For Immediate Release
March 9, 2010
Confiscation of religious property in Russia begins
TAGANROG, Russia—On March 1, 2010, law enforcement officers closed down and sealed the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Taganrog, Rostov Region.
Confiscation of the building was one of the prosecutor’s demands in the judicial proceedings on the liquidation of the Taganrog Local Religious Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. The building was built in 2006 by local Jehovah’s Witnesses, who financed its construction and use with their own voluntary contributions. Since then it has served as a center for Bible study and religious services, which were free and open to the public.
Coincidentally or not, the law enforcement officers showed up to close the building the day after Jehovah’s Witnesses concluded their distribution of the tract Could It Happen Again? A Question for the Citizens of Russia, which had an estimated circulation in Russia of 12 million copies. That publication quoted excerpts from the address of Russia’s president, who condemned the violation of human rights and restriction on freedom that had been allowed in the past.
This is the first case in democratic Russia in which a religious building owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses was confiscated. About 60 years ago, houses and property of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were confiscated, and the Witnesses were exiled to Siberia “for permanent residence.” More than a decade later, the Order of the U.S.S.R. Supreme Council dated September 30, 1965, finally set them free, and the Order of the RF President dated March 14, 1996, fully exonerated them and declared them victims of political repression.
“Under the Soviet regime,” said Vasily Kalin, chairman of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jehovah’s Witnesses first were ostracized from public life and were forced to go underground. Then they were declared to be gloomy sectarians who had chosen for themselves to hide from people. Again we’re seeing a similar picture today regarding the Witnesses. While their property is being confiscated under the pretext of fighting extremism, the property that was previously taken from other religions is being returned.”
In Russia: Grigory Martynov, telephone +7 (812) 702-26-91
In USA: J.R. Brown, telephone +1 718 560 5600