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Bulletin 4:6 (2010)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 4, No. 6(87), 3 February 2010 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland I
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2010
      THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 4, No. 6(87), 3 February 2010
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 15 - 31 January 2010
      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
      III ANNOTATIONS OF RELEVANT PUBLICATIONS
      APPENDIX: Tymoshenko and the Ukrainian Radical Right

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear.]
      ===========================


      I NEWS: 15 - 31 January 2010

      ARSONISTS TARGET JEHOVAH'S WITNESS PRAYER HALL AND BAPTIST CHURCH
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, January 15, 2010

      Police in Volzhsky (Volgograd Region) have detained a group of suspects in connection with the firebombings of a Baptist church and a Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom Hall, according to a January 12 report by the web site Kavkavsky Uzel that covers events in the northern Caucasus. In both cases, the arsonists threw Molotov cocktails through the windows but quick reactions from firefighters helped to minimize the damage. Confusingly, initial reports suggested that the suspects belong to both the far-right hate group the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and an anti-fascist group. Police reportedly confiscated extremist literature and weapons from the suspects. Nevertheless, according to the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, they so far face no hate crimes charges--instead they were charged solely with malicious property damage.
      A January 13 article in the local supplement to the national daily "Argumenty i Fakty" quoted Jehovah's Witness leader Valery Volf as saying: "I don't think that what happened in Volzhsky was in any way out of the ordinary. In our country, there are many institutions that form public opinion, including the media, that have created a negative attitude towards religious faiths that are supposedly non-traditional for Russia."
      In another development, on December 29, 2009 an anti-extremism unit of the MVD in the Republic of Adygeya launched an investigation into a local Jehovah's Witness congregation, issuing 11 warnings to the congregation's leaders, accusing them of "extremism." Since a court in Taganrog classified Jehovah's Witness as an extremist organization last year, a growing crackdown on that faith has taken place in several Russian regions. Anti-extremism laws, said to be intended to counter increasing neo-Nazi violence and insurgents in the Caucasus, has increasingly been abused by federal and local authorities to persecute peaceful political opposition members and minority religious faiths.
      On January 15, Forum 18 News Service reported that though 34 Jehovah's Witness publications described as extremist have not as yet been added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials, public prosecutors in several Russian regions have begun issuing extremism warnings to Jehovah's Witness communities.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-2-january-15-2010
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      MASKED MEN ROB APARTMENT RENTED TO UZBEK MIGRANTS
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, January 15, 2010

      Masked men burst into a St. Petersburg apartment rented to Uzbek migrant workers and beat, stabbed, and robbed them, according to the local supplement to the national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda" dated January 9. Police sources told the newspaper that the attack was likely either the work of neo-Nazis or criminals from the Uzbek diaspora.
      The five victims, all of whom are illegal migrants, were reluctant to report the attack to the police who heard about it from witnesses. This reluctance is typical of many victims of hate crimes in Russia who lack legal status. But it is not surprising, considering that Migration Service officials are currently deciding whether to allow the Uzbeks to stay in the country long enough to testify in a possible trial if and when suspects are apprehended—or to deport them immediately.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-2-january-15-2010
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      PROSECUTORS CHARGE NEO-NAZI GANG WITH EXTREMISM
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, January 15, 2010

      Prosecutors in Tver completed their investigation of a neo-Nazi gang and sent charging documents to a court, according to a January 11 item by the RIA-Novosti news service. Five members of the "Nordic Front" face extremism charges after being accused of pasting neo-Nazi leaflets and painting graffiti on buildings around the city. All the suspects are minors from prosperous families, an increasingly common phenomenon in the Russian neo-Nazi movement.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-2-january-15-2010
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      KRASNOYARSK COURT REDUCES SENTENCE FOR FAR-RIGHT ACTIVIST
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, January 15, 2010

      A court in Krasnoyarsk reduced the sentence of a far-right activist convicted of a hate crime, according to a January 11 report by the Sova Center for Information and Analysis. Leonid Ikonnikov, a member of the local branch of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, was convicted of "hooliganism" and a hate crime after he assaulted a non-Russian man in March 2007. The federal district court of the central district of Krasnoyarsk reduced Ikonnikov's sentence to three months. The reasons are not disclosed.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-2-january-15-2010
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      NEW LAW TO OFFER PRIVATELY EMPLOYED MIGRANTS LEGAL STATUS
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, January 15, 2010

      Millions of illegal migrants working in private households across Russia will get a chance to legalize their employment under a new law regulating the legal status of foreign guest workers, "The Moscow Times" reported on January 12. The bill, proposed by the Federal Migration Service and submitted to the State Duma last week, will allow private employers to obtain one-month work permits for foreign workers at a charge of 1,000 rubles ($34). The permits may be prolonged on a monthly basis. Violations will be punishable by fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($150). The initiative has angered the Federation of Independent Trade Unions that says it will encourage more foreign workers to take away jobs from Russians.
      The legislation is described by its sponsors as aimed at regulating migrant workers illegally employed in apartments or dachas. Under the present law, the number of migrant workers is regulated by government quotas calculated annually on requests from businesses. Private individuals employing migrants do not figure in the current law.
      In 2009, more than 1.32 million migrant workers were registered in Russia, according to the Federal Migration Service. There is no official data on migrants employed by private households but officials estimate the number from 3 to 4 million. The number of foreign migrants in Russia may total 7 million, according to some estimates. Ukrainian citizens account for a majority, followed by Tajiks and Uzbeks, migration officials said. While many migrants enter Russia legally and are given permission to work for 90 days, they often end up illegally employed because their employers are reluctant to sign contracts with them to avoid paying taxes.
      According to human rights groups, life can be particularly hard for migrants working for private employers who often refuse to pay their wages and treat them cruelly. "Now they will be granted their rights and will not be kicked out into the street," immigration officials said. Such an improvement and the willingness of private employers—or migrants--to pay $34 a month per a migrant employee remain to be seen. Enforcement of the new law raises yet another series of questions.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-2-january-15-2010
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      Kazakh President hopes for Patriarch advice in post-Soviet integration
      Interfax-Religion, Janury 18, 2010

      Almaty, January 18, Interfax - The opinion of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia about the interaction of Kazakhstan and the OSCE is very important, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
      He met with the Patriarch in his Almaty residence on Monday.
      "They [the West] are pushing Western culture as something absolute, something bigger than the truth. We have been experiencing this pressure all these years," Nazarbayev said.
      Human rights and freedoms "are sacred in any religion and everyday life, but Kazakhstan has its own culture, history and traditions and it would be wrong to bring all cultures to something uniform. In that case, mankind will be very dull," the President said.
      "I would like to listen to your opinion, because that is a common matter. I would also like to meet you frequently, probably not so frequently as you meet with the Russian president and premier," Nazarbayev said.
      "Integration of our peoples is very important in the global world," he added.
      The disintegration of the former Soviet Union hit a blow on family relations: parents live in one country and children in another, the President said.
      "The barriers cannot be rigid. The public response to the lift of borders for commodities and peoples was very enthusiastic," he said.
      "We take very close to heart the division of peoples who used to live in one country," the Patriarch said.
      "The Church is working to remove unnecessary barriers and to do away with the conflicts [between former Soviet republics]," he said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6823
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      Russian presidential aide calls for vigilance against history falsification
      RIA-Novosti, January 19, 2010

      Moscow, 19 January: Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian presidential administration, has called for stepping up efforts aimed at countering attempts at falsifying Russian history on the eve of the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War.
      "This date (65th anniversary of victory) has special importance in Russian history as well as in society's cultural education," he said at a meeting of the presidential commission for counteracting attempts at the falsification of history on Tuesday (19 January). "This date has a special place in the plans hatched up by Russia's foes in order to distort the events of those years at public and political level and diminish the role our country played in the victory in the Second World War," the head of the presidential administration said.
      Naryshkin said that taking this into account work aimed at countering such attempts by researchers and among the broad public circles becomes an important task. Naryshkin described historical and cultural education in society and practical measures aimed at improving it as "one of the key issues in the entire system of countering a deliberate distortion of our history". "Society's spiritual and political imperviousness to attempts at humiliating national identity and moral dignity of our citizens and our country depends considerably on its correct decision," he said.
      "Let's be realistic: there is a number of countries, in which political passions regarding certain issues of our history are still running high," the head of presidential administration said. "At a strictly scientific level we have managed to sway our opponents or make them think about the futility of attempts to impose on us their view of history through falsification," he believes. "But success at a popular level is still far away," Naryshkin added.
      ------

      No Plans to Move Lenin
      Interfax, January 20, 2010
      MOSCOW. Jan 20 (Interfax) - Currently there are no plans to move the body of Vladimir Lenin, said Presidential Property Manager Vladimir Kozhin.
      "The country's leaders have no official plans to either transfer either Lenin's body or those buried along and in the Kremlin wall. And I hope, there won't be any in the near future," Kozhin said live on the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Wednesday.
      "This topic (the burial of Lenin's body) cannot even be discussed at the moment," he said.
      "There is no official program," the presidential property manager said.
      Lenin's embalmed body has been on public display in Moscow's Red Square since his death in 1924.
      ----

      Anti-Fascists Attacked in Barnaul, Russia
      UCSJ, January 20, 2010

      Two separate attacks on anti-fascists took place in Barnaul, Russia (Altay Kray) last
      November, according to a January 18, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On November 8, six far-right activists followed a participant in the "Foods not Bombs" project, an anti-fascist event that includes the feeding of homeless people, and then attacked him. The victim ended up with head trauma and a fractured rib. On December 13 four far-right extremists chased after an anti-fascist, who managed to escape. Also that month, far-right extremists wearing masks stalked and then assaulted a local anti-fascist. The victim was hospitalized with head trauma. None of the victims reported the attacks to the police.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/anti-fascists-attacked-barnaul-russia
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      Neo-Nazis Accused of New Year's Murder
      UCSJ, January 20, 2010

      Two neo-Nazis killed a man in a village near Kaliningrad, Russia, according to a January 12, 2010 article in the Kaliningrad edition of the national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda." The suspects allegedly hit their victim with metal pipes and then kicked him in the head repeatedly with heavy boots in Kosmodemyanskoe. The suspects reportedly confessed to the killing, stating that their motivation was that the victim was a drug addict and that they had decided "to cleanse the earth of that sub-human."
      Russian neo-Nazis usually attack ethnic and religious minorities, but have also
      gone after ethnic Russian homeless people and drug addicts.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/neo-nazis-accused-of-new-years-murder
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      Series of Attacks on Africans in Moscow
      UCSJ, January 2010

      At least three attacks on Africans in Moscow have been recorded by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, which serves many foreign residents of the capital. An employee of the Ghanaian embassy fell victim to an attack at a bus stop on January 1 and had to be hospitalized. On January 10, a different citizen of Ghana was hospitalized after an attack on the metro. Finally, on January 12 near the Tretyakovskaya metro station, someone attacked a Nigerian man, breaking his arm and causing other injuries. There are no reports of any arrests in connection with these attacks.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/series-of-attacks-africans-moscow
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      Another Attack on Jehovah's Witnesses
      UCSJ, January 20, 2010

      A group of around half a dozen unidentified people threw stones and shouted death threats at a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Sochi, Russia, according to a January 15, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The enraged assailants tried to break down a fence in order to attack the Jehovah's Witnesses inside, but were unsuccessful. Police detained two suspects.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/another-attack-jehovahs-witnesses
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      Next Moscow gay pride planned for May 29
      Interfax-Religion, January 21, 2010

      Moscow, January 20, Interfax – Moscow advocates of non-traditional sexual orientation are going to hold next gay pride parade on May 29, Moscow pride organizer Nikolay Alexeyev says.
      "We will file a correspondent application to Moscow government in mid-May," he told Interfax on Wednesday.
      "Anyway we will spare no effort to hold a gay pride on this day as our numerous foreign allies plan to participate in the action and have already bought tickets," he went on to say.
      Alexeyev did not specify the event format and pointed out the question would be further discussed.
      The gay community representative also reported that the European Human Rights Court extended until February 2010 the term of considering Russian sex minorities' complaint on banning three previous gay prides – in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6833
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      Moscow City Court turns down lesbians' complaint
      Interfax-Religion, January 21, 2010

      Moscow, January 21, Interfax - The Moscow City Court has upheld the refusal of the city civil registration office to register a marriage of two Russian women, who legalized their relationship in Canada.
      Irina Fedotova (Fet) and Irina Shipitko appealed to the Moscow City Court after the Tverskoy District Court had turned down their request, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom.
      The women will now apply to the European Court of Human Rights, leader of the Russian sexual minority movement Nikolay Alexeyev said.
      "The European Court will hear a similar appeal lodged by an Austrian couple on February 25, and that will create a precedent," he said.
      The city civil registration office turned down the application of Fedotova and Shipitko on May 12, 2009, under the pretext that the Russian Family Code allowed only different-sex marriages. The Tverskoy District Court said that the denial was legal on October 6. The couple registered their relationship in Canada on October 23.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6835
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      Russia to facilitate Polish commemorations of Katyn massacre
      RIA Novosti, January 22, 2010

      MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti)-Russia is ready to help Poland organize events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of Polish prisoners of war by the Soviet Union, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
      Lavrov said Polish colleagues have informed Moscow of their plans for this year's commemoration of the 1940 execution of several thousand of Polish POWs, mainly officers and soldiers, in Katyn, western Russia, which has remained a sensitive issue in ties between Poland and Russia.
      "We are interested in helping [Poland] implement those plans on Russian soil," Lavrov told a news briefing.
      But Lavrov refused to say whether Russian leaders would attend the events.
      Prime Minister Vladimir Putin moved to heal the rift over the massacre when he and other world leaders visited the former Communist-bloc state in September 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack on Poland and the start of World War II.
      Putin described the mass killings as a "crime" but called for "forgiveness."
      The Soviet Union acknowledged the massacre, ordered by Joseph Stalin, in 1990. Modern Russia recognized Soviet responsibility for the mass shooting, but has not classified it as a war crime or genocide, something Warsaw has demanded.
      Russia has resisted attempts to challenge the Soviet role in World War II, in which 27 million Soviet citizens died, according to official figures. Poland and former Soviet countries such as Ukraine and the Baltic States view Stalin's Soviet Union as an aggressor during the war and have compared it to Nazi Germany.
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      Neo-Nazi Gang on Trial in Nizhny Novgorod
      UCSJ, January 22, 2010

      A gang of seven neo-Nazi university and high school students face multiple murder and assault charges, according to a January 19, 2010 report by the news web site Newsru.com. The gang came to the police's attention after one of its members shot his professor dead in a dispute over his behavior in class. The gang allegedly killed four other people, mostly from the Caucasus, and also committed four assaults and several robberies, targeting either minorities or anti-fascist activists. According to
      police, the gang met in an extremist Internet forum.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/neo-nazi-gang-trial-nizhny-novgorod
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      NEO-NAZI GANG ON TRIAL IN NIZHNY NOVGOROD
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 3, January 22, 2010

      A gang of seven neo-Nazi university and high school students face multiple murder and assault charges, according to a January 19 report by the news web site Newsru.com. The gang came to the police's attention after one of its members shot his professor dead in a dispute over his behavior in class. The gang allegedly killed four other people, mostly from the Caucasus, and also committed four assaults and several robberies, targeting either minorities or anti-fascist activists. According to police, the gang met in an extremist Internet forum.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-3-january-22-2010
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      MEMORIAL DIRECTOR CALLS FAMINE `CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY'—NOT GENOCIDE
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 3, January 22, 2010

      The decision by Ukraine to give a legal evaluation of the crimes committed by the Soviet administration is right, but the 1930s famine in Ukraine was not genocide, Arseniy Roginsky, head of the Russian historical and human rights center Memorial, told Interfax. "The fact that this crime has been legally classified is very important. There are many documents confirming the guilt in such crimes as organized famine and terror." However, Roginsky questioned that the documents prove that the famine in Ukraine was genocide. "My opinion is that this famine was a crime against humanity, not genocide," he summed up.
      Roginsky believes that the famine was organized in the 1930s not only in Ukraine, but also in southern Russia and Kazakhstan and that "it was founded on a criminal decision on total collectivization." He blamed "the Stalin leadership and the perpetrators of the will of the Stalin leadership." He suggested that Russians, Ukrainians, and Kazakhs "study and understand this tragedy together. It would bring us closer-- not divide us."

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-3-january-22-2010
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      PUNDIT RADZIKHOVSKIY CALLS STALIN A SYMBOL OF AN INHUMAN STATE
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 3, January 22, 2010

      Stalin should be condemned as a symbol of the Soviet state's inhumanity, Russian writer Leonid Radzikhovskiy has written. A prominent contributor on the Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, he authored an article for the radio's web site as a blog entry for January 16. Titled "Ten Leningrads", the article began with the Soviet famine of the early 1930s: "The famine in Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan was 10 times worse than the [German Nazi] blockade of Leningrad. In the latter, 700,000 died; in the former, some seven million civilians. There was no escape route. It was blocked by the enemy forces [the Red Army] and SS [the Soviet secret police then called OGPU]." Whether genocide or not, it was at the very least a crime against humanity, Radzikhovskiy wrote.
      "Disgracefully, criminally", he went on, that crime is being "hushed up" in Russia to the accompaniment of "idiotic statist and patriotic murmur and the crap about [Stalin as] an `effective manager.'" Radzikhovskiy implied that he backs calls for a tribunal--a "legal verdict"---on the crimes of Stalinism.
      "It is necessary to break up this pattern of behavior, which treats human life as worthless, as prison-camp dust, little cogs, slaves," Radzikhovskiy argued. "For as long as this pattern of behavior is alive and well in our country---from top to bottom--our country will continue to rot away. Even with our currently high level of consumption, it will be a nation without rights, of lies, with an inferiority complex and aggressive. The inhuman attitude of those in power--and, reciprocally, the inhuman attitude of society--is the main obstacle to the country's development."
      He concluded that it is to "root out this inhumanity" that Stalin must be condemned, which he hoped would "set a precedent in the form of condemnation of a state's brutality" and could even "wake up society." However, he remained skeptical of the Russian state's ability to do so.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-3-january-22-2010
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      MOSCOW POLICE CHIEF BLAMES MIGRANTS FOR CRIME
      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 3, January 22, 2010

      The economic crisis contributed to a growth in crimes committed by migrants, but overall crime dropped sharply last year, Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev said on January 20, as reported by Interfax. The number of crimes by migrants rose over the previous year by 7% to 54,600 cases--or 48.6% of the total number of solved crimes, Kolokoltsev said. "Many people from other cities who had come to work in the capital at the moment when the crisis started found themselves without jobs." He disclosed that city police shut down more than 50 crime groups involving more than 160 people, including 63 Caucasus natives and 40 foreigners.
      Kolokoltsev said that the number of police officers charged with criminal offenses rose by about 50%, while the number of senior police officials disciplined for not following work procedures rose 20%.
      A total of 62 attacks on people of "non-Slavic" appearance were registered in the city last year, including 26 murders and 25 cases of intentionally causing severe injuries, five of which ended in deaths, Kolokoltsev said. He added that city police and the Federal Security Service disbanded 10 racist groups with a total of 33 members who carried out 34 of the 62 attacks on people of "non-Slavic" appearance, including 14 murders.
      According to the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, 116 people were injured and 27 killed in racist attacks in Moscow and the Moscow Region in the first 11 months of 2009.

      http://www.ucsj.org/bigotry-monitor/volume-9-2009/volume-10-number-3-january-22-2010
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      Attempts to separate Orthodox nations futile – Medvedev
      Interfax-Religion, January 22, 2010

      Moscow, January 22, Interfax - Any attempts to set the nations united by Orthodox religious and cultural values at loggerheads are doomed to failure, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at an awards ceremony at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on Thursday.
      "Any attempts to cause the Orthodox nations to quarrel have ultimately proved to be futile," Medvedev said in his acceptance speech after being honored for his role in strengthening Orthodox unity and promoting Christian values.
      "It is common spiritual and cultural values that are capable of bringing both states and peoples together," he said.
      Medvedev mentioned "the Russian Orthodox Church's great contribution to an inter-church dialogue."
      "By restoring its canonical unity, it showed an unprecedented example of overcoming mistrust and dissociation, displayed a true spirit of conciliarism, and showed a powerful consolidating principle," he said.
      This was "a most important signal not only to people practicing Orthodoxy but also to the entire world, and it shows that there can be no insurmountable obstacles when a church, a state or several states, and society have a common goal, that is, desire for unity," Medvedev said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6840
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      Award in memory of late Patriarch Alexy II given to Medvedev
      Interfax-Religion, January 22, 2010

      Moscow, January 22, Interfax - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev received an award in memory of the late Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia on Thursday at a ceremony at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.
      Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, Serbian moviemaker Emir Kusturica, and the U.S.-based St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary were also given the award 'For Outstanding Activities in Strengthening the Unity of Orthodox Nations and for Establishing and Promoting Christian Values in Society'.
      Named after Patriarch Alexy II, the prize is the most prestigious award in the Orthodox world.
      Medvedev received the award for his great "personal role in strengthening Orthodox unity in the world and promoting Christian values in society."
      Medvedev said in his speech that he had decided to pass on the award to a charity foundation for the restoration of the Resurrection and New Jerusalem Monastery and support several orphanage schools.
      The award traditionally honors heads of state, government officials, parliament representatives, Patriarchs of Orthodox Churches, and major public figures for their contribution to the improvement of economic and political relations between states that have historically been formed in the context of the Eastern Christian tradition and for the promotion of Christian morals in the Orthodox community.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6839
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      First Man In Space Remains 20Th-century Idol For Most Russians-poll
      Itar-Tass, January 23, 2010

      MOSCOW, January 23 (Itar-Tass) -- The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, remains Russia's number one celebrity of the 20th century, as follows from an opinion poll held by the national public opinion studies center VCIOM. Moreover, his rating has grown over the past decade from 30 percent to 35 percent.
      Actor, songwriter and singer Vladimir Vysotsky is second with 31 percent, and World War II Marshal Georgy Zhukov, third (20 percent).
      As compared with the previous poll on this theme conducted back in 1999, the ratings of some personalities have changed somewhat.
      Ten years ago Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Vysotsky practically shared first place (30 percent and 31 percent respectively. However, while Vysotsky's rating remained unchanged, that of Gagarin grew noticeably. Zhukov was number three with a large share of votes (26 percent).
      The VCIOM poll was held on January 9-10, 2010. The pollster questioned sixteen hundred men and women of age in 140 towns and cities in Russia's 42 regions, territories and republics. The statistical error margin was no greater than 3.4 percent.
      -----

      Obninsk Police Detain Neo-Nazi Suspect in Racist Attack
      UCSJ, January 25, 2010

      Police in Obninsk, Russia detained a local neo-Nazi on suspicion that he attacked a citizen of Uzbekistan, according to a January 21, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The 19 year old suspect allegedly attacked his victim in August of 2009. In 2008, he was given a suspended sentence for "hooliganism" in a trial of several neo-Nazi gang members.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/obninsk-police-detain-neo-nazi-suspect-racist-attack
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      Trial Set for Neo-Nazi Gang in Krasnodar
      UCSJ, January 25, 2010

      Members of a neo-Nazi gang face a pending trial on extremism charges in Krasnodar, Russia, according to a January 21, 2010 article in the national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda." According to the prosecution, the "Pit Bull" gang was founded in February 2007 with the express purpose of committing acts of violence against non-Russians. Their first victim was a "non-Slavic" woman whom the defendants allegedly assaulted in October 2008. They allegedly followed that up with a March 2009 attack on a man they perceived as "non-Slavic."
      The gang's two alleged founders face charges of "creating an extremist organization"
      and aggravated assault charges motivated by ethnic hatred. It is not clear from the report how many other defendants there are, nor what charges they face.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/trial-set-neo-nazi-gang-krasnodar
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      Luzhkov promises to prevent gay pride parade in Moscow
      Interfax-Religion, January 25, 2010

      Moscow, January 25, Interfax - Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has again spoken against gay pride parades in Moscow.
      "For several years, Moscow has experience unprecedented pressure to conduct a gay pride parade, which cannot be called anything but a Satanic act. We have prevented such a parade and we will not allow it in the future. Everyone needs to accept that as an axiom," Luzhkov said at the opening of the 18th Christmas educational readings in Moscow on Monday.
      In 2009, Luzhkov protested the idea of conducting a gay pride parade in Moscow at the opening of the Christmas educational readings as well.
      Luzhkov says that, when it comes to certain social plagues, "it is high time to crack down on them with all the power and justice of the law instead of talking about human rights."
      "We need a social whip or something like that, not a liberal ginger cake," Luzhkov said.
      Among the "social plagues" Luzhkov named drug abuse, xenophobia and ethnic feud, and also "open propaganda of same-sex so-called love."

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6854
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      Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia believes Stepan Bandera's promotion to national heroes challenges civilized world
      Interfax-Religion, January 25, 2010

      Moscow, January 25, Interfax - The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia believes that Viktor Yuschenko's decision to grant hero status to OUN head Stepan Bandera is the next provocation that "helps rehabilitate Nazi crimes" and "insults memory of its victims."
      Yuschenko said he awarded Bandera "for strength of spirit, for defending national ideas and showing heroism and self-sacrifice when fighting for an independent Ukraine." It is evident that thus President Yuschenko considers murders of Jews and Poles committed by Bandera and his allies "heroism and self-sacrifice"," the FJCR said in its statement spread in Moscow on Monday.
      Its authors wonder why a historical fact of Bandera's cooperation with fascists during World War II and his participation in formation of SS battalions "do not confuse Mr. Yuschenko."
      The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia believes "such political gestures are challenging the whole civilized world, all who fought against Nazism, in particular those Ukrainians who struggled against fascists in the years of World War II."
      "Yuschenko succeeded in enriching political life of the contemporary European state with names of people, who openly promoted fascism and extremely nationalistic views, who took part in disgusting crimes against humanity, who were accused in the Nuremberg trial," the document further reads.
      According to its authors, Yuschenko's document on granting hero status to the OUN leader "is a true sign of disrespect to Soviet soldiers as Stepan Bandera's detachments struggled against them, to those people who gave their lives so that today all people could live free."
      The FJCR believes that "deprived of the hope to further run for presidency, Yuschenko decided to enter new Ukraine history as a person who tried to immortalize Ukrainian nationalists, allies of fascists."
      Thus, next Ukrainian president "who inherits the country with such "heroes," will have to spend much time and effort to rehabilitate and restore reputation of his or her state both on inner political and international arena discredited by such actions of the previous leader."

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6853
      -----

      Putin thanks Rabbi Lazar for contending for truth about World War II
      Interfax-Religion, January 26, 2010

      Moscow, January 26, Interfax - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has thanked the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar for his consistent work to prevent attempts to reconsider the history of World War II.
      "I watch closely what is happening in the world, especially issues relating to the distortion of history and the denial of, let's say, the Holocaust. No doubt, Jewish organizations have always been our consistent allies in everything related to remembering the victims of Nazism and preserving information about the real tragic events of World War II," Putin said while meeting with Lazar on Tuesday.
      "We saw it when the monument [to Soviet soldiers] was moved in Tallinn, and we are now seeing it in other regions of the world, where similar attempts are being made to reconsider the truth about the tragedy of World War II," Putin said.
      Lazar, in turn, reiterated that "the Jewish community in Russia would like to really show that you can't deny the Holocaust and the acknowledge the contribution by any nation that helped Jews."
      Lazar said his meeting with Putin is tied to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland by the Red Army, which is marked on January 27.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6860
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      Supreme Court upholds sentence on killer of Catholic priest
      Interfax-Religion, January 26, 2010

      Moscow, January 26, Interfax - The Russian Supreme Court has upheld the sentencing of Mikhail Orekhov to 14 years in prison for killing a Jesuit priest.
      "The Moscow City Court's sentence handed down on Orekhov has been left unchanged," Pavel Odintsov, a Supreme Court spokesman, told Interfax.
      The Moscow City Court had handed down its sentence on August 25, 2009, based on a verdict by the jury, who found Orekhov guilty of killing Father Victor Betancourt, a priest from the Independent Russian Regional Society of Jesus.
      The prosecution authorities asked the court to reconsider the ruling and to apply a more severe punishment.
      Orekhov had been originally charged with two counts of murders. He was also accused of murdering Father Otto Messmer, who was found dead in the same apartment as Betancourt in Octover 2008, but the jury found him not guilty on this charge.
      "The investigation has determined that Orekhov decided to murder Betancourt while being intoxicated on the basis of a personal conflict, after the victim had tried to induce the Russian to commit a joint sex act," the Investigative Committee told Interfax earlier.
      It said Orekhov had hit the priest on the head with a dumbbell at least 11 times.
      Orekhov had been detained as a suspect on November 6, 2008.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6856
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      Activity of radical nationalists in Russia decreasing rights activists
      Interfax, January 27, 2010

      MOSCOW. Jan 27 (Interfax) - The number of attacks motivated by xenophobia in Russia has begun to decrease for the first time in the past several years, human rights activists say.
      "The year 2009 became the first year in over the six-year history of our monitoring where the number of incidents involving violence motivated by racism and neo-Nazism decreased significantly, although this number still remains alarmingly high," the Sova analytical center said in a report analyzing manifestations of radical nationalism in Russia in 2009.
      "Our impressions show that the trend toward a decline in the number of crimes based on radical nationalism is remaining in place in 2010 as well," Sova Deputy Director Galina Kozhevnikova told Interfax.
      Law enforcement agencies eliminated the largest and the most aggressive ultra-rightwing groups in Moscow and the Moscow region in 2008 and 2009.
      "Despite all these efforts, the scope of xenophobic violence still remains alarming, embracing most regions of Russia, and hundreds of people fall victim," the Sova report says.
      According to Sova, about 70 people were killed and at least 333 injured in incidents motivated by radical nationalism in Russia in 2009, compared to at least 109 and 486 respectively in 2008.
      The victims of xenophobic assaults are primarily people coming from Central Asia and the Caucasus, the report says. The Moscow region, St. Petersburg, the Leningrad region, the Nizhny Novgorod region, and the Sverdlovsk region still remain centers of interethnic violence, it says.
      --------

      Russian court rules against liberal journalist
      ITAR-TASS, January 27, 2010

      Moscow, 27 January: Moscow's Perovskiy District Court has partially upheld Great Patriotic War veteran Viktor Semenov's lawsuit against political commentator Aleksandr Podrabinek, brought because of the latter's article "As one Anti-Soviet to others" published on an Internet website last September.
      Podrabinek's lawyer Vadim Prokhorov has told ITAR-TASS that the court ordered the journalist to pay R1,000 (about 33 dollars) to the claimant and to retract one of the claims in the article addressed to veterans: "Your homeland is not Russia. Your homeland is the Soviet Union. You are Soviet veterans and your country, thank God, has been gone for 18 years."
      The defendant's representative noted that he could not imagine how "this phrase can be retracted". He said he was going to appeal against today's decision of the court.
      The article of liberal political commentator, former Soviet dissident Aleksandr Podrabinek, "As one Anti-Soviet to others", which was addressed to (some) veterans of the Great Patriotic War, drew harsh criticism from a number of public organizations and political parties. The journalist wrote it to contribute to the discussion following the removal of the Antisovetskaya (Anti-Soviet) sign from a kebab-house in Moscow. (See "Russian commentator attacks "Soviet veterans" for role in kebab-house row", Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal website, Moscow, in Russian 21 Sep 09)
      ----

      College Students Found Guilty of Murder in Moscow, But Not Hate Crime
      UCSJ, January 27, 2010

      A jury in Moscow has found two college students guilty of murdering a Tajik man during an attack on him and three other migrants, according to a January 22, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The January 21 verdict found the students guilty of "hooliganism using a weapon" and "murder motivated by hooliganism." The jury was unconvinced by the prosecutor's argument that the defendants, who confessed that they killed the victim, had acted out of ethnic hatred. The jury recommended that one of the defendants receive a reduced sentence. The Moscow City Court is expected to announce its decision on sentencing in the near future.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/college-students-found-guilty-of-murder-moscow-not-hate-crime
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      St. Petersburg Police Detain Far-Right Activist in Shooting of Anti-Fascist
      UCSJ, January 27, 2010

      Police in St. Petersburg, Russia detained a suspect in the shooting of a member of an anti-fascist group, according to a January 21, 2010 report by the Regnum news agency. The suspect is a 29 year old male who is a member of a far-right group. He faces charges of "hooliganism" and simple assault, though police are checking to see if they can tie him to other unsolved crimes.

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/st-petersburg-police-detain-far-right-activist-shooting-of-anti-fascist
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      Far-Right Activist on Trial for Murder
      UCSJ, January 27, 2010

      The murder trial of the head of the local branch of an extremist far-right group has begun in Blagoveshchensk, Russia (Amur region), according to a January 15, 2010 report in the local newspaper "Amurskaya Pravda." The defendant, who is not named in the report, heads the local branch of the Movement Against Illegal Migration (DPNI), a group linked with racist violence in several cities. He allegedly beat Chinese man to death on September 15, 2009.
      According to prosecutors, two Chinese citizens encountered the defendant and some other far-right activists near a large store. The defendant then allegedly pulled out a wooden bat and hit the victim on the head, knocking him down. He then allegedly hit
      him several times with the bat as he lay on the ground, striking him in the head and torso. The victim died four days later in the hospital.
      A security camera outside the store recorded the attack, and police detained the suspect two days later. He reportedly confessed to a personal hatred of Chinese people. Local police chief Sergey Marchenko was quoted in the article saying that the local branch of the DPNI, "beat up, terrorized and robbed foreigners--not just Chinese, but also Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz." He added that other members of the DPNI face weapons and extremism charges. It is not clear, however, if other DPNI members will be put on trial. Their leader, whose name was not mentioned in the article, faces charges of "aggravated assault motivated by ethnic hatred."

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/far-right-activist-trial-murder
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      Russian Government Stats Show Extremist Crimes Up Dramatically Since 2004
      UCSJ, January 27, 2010

      The
      head of the MVD's anti-extremism unit has released statistics on the
      number of extremist crimes in Russia, according to a January 26, 2010
      report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. General Yuri Kokov
      gave the following figures, which show a rapid growth in the number of
      such crimes over the past five years
      According to his statistics, 130 extremist crimes were recorded in 2004, 460 in 2008,
      and 549 in 2009. As usual, the MVD stats did not distinguish between hate crimes and crimes connected to Islamic extremists, insurgents in Chechnya, or even peaceful opposition demonstrators, whom police are targeting with increasing frequency by abusing anti-extremism legislation. But General Kokov did say that there are 150 neo-fascist groups active in Russia.
      General Kokov admitted that his statistics are not 100% reliable. He also added that 549 extremist crimes do not seem like much compared to the overall crime number for 2009 of 3,000,000. "Nevertheless," he said, "it ought to be pointed out that even one crime connected to the specific and delicate sphere of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations can drastically destabilize or even explode the situation, not only in one specific region, but in the entire state... That is the main danger presented by extremist incidents. Sometimes, a typical bar fight or night club brawl can lead to unpredictable consequences, including mass disorders on inter-ethnic or inter-religious grounds. It's enough to remember what happened in Kondopoga, Salsk, Kalmykiya."

      http://www.ucsj.org/news/russian-government-stats-show-extremist-crimes-dramatically-2004
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      UN must apply measures to politicians covering up Nazi crimes – Russian Jewish Federation
      Interfax-Religion, January 27, 2010

      Moscow, January 27, Interfax - The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia has urged the United Nations to snub all politicians who are trying to cover up crimes committed by the Nazis.
      "The Jewish community of Russia is urging the world community to clearly state its opinion and condemn the revision of the history of World War II at the United Nations by a special resolution against collaboration and Nazi regimes. We believe that the UN resolution must not only denounce Nazism but declare persona non grata all political figures fully or partly rehabilitating it," a statement received by Interfax-Religion on Wednesday said.
      Today, on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Red Army and ahead of the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II "it sounds especially blasphemous when representatives of Baltic States, Ukraine and other European countries say that the Nazi regime of Hitler was identical to the political system that existed in the Soviet Union when Stalin was in power."
      "We are not trying to suppress Stalin or the regime he created," the statement said.
      Nevertheless, the Federation is convinced that "we must truly study history without trying to make an idol out of some one political figure or other."
      It should also be understood that "this is work for the future rather than for the past," the statement said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6866
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      Russian Church urges PACE not to adopt resolution in defense of gay rights
      Interfax-Religion, January 27, 2010

      Moscow, January 27, Interfax - The head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk has called on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to refrain from adopting a resolution in defense of gay rights.
      "The Russian Church does not support persecutions of homosexuals. However, views on homosexuality that go against the believers' convictions should not be imposed on them through the media and the education system," Archbishop Hilarion said in an address to PACE members published on the Russian Orthodox Church website.
      Archbishop Hilarion called on the participants in the ongoing PACE session in Strasbourg "to refrain from passing any resolution on discrimination against homosexuals and revert to this issue only following its open discussion with all parties concerned."
      PACE "should follow the path of building Europe without erecting new dividing lines," he said.
      "Any alternative forms of relations between sexes that are being spread today cannot be granted legitimate status similar to the status of this social institution [family]. Considering a family alternatively means calling the very existence of society into question," Archbishop Hilarion said.
      The Russian Orthodox Church "as well as many other European religious communities, considers homosexuality a sin," he said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6861
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      Cash-strapped Russian city to sell Lenin statue
      Reuters, January 28, 2010

      MOSCOW (Reuters) - A city in Russia's south is selling its bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, as it can no longer afford the cost of repairs, Russian media reported Wednesday.
      The 14-tonne, balding figure has stood upright with one arm outstretched -- one of several typical Lenin poses -- in the main square of Voronezh, some 500 km (311 miles) southwest of Moscow, for 60 years, state-run Vesti-24 television showed.
      But the city-owned company responsible for his upkeep has gone bankrupt and is looking for a new owner who can afford present repairs costing 1.5 million roubles, popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
      "It (statue) is under state protection and the law dictates that the owner is obliged to provide free access to it," the paper quoted the head of Voronezh's culture department Ivan Chukhnov as saying. "People have to be able to visit him (Lenin), and lay flowers," he added.
      The city council of Voronezh, which has a population of around one million, was offered a brick statue of Lenin from another Russian region for the modest sum of 5,500 roubles last year, but rejected it at the last minute.
      During the time of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, statues of Lenin of all sizes were omnipresent. Though most ex-Soviet countries have since removed them, most Russian cities still have at least one, usually in the main square.
      ----

      Number Of Russian Schools In Ukraine Drops To Quarter
      Itar-Tass, January 28, 2010

      KIEV, January 28 (Itar-Tass) -- In 19 years of Ukraine's independence, the number of schools with tuition in Russian dropped to a quarter and does not exceed 1,200, Vadim Kolesnichenko, member of parliament from the opposition Party of Regions and head of the "Russian-Speaking Ukraine" human rights public movement, told a press conference on Thursday. The number of pupils in such schools decreased to one-seventh.
      "Being not the least influential person, I could not find in Kiev a kindergarten where they speak Russian," said the MP. He pointed out that in accordance with international standards a child has a right to pre-school education and tuition in junior classes in the mother tongue. He said more than 80 laws restrict the use of the Russian language and languages of ethic minorities in Ukraine. TV and radio are obliged to devote from 85 to 100 percent of the air time to broadcasts in Ukrainian. "This amounts to enforced assimilation," Kolesnichenko said.
      The MP said over 30 million Ukrainians, or 60 percent of the population, speak Russian every day. "Russian is the mother tongue of 17 million citizens," he said. Kolesnichenko said he announced these data at a round-table conference at the UN information department in the headquarters in New York on January 25. "This came as revelation to many," he said.
      Kolesnichenko commended New York's decision officially to use Russian in the political and election processes from 2010.
      Asked about the shortage of books in Ukrainian in the country, Kolesnichenko said he believes this has resulted from inefficient use of the budget. He pointed to the fact that Prosvit (education) society publishes collections of deputies' thoughts on budget funds instead of books. "Ukraine is not concerned with the Ukrainian language. It destroys other languages, and this is no democracy," Kolesnichenko said.
      ------

      Over 60% of Russian servicemen claim to be religious – ministry
      Interfax-Religion,January 28, 2010

      Moscow, January 28, Interfax - Recent years have seen a significant rise in levels of religiousness among army servicemen, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said at a session of the State Duma committee on public and religious organizations.
      Whereas in 1996 37% of all servicemen claimed to be followers of a particular religion, today this figure is 63%, with Orthodox believers accounting for 80% of all religious servicemen, Pankov said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6871
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      Moscow Patriarchate urges Orthodox believers to identify themselves as majority Church
      Interfax-Religion, January 29, 2010

      Moscow, January 29, Interfax – Renowned priest urged Orthodox Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussia and Moldavians not to be afraid of feeling themselves a majority in their countries and follow Orthodox norms of life in all its sphere.
      "You shouldn't be afraid of making it your mission: if we make a majority in our own countries – representatives of Byelorussia, Ukraine, Moldova are present here – then we have full authority to make our moral principles, our vision of the present and the future determinative in the spheres of society and state we work in," head of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said.
      Speaking at the Christmas Readings in Moscow, he urged "to change our identity so that Orthodox Christians, first of all, lay people should find their place in the spheres of state and social life they work in, they should not be people who are Christians just on Sundays and feasts, and on all other days, all other time people living in compliance with other laws, laws of this world, but they should become a live and acting community of people behaving like Orthodox Christians in an Orthodox country."
      According to the priest, this division, partly dictated by the Soviet period and partly by new apologists of secularism, is "very strange for a Christian," as "if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand," Fr. Vsevolod said.
      "A person can't divide himself or herself in a church being and a social being. A society, no matter if it is a local community or people of the country, can't divide its spiritual and the so-called secular life," Fr. Vsevolod went on to say.
      He believes "Orthodox Christians have a conciliar, joint social mission, which they can carry out working in various fields, but coordinating, uniting their efforts as Orthodox Christians, positively influencing on different spheres of social and state life."

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6872
      ====================


      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS

      RUSSIA: Supreme Court ban on Jehovah's Witnesses begins to bite
      By: Geraldine Fagan
      Forum 18 News Service, January 15, 2010

      Although 34 Jehovah's Witness publications described as extremist have not yet been added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials, public prosecutors in several Russian regions have begun issuing extremism warnings to Jehovah's Witness communities, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Also, in what is thought to be the first instance in post-Soviet Russia of extended detention in connection with sharing beliefs, two Jehovah's Witnesses informally accused of distributing extremist literature in Bryansk Region were detained for six days for "petty hooliganism". Mikhail Odintsov of the office of Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman told Forum 18 – in what he stressed was his personal view – that there was a realistic chance Jehovah's Witnesses could appeal successfully to President Dmitry Medvedev to defend their rights, if complaints were formulated in purely legal terms. He characterised the overall situation as "threatening", maintaining that "reverse Sovietisation" was taking place. "We are returning to the ideological roots of state dislike of certain religious organisations," he remarked. "These people [Jehovah's Witnesses] have no defence. What defence do they have when a court is negatively predisposed towards them, pro-Orthodox, believes that one religion should be protected from another?"
      Even though 34 Jehovah's Witness publications described as extremist have not yet been added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials, public prosecutors in disparate Russian regions have already begun issuing extremism warnings to Jehovah's Witness communities, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. In what is believed to be the first such instance in post-Soviet Russia of extended detention in connection with preaching, two Jehovah's Witnesses informally accused of distributing extremist literature in Bryansk Region were released on appeal yesterday evening (14 January), six days into a ten-day sentence for "petty hooliganism". Pointing to the general shutdown during Russia's lengthy recent holiday period, Grigory Martynov of the Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 13 January that it is too early for a comprehensive assessment of the situation, however: "We are waiting to see what the New Year will bring."
      The 34 Jehovah's Witness titles – published in Germany and the USA and widely distributed internationally - were described as extremist in a decision of Russia's Supreme Court on 8 December. Under the Extremism Law, mass distribution, preparation or storage with the aim of mass distribution of the titles could now result in a four-year prison term. The Supreme Court also upheld, as part of the ruling, the liquidation of the Taganrog Jehovah's Witness congregation as extremist. Shortly after the decision, a Court secretary insisted to Forum 18 that Jehovah's Witnesses expound extremist views in Russia. Asked if they had killed anyone, for example, she replied: "To a certain extent, yes" (see F18News 8 December 2009 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1385).
      Protests and official responses
      Protesting against the mounting pressure on his community, Vasily Kalin, a prisoner of conscience in 1983 and current head of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, had appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev as guarantor of Russia's 1993 Constitution to defend their rights and freedoms on 11 November: "The basic rights which the Jehovah's Witnesses are fighting for today are critical for the preservation of democratic freedoms in Russia."
      The Presidential Administration's 17 November response, however, as seen by Forum 18, stated only that this appeal had been referred to the Justice Ministry. It claimed this was because resolution of the questions it raised lay outside the competency of the President (Article 8, Part 3 of the 2006 Law on the Procedure for Responding to Communications from Russian Citizens). "We have the impression that the Presidential Administration is trying to distance itself from this issue," Grigory Martynov of the Jehovah's Witnesses remarked to Forum 18 on 12 January.
      The office of Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman has no legal mandate to intervene in the Jehovah's Witnesses' situation, its top official dealing with religious issues, Mikhail Odintsov, pointed out to Forum 18 on 15 January: "If there is a court decision, it has to be implemented." If a top-level court rules in contravention of human rights, only a political decision by the President as constitutional guarantor can rectify the situation, he also confirmed: "Everyone else will take refuge behind court decisions."
      Closely familiar with the Jehovah's Witnesses' plight, Odintsov suggested to Forum 18 – in what he stressed was his personal view – that there was a realistic chance they could still appeal successfully to President Medvedev if they formulated their complaints in purely legal terms – "competently, precisely and clearly (..) not 'our head hurts'." Another avenue, he suggested, would be to appeal to the Constitutional Court, since "the rights of Smith, Jones and Brown – concrete citizens – are being violated."
      Characterising the overall situation as "threatening", Odintsov – the author of an archival reader on Soviet policy towards Jehovah's Witnesses – also maintained that "reverse Sovietisation" was taking place. "We are returning to the ideological roots of state dislike of certain religious organisations," he remarked to Forum 18. "These people [Jehovah's Witnesses] have no defence. What defence do they have when a court is negatively predisposed towards them, pro-Orthodox, believes that one religion should be protected from another?"
      If the Presidential Administration is so far silent, the Justice Ministry's 11 December response to Kalin – seen by Forum 18 - unequivocally supports state action against the Jehovah's Witnesses. Since Rostov-on-Don Regional Court's 11 September ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court on 8 December, Sergei Milushkin of the Ministry explains, the 34 Jehovah's Witness publications it declared extremist are liable to confiscation and inclusion on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, while the local Jehovah's Witness organisation in Taganrog is banned and its property to be transferred to the state. Having thus entered force, stresses Milushkin, the Rostov-on-Don ruling is "binding for all state authorities, social organisations, authorised persons, citizens and organisations without exception, and is subject to strict application across the territory of the Russian Federation."
      The 34 banned Jehovah's Witness publications have to date (15 January) yet to be entered on the Federal List. Once added, their distribution will be formally banned throughout Russia under the 2002 Extremism Law (Article 13). Public distribution of religious literature is an integral part of Jehovah's Witness practice.
      According to Martynov of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Taganrog community is currently still using its property. Seven Russian regions have taken action against Jehovah's Witnesses since the Supreme Court ruling, however.
      First Russian post-Soviet detentions for sharing beliefs
      In what Jehovah's Witnesses think is the first case in post-Soviet Russia of extended detention of their members in connection with preaching, Mikhail Tomayev and Arif Ibragimov were sentenced to ten days' administrative arrest by a magistrate in Pochep (Bryansk Region) on 9 January. While the pair claim they were initially also accused of distributing extremist literature, the formal charges – also seen by Forum 18 - state that they "violated public order, used foul language in a public place, harassed citizens", or "petty hooliganism" under the Administrative Violations Code (Article 20.1, Part 1).
      Tomayev protested that he and Ibragimov were in fact "going from door to door sharing our knowledge of the Bible with people who were interested" when detained on 8 January, and that he does not use foul language "not only in public, but ever, in accordance with my conscience as instructed by the Bible." In his complaint to Pochep District Court, Tomayev also describes how, instead of heeding his plea that "the right to share one's religious convictions is a constitutional right and therefore I had not violated the law," one police officer swore at him and "expressed his dislike of me as a believer in God".
      Six days into their detention at Pochep District Police Department, Pochep District Court granted the pair's appeal and they were released at approximately 5pm on the evening of 14 January, according to their lawyer Sergei Palagin. The district court struck down the magistrate's charges primarily because "petty hooliganism" must by definition take place in public, but there were no witnesses, Palagin explained to Forum 18 on 15 January. Police initially claimed Tomayev and Ibragimov were distributing extremist literature but did not pursue this accusation, Palagin confirmed. Nevertheless, Jehovah's Witness magazines, tracts and books confiscated from the pair – he did not know the titles – have not yet been released, the lawyer told Forum 18.
      A spokesperson at Pochep District Police Department refused to comment to Forum 18 by telephone on 15 January.
      Extremism warnings given to local communities
      In Rostov-on-Don Region, Volgodonsk Public Prosecutor's Office issued an extremism warning to its local Jehovah's Witness organisation on 28 December. This pointed out that several US-published titles distributed by the community – "What Does the Bible Really Teach?", "Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life", "Worship the One True God", "My Book of Bible Stories" and "Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!" – were recognised as extremist by the 11 September Rostov-on-Don Regional Court ruling, now in force. The titles have been added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials, the warning also claims.
      Also on 28 December, the website of Arkhangelsk Regional Public Prosecutor's Office announced that its office in Arkhangelsk's Lomonosov District had issued an extremism warning to that city's central Jehovah's Witness community after conducting a check-up in response to appeals from the regional branch of Russia's Writers' Union and the Anti-Sectarian Information Centre, a social organisation. The check-up found that the Jehovah's Witnesses had violated the 2002 Extremism Law by distributing materials "aimed at inciting hatred towards the Christian and other religions". The tracts "Awake!" and "Watchtower" are mentioned, as is the brochure "Jehovah's Witnesses. Who Are They? What Do They Believe?", a title a<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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