KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 20.00, 8 November 2000

of higher education establishments recently alleges that 700 `foreign' religious
groups are involved in military espionage and encouragement of separatist
activity. It also blames foreigners for allegedly encouraging splits within
`traditional' Russian faiths. It fails to name one court case and refers to experts
only anonymously.

DRAMATIC LETTER. The Minister who signed the letter was never available
for comment but one official said that the letter contained `incorrect
formulations' while it was vigorously defended by another education ministry
official, who claimed that foreign `sects' were behind a wave of `ritual killings'
in schools and that `something must be done about it'.


by Mikhail Zherebyatev, Keston News Service

Directors of higher educational establishments across Russia began receiving a
letter from the Education Ministry in August and September outlining a wide
range of accusations against foreign religious organisations working in the
country and calling on the educational establishments to take measures to
prevent their infiltration by such religious groups. Among its more lurid
claims, the letter alleges that 700 `foreign' religious groups - among them the
True Orthodox Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Salvation Army - are
involved in military espionage and encouragement of separatist activity.
Foreign missionaries are aiming to infiltrate the country to wipe out Russia's
collective memory of its `thousand-year statehood', it goes on to allege. The
letter also blames foreigners for allegedly encouraging splits within Russian
`traditional' faiths, the Orthodox, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. Nowhere in
the letter - that replicates much Soviet terminology - are the concepts `sect',
`non-established religious organisations', `religious extremists', `communities
of foreign sects' and `missionary organisations' defined.

The letter itself (No. 567/28-16 of 14 July 2000, signed by deputy education
minister Yelena Chepurnykh) announced that the ministry was issuing the
document so that analytical information gathered by law enforcement agencies
about the activity of non-established religious associations should be applied at
work. The ministry urged rectors of higher education institutes to draw up
measures to stop infiltration by such groups and recommended that teachers
and students be made aware of the letter's contents. The information provided
by the law enforcement agencies was presented in a separate, unsigned, four-
page attachment entitled `Information about the activity of representatives of
non-established religious associations on Russian territory'.

The appendix reports that the law enforcement agencies have documentary
evidence of the `active operation' of such groups inflicting `losses on
individuals, on Russian society and on the state'. Hundreds of thousands of
people have fallen prey to the Jehovah's Witnesses, the appendix complains.
`Religious extremists are continuing to build up their activity, changing their
forms and methods of operation, and contriving to remain within current

The Education Ministry alleges that organisations that have sprung up within
Russia, such as the Church of the Last Testament led by Vissarion, the
Bogorodichny Centre `and others', have been drawn into `the field of negative
activity by foreign centres'. Foreigners have also supported `extremists' whose
aim is to encourage divisions within Russia's `traditional' Orthodox, Muslim,
Buddhist and Jewish communities `which is fraught with the danger of bitter
inter-confessional confrontation and mass illegal manifestations'.

The `foreign sect communities' singled in the appendix include the Jehovah's
Witnesses, the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the New Apostolic
Church and even the True Orthodox Church - `in all, around 700'. These
communities `under the guise of religion, and educational and cultural
initiatives' are forming `administrative structures', the appendix alleges, which
are involved in collecting socio-political, economic, and military information
and arousing separatist sentiments. In some communities `influenced by
foreigners', religious fanaticism and extremism are being fostered, asocial
behaviour is being nurtured, and the rejection of constitutional obligations is
inflicting `moral, psychological and physical loss of health on members of such
communities, particularly children and young people'.

The appendix maintains that `foreigners are seeking out every possible
opportunity to strengthen their position in agencies of state authority in Russia
and in her regions'. Foreign states are using the `education route' in the activity
of non-governmental and religious organisations `to form groups of people
who can exert a long-term influence among the younger generation of Russian
citizens, orientated firmly on western values', while `missionary organisations'
are single-mindedly dedicating themselves to establishing a `mechanism for the
actual realisation of the idea of changing the "socio-psychological code" of the
country's population, which would automatically lead to the "cleansing" of
people's memory of all the thousand-year history of Russian statehood, and a
revision of such concepts as the self-identity of the nation, the Homeland,
patriotism, and cultural heritage'.

Aside from the frequent repetition in the document of the phrase `organisations
financed from abroad', a reference to the activity of religious organisations is
accompanied by the words and phrases: `recruitment', `the strict psychological
treatment of disciples', and `destructive impact', while the Salvation Army is
even called `a militarised religious organisation'.

It is remarkable that the appendix fails to refer even to one court decision. It
also fails to mention that the overwhelming majority of organisations named in
the document function legally in Russia. Instead, it cites numerous anonymous
experts. `According to expert opinion,' runs a typical statement, `the activity of
foreign sects in the educational sphere will lead to an erosion of national
consciousness, a lowering of resistance towards the negative effect of
destructive religious organisations, and the potential psychic decline of young
Russian citizens who have fallen under their influence.' (END)


by Mikhail Zherebyatev, Keston News Service

In the wake of a letter sent by the Education Ministry to the directors of higher
education establishments across Russia calling on them to prevent the
`infiltration' of their establishments by `non-established religious associations'
(see separate KNS article), Keston News Service has been unable to gain a
response from the letter's signatory, deputy education minister Yelena
Chepurnykh, as to who originated the letter and why it was issued. One official
of the education ministry told Keston that the letter contained `incorrect
formulations' but it was vigorously defended by another education ministry
official, who claimed that foreign `sects' were behind a wave of `ritual killings'
in schools and that `something must be done about it'.

Keston's frequent attempts to telephone Chepurnykh at the Education Ministry
were fruitless. Keston turned to a specialist at the Education Ministry in the
administration for the upbringing and primary education of children and young
people, Larisa Loginova, and her immediate superior - chief specialist
Lyudmila Fomina. Loginova, cited in the document as `executive', told Keston
by telephone that `the letter was drawn up by specialists from the federal
organs, together with the Ministry of Education', and that in the administration
represented by herself, there were no officials who specialised in religious
affairs. `We are just the level of authority responsible for transmitting
information.' Loginova found it difficult to answer Keston's question as to why
the letter addressed to rectors of higher educational establishments had passed
along the line of the primary education administration and not via the
administration for higher education.

Loginova reported that she has recently been receiving telephone calls from the
Moscow higher education institutes about the letter, asking for advice. `At the
ministry, we came to the conclusion that we need to have a meeting or a
seminar for institutes in the capital to get to the essence of the problem and
together find the correct way to resolve it. But as far as the other regions are
concerned - from which we have not so far received any communications - we
do not know.' Loginova also touched on another important aspect: according to
the law on education, institutes of higher education have the right of autonomy.
Therefore, each educational establishment has the right to take measures at its
own discretion. `The ministry can only advise, and transmit information, but it
cannot demand anything.' She also admitted that the document contained
`unscientific and incorrect formulations'.

Fomina, in contrast, finds the document `absolutely correct', because `a wave of
ritual killings has hit the schools, and something has to be done about it'.
Fomina also believes that to call religious organisations `sects' is fully justified
- `yes, I call them that as well'. She believes there is nothing to worry about in
the fact that `each higher institute of education can work out its own system of
preventative measures'. The document was prepared using `private documents',
Fomina told Keston by telephone. Having refused to name the level of
authority that took part in the drafting of the document, Fomina confined
herself to saying: `the contents of the letter were approved at the very highest
level, and the ministry of education is responsible for transmitting the
document'. (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.