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Russia: Re-Registration Figures For Religious Organizations

Tuesday, September 4, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags:

By Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

OXFORD, ENGLAND (ANS) - According to the as yet unpublished official Ministry of Justice figures, 20,215 religious organizations were re-registered in Russia by the deadline of 31 December 2000. Speaking to Keston on 2 April, head of the department for re-registration of religious organizations, Viktor Korolyov, confirmed that 10 per cent of those registered before the adoption of the 1997 law on religion, or approximately 1,500 organizations, had failed to re-register. He stressed, however, that no one was rushing to liquidate them, but that this would take place 'in accordance with the law'.

With 10,912, the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) comprises just over half the total of organizations re-registered by 1 January 2001. With 3,048 re-registered organizations, Islam appears to be the next largest, but taken together Protestant Churches account for approximately 3,800 organizations, and Protestantism may thus be considered to have overtaken Islam as Russia's second largest confession.

Considered separately, the largest Protestant Churches are the Pentecostals (1,323 organizations), the Evangelical Christian-Baptists (975) and evangelical Christians (612). Next come the Adventists (563) and the Jehovah 's Witnesses (330), whom Keston has not included in the 3,800 figure. Three traditional Churches, the Old Believers (278), Roman Catholics (258) and Lutherans (213), follow. Russia's two so-called traditional confessions besides Orthodoxy and Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, come next, with 197 and 193 re-registered organizations respectively. The only other groups to have more than 100 organizations re-registered are the Presbyterians (192), non-denominational Christians (156) and the Hare Krishnas (106).

If one compares the rate of increase over the past five years for those confessions who currently have 15 or more re-registered organizations, a different but no less interesting picture emerges. Compared with registration figures for 1 January 1996, the fastest growing groups are indigenous Russian sects - the Church of the Last Testament (the followers of Vissarion, based in Krasnoyarsk region) and the Church of the Sovereign Mother of God (previously known as the Bogorodichny Tsentr and led by Ioann Bereslavsky). Although both of these groups are small - with 15 and 28 organizations respectively - they have grown sevenfold since 1996.

The next fastest increase has been enjoyed by the pagans, whose organizations have increased by almost six fold to 41. After them come the fastest growing Christian Churches - the Full Gospel Church (with 62 organizations) and the Pentecostals, who have both increased approximately fourfold. With just under a fourfold rate of increase, and a surprisingly small (33) number of organizations, are the Mormons. Both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Adventists have had their organizations increase by significantly less - approximately 155 per cent since 1996.

Not renowned for their mission activity in the same way as many of those mentioned so far, two denominations from within Russia's so-called traditional confessions have nevertheless also managed an increase of 150 per cent - the Jews and the True Orthodox Church (65 organizations). Evangelical Christians and Evangelical Christians in the Spirit of the Apostles (a Pentecostal denomination with 54 re-registered organizations) also enjoyed this rate of growth. Next come the Methodists (85 organizations) and Old Believers, both of whom grew by approximately 75 per cent.

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