Tuesday 2 March


by Xenia Dennen, Keston News Service

As of mid-evening local time on 1 March, the 'Open Christianity'

school and inter-denominational centre in St Petersburg was

surrounded by a heavy police presence, with police vehicles at each

entrance and three policemen at every corner of the building. RIMMA

SEVASTYANOVA, the school's secretary, told Keston in a telephone

interview that the 27 children and 13 adults in the building would

not soon be starved out, as parents had managed to throw in stocks of

food through a ground-floor window. But the defenders of the 'Open

Christianity' complex, which the St Petersburg authorities have been

trying to evict from its building in the heart of the city, are

disturbed by the news that a list of the school's pupils, including

their home telephone numbers, has fallen into the hands of the

police. A press-release issued by the school states 'Most likely

(indeed we are sure of this) they [the police] will now start to ring

parents at home and to put all sorts of pressure on them.'

The longstanding conflict between 'Open Christianity' and the city

authorities came to a head on 22 February when members of the riot

police--the feared OMON--tried to take possession by force of the

fine building which houses the school, a kindergarten and pedagogical

institute at the end of Nevsky Prospekt close to the Alexander Nevsky

Monastery. About a month earlier Rimma Sevastyanova had told Keston,

'We restored the building, sponsors from Holland and America helped

us. In 1995 a case was fabricated against us on the basis that an

agreement had been signed with only one organisation which is now

said to be renting out part of the building to other groups including

a kindergarten. On this basis a resolution evicting us from the

building was issued in 1995, but at that time no-one either from the

court or the police bothered us, and this situation went on for 3


ANDREI BOLSHAKOV, a pastor from 'Life in Christ' (part of the Church

of Evangelical Christians) and a parent of one of the school's

pupils, told Keston that at 13.40 on Thursday 25 February members of

the militia (not the OMON this time) stormed the building and were

confronted by two women members of the staff and the school's

director, INGA IVANOVA. The latter suffered some cuts and bruising,

and the other two were in shock and needed medical attention. But

all insisted on remaining in the building. The order to take over the

building had come from GENERAL VLASOV, head of the city

administration of the Interior Ministry, after the Committee for City

Property had made the building over to this body.

A St Petersburg deputy and member of the Yabloko parliamentary

faction, PETR SHELESH, had come to the defence of Open Christianity

and was campaigning on its behalf, Pastor Bolshakov told Keston. He

said that deputy Shelesh was in Moscow working with lawyers on an

appeal which would be lodged with the Supreme Arbitration Court. He

predicted that the police presence round the school would continue

until 12 March, when an eviction order was due to be served on Open


The schoolchildren on each day of the seige have been issuing

bulletins with their own drawings and such information as: 'We

continue to build barricades, we are already specialists in this

field of human knowledge'. One child's drawing shows a girl on her

knees in front of a notice on the wall which reads '26 February.

Today's lesson: Do not be afraid for I am with you.' Another drawing

depicts clouds and sunshine and a house with people going in and out

with the words 'The Lord will preserve thy going out and thy coming

in from this day forth for evermore.' The bulletins have been folded

into paper planes and sent gliding over to the other side of the

road, recounted Rimma Sevastyanova to Keston.

The parents who are taking turns to keep watch at the metro entrance

opposite Open Christianity held a service on the pavement on Saturday

evening, said Rimma Sevastyanova, and those inside the building

joined in the singing from a first floor window. 'They sang "We love

you" and we sang back. There was a great sense of unity.'

Efforts by Keston to get city authorities to comment have so far been

unsuccessful. (END)

Tuesday 2 March


by Mikhail Roshchin, Keston News Service

The community of radical Muslims or supporters of 'pure Islam' (the

so-called Wahhabites) of Dagestan, with Bagauddin Kebedov as their

capable and active leader, is an interesting and alarming phenomenon

within the rapid Islamic revival in the northern Caucasus. It arose at

the end of the 1980s. Today supporters of radical Islam amount to

approximately 6-7 per cent of the population of Dagestan. Radical

Muslims are trying to revive Islam according to the Koran and the

traditions of the prophet Mohammed and thus free it from the

prejudices and extraneous features which have built up over the course

of history in traditional Islam. During my visits to Dagestan I have

been fortunate to meet the head or amir, as he is called, of the

community of Wahhabites, or jamaat (as the supporters of 'pure Islam'

call their community) as well as certain other leaders of the

community. Wahhabites call themselves simply Muslims, and their

community 'the Muslim jamaat'. Bagauddin Kebedov, the 'amir of the

jamaat', explained that his supporters believe the postcommunist

government of Dagestan to be in a state of 'shirk' (paganism).

Bagauddin considers the medieval Arab lawyer Ibn Teimiya to be one of

the main authorities in interpretation of sharia law. The amir of the

Wahhabites believes Islam to be an entire system for human life. In

the early 1990s he was one of the initiators in the foundation of the

Islamic Renaissance Party in Dagestan, but now Bagauddin believes that

it is more important to form a community (jamaat). The registration of

mosques and Wahhabite communities, in his view, is not of major

significance: 'We are already registered with Allah', Bagauddin says,

'we do not want to take power into our own hands, we want all power to

be in Allah's hands. For us geographical and state boundaries are of

no significance, we work and act wherever we can. Today Dagestan is

run from Moscow, we do not have an Islamic society like that in

Chechnya. We would like, for example, a complete ban on the sale of

alcohol, but for us faith (iman) and one God (taukhid) are more

important. In an Islamic state we would like to introduce the service

of the mukhtasib (the policing of morals). We see the habit of

smoking, and drug taking, as things which are forbidden.

I asked Bagauddin what he thought about the possible independence of

Dagestan. He answered that he was a supporter of an Islamic state, and

for him that was the main thing. A state of kufr (unbelief) was for

him unacceptable, whether within the Russian Federation or an

independent Dagestan.

I spent the night in Kizilyurt with the main publisher of the

Wahhabites, Najmuddin. He has published a whole library of radical

Islamic thinkers in Russian: Seiid Kutb, Abu Alya al-Maududi, Khasan

al-Bann and many others. He has also published 'The Book of the One

God' (Kitab at-Taukhid) by Mohammed Ibn Abdal-Vakhkhab. He is

currently constructing a website on radical Muslims of Dagestan and

the northern Caucasus on the Internet.

Until 1990 Najmuddin was a maths teacher in a secondary school. He

spent most of his life in Pervomaisky village 500m from the Chechen

border, where a significant battle took place between the Chechen

troops of Salman Raduyev and federal forces. His parents still live

there. The inhabitants of the village are ethnic Khvarshiny (a small

mountain people from the Tsumadin region of Dagestan, which borders on

Georgia and Chechnya). The inhabitants of Pervomaiskoye are emigrants

from the settlement of Santlad. In 1946 they were resettled in the

Vedensk region in place of deported Chechens, and after their return

they were sent to Pervomaiskoye. Amir Bagauddin of the jamaat and

several other Wahhabite leaders are emigres either from Santlad or

from Pervomaiskoye.

The central mosque of the jamaat of radical Muslims is situated in

Kizilyurt, a town not far from Makhachkala. The supporters of the

jamaat are active, for example, in Avar villages like Kirovo-aul

(Kizilyurt raion) and Bukhty (the head of the village administration

of Wahhabites lives in this settlement of the Gunib raion).

Bagauddin's supporters publish the newspaper 'Khalif', which first

started in Dagestan but is now published in Chechnya.

The military wing of the Wahhabites, although linked with Bagauddin's

jamaat, is evidently largely orientated towards Khattab, the Jordanian

commanding officer of Islamic troops in Chechnya. Armed Wahhabites led

by Brigadier General Jarull Rajbaddinov from the settlement of

Kharamakhi completely control the little 'Wahhabite republic' situated

in the Buinak raion and consisting of three Dargin villages:

Karamakhi, Chabanmakhi and Kadar. Khattab�s second wife is from the

village of Karamakhi. Moreover, 16 Arab warriors of their detachment

also took Karamakhin girls as wives. Khattab's unit maintains the

closest links with the 'Wahhabite republic'.

Following discussions between Russian minister of internal affairs

Sergei Stepashin and the Wahhabites of the villages of Karamakhi and

Chabanmakhi on 20 August 1998 the situation surrounding the Wahhabite

republic became less tense. But for how long? It is difficult to say.

The strong political support of a string of Chechen leaders stands

behind the military wing of the Wahhabites: Shamil Basayev and Salman

Raduyev, as well as Movladi Udugov and Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who hold

fundamentalist views.

Interestingly, the current Chechen minister of education, former

village teacher Abdulvakhkhab Zusainov, is a supporter of radical


There is also a more fanatical wing of radical Muslims lead by a

Dagestani, Aiyub, who lives in Astrakhan. His supporters can also be

found in Dagestan, especially in the villages of Kvanada (Tsumadin

raion) and Beli (Derbent raion).

In Stavropol Wahhabism is primarily represented by local Nogais.

In Moscow there is a mosque in Tatarsky Pereulok where radical Muslims

meet. (END)