The Pentecostal community; including its hierarchy; in Barnaul: the name of the church and the pastor, the size of the community, its treatment, and whether there were any incidents of abuse of members in 1996 and 1997 (January 1996 - January 1999) [RUS30955.E]

The No. 6 issue in 1997 of Frontier [published by the Keston Institute in London, a charity researching religious communities in the former USSR and Eastern Europe] states:

On 26 June [1997] a Keston representative visited Staraya Kupavna, a small town an hour's drive east of Moscow city centre where nineteenth-century convicts would stop for prayers in the cathedral-style Church of the Holy Trinity on their way to Siberia. The local mayor's deputy Grigori Kuznyany, who deals with religious matters in the area, granted Keston an interview....In his view only the Russian Orthodox Church and Islam were acceptable religious denominations in his area. A Pentecostal group called 'Proryv' ('Breakthrough') which met three days a week in Staraya Kupavna was 'not legal' and 'used hypnotism', he said, adding 'I do not recognise any sect at all.'

Kuznyany's mention of hypnotism takes on extra significance when one considers that legislation recently passed by the Russian Duma specifically includes the use of 'hypnotism' as possible grounds for denying legal registration to a religious group. If the authorities decide to label as 'hypnotism' Pentecostal practices such as 'speaking in tongues', hundreds of congregations in Russia will be threatened.

Valeri Kuzmichev, a member of the Pentecostal Proryv group from Staraya Kupavna, also spoke to Keston on 26 June. He described how the congregation now met in a private flat, where there was unfortunately enough room for only about 20 of them. As they badly need more space they are now collecting money to buy land and build what they need.

Proryv had been able to rent a room for their services in the Staraya Kupavna Palace of Culture until Fr. Andrei [priest-in-charge of the Church of the Holy Trinity], whose church was only 50 metres from this building, objected. Local enterprise directors had held weekly meetings with the Staraya Kupavna mayor, who under pressure from Fr. Andrei asked the director of the Palace of Culture to ban the Pentecostals from his premises. Valeri Kuzmichev showed Keston the one-storey music school where Proryv had managed to hold meetings from July 1996 until January 1997....In January of this year, said the Pentecostals, Fr. Andrei put pressure on the local administration yet again to evict them from these premises....

Even if the new legislation was passed by the Council of the Federation and then approved by President Yeltsin and thus became law, Valeri Kuzmichev told Keston that his group was not worried: 'God is more powerful than political institutions. We will continue.' He said that if necessary his group would join the nationwide union of Pentecostal congregations, which was organised after the loosening of state controls enabled Pentecostals to form their own counterpart to the old Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.

What Kuzmichev did not know is that the Pentecostal Union itself fails to meet the new standards which the Duma wants to impose, since it was legally registered only in the late 1980s - less than 15 years ago. Thus if the proposed new restrictions are strictly enforced, the Pentecostal Union will itself lose its state registration and most of its legal rights (10, 11).

A 10 October 1997 Moscow Times article states:

In defiance of Russia's controversial law intended to curb the proliferation of nontraditional religions, about 11,000 followers of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity from all over the former Soviet Union are gathering in Moscow this week led by U.S. evangelist Morris Cerullo. Organizers said Thursday that they expected more than 20,000 participants on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings when the event, called "World Celebration of Joy," is open to the public and advertised in the papers....

But they [the Pentecostals] are seen as a "sect" by many traditional Christians around the world, and they could be among the denominations to be restricted by the law on religion passed last month that limits the rights of some nontraditional faiths that were not officially recognized in Soviet times. Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky, chairman of the Russian Unified Fellowship of the Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), said there are currently about 600,000 Pentecostalists in Russia. In Moscow alone, there are more than 65 Pentecostal churches, he said. He estimates that only about a quarter of Russia's Pentecostal communities were planted by foreign missionaries and the rest were founded by Russians....Sergei Ryakhovsky said that the fellowship he chairs was formed last month as a reaction to the "real threat for all Christians" that the believes, is posed by the new law on religion. The fellowship brings together Russia's Pentecostal and Charismatics, but he said its formation was just the first stage of unification. The second stage will be a nondoctrinal public alliance of all evangelical Christians - Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and others....

Some participants of the conference refused to talk to the Moscow Times because they said they were scared of persecution. "There are forces against our Jesus(the authorities in Moscow, in the Duma. We are afraid," said an elderly woman from Kiron who refused to give her name. But for others the dangers of persecution only strengthened their spirit. "We feel such a power of God that nobody is going to stop us," said Avgusta Fateeva, 60, who came from Tyumen, Western Siberia. "The more persecution, the stronger the divine grace."

A 26 October 1998 Christianity Today article states:

One year after Russia enacted a controversial law restricting religious freedom, Protestants and Roman Catholics say the measure has had a chilling effect on religious activity nationwide. Russia's controversial law on religion, signed a year ago by President Boris Yeltsin (CT, Nov. 17, 1997, p. 66), has produced what attorney Vladimir Ryakhovsky, president of the Christian Legal Center, calls "an atmosphere of intolerance." The law has initiated a season of religious harassment and discrimination, while official favors are visited on Russia's dominant Orthodox Church and other "traditional" religions.

Although abuse most often has occurred in rural areas and Russia's remote East, religious minorities in Moscow have not been spared. Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Catholic believers (both Russian nationals and foreign missionaries(have experienced problems. There have been evictions and restrictions on teaching, publishing, and distributing literature. Church registrations have been revoked. Taxation has been excessive, and attempts to close down churches or other ministries through the courts have been implemented.

Discrimination has come mainly at the hands of local government officials, federal agents, Orthodox priests and parishioners, local police, Cossacks, Communists, nationalists, and fascists. Religious-rights attorneys in Moscow appealed to the Constitutional Court in July, citing four cases of violations.

A case against Pentecostal Word of Life Church in Magadan, in the far eastern part of Russia, illustrates the religious bias problems. For now, it appears that church has triumphed in court. The district prosecutor tried to take registration and legal rights away from the church, a member of the centralized Russian Associated Evangelical Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostal), first legally registered in 1970, reregistered in 1989, and again in 1990 under Russia's previous religion law. The prosecutor accused the pastor of using hypnosis to influence people who attended the church, saying the faith was "nontraditional" and only a Russian under hypnotic influence would attend a church that is not Orthodox or Muslim. Tithing was also viewed as a problem. The prosecutor concluded a "normal" person would not sacrifice 10 percent of his income to support a church.

The 400-member church was accused of destroying families and the mental health of its members. Only one case was presented as evidence in which a nonbelieving husband protested that his converted wife wanted to raise their children according to biblical principles. In an attempt to prove that attendance at the church destroyed psychological health, the prosecutor singled out one woman in the congregation receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital. But witnesses testified that she had a history of psychiatric treatment. Ryakhovsky, the attorney representing the church, refuted the charges, and the prosecutor claimed he "hadn't prepared enough" and indefinitely postponed the trial. Ryakhovsky remains confident the case will not resurface. "We're proving that we can defend religious freedom through the courts," says Anatoly Pchelintsev, director of the Institute of Religion and Law (IRt.).

No references to the Pentecostal hierarchy in Russia, and the Pentecostal community in Barnaul, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Christianity Today [n.p.] 26 October 1998. Beverley Nickles. "Turning Back the Clock: Non-Orthodox Christians Have Less Freedom Than a Year Ago; Russia; Brief Article." (NEXIS)

Frontier [London]. Xenia Dennen. 1997. No. 6. Pentecostal Group Survives Despite Pressure From Local Administration."

The Moscow Times. 10 October 1997. Andrei Zolotov Jr. "Pentecostals Aim to Show Russia the Light." (NEXIS)