Religious affairs in Russia now under control of security services, Lunkin says

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) 

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Roman Lunkin, president of the Russian Experts Guild on Religion and Law, says that “religious policy in Russia [as was the case in Soviet times] was given over to the force structures” and that this means the only thing that religious communities can do is “to conduct themselves with courage.”

Roman Lunkin

Roman Lunkin

In an interview to the Portal-Credo.ru portal, Lunkin argues that the Kremlin’s policy toward religion and its decision to hand over almost exclusive control over religious policy to the force structures is “quite absurd, illogical, and senseless” because “there are no rational goals of this policy whatsoever.”

All other government officials have been “de facto” removed from having oversight or responsibility for religious affairs, and the actions of the force structures have not succeeded in achieving their stated goals:

  • churches that the government doesn’t like continue to function,
  • missionaries haven’t become fewer,
  • and neither represents the threat the Kremlin says.

“As a result,” Lunkin continues,

“we are getting a whole line of dissatisfied religious groups and movements which simply are going into the underground.”

If any of the targets of the siloviki represented a threat to the Moscow Patriarchate, one could understand these actions if hardly approve of them, the specialist on religious law says. But none of them are “real competitors” to the Russian Orthodox Church. Hence the explanation for what is happening must be sought elsewhere.

Lunkin says that at the present time,

the various siloviki groups are competing among themselves to see how far they can go in “cleansing” the entire society from any Christian groups that are not subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. This represents a significant change from what was happening earlier.

Until recently, he says, the siloviki were focused almost exclusively “on Muslim groups and movements, independent and semi-underground,” in which there were some potential or real supporters of extremist ideals. But “after the adoption of the Yarovaya Law,” they shifted their focus to Christian and especially independent Orthodox groups.

At the same time, Lunkin points out, the siloviki are going after Protestant groups that they assume may be carriers of Maidan-like ideas. Among these are the Evangelical churches because the special services believe that “in any critical political situation, they always support freedom and human rights.”

All these Christian denominations are in an even worse situation than the Muslim groups were because the government has decided to hand religious policy over to the force structures and keep all other government agencies out.

That makes it impossible for these religious groups to appeal to the courts or to administrative officials with much hope of success.

Such targets of the siloviki can only show courage and thus become the latest in a long line of “heroes of the faith” in Russia, Lunkin concludes.


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Edited by: A. N.

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