Forced Religious Conversion
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.
Explicit, racially motivated violent attacks against Jews were fairly rare in the context of rapidly growing racist violence in the country, especially perpetrated by skinheads targeting identifiable ethnic groups. There were a series of attacks around a Moscow synagogue in Maryina Roscha in the winter of 2004-05. In particular, the attackers beat Rabbi Alexander Lakshin. Following the attack against the rabbi, police promptly found the perpetrators; they were prosecuted and convicted, and attacks against Jews in the neighborhood stopped. There were three known explicit anti-Semitic violent attacks and four incidents of public insults and threats in 2005, which was down from 2004.
A notable exception was on January 11, 2006, in Moscow, when twenty-year-old Alexander Koptsev attacked worshipers in the Chabad synagogue with a knife, wounding eight people--among them citizens of Russia, Israel, Tajikistan, and the United States. On March 27, 2006, the Moscow City Court sentenced Koptsev to thirteen years' imprisonment, ordering him to undergo mandatory psychiatric treatment. The court dropped the charges of provoking interethnic hatred but left the charge of attempted murder of two or more persons for reasons of ethnic enmity. The lawyers of the victims filed an appeal since the prosecutor had dropped the charges of inciting ethnic hate; Koptsev's lawyers also filed an appeal due to his mental illness and the fact that none of the victims were killed or disabled. On June 20, 2006, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict on the grounds that the charges had not referred to the incitement of racial and religious hatred and ordered a new trial in a different court. Both President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov publicly condemned this attack.
On January 13, 2006, a local student made a copy-cat attack on a synagogue in Rostov-on-Don. He entered the synagogue attempting to attack worshippers, but security guards stopped him before he could harm anyone. Although authorities charged him with hooliganism, the court declared him mentally unfit to stand trial. On June 9, 2006, a court in Rostov-on-Don ruled that he undergo psychiatric treatment.
According to the NGO Moscow Bureau of Human Rights (MBHR), the ultranationalist and anti-Semitic Russian National Unity (RNE) paramilitary organization continued to propagate hostility toward Jews and non-Orthodox Christians. The RNE appeared to have lost political influence in some regions since its peak in 1998, but the organization maintained high levels of activity in other regions, such as Voronezh. Sova Center noted in its 2005 report that RNE activities had been mostly reduced to picketing and distributing leaflets.
On November 6, 2005, Basmannyy District Court of Moscow convicted an RNE activist for propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi attributes and symbols and sentenced him to five days of detention under the Administrative Code.
Officials detained the activist on November 4, 2005 among twelve RNE members who participated in a so-called "Right March."
According to an FJC report published in June 2005, a court in Velikiy Novgorod convicted three RNE members of inciting ethnic and religious hatred, and sentenced the leader of the RNE cell to four years in prison, and two others to two and three years. According to the Sova Center, in April 2005, authorities convicted two RNE members from Bryansk Oblast and gave them suspended sentences on charges of inciting racial hatred after distributing RNE leaflets and videos in Orel. After authorities announced the verdict, RNE activities in Orel noticeably intensified, and over thirty RNE members held a picket the day the verdict was announced, with RNE members from Bryansk, Moscow Region, and Belgorod coming to support their "comrades." On May 8, 2005 three RNE members distributed nationalistic leaflets in downtown Orel.
In October 2005 the MOJ registered the interregional social movement National Sovereign Way of Russia (NDPR). The organization is the successor of the National Sovereign Party of Russia (which has not been able to register as a political party) and preserved its abbreviation NDPR as well as the party's anti-Semitic, nationalistic ideology. In 2005 officials denied the St. Petersburg branch registration, although the organization tried to get registration based on the same documents as the Moscow branch.
Some NDPR branches in regions participated in official events that the local authorities organized. For instance, NDPR participated in a May 1, 2006 communist meeting in Moscow. NDPR also participated in May 1, 2006 events in St. Petersburg. In the summer of 2005, in St. Petersburg, NDPR participated in the events of the local legislative assembly twice. On July 19, 2005, the Altay NDPR branch participated in a rally of local trade unions and distributed its leaflets, although local authorities in attendance tried to halt it; local TV broadcast the event. At a small February 2005 rally in Moscow, NDPR members distributed anti-Semitic publications and engaged in anti-Semitic hate speech, and in 2004, activists distributed their newspaper and leaflets in downtown Kostroma.
The primary targets of skinheads were foreigners and individuals from the North Caucasus, but they expressed anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments as well.
The MBHR estimated more than 50,000 skinheads and 15,000 members of extremist organizations were acting in the country, who engage in approximately 300 incidents on ethnic hate grounds take place annually. However, in recent years there were at most only five indictments annually. MBHR reported that during the period from January to May 2006, officials registered over 100 skinhead attacks, killing 17 people and injuring approximately 130. No statistics on the number of skinheads in particular towns was available, but according to MBHR, among the cities where skinheads were especially active in 2006, were Moscow, St.Petersburg, Kostroma, Volzhsk, Voronezh Oblast, Tula Oblast, Cheboksary, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Elista, Kaluga, Nizhniy Novgorod, Petrozavodsk, Ryazan, and Surgut. Authorities combined thirteen criminal cases of ethnic-extremist motivation that took place in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast from 2003-2006 into one case for trial. MBHR noted that the skinhead movement continues to expand, spreading from major regional centers to small towns and settlements. In December 2005 skinheads appeared in the small settlement of Chagoda, Vologda region.
In connection with the April 2004 attack in Voronezh on human rights activist and anti-Semitism monitor Aleksey Kozlov, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that authorities arrested two young skinheads shortly thereafter and treated the attack as a misdemeanor unworthy of prosecution and closed the case.
At least two demonstrations took place in Moscow on February 23, 2006, the Defenders of the Fatherland holiday. Participants displayed racist placards with slogans such as "Russia for ethnic Russians" and chanted racist slogans. According to reports, prominent members and leaders of the Rodina and Communist political parties participated in one of the demonstrations. Authorities gave administrative sanctions (fines and up to five days' administrative arrest for carrying a flag with a swastika) to the organizers of the march and a few participants belonging to RNE; officials did not charge anyone with incitement to racial hatred under Article 282 of the Criminal Code in connection with the march. In response to an appeal by the Moscow Anti-Fascist Center NGO, a court ruled on April 11, 2006, that the organizers had not violated any criminal laws.
On November 4, 2005, the Day of National Unity, in Moscow, the Movement against Illegal Immigration and other organizations organized a march of approximately one thousand persons, with openly racist slogans against migrants and Jews, entitled "Russia against the Occupiers."
Vandals desecrated Jewish cemeteries during the reporting period. Officials reported desecration in Omsk (April 15, 2006), the settlement of Khokhryaki near Izhevsk (November 2005), and Kostroma (October 2005). On October 16, 2005, vandals toppled and broke at least fifty tombstones, and on October 6, 2005, vandals desecrated approximately seventy Jewish graves in St. Petersburg. Vandals also desecrated graves in Velikiye Luki (September 20, 2005), Tambov (August 29 and August 31, 2005), and Tver (August 6, 2005). Earlier in 2005, vandals desecrated Jewish cemeteries in Kazan, Moscow, Saratov, Petrozavodsk, Makhachkala, Irkutsk, and St. Petersburg. In late May 2005, vandals painted swastikas on twenty-six Jewish tombstones in the Jewish section of Kazan's Arskoye Cemetery. The FJC reported that the authorities were investigating the incident as a hate crime and the Kazan City Council issued a statement condemning the attack. In May 2005 vandals desecrated Jewish graves at the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery, near Moscow; the case was being treated as a hate crime rather than simple "hooliganism." The Jewish cemetery in Petrozavodsk was vandalized at least three times in 2004; a criminal investigation failed to identify the perpetrators.
One of the most large-scale desecrations occurred in St. Petersburg in December 2004, when vandals damaged approximately one-hundred graves at the St. Petersburg Preobrazhenskoye (Jewish) Cemetery. In the aftermath of the desecration, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko met with the city's Chief Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Pewsner, and promised a serious investigation of the crime. Officials arrested members of a gang but reportedly, since its members were minors, the case was either dropped or the perpetrators received insignificant punishment.
Sometimes authorities prosecuted the perpetrators as in January 2005, when a court in Velikiy Novgorod issued a three-year prison term for planting a fake explosive device near the city's synagogue in 2003, and when authorities sentenced two adults and one minor to two years' probation for a 2004 desecration in Kaluga Kray.
Vandals desecrated several synagogues and Jewish community centers during the reporting period. In June 2006, officials reported that a man entered a Jewish cultural center in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, and stabbed the door of the synagogue ten times with a knife. Security guards caught him and had police arrest him. According to a report from the UCSJ, a May 18, 2006, article in the local newspaper "Saratovskaya Oblastnaya Gazeta" reported that the courts sentenced a 20-year-old man with a two-year suspended sentence for painting swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of the Saratov Jewish center to which he had confessed when police caught him doing the same thing to a parked car. Unknown assailants have also thrown rocks at the center and its occupants through the windows. Local police allegedly ignored the Jewish community's complaints until the swastika-painting incident.
In April 2006, at the Orenburg synagogue, a group of young men threw stones, kicked the synagogue doors, shouted anti-Semitic slogans, and hit windows with a metal bar. Police detained a fifteen-year-old boy near the synagogue, while others escaped. Officials opened criminal proceedings on charges of hooliganism, not extremism, but since the boy was a minor, he could not face criminal punishment. In March 2006 vandals used paint to draw a swastika on the fence in front of the main entrance of the Jewish community center and the region's first synagogue under construction in Lipetsk. Vandals painted anti-Semitic insults and swastikas on the walls of synagogues in Borovichy (October 5, 2005) and Nizhniy Novgorod (September 5, 2005) similar to incidents in Vladimir (June 3, 2005).
In March 2006 a youth again vandalized the Jewish center in Penza, breaking one of its windows with a brick. Vandals had attacked this building and the Jewish center in Taganrog on a number of previous occasions in 2005 and 2004. In October 2004, congregants stopped a group of skinheads from entering the synagogue in Penza. Later that day, approximately forty people armed with chains and iron clubs approached the synagogue. Worshipers locked themselves inside and called the police who detained two or three of the perpetrators and forced them to repair the damage.
These incidents are similar to those reported for earlier reporting periods in Samara, Syktyvkar (Komi Republic), Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia) in March 2005 and Perovo, Moscow Oblast, in February 2005; in 2004 in Baltiisk, Kaliningrad Oblast, and in the city of Kaliningrad. In November 2004, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, unknown individuals scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on the headquarters of the Moscow-based "Holocaust Foundation."
In May 2005 a fire which authorities considered a case of arson destroyed the historic synagogue of Malakhovka in the outskirts of Moscow. Several days earlier, there had been a burglary at the synagogue. The FJC reported that officials suspected the same persons of both crimes and raised the possibility that they may have set the synagogue fire to destroy evidence related to the burglary, rather than as a hate crime. Authorities detained the main suspect, Andrei Terekhov, on May 14 after he broke into a Christian church in Malakhovka. On December 5, 2005, the trial started; the court ultimately convicted him of setting the fire in order to cover evidence of his robbery and sentenced him to five years in prison and a fine. The Malakhovka Jewish community was preparing to build a community center and a new synagogue at the same location. While the court required Terekhov to compensate for the arson, it was unlikely that he would be able to make any financial contribution.
The Jewish community center in the Moscow suburb of Saltykovka was hit by arson in January and February 2005. Investigators caught the man who set the arson fire; he denied being an anti-Semite and said that he could not explain his motivation for the arson. The prosecutors found no criminal substance in his actions and closed the case. Vandals desecrated the synagogue in the Perovo district of Moscow in January 2005 and again in February 2005.
Authorities arrested two students for posting Nazi posters in Petrozavodsk in April 2005, on the anniversary of Hitler's birthday. Reports indicate that the court punished them in accordance with the administrative code.
There were no developments in the 2004 cases of the beating of Ulyanovsk Jewish youth leader Aleksandr Golynsky and the skinhead vandalism of the Ulyanovsk Jewish Center. The FJC reported that the police released the suspects that community members had detained and delivered to them. There also were no developments in connection with the 2004 attack on the synagogue in Chelyabinsk.
A number of small, radical-nationalist newspapers that print anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic articles, many of which appear to violate the law against extremism, were readily available throughout the country. Although the production of this illegal material continued, authorities generally did not prosecute the publishers, although there were some noted recent exceptions described below. The estimated number of xenophobic publications exceeded one hundred; local chapters of the NDPR sponsored many of them. The larger anti-Semitic publications, such as Russkaya Pravda, Vityaz, and Peresvet, were easily available in many Moscow metro stations. Some NGOs claimed that the same local authorities that refused to take action against offenders owned or managed many of these publications. In addition, there were at least eighty websites in the country dedicated to distributing anti-Semitic propaganda.
On April, 4, 2006, St. Petersburg prosecutor Sergey Zaitsev rescinded the decision of his deputy, Alexandr Korsunov, who refused to prosecute the Rus Pravoslanaya (Orthodox Russia) editor Konstantin Dushenov for the publication of anti-Semitic materials. Although Korsunov found no criminal matter in Dushenov's publications, Zaitsev expressed a different position after the public criticized his deputy's decision.
On April 3, 2006, the Velikiy Novgorod (Central Russia) Prosecutor's Office initiated a criminal case against the Russian Veche editor Paul Ivanov. Ivanov was accused of "public calls to committing violence" and "fueling hatred and discord." Officials initiated the case after the staff of the St. Petersburg History Institute of the Academy of Sciences had examined several issues of the newspaper and found that they contained elements that could incite hatred.
According to the ADL, in March 2006 officials initiated a criminal case in Ulyanovsk against the publishers of the Vest newspaper for anti-Semitic articles. On February 2, 2006, the Moscow Procurator's Office initiated a criminal case over the distribution of anti-Semitic literature on the Internet, because this material had motivated Alexander Koptsev, who had attacked parishioners at the Bolshaya Bronnaya synagogue in January 2006. However, according to the ADL, the case might not prevent the future Internet distribution of anti-Semitic literature, because many extremist websites are registered abroad.
According to the Russian Jewish Congress, the Chita Russian Zabaikalie newspaper published anti-Semitic articles in February 2006. There were reports of anti-Semitic literature on sale in Saratov, Kaliningrad, Pertozavodsk, Rostov-on-Don, and other cities. The Our Strategy television program, which had broadcast anti-Semitic views, continued to air in St. Petersburg during the reporting period.
On January 11, 2006, the Tula newspaper Zasechniy Rubezh, named after its nationalist organization publisher, printed an interview with scholar I. Shafarevitch in which he stated he approved of the anti-Semitic "letter of 500." The letter, issued in January 2005, was signed by twenty Duma deputies. At the time, the newspapers Rus Pravoslavnaya and Za Russkoye Delo published articles supporting the letter.
On January 5, 2006, the Nizhniy Novgorod newspaper, Novoye Delo, printed an article which described the Khazars' adoption of Judaism more than 1,000 years ago in anti-Semitic terms and accused Jews of enslaving the Khazars, saying that the Jews turned Khazaria into a "blood-sucking spider that exhausted the neighboring countries."
In April 2005 Velikolukskaya Pravda, a newspaper supported by the authorities in Velikiy Luki in Pskov Oblast, published an anti-Semitic article which the local prosecutor began investigating as a possible hate crime. Per Sova Center, based on the fact of the publication of the article, Velikiye Luki City Procuracy initiated a criminal case for instigation of national hatred on June 1, 2005. On November 24, 2005, the City Procuracy dropped the case on the grounds of absence of crime in the action.
According to local representatives of the ADL, a St. Petersburg prosecutor initiated criminal proceedings against the publisher of the Our Fatherland newspaper, accusing it of hate speech in 2005. Officials gave the newspaper a warning, but there was no information on further proceedings.
The Ulyanovsk local newspaper Orthodox Simbirsk is still in circulation despite authorities holding preliminary hearings in January 2005 following a criminal case against the editor in 2002 for demonizing Jews. The FJC reported that the newspaper fired the editor, and in March 2005 Governor Morozov of Ulyanovsk promised governmental financial support to prevent bankruptcy.
In December 2004, a court in Novosibirsk sentenced the editor of Russkaya Sibir, Igor Kolodezenko, to a two and half year suspended sentence for publishing anti-Semitic articles. Kolodezenko, whom the court convicted of inciting ethnic hatred in 2000, never served prison time because of a Duma commemorative amnesty.
In 2005 Volgograd's Voroshilovskiy District Prosecutor's Office decided not to pursue a criminal case against the editor of the newspaper Kolokol, accused of inciting ethnic hatred through a series of anti-Semitic articles. The MBHR and the Volgograd Jewish community had sought such a case, the latter appealing for action on numerous occasions, without result. The prosecutor reportedly found the statute of limitations applied to one of the offending articles and that the others did not meet sufficient cause of action under the hate crime laws.
An anti-Semitic novel, The Nameless Beast, by Yevgeny Chebalin, had been on sale in the State Duma's bookstore since September 2003, despite international publicity. The xenophobic and anti-Semitic text makes offensive comparisons of Jews and non-Russians. According to the ADL, authorities do not typically monitor for content books sold in the Duma. In cases where Jewish or other public organizations have attempted to take legal action against the publishers, the courts have been generally unwilling to recognize the presence of anti-Semitic content.
Anti-Semitic statements have resulted in formal prosecution, but while the Government has publicly denounced nationalist ideology and supports legal action against anti-Semitic acts, the reluctance of some lower-level officials to call such acts anything other than "hooliganism" remained problematic. According to the ADL, in 2006 human rights organizations made numerous attempts to prosecute the authors of the "Letter of 500." However, their attempts were unsuccessful. According to the Obschestvennoye Mnenie (Public Opinion) Foundation, after the January 2006 Moscow synagogue attack, the number of citizens who condemned anti-Semitism increased by almost 10 percent. A poll concerning the attack showed that the proportion of citizens who had a negative attitude towards anti-Semites increased from 34 to 42 percent, while the proportion of those who claimed to be indifferent to them decreased from 47 to 38 percent. Distrust and dislike of Jews was expressed by 7 percent of the respondents, while 5 percent sympathized with those who expressed dislike.
In January 2006, the Nizhniy Novgorod Muslim Council condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appeal to rid the world of Israel in an aggressive call for another Holocaust. The council issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day urging citizens to overcome anti-Semitism, extremism and xenophobia.
On June 8, 2005, Patriarch Aleksey II sent a statement to the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance meeting in Cordoba, Spain, in which, reportedly for the first time, he publicly referred to anti-Semitism as a "sin."
Members of the State Duma and other prominent figures expressed anti-Semitic sentiments. In January 2005, approximately 500 persons, including nineteen members of the Duma representing the Rodina Party and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), wrote to the prosecutor general to investigate Jewish organizations and initiate proceedings to ban them, charging that a Russian translation of ancient Jewish law, the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, incited hatred against non-Jews. The MFA condemned the letter as did President Putin, and the Duma passed a resolution condemning the letter in February 2005. In response, approximately 5,000 persons, reportedly including a number of ROC clerics and some prominent cultural figures, signed a similar anti-Semitic letter to the prosecutor general in March 2005. A Moscow district prosecutor opened an investigation into the Jewish organization that published the translation, as well as into charges brought by Jewish and human rights organizations that the letters violated federal laws against ethnic incitement, but closed both investigations in June 2005 without bringing charges. In January 2006, some of the deputies who had signed the letter said in an interview that the letter had been the "right step." One deputy even proposed at a Rodina meeting to repeat the letter with even wider distribution. Originally registered with well-known neo-Nazis on its electoral lists, Rodina attempted to improve its image by rejecting openly neo-Nazi candidates; however, it allowed others known for their anti-Semitic views to remain. On
November 21, 2005, head of the Rodina party Dmitry Rogozin, in a meeting with Rabbi Lazar, claimed that neither he nor anyone around him from the party were anti-Semites. He claimed that although a number of members of the Rodina Duma faction did sign the "letter of 500," it included deputies who were not members of the party and therefore did not follow party discipline.
State Duma Deputy Vladimir Zhirinovskiy and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) are also known for their anti-Semitic rhetoric and statements. In earlier years, LDPR supporters rallied during Moscow's May Day celebration, carrying anti-Semitic signs and speaking out against what they called "world Zionism," but there were no reports of this during the period covered by this report. Nikolay Kurianovich, an LDPR Duma deputy, initiated and publicized the creation of a "list of the enemies of the Russian people," with mostly Jewish names on the list.
Some members of the KPRF also made anti-Semitic statements. For example, former Krasnodar Kray governor and current State Duma deputy Nikolay Kondratenko at a June/July 2004 conference in Beirut, blamed Zionism and Jews in general for many of the country's problems and blamed Jews for helping to destroy the Soviet Union. His speech was printed in the Communist Party's main newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya and several regional papers, including the Krasnodar paper Kuban Segodnya and the Volgograd paper Volgogradskaya Tribuna.
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom
In June 2006 the administration of Arsen Kanokov, president of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR), drafted a new three-year program to implement measures to protect human rights. The document assesses the work of republic and local government officials and of the Interior Ministry, which under its former head, Khachim Shogenov, reportedly targeted young Muslim men in a misdirected attempt to curb militant Islam.
The Slavic Center for Law and Justice reported as of June 20, 2006 that the Land Committee of the Western District of Moscow officially allowed the Emmanuel Church to rent 4,000 square meters of land under the old House of Culture in the Solntsevo district of Moscow, which members planned to convert into a prayer house and church office buildng. As for the piece of land on Prospekt Verndaskoyo (Moscow Western District), authorities had not decided. This decision came after a Moscow district court ruled on November 14, 2005, that it agreed with the Emmanuel Pentecostal Church that the local authorities had violated the legal procedure for regulating public events in its handling of the Church's repeated demonstrations. The same court ruled on October 10, 2005, that thirteen police had wrongfully detained Emmanuel members following a demonstration a week earlier. Pastor Purshaga confirmed that his church--which had been staging regular demonstrations for over eight months--and protesting since 1996 discrimination that prevented them from building a Pentecostal Church, stopped encountering police obstruction following these court decisions. During their long fight, authorities arrested members and Pastor Purshaga on several occasions. They served five days in jail in June 2005.
In Voronezh the regional administration organized a roundtable meeting in November 2005 at which representatives from the police, the procuracy, the Federal Security Services, local authorities, universities, NGOs, academics, and religious groups discussed the problems of racism, intolerance, and interethnic relations. Following the meeting, officials set up a coordination committee chaired by the deputy governor of Voronezh region, bringing together law enforcement agencies, representatives from the town's universities, NGOs, and religious institutions with the aim of creating a plan of action.
Izvestiya reported that on May 17, 2005, the Moscow city government decided to create a two-year, $12.5 million (350 million ruble) program to promote interethnic tolerance.
Federal and regional officials participated actively in, and in many cases strongly supported, a range of NGO-organized programs to promote tolerance and the more effective handling of hate crimes.
In addition, the newly established Public Chamber, a body that the government set up to represent civil society and whose approach President Putin appeared largely to direct, recognized racism and intolerance as a serious issue and a priority on which to work. The Public Chamber set up a commission on tolerance and freedom of conscience.
In the past five years, the number of organized Jewish communities in the country has increased from 87 to more than 200. In 2005 officials dedicated new synagogues in Birobidzhan (Jewish Autonomous Oblast), Khabarvosk, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg; and opened a Jewish school in Kazan.
The reporting period witnessed a few developments in the cultural life of the Jewish community such as opening of a new building to house a Jewish Community Center in St. Petersburg in September 2005. The Federation of Jewish Communities, which officially accounts for 184 communities in 176 cities of the country, was restoring a synagogue in Irkutsk. The project was to be completed in the summer of 2006. As of early 2006, the FJC had built eleven multifunctional community centers in the country. A Jewish center and synagogue are being constructed in Lipetsk, and the construction was expected to be competed in the fall of 2006.
The support of federal authorities, and in many cases regional and local authorities, facilitated the establishment of new Jewish institutions. On June 26, 2006, Arkadiy Gaydamak President of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Associations of Russia, and Chief Rabbi of Russia Shayevich signed an investment contract regarding the construction of a Moscow Jewish community center. Work began on the construction of a $100 million dollar (2 billion,700 million rubles) complex on land donated by the Moscow city government to house Jewish community institutions including a school, a hospital, and a major new museum devoted to the history of the country's Jews, the Holocaust, and tolerance. The construction was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.
On September 1, 2005, a center for scribing sacred Jewish scrolls opened in St. Petersburg for the first time in eighty years. Located in the Jewish educational center Tomhei Tmimim Lubavich Yeshivah, the center named "Merkaz Stam" will train specialists in scribing and verifying Torah scrolls, Tefillins, and Mezuzahs for use by the Jewish population in the city. A certified specialist from Israel directed the center.
See Anti-Semitic Acts section for reports of positive developments on closing of anti-Semitic newspapers, public opinion about anti-Semites, and condemnation of Iranian President Ahmadinejab.
Some minority groups were able to obtain restitution of their religious property. Press reports in August 2005 indicated that officials returned a church that Soviet authorities had confiscated in 1922 to a St. Petersburg Russian Orthodox Old Believers' Community. On September 5, 2005, authorities returned school buildings in Rostov-on-Don and Orenburg to the Jewish community, and in September 2004, they returned a synagogue in Vladivostok. In 2004, Tula City Duma returned a church to the Catholic community. On September 18, 2005 the
Roman Catholic Church consecrated its new church in Pskov after many delays apparently due to ROC pressure.
Jehovah's Witnesses reported that authorities resolved a child custody case in their favor during the reporting period.
Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Religious matters are not a source of pronounced societal tension or overt discrimination for most citizens; however, many citizens firmly believe that at least nominal adherence to the ROC is a part of Russian culture. Instances of terrorism and events related to the war in Chechnya have given rise to negative popular attitudes toward traditionally Muslim ethnic groups in many regions. Instances of religiously motivated violence continued, although it was often difficult to determine whether xenophobia, religion, or ethnic prejudices are the primary motivation. Conservative activists claiming ties to the ROC disseminated negative publications and staged demonstrations throughout the country against Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other minority religions, and some ROC leaders expressed similar views. See the Anti-Semitic Acts section for additional information on this subject.
There is no large-scale movement to promote interfaith dialogue; however, some religious groups successfully collaborate on the local level on charity projects and participate in interfaith dialogues. Pentecostal and Baptist organizations, as well as the ROC, have been reluctant to support ecumenism. At the international level, the ROC has traditionally pursued interfaith dialogue with other Christian groups. Individuals associated with Russian Orthodox and Muslim hierarchies made numerous hostile statements opposing the decision and continued to consider it a source of tension.
A small splinter group of the RNE called "Russian Rebirth" registered successfully in the past in Tver and Nizhniy Novgorod as a social organization, prompting protests from human rights groups; however, in several regions such as Moscow and Kareliya, the authorities have limited the activities of the RNE by denying registration to their local affiliates. According to Sova Center, there were neither registration denials nor registrations of RNE during the reporting period.
Hostility toward non-Russian-Orthodox religious groups sparked harassment and occasionally physical attacks. The police investigation of the June 2004 killing of Nikolai Girenko, an expert on xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism, finally produced suspects in May 2006. Moscow newspapers reported that in late May 2006 officials detained five men in St. Petersburg for possible ties to the killing of an African student and on suspicion of the murder of Girenko, according to city prosecutor Sergey Zaitsev. The suspects, members of the Mad Crowd group, are thought to have killed Girenko as revenge for Girenko's testimony in court against another extremist group. Girenko had served for many years as an expert witness in trials involving alleged skinheads and neo-Nazis.
Muslims, the largest religious minority, continued to encounter societal discrimination and antagonism in some regions. After terrorists associated with Chechen, Ingush, and Islamic extremists seized a school in September 2004 in Beslan, North Ossetia, interethnic and interreligious tensions resulting in discrimination persisted in the region without the authorities' intervention, according to NGOs. Muslims claimed that citizens in certain regions feared Muslims, citing cases such as a dispute in Kolomna, approximately sixty miles southeast of Moscow, over the proposed construction of a mosque. Government officials, journalists, and the public have been quick to label Muslim organizations "Wahhabi," a term that has become equivalent with "extremist." Such sentiment has led to a formal ban on Wahhabism in Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkariya. Numerous press reports documented anti-Islamic sentiment.
On March 14, 2006, in the republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, unknown persons armed with Kalashnikovs fired twenty seven cartridges at the home of mufti Ismail Hadzhi Berdiyev, chair of the Muslim Coordinated Council for Spiritual Management of Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol Regions.
In Muslim-dominated regions, relations between Muslims and Russian Orthodox believers were generally harmonious. In Tatarstan, the authorities promoted the liberal brand of Islamic thought dubbed "Euro-Islam"; however, tensions occasionally emerged in the republic and the surrounding Volga region. Law enforcement organizations closely watched Muslim groups. Officials often described Muslim charitable organizations as providing aid to extremists in addition to their overt charitable work. Extremely traditional or orthodox versions of Islam were often associated in the public mind with terrorism and radical Muslim fighters in the North Caucasus.
Although the previous reporting period saw the chairman of the Council of Muftis, the head of the Central Spiritual Board of the country's Muslims, and the head of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus jointly denounce terrorism, the national press carried stories during the reporting period highlighting their public differences in attitudes toward Wahabbism, among other things.
In April 2006, officials detained seven teenagers between the ages of fifteen and sixteen in the town of Dzerzhinsk in the Nizhniy Novgorod Region for throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at a local mosque. An investigation was continuing. On December 2, 2005, vandals set on fire a two-story wooden building housing the Muslim Board of Komi, which housed a mosque. The fire destroyed the roof and damaged thirty square meters of the premises; there were no injuries. The emergency situations' authorities said the fire was the result of arson.
In February 2005, vandals desecrated twenty-six tombs in a Muslim cemetery in Yoshkar-Oly; in January 2005, vandals desecrated ten tombs in the Donskoye Muslim cemetery in Moscow. Teenagers were suspected of involvement in both of these incidents. In January 2005, vandals painted swastikas on the walls of the "Tauba" mosque in Nizhniy Novgorod. Investigators characterized these crimes as "mere hooliganism" rather than as hate crimes, or national and religious extremism.
Although a Yekaterinburg journalist reported militiamen barred women wearing the hijab from local subway stations on several occasions in 2005, she did not know of similar incidents in the reporting period nor of any overt signs of intolerance toward Muslims on religious grounds.
On May 21, 2006, in downtown Yaroslavl, skinheads reportedly kicked a thirty-year-old Hare Krishna in the stomach several times.
According to press reports, in September 2004, representatives of the Aleksandr Nevsky Patriotic Society disrupted a pre-approved demonstration organized by Hare Krishna members in Saratov, held in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Beslan.
On November 14, 2005, a thirty-six-year-old resident of the Smolensk region detonated an explosive device in the ROC Chapel near the town of Vyazma because of his "dislike for the Russian Orthodox Church." Officials charged him under the Criminal Code for vandalism, illegal possession of weapons and explosives, and willing destruction of property using explosives.
On March 11, 2006, vandals robbed and desecrated the church of the Resurrection of Christ in the Vysotskoye settlement in Yaroslavskaya Region. On February 26,
2006, teenagers desecrated a chapel in the Smolenskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, and on February 5, 2006, vandals broke street lamps and spray-painted the Center of Russian Spirituality of the Orthodox Church of the Mother of God with xenophobic slogans.
During the reporting period, the tensions between the Vatican and the ROC notably decreased, although the Patriarchy in Moscow continued to object to the transfer of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic See from Lviv to Kiev, which occurred in August 2005. Other issues of concern that remained between the two groups include the ROC's continued negative perception that Roman Catholics proselytize across the country and a proposal by a local priest to open a small, three-room Catholic Carmelite convent whose main mission would be to work with orphans in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod. The ROC alleged that the convent would serve as a base for missionary activities, and the Catholic Church indicated that the convent was not a full-fledged convent but a means for caring for local orphans.
In a meeting in March 2006 with a Franciscan Order delegation, Patriarch Aleksey II reportedly said that he hoped the Catholic Church would stop proselytizing Orthodox believers and those with Orthodox roots because the rivalry in winning souls makes their work more difficult at a time when the world needs the fruit of both churches in their Christian efforts.
In June 2005, Patriarch Aleksey met with the President of the Italian Parliament Pier Ferdinando and they jointly launched an appeal for Catholics and Orthodox to avoid "negative and anti-Christian tendencies" and to cooperate "against violence, egoism, and moral relativism."
In February 2006 Cardinal Roger Etchegaray traveled to Moscow to take part in celebrating the patriarch's birthday and feast day. Observers saw this as the result of the government's attempt to ease the tensions between the two churches and pave the way for a papal visit to Moscow, which President Putin has publicly championed, sending Foreign Minister Lavrov to the Vatican in June 2005.
On the night of April 27-28, 2006, vandals set fire to an Adventist church in Taganrog in Rostov Region, after breaking windows earlier that week. The fire was termed arson. It was the first such incident at that church.
Reports of the harassment of evangelicals and Pentecostals dramatically decreased during the reporting period. In contrast to previous reports and Helsinki Commission testimony in April 2005 about the vandalizing and burning of prayer houses in Nekrasovskoye, Chelyabinsk, Bratsk, Izhevsk, Buryatiya, Oshkar Ola, Khalsk, and Poldolsk, where authorities made no arrests, few such instances appeared to have occurred since September 2005, when Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy joined the Public Chamber. Nevertheless, African-Russian and African ministers of non-Orthodox Christian churches experienced prejudicial treatment, based apparently on a combination of religious and racial bigotry.
According to the Slavic Center for Law and Justice, in April 2005, the eve of Russian Orthodox Easter, vandals firebombed a Baptist church in Chelyabinsk. Local Baptists blame coverage in a news broadcast on a local television channel for characterizing the Baptists as a "totalitarian sect." According to church sources, after the fire, employees of the television station visited the church to apologize, saying they did not expect their report to have this effect. The station broadcast a retraction, and the pastor of the church and the local Baptist bishop called a press conference, this time receiving sympathetic television coverage.
Picketers held demonstrations outside New Life Church in Yekaterinburg on May 8, May 15, and May 22, 2005, but only a few people took part in them. Anti-Evangelical activists held pickets beginning in March 2005 in an attempt to demand city authorities evict the New Life Church from its building. This represented the near-cessation of members of the Orthodox Brotherhood and members of City Without Drugs picketing of Sunday services at Protestant churches in Yekaterinburg. The situation is calm according to the pastor of Living Word Church, the head of the Adventist congregation, and the Bishop of the New Life church. In April 2005, at the request of Protestant leaders, Yekaterinburg city officials began denying permission to groups who wished to picket outside Protestant churches, accusing members of these churches of torturing and even killing children, and espionage.
The press routinely continued to reference members of Jehovah's Witnesses as a religious "sect," although they had been present in the country for approximately one-hundred years. In November 2004, the ROC-affiliated NGO Committee for the Salvation of Youth from Totalitarian Sects filed a claim with the prosecutor general seeking the dissolution of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. A common prejudice circulating among the general public was that members of Jehovah's Witnesses are "spies of imperialism." In January 2004, the governor of Stavropol Kray compared members of Jehovah's Witnesses to Wahhabis. This comparison resonated particularly strongly in Stavropol, an area that had been attacked by Chechen separatists.
According to Interfax, in September 2005 Yekaterinburg Russian Orthodox Archbishop Vikenty invited listeners of the Voskresenie Diocesan radio station to convert Jehovah's Witnesses to the Orthodox faith, referring to their beliefs as "delusions."
During the reporting period, officials reported thirty cases of physical attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the country while they engaged in their preaching work; of these, five took place in Moscow. The authorities did not take any action against the assailants.
In April 2006 unidentified individuals reportedly climbed over the fence of the Pskov Kingdom Hall and broke two windows.
After nearly two years of criminal proceedings, in March 2005, authorities found the Sakharov Center Director and a staff member guilty of inciting religious hatred and fined them approximately $3,750 (100,000 rubles) each. Officials acquitted the third defendant of all charges. Although the Moscow City Court dismissed their appeal, the Center entered an appeal at the European Court in Strasbourg. The charges stemmed from a provocative 2003 exhibit of religious-themed art entitled "Danger, Religion!" Authorities never charged those who vandalized the exhibit with a crime, and the verdict leaves room for the state and the ROC to define parameters for religious and artistic expression.
During the reporting period, the Slavic Center for Law and Justice and a number of minority "nontraditional" religious leaders asserted that the Government and majority religious groups increasingly used the mass media, conferences, and public demonstrations to foment opposition to minority religions as threats to physical, mental, and spiritual health; asserting that these groups threatened national security. Speakers associated with the ROC took part in antisect conferences and meetings around the country.
In 2004 the Izhevsk newspaper Infopanorama published an article that slandered the pastor of that city's Work of Faith Evangelical Church for which the newspaper later apologized. In Krasnodar Kray, the local Adventist congregation was unable to move the prosecutor general to initiate a criminal investigation against a television station that broadcast an allegation that the Adventists conducted ritual killings each year.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. government continued to engage the Government, a number of religious groups, NGOs, and others in a regular dialogue on religious freedom. The U.S. embassy in Moscow and the consulates general in Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, and Vladivostok actively investigated reports of violations of religious freedom. In the period covered by this report, their contacts included government officials, representatives of all traditional and many "nontraditional" religious confessions, the Slavic Center for Law and Justice, the Anti-Defamation League, lawyers representing religious groups, journalists, academics, and human rights activists.
The embassy and consulates worked with NGOs to encourage the development of programs designed to sensitize law enforcement officials and municipal and regional administration officials to recognize discrimination, prejudice, and crimes motivated by ethnic or religious intolerance. Senior embassy officials discussed religious freedom with high-ranking officials in the presidential administration and the Government, including the MFA, raising specific cases of concern. Federal officials responded by investigating some of those cases and by keeping embassy staff informed on issues they have raised. As part of continuing efforts to monitor the overall climate of religious tolerance, the embassy and consulates maintained frequent contact with working-level officials at the MOJ, presidential administration, and MFA.
The embassy addresses religious freedom by maintaining a broad range of contacts in the religious and NGO communities. Two positions in the embassy's political section are dedicated to human rights and religious freedom issues. These officers work closely with other U.S. officers in Moscow and U.S. consulates around the country.
Consular officers routinely assisted U.S. citizens involved in criminal, customs, and immigration cases; officers were sensitive to any indications that these cases involved possible violations of religious freedom. Such issues were raised regularly in meetings with the Consular Department of the MFA and with the MVD. As U.S. missionaries and religious workers comprised a significant component of the local U.S. citizen population, the embassy conducted a vigorous outreach program to provide consular services, and to maintain contact for emergency planning purposes and to inquire about the missionaries' experiences vis-a-vis immigration, registration, and police authorities as one gauge of religious freedom.
The U.S. ambassador addressed religious freedom in public addresses and consultations with government officials. He attended events on major religious holidays and often met with a range of religious leaders from various denominations. He hosted discussions on religious freedom with the leaders of major religious denominations.
The U.S. government continued to press the country to adhere to international standards of religious freedom. Officials in the U.S. Department of State met regularly with U.S.-based human rights groups and religious organizations, as well as with visiting representatives of local religious organizations, the Slavic Center for Law and Justice, and members of the State Service Academy that trains regional officials in charge of registering local religious organizations.
Members of the staffs of the U.S. consulates general in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg met with religious leaders from a range of denominations in several cities in their consular district. During the reporting period, the consulate general in Yekaterinburg maintained a particularly active outreach program to the Muslim community of the Urals.
Consulate officials met with representatives of different religious groups in Ufa, including the chief mufti of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board, Talgat Tadjuddin, to discuss the current situation and U.S.-related issues.
As part of the embassy's outreach to the Muslim community and to promote tolerance, in summer 2005 the second annual English language camp sponsored by the embassy in Moscow and the consulate general in Yekaterinburg took place in Ufa, Bashkortostan. The two summer camps, each three weeks long, allowed approximately 200 children from low-income families to improve their English, leadership skills and understanding of U.S. culture.
In April 2006 the head of the Tajik NGO Somon who participated in the International Visitor Program (IVP) invited the Consul General to a seminar titled "Tolerance Starts at School." This seminar was the second stage of the "Teaching Tolerance" project sponsored by the Democracy Commission. The first stage took place in January 2006, and brought together teachers and representatives of ethnic NGOs in Yekaterinburg. The third seminar, in May, was geared to law enforcement officials.
The U.S. government organized exchanges under the IVP with a focus on religious freedom issues. In February and March 2006, a group of religious leaders, NGO representatives, and journalists who covered religious tolerance issues from Yekaterinburg and Orenburg, visited the USA under the regional IVP "Community Activism in Promoting a Tolerant Society." After coming back, the Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders gave interviews to religion-oriented television and radio programs and newspapers, emphasizing their positive impressions of activities of U.S. NGOs, confessions, and government structures. A journalist published an article on this program in one of the major Yekaterinburg newspapers.
In February 2006, during the regional workshop for the American Corners, one session was devoted to outreach programs for the Muslim population. A deputy director of the Interethnic Information Center gave the coordinators advice on how to contact and attract the Muslim community to their events.
On February 28, 2006, 500 students from 7 Vladivostok universities attended a student conference sponsored by the consulate general in Vladivostok with the theme "Tolerance in Multi-Cultural, Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Faith Societies: Challenges, Practices, and Opportunities" at the Far Eastern State Technical University. More than fifty students delivered English-language presentations on international practices in tolerance, Consul General John Mark Pommersheim delivered opening remarks, and International Information Programs speaker Dr. Rock Brynner delivered the keynote address. There was also an NGO roundtable composed of U.S. government exchange program alumni that featured religious tolerance as well.
In September 2005 a speaker on religious tolerance visited Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Zlatoust, which had experienced problems between religious groups, and met with religious communities, officials, journalists, human rights activists, and students.
In March 2005, the consulate general in Yekaterinburg supported an academic conference on ethnic and religious tolerance at Orenburg State University. The conference drew participants from throughout the country and Kazakhstan. The mufti of Orenburg Oblast and the head of the Orthodox Church in Orenburg both participated in the conference.
In September 2004, the consulate general in Yekaterinburg sent a group of ten primarily Muslim community and religious leaders from the Urals to the United States on a program entitled "Promoting Multiculturalism in Civic Life." As a result, one participant, a television producer, devoted an episode of her television show "Islam Today" to religious freedom in the U.S. and, along with another participant, founded the "Interethnic Information Center," which followed media coverage of ethnic and religious minorities and worked to educate journalists and government officials on tolerance issues. The Democracy Commission gave them a small grant to create an on-line news portal for ethnic and religious organizations.
During the period covered by this report, the embassy's Democracy Commission, a small (up to $24,000 or approximately 648,000 rubles) grants program supporting local NGOs working on a range of issues, approved 4 tolerance-related grants totaling approximately $48,800 (approximately 1,317,600 rubles). A group of religious leaders from Yekaterinburg, representing multiple religious groups, participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program devoted to religious freedom of expression and the development of constructive interconfessional relations.
Between April 16 and 27, 2006, the Youth LINX program facilitated dialogues in Ivanovo, Kostroma, and Moscow among religious leaders in an effort to increase interfaith communication and understanding and expose local university students to tolerance issues. In Kostroma, for example, regional clergymen Father Grigoriy Chekmenyov, Father Mikhail Nasonov, Imam-Khatab Marat Zhalyaletdinov, and Rabbi Nison Mendl Ruppo served as panel experts, and a Kostroma State University student, trained on tolerance issues, moderated the discussion. Professors of the Philosophy Department of Kostroma State University and approximately fifty five students attended the event. Representatives of the Kostroma regional administration emphasized the importance of an open dialogue in promoting tolerance.
During the reporting period, the Southern Russia Resource Center (SRRC) conducted two workshops on interethnic tolerance specifically targeted to youth organizations, as well as a school for NGO leaders, two workshops in community mobilization in a post-conflict environment, and a public relations school for journalists and NGOs. The SRRC issued ten grants to six Chechen, three Ossetian, and one Ingush organizations to promote tolerance among youth in these republics; these projects ended in March 2006. In February 2006 the SRRC signed an agreement with the Ministry of Nationalities in Ingushetia to support SRRC's activities in the republic and to consult the Ministry about the issues of interethnic understanding and cooperation.
In June and July 2005, U.S. government grantee, SRRC, in partnership with the Tolerance Institute, conducted seminars for sixty participants from North Ossetia, Chechnya and Ingushetia, promoting models for how to prevent and address such problems as xenophobia, cultural ignorance, and interethnic conflict. Participants included NGO leaders, journalists, youth leaders, and regional and local government officials.
The United States supported two additional tolerance projects through the PartNER (Partnerships, Networking, Empowerment, and Roll-out) program, which ended in December 2004. One of these projects, the Ural NGO Support Center (UNGOSC), worked to encourage public discussion of ethnic and religious tolerance in Perm. UNGOSC worked with media outlets and various organizations to publicize program activities, conduct a training program for journalists to promote more responsible media coverage on racial and ethnic issues, recruit training participants and stage public awareness campaigns and seminars. Officials conducted the other tolerance project at the Volga Humanitarian-Theological Institute in Nizhniy Novgorod, which provided representatives of government and religious organizations with a series of seminars to educate participants and help them focus their thoughts and ideas on religious policy issues. The activity of religious communities in the Volga Federal District increased as a result of this project by uniting their efforts to assist street children, migrants, and other people in difficult situations and establishing a website to serve as a virtual resource center for state officials and community leaders.
In 2004-05, the U.S. continued to support through a grant the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal's "Climate of Trust" program, which focuses on forming and strengthening Regional Tolerance Councils in Kazan, Ryazan, and Leningrad Oblast. As the result of the program, officials introduced tolerance courses for militia cadets in the St. Petersburg Law Institute of the General Procuracy and the Ryazan Branch of the Moscow Academy of the MVD. Tatarstan's regional Ministry of Education signed an agreement on March 1, 2005, in which it pledged to include tolerance courses in continuing education programs for school teachers.
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor