Vladimir Lukin Saves Russian Protestants from the Consequences of “Prophylactic Measures”

Source: HRO.org (info), 01/02/12

· Freedom of Conscience  · Ombudsmen  · Republic of Bashkortostan

On 30 January 2012 it became known that a letter from Artur Surin, minister of education of the Republic of Bashkortostan, to his subordinates had been withdrawn at the insistence of the Public Prosecutor's Office. In the letter Artur Surin had cited Protestant organisations as an example of “foreign religious organisations of a destructive nature.”

The review of Artur Surin's letter by the Public Prosecutor's Office was conducted at the request of Vladimir Lukin, Russian human rights Ombudsman, who had brought the issue to the attention of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation on 19 January 2011.

The review concluded that on 25 October 2011 Artur Surin had sent a letter to leading officials in the local ministry of education and to the heads of educational institutions in Bashkortostan “which maintained that foreign religious organisations of a destructive nature, whose activities are aimed at destroying social and family ties and values, ethnic traditions and cultures and a refusal to fulfil civic duties etc., present a threat to the safety of the state".

As Sova Centre points out, the letter was written as part of "prophylactic measures to combat extremist activities" and was "motivated by the requirements” of the Federal Law "On Combating Extremist Activities".

The letter from the ministry included a list of religious organisations being referred to, which included Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, Evangelical Christian-Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists.

The Public Prosecutor's Office ruled that “the religious organisations mentioned are officially registered in Russia and carry out their activities on Russian soil in accordance with Russian law.” Furthermore: "In the context of the letter, the list of religious organisations cited may serve as grounds for a possible interpretation that these organisations are being classified alongside those whose activities encroach upon individual and civic rights and the security of the state.”