Genesis of Russia's ban on LRH works

mnql1

Patron Meritorious
Translation of a July 21, 2010 Russian article from Portal-Credo.Ru, a website dedicated to news about religion.

This translation was 80 per cent done when Portal-Credo.Ru posted an English translation of its own on July 29, 2010, but I finished the translation anyway. The "official" translation incorrectly identifies the assistant to the Surgut transport prosecutor as Vadim Lvov; the correct name is Vadim Lykov, who can be seen in the video that follows the translation.

tl;dr: Two years elapsed between the time that Surgut customs seized sets of the "Basics" that had been mailed to Scientologists in Surgut and the Surgut City Court's decision that these LRH works should be added to the Russian Federation's official list of prohibited extremist materials. The author argues that fervent Orthodox advisers who have a history of opposing Scientology persuaded the authorities that Scientologists intended to infiltrate a key oil company, a suspicion he finds exaggerated.

Original article in Russian, July 21, 2010:
http://portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=78959&cf=

Portal-Credo.Ru's English translation, July 291, 2010:
http://portal-credo.ru/site/?act=english&id=375

Saving the Oil from ... Scientologists

Spy fears and the prohibition of religious books in the oil and gas capital of Russia

by Aleksey Malyutin,
Surgut - Khanty-Mansiysk - Moscow,
for Portal-Credo.Ru
July 21, 2010, 18:00

The story began more than two years ago, in March 2008, when several parcels arrived at the central post office in Surgut (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Russia) from "FLAG SERVICE ORGANIZATION", one of the structures of the Church of Scientology. Complete sets of Scientology's basic books were mailed to five local residents who belong to a religious group of Scientologists (local authorities refuse to register their organization, or church). However, the Scientologists did not receive the parcels because the Surgut customs took the parcels to its warehouse.

Initially, the problem did not have a "religious component". Customs officials merely suspected that, behind the appearance of a charitable purpose, the items received from the U.S.A. were commercial goods for which a customs fee should be paid. The parcels were sent for expert examination to Khanty-Mansiysk and they quickly came to the attention of Archpriest Nikolay Matviychuk, local dean of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP) and Galina Vydrina, who advises the district governor on religious policy. Father Nikolay and Ms. Vydrina are widely known in their region as the foremost opponents of "sects", chief among them the Scientologists, whom Professor Alexander Dvorkin angrily denounced in the lectures he gave in Yugra when he was specially invited to the district.

Galina Vydrina opened the eyes of the customs officers to the subversive nature of the mailed "pseudo-religious dope". The Surgut transport prosecutor's office stepped in, suspecting the Scientology books of "extremism" which, were it to spread throughout the oil and gas capital of Russia, as Surgut is considered, would be a threat to the security of a fundamental sector of the national economy. Customs handed the parcels over to the transport prosecutor's office, from which it was only in September that Scientologists received a reply to their numerous requests. This response, long before the March 26, 2010 decision of the Surgut court, which is discussed below, stated that the detained literature is "extremist".

The transport prosecutor's office soon brought an action in the Surgut City Court, requesting that the Scientology "Basics" (a set of writings and lectures by the founder of this religious movement, Ron Hubbard) be recognized as "extremist". When they learned this was happening, the persons to whom the books were sent, and later the American publisher of the books, tried to become a party to the procedure, pointing out that it directly affected their interests. However, during the year and a half over which the process dragged on, the Scientologists were not allowed to get involved.

Judge Anufrikov began by attempting to understand the crux of the matter independently, rejecting the initial analysis by Vydrina and turning for a new expert opinion to the Department of Clinical Psychology (sic!) of Surgut State University. In December 2008, the specialists of the department, citing lack of payment for their services, refused to provide expert opinion to the court, and Judge Anufrikov suddenly retired and left Surgut.

In mid-February 2009 the case went to Judge Pavel Shkilev, deputy chairman of the Surgut City Court, who brought the case to its logical end in March 2010. The prosecution was represented in court by Vadim Lykov, assistant to the Surgut transport prosecutor, and his work was overseen by Irina Shiryayeva, senior assistant to the Surgut transport prosecutor of the Ural transport prosecutor's office. Overall supervision was by Surgut deputy transport prosecutor Nikolay Shiryayev (presumably Irina'a husband).

The case initially did not move very fast. In February 2009, the news anchorwoman on "SurgutInformTV" quoted a source in the prosecutor's office who asserted, "It's unlikely this literature will be ruled extremist. The Surgut experts will probably express the traditional scientific view about its nature." Once again, the governor's adviser, Galina Vydrina, played a key role in driving this process, closely cooperating with sect expert Alexander Dvorkin. Adviser Vydrina makes no secret of her Orthodox convictions. In May 2010, for example, she presented the stand of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous district at the "Orthodox Russia" exhibition at the Moscow Manege. The stand was prepared by the district administration and bore the title "Orthodox Revival and Continuity of Generations." Vydrina gave to Patriarch Cyril and to Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of the President of the Russian Federation, an album with an account of her work to revitalize the parishes of the ROC MP and to fight against "sectarianism".

In an interview with the Surgut newspaper V Tsentre Sobytiy ["At the Center of Events"], Dvorkin said that, since 1999, he regularly "studies which sects are active in the territory of the autonomous district." He said that his main ally in the district is Nikolay Matviychuk, archpriest of the temple in honor of the Holy Spirit in Nefteyugansk and dean of the ROC MP in the territory of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District. In the Tyumen-Tobolsk eparchy of the ROC MP, Archpriest Matviychuk is also characterized as an active fighter against "sects", and for this he has a number of church and community awards. The archpriest enjoys enormous influence among leaders in the district.

In the just-mentioned interview, Dvorkin singled out Scientologists as one of the "most dangerous" and active "sects" in the district. He remarked: "Many cults are registered in Russia as non-profit organizations and, outwardly, behave accordingly. Scientologists cloak themselves behind non-profit "Dianetics Centers", "Narconon" and "Criminon" rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, "Studemo" learning centers, and "Hubbard Humanitarian Centers". The "Spiritual Revival of Yugra" website, whose editor is Galina Vydrina and which is funded from the district budget and hosted on the official server of the autonomous district's administration, has a special "anti-sect" section, where materials against Scientology have been posted for many years already. This site very actively promotes the ROC MP, which is identified with the Russian state and government. At Vydrina's request, district authorities allocate significant funds from their budget for the filming of TV programs and movies on Orthodoxy, for implementing "programs of patriotic education for strengthening the spiritual values of young people through the study of the inseparable connection between the history of the State and Orthodoxy and through Biblical hours with ministers" (quotation from a report by Galina Vydrina). Her leadership and funding also support the annual Slavyanskiy khod missionary expedition, during which ministers of the ROC MP perform religious rites in remote parts of the county, in addition to exposing "sects" using Dvorkin's guidelines.

The issue of combating "sectarianism" and, in particular, the denunciation of Scientology, is a constant theme at the annual Cyril and Methodius Readings conference held every spring in Khanty-Mansiysk under the official sponsorship of the "United Russia" political party. Another annual event is the regional Christmas readings in Khanty-Mansiysk every February, after the conclusion of the All-Russia Christmas readings. Galina Vydrina and other local Orthodox activists talk about the program and the results of the Moscow Christmas readings and organize topical sections and roundtables that exactly match the corresponding sections of the Moscow readings conferences, including the "antisectarian" subjects. Between 120 and 150 persons participate in the readings conferences, mainly teachers, who are invited to the readings conferences and are accommodated in the city at public expense.

During a personal conversation, Galina Vydrina once admitted that she considers Scientology a criminal organization which poses a threat to the authorities and to the security of the country. The "ban on Scientologists" in Surgut was a matter of principle for the local authorities and the Russian security services, because based on advice from some of the Moscow experts in their entourage, they became firmly convinced that Scientologists were aiming to penetrate the strategic assets Surgutneftegaz and Gazprom.

Thus, in April 2009, the detained literature was again assigned to Galina Vydrina for expert analysis. To conduct this analysis, she enlisted the services of Evgeny Volkov, a well-known "sect expert" and lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, and Marina Belyakova, director of the Institute of Manuscripts and Ancient Books. On March 26, 2010, based on the conclusion of this study, the Surgut City Court issued a decision recognizing Scientology literature as extremist. The court decision contains much language which, from a legal point of view, is incorrect, for example "citizens of the City of Surgut". After a delay of more than a month, on May 1, 2010, the Surgut court posted on its official site a press release about the outcome of the judicial process. In the press release, the fundamental reason for which the literature was ruled extremist is stated in a peculiar way: it "undermines the traditional spiritual foundations of the lives of citizens of the Russian federation." The court also acknowledged that the works of Hubbard contain "ideas justifying violence, in general, and in particular, any means of opposing critics of Scientology. They contain both explicit and implicit appeals to social and religious discord. They promote exclusiveness on the grounds that a person's superiority or inferiority depends on his or her social and religious affiliation and attitude to religion. They contain appeals to impede the lawful activities of state bodies, in particular judicial and law enforcement agencies. They contain appeals to commit crimes motivated by ideological and religious hatred." The press release did not provide any specific quotations or references from the literature.

The process was significantly influenced by letters that the district administration and the prosecutor's office received from Archpriest Nikolay Matviychuk and other representatives of the ROC MP. The organizers of the process knew beforehand that, on March 8, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights might decide to oblige the Russian authorities to register a religious organization of Scientologists in Surgut. It was decided to counter this by another decision of the Russian court. It was at the suggestion of Archpriests Nikolay Matviychuk and Petr Egorov that Mufti Tagir Samatov, chairman of Regional Spiritual Board of Khanty-Mansi Muslims, wrote his letter "against Scientology".

The mainstay organization in Surgut is the Surgutneftegaz Open Joint Stock Company, which is ranked seventh in terms of revenue in the Russian Federation (2009 data). Its head is oligarch Vladimir Bogdanov, who holds 158th place among the world's richest people according to Forbes magazine. Surgutneftegaz occupies a key place in Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ownership structure, because a significant proportion of exports from the oil extracted by Surgutneftegaz is shipped by the Swiss oil trader Gunvor, which belongs to Putin's friend Gennady Timchenko. Consequently, some of the profits from this oil accrue to Gunvor's accounts. Surgutneftegaz is one of Russia's largest commodity companies, yet its beneficial owners are not known.

Fear, as the saying goes, takes molehills for mountains. Someone at the top seriously believed the threat of "sectarian" penetration into a strategic company, given that the reputation created for Scientologists by the works of Mr. Dvorkin allows the acceptance of any spy "scenario".

The Surgut court’s ruling that Scientology literature is extremist was announced on Wed. April 21, 2010 and SurgutInformTV (STV) broadcast a brief news report about this decision on Tues. April 27. A subtitled version of the STV news report is shown below. The source for this video can be found on the STV website.

YouTube - Scientology Literature Declared Extremist and Outlawed in Russia, April 2010

Link to a snapshot of the Russian article translated above:
http://yfrog.com/cbportalcredo20100721j
 

VaD

Gold Meritorious Patron
Another namesake (Vadim). :clap: :D

(actually, "Vadim" in Russia is not such a common name) :)
 

Sign of Success

Patron with Honors
Well...in few words, have the Basics books and lectures received by the person
who ordered them?

I mean, has that poor guy obtained his books without being accused on spying
at Russian oil companies?
 
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