian Mission to the East (NM�), have
launched a report on �Freedom of Religion: A report with special
emphasis on the right to choose religion and registration systems�.
Compiled with Keston Institute and other reputable bodies, the report
studies 8 countries in detail including China and Turkmenistan. It is
downloadable in Adobe Acrobat form in English from the NM� website
at http://www.normis.no We recommend that you study this excellent
report.

KAZAKHSTAN: �UNREGISTERED GROUPS BY DEFINITION
HAVE NO FOLLOWERS�. The head of the department for relations
with religious associations in Almaty has said that he cannot do anything
without the blessing of the Moscow Patriarchate�s senior hierarch in
Kazakhastan. He was referring to the Kazakh authorities denial of
registration to Orthodox parishes who wish to operate outside the
Moscow Patriarchate and went on to state that �`Unregistered groups by
definition have no followers'.

KAZAKHSTAN: �UNREGISTERED GROUPS BY DEFINITION
HAVE NO FOLLOWERS�.

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

`It's not like Moscow here: we can't do anything without the bishop's
blessing,' Keston News Service was told on 6 February by Vladimir
Ivanov, head of the department for relations with religious associations at
the city administration in the former capital Almaty. He was referring to
the emergence in Kazakhstan of Orthodox groups opposed to Archbishop
Aleksi (Kutepov) of Astana and Almaty, the senior hierarch of the
Moscow Patriarchate in the country. One group represents `liberal' priests
while the other is `conservative'. Keston has learnt that the Kazakh
authorities have denied registration to parishes of both groups that wish
to function outside the framework of the Russian Orthodox Church of the
Moscow Patriarchate.

In 1991, Kazakhstan was divided into three Russian Orthodox dioceses:
Almaty and Semipalatinsk, headed by Archbishop Aleksi; Uralsk and
Guryev (now Atyrau), headed by Bishop Antoni Moskalenko; and
Chimkent and Akmola, headed by Bishop Yelevferi Kozarez. In 1995
Archbishop Aleksi became head of the Orthodox inter-diocesan
commission of Kazakhstan and represents the interests of the Russian
Orthodox Church to the authorities. The two other bishops are
subordinate to Archbishop Aleksi, whose diocese now includes the new
capital Astana (formerly Akmola).

At a meeting of clergy of the Almaty diocese last June, the existence of
both liberal and conservative Orthodox opposition movements in
Kazakhstan was discussed. Three priests - Serafim Kenisarin, Yevgeni
Melnik and Vasili Teleutov - had suggested forming a commission to
introduce Kazakhs to Orthodoxy by means of services in Russian
(services are currently in Old Church Slavonic). They were accused of
having links with the Moscow priest Georgi Kochetkov and had their
ministry suspended. With the support of Pentecostals in Almaty, the
suspended priests have formed Vostok (East), a `Christian group of
clergy and laypersons' which aims to modernise Orthodox missionary
work.

Also suspended at the same meeting was deacon Aleksandr Lisikov, an
opponent of Kenisarin, Melnik and Teleutov, who belongs to a
movement of `zealots', conservative critics of the Russian Orthodox
hierarchy. Lisikov accused Archbishop Aleksi of bribe-taking and `the
heresy of ecumenism', and demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church
should leave the World Council of Churches immediately.

Both groups have followers in the country and lobbyists in Russia. The
first group was supported by Father Kochetkov, who until last summer
was unaware of the existence in Almaty of priests who held similar
views. Lisikov had the backing of Konstantin Dushenov, editor of the
newspaper Rus pravoslavnaya (Orthodox Rus) and leader of the `zealots',
who suspect the Russian Orthodox hierarchy of being `pro-Catholic'.

Lisikov (who declined to speak to Keston on advice from his spiritual
father) wants the parishes that support him to be members of the Russian
Orthodox Church Abroad, while Kenisarin is lobbying for independent
`reformed' Orthodox parishes. `Unregistered groups by definition have no
followers,' Keston was told by Ivanov, whom the rebel priests describe as
the defender of Archbishop Aleksi's interests.

Orthodoxy is seen as a unifying force among the Russian-speaking
population, especially in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with
Russia, and the Kazakh authorities appear to be unhappy at the
emergence of both rival Orthodox groups. They fear the conservatives, as
they appear to have support from Cossack groups, while they also dislike
the liberals, as they fear their attempts to conduct missionary work
among Kazakhs might exacerbate racial tensions. Ninel Fokina, the head
of the Almaty Helsinki Committee, told Keston on 6 February that she
believes Archbishop Aleksi is trying to convince President Nursultan
Nazarbayev that the Russian Orthodox Church, like the Spiritual
Administration of Muslims, is a trustworthy partner of the state. Vladimir
Ivanov stressed that the department for relations with religious
organisations that he heads supports contacts only `with structures', not
with `isolated individuals'.

Father Serafim Kenisarin told Keston on 7 February that the Orthodox
opposition in Kazakhstan has become a `religious minority' that is in no
position to resist simultaneous pressure from the Russian Orthodox
Church and the Kazakh authorities. `It's time to ask the anti-monopoly
committee to start an investigation into the work of the Russian Orthodox
Church in Kazakhstan,' he joked. (END)