KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 5 February 2002.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: DRAFT LAW ON "TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS
ORGANISATIONS". A draft law would introduce into Russian
legislation the term "traditional religious organisation.", which will be
subdivided into the categories "traditional religious organisation";
"traditional religious organisation of individual peoples of the Russian
Federation"; "historical traditional religious organisation"; and
"representation of a foreign traditional religious organisation". The draft
law will be unveiled at a press conference at the Russian Parliament
today.

II. RUSSIA: OPINION DIVIDED OVER TRADITIONAL
RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION STATUS. The author of the draft law
draft law "On Traditional Religious Organisations" would allot state
preferences but "would not limit freedom of conscience for anyone else,"
has claimed in an interview with Keston. At a conference chaired by
Presdient Putin's representative, Georgi Poltavchenko, and at which the
only religions represented on the praesidium were Orthodoxy, Islam,
Judaism & Buddhism, Poltavchenko said "traditional religious
organisations are ones which have been present in the Russian state for
many centuries and have contributed to Russian statehood - that's
Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism." "Protestantism is not
traditional for the Russian Federation - for England, maybe."

I. RUSSIA: DRAFT LAW ON "TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS
ORGANISATIONS"

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

A draft law would introduce into Russian legislation the term "traditional
religious organisation." "On Traditional Religious Organisations" was
drawn up by Aleksandr Chuyev, vice-chairman of the Duma's Committee
for Religious and Social Organisations, who will unveil it at a press
conference at the Russian parliament today (5 February).

Chuyev's draft would create several different categories of traditional
religious organisation:

As "traditional religious organisation" is understood a registered
centralised religious organisation active on the territory of the Russian
Federation for no fewer than 50 years and with no fewer than one million
believers or followers which is "an inalienable part of the historical,
spiritual and cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia."

As "traditional religious organisation of individual peoples of the Russian
Federation" is understood a registered centralised religious organisation
active on the territory or in individual subjects of the Russian Federation
for no fewer than 50 years and with no fewer than 100,000 believers or
followers which is "an inalienable part of the historical, spiritual and
cultural heritage of a corresponding people or several peoples of Russia."

As "historical traditional religious organisation" is understood a
registered centralised or local religious organisation active on the
territory or in several subjects or locations of the Russian Federation for
no fewer than 80 years which is similarly "an inalienable part of the
historical, spiritual and cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia."

As "representation of a foreign traditional religious organisation" is
understood the representation of a foreign religious organisation which is
"an inalienable part of the historical, spiritual and cultural heritage of the
peoples of a corresponding state."

Religious organisations are awarded traditional religious organisation
status by a "Federal Commission for the Support of Traditional
Confessions," described in the bill as a "state-social organ." (Article 1)
The Commission rules on the validity of the claim of those organisations
purporting to be traditional to Russia. (Article 5) In addition to the
documents required of Russian organisations to support their application,
foreign religious organisations claiming the status of representation of a
foreign traditional religious organisation must submit to the Commission
a document from the embassy in Russia of a corresponding state
certifying that the organisation concerned is traditional to that state.
(Article 8)

The Commission is initially to be composed of 20 members: five
proposed by the State Duma, five by the Federation Council and 10 by
the president, including 5 from registered centralised religious
organisations representing the religions listed in the preamble of the 1997
law on religion, "namely, Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism."
(Article 10. "Christianity," which is also listed in the preamble, is here
omitted.) A centralised religious organisation may have a representative
on the Commission (Article 10) once it has received the status of
"traditional religious organisation." According to Article 1, this term is
used throughout the draft law to refer to traditional, historical traditional
and traditional religious organisations of individual peoples of the
Russian Federation, but not representatives of foreign traditional
religious organisations.

Traditional religious organisations would be granted extensive
opportunities for work in the public spheres of education, the media and
social services. (Articles 17, 18 and 19). The state, for example, is to
assist traditional religious organisations in founding their own
educational institutions, grant them free air-time and lend financial
support to their charitable initiatives.

Due to a discrepancy between Article 1, according to which "traditional
religious organisation" does not refer to the representations of foreign
traditional religious organisations, and Article 21, according to which the
latter share the same rights as traditional religious organisations of
individual peoples of the Russian Federation, it is not clear what benefit a
representation of a foreign religious organisation gains by being
acknowledged "traditional." Besides allotment of air-time proportional to
a traditional religious organisation's size and contribution to Russian
culture, neither is it stipulated whether and in what way the other three
forms of traditional religious organisation status might differ from one
another. (END)

II. RUSSIA: OPINION DIVIDED OVER TRADITIONAL
RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION STATUS

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The draft law "On Traditional Religious Organisations" would allot state
preferences but "would not limit freedom of conscience for anyone else,"
its author Aleksandr Chuyev claimed in an interview with Keston at the
Duma (parliament) on 29 January.

Under the proposed law (see separate KNS article), Chuyev envisages the
Russian Orthodox Church being granted all-Russian traditional religious
organisation status, while Buddhists in Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tuva and
Muslims in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, for example, might receive the
status of traditional religious organisation of individual peoples of the
Russian Federation. He thought that Old Believers and Catholics could
be granted the status of historical traditional religious confession, "but it
depends upon what they choose." In the case of the Catholics, he added,
the categories of traditional religious organisation of individual peoples
or representation of a foreign traditional religious organisation might also
apply. Chuyev acknowledged that in the latter case the verdict of the
Italian Embassy could be sought, since Russia is one of the few countries
in the world with which the Vatican does not have full diplomatic
relations.

As far as the draft law's Commission for the Support of Traditional
Religious Confessions was concerned, said Chuyev, those religious
organisations with representatives on the Council for Cooperation with
Religious Organisations Attached to the President of the Russian
Federation, including "maybe Adventists and other Protestants," could
prospectively be on it. He cited the example of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
however, as an organisation which "never contributed to Russian heritage
- let them function, but with no special status." In response to Keston's
question of how the True Orthodox Church, for example, might receive
traditional religious organisation status if the Russian Orthodox Church,
as a Committee member, was opposed, Chuyev said that if the Church
was registered and had contributed to Russian heritage it could present its
case to the Commission, "and the Russian Orthodox Church would have
to convince the other members against."

At the Sixth International Russian People's Council held at Moscow's
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 13 December 2001, only four
confessions - Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - were
represented on the presidium. Although President Putin did not use the
word at all when he referred to these four in his address, Patriarch Aleksi
II subsequently praised as "inspirational" his comment that "traditional"
religions co-operated in Russia.

The same four confessions were the only ones in evidence at "The State
and Traditional Religious Organisations: Conceptual Bases for Mutual
Co-operation After the Model of the Central Federal Okrug" (=district), a
25 January Moscow conference chaired by authorised presidential
representative to the Central Federal Okrug, Georgi Poltavchenko.
Addressing the conference to a resounding silence, director of the
Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoli Pchelintsev, complained: "I don't
see Old Believers, Lutherans or Catholics here - are we trying to conduct
dialogue, or what?" Emphasising repeatedly that he was "not a
specialist," Poltavchenko replied that the organisers had not invited other
confessions since "traditional religious organisations are ones which have
been present in the Russian state for many centuries and have contributed
to Russian statehood - that's Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism."
Without trying to offend anyone, he said, "Protestantism is not traditional
for the Russian Federation - for England, maybe."

On 31 January Keston interviewed a representative of one of the absent
confessions, Fr Igor Kovalevsky. The chancellor of the Apostolic
Administration for Catholics of European Russia remarked that in his
view the term "traditional religious confession" was too vague to be a
legal concept. Acknowledging that predominantly Catholic Lithuania has
various categories of traditional religion status in its 1995 law on religion
(See KNS 29 May 2001), Fr Kovalevsky nevertheless maintained that,
from the point of view of secular law, "all confessions should have the
same rights." In his view, legal privileges such as greater access to state
education would constitute "the crudest violation of the constitution."

At "The State and Traditional Religious Organisations:", Vladimir
Zhbankov, one of the co-authors of a proposed Russian religious policy
(See KNS 13 June 2001), pointed out that no state organ had yet
pronounced an opinion on his and Igor Ponkin's work. Notwithstanding
the Russian state's silence regarding a text sharing key features of his
draft law, Aleksandr Chuyev nevertheless told Keston that, once he had
incorporated suggestions from traditional religious organisations, the bill
would be adopted "in a maximum of one-and-a-half months."

Aide to Duma deputy Sergei Kovalyov, Lev Levinson strongly disagreed.
Speaking to Keston on 29 January, he remarked that he was "100 - no,
200 - per cent certain" that the bill would not pass, since it had not been
agreed with the presidential administration. In his view Chuyev was
merely currying favour as a lobbyist for the Moscow Patriarchate, for
whom it was important to keep the idea of traditional status the subject of
discussion. (END)

Copyright (c) 2002 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.