The adoption of the Yarovaya Law, therefore, opened the door to liquidating Jehovah’s Witnesses communities on the basis of their possessing “extremist” literature.
And a recent Supreme Court decision has opened the door to liquidating Jehovah’s Witnesses communities in Russia.
Russia divides all faiths into “traditional” and “nontraditional.” This concept, while absent from the Russian Law on Religious Freedom (although mentioned in the law’s preamble), has been introduced under pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and Patriarch Kirill personally.
The part of the law that has already come into force and has received the broadest coverage consists of the statutes regulating liability for failure to report “extremist activity”—a very broadly defined set of activities under Russian law, ranging from calls for violence to the vague “incitement of racial, nationalist and religious hatred” and “propaganda of exceptionalism” based on religion or nationality.
The part of the Yarovaya Law that has received much less attention is the provision imposing new restrictions on missionary work.
As a result, the police and the prosecutor’s office now consider the activity of religious groups lacking official registration as illegal—a change from the recent past.
The recent court proceedings against Jehovah’s Witnesses are a case in point.
Just ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the crackdown on civic activism in Russia would target religious communities, not just NGOs. The Russian state persecutes Baptists, Pentecostals, and Adventists and closes down Orthodox parishes that are not part of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Keep up with this story and more For the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed, preachers are now being fined for proclaiming God’s word outside church buildings.
The law now imposes a fine of 50,000 rubles on a private citizen for illegal preaching and up to 1 million rubles on a religious organization.