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Open letter

May 8, 2001

To: Oleg Orestovich Mironov, Russian Federation Plenipotentiary for Human Rights
Copy: Russian Federation mass media
Copy: Russian Federation rights protection organizations

From: Y.M. Azbenova, responsible for Public Relations of Hubbard Humanitarian Center.

Dear Oleg Orestovich,

On April 23-25, several employees of the Dianetics Center of Nizhny Novgorod and I had a chance to be eyewitnesses of the sittings of the international conference "Totalitarian Sects - a Threat of the 21st century." Even the very name of the conference glared with intolerance and extremism. But as to what was happening at the sittings, it amazed the viewers.

The reporters of the conference were people like Alexander Dvorkin (his Iriney of Leon Center was one of the organizers of that activity), Thomas Gandow (Germany), Deacon Andrey Kurayev, Priest Vladimir Zaitsev, Prof. Fedor Kondratiev, Novgorod State University lecturer E. Volkov, Protopriest Dmitry Smirnov, Prof. Johannes Agaard, German priest Rudiger Haut, French Minister Alain Vivien - they are all people, who are known for attacking religious minorities. They are people spreading lies and hatred about religious minorities and new religious movements.

Among the participants of the activity was a Gerald Armstrong - an American citizen, hiding from American justice in Canada. In 1997 the Court of the State of California made a resolution to arrest him immediately, nonetheless he was invited to Russia by the organizers of the conference.

It is noteworthy that information about this activity was disseminated by the organizing administration of the President of the Russian Federation as a part of a plan of main activities, conducted by federal and local authorities of the Russian Federation. It appears that a Presidential apparatus supported this activity that is anti-constitutional in its origin.

During the three days, streams of hatred and slander were directed at religious minorities, religious unions and spiritual self-development movements in the hall where the conference took place.

Here are, for instance, some of the topics of the reports delivered at the conference:
"Totalitarian sects in Russia before the beginning of the 21st century" (reporter Alexander Dvorkin);
"Mormon sect: secret occultism under the mask of Christianity" (reporter Rudiger Haut);
"The problem of popular occultism (Roerichists and others)" (reporter Deacon Andrei Kuraev);
"Psychological-psychiatric aspects of the problem of sectarianism" (reporter Prof. Fedor Kondratiev);
"Psychical violence in sects and methods of help to its victims" (reporter Evgeny Volkov, PhD, Novgorod State University);
"Jehovah's Witnesses: quasi-communist ideology pretending to be a religion" (reporter Thomas Gandow);
"Moonism as a threat of social danger in modern Russia" (reporter Deacon Lev Semenov).

Even Roerich's cultural centers and "Ringing cedars of Russia" (Anastasia). Here are topics of two reports delivered at the conference:
"Cult of Anastasia: forest temptation for post-soviet intellectuals" (reporter Priest Peter Ivanov)
"Problem of popular occultism (Roerichists and others)" (reporter Andrei Kuraev).

Accusations of psycho terror, brainwashing, zombifying personalities, breaking families were thrown at religious minorities and new religious movements. What's demonstrative is that not a single fact supporting such claims was presented. All that slander was given as imperturbable and self- evident truth.

The same slanderous claims were made in the final document as an attitude towards religious minorities in Russia.

Another noteworthy fact: the representative of the city administration responsible for relations with religious and public organizations, a Mr. Simonov, declared, when sending out announcements about the activity, that it is open and entrance is free. However, when some people expressed their disagreement to the attitude of the reporters and said to the organizers that with their announcements they cause religious discord, they were driven out of the hall by security. In this way, five Scientologists were taken out of the hall, and they were also trying to lead out a representative of the local Roerich Center. One journalist of a local newspaper was stopped at the very entrance to the conference and she was not allowed to be present at the sittings. Later, only those journalists who wanted to describe the conference as a positive phenomenon were let in.

The same intolerance was expressed by the organizers towards reporters who expressed an opinion different from theirs. Thus V.I. Ibragimov, NLSU PhD student, who was trying to prove that an intolerant attitude towards new religious movements and religious minorities is illegal, was rudely mocked and dismissed by Alexander Dvorkin, who was giving a talk after him.

Another fact, showing the real marrow of this conference. At the same time, near the building of the conference, local Scientologists, known worldwide for their activity in protecting freedom of conscience, were conducting a demonstration about the protection of Constitution. They were handing out newspapers " Freedom and human rights", pamphlets "Revival of freedom of conscience" and were just standing with signs with quotations from the Constitution of the Russian Federation:

" Russian Federation Constitution, article 28.
Everyone is guaranteed freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, including a right to confess religious or other views individually or in a group or to confess no religion, to choose freely, to have and to spread religious and other convictions and act according to them.

" Russian Federation Constitution, article 29.
Propaganda and agitation that causes religious hatred and enmity is prohibited. Propaganda of religious superiority is forbidden.

The participants of the conference reacted inappropriately to the demonstration: they tore the bills and newspapers out of their hands and cut them to pieces, called demonstrators terrorists, provoked them to conflict and even tried to disperse the demonstration using police.

As for the representative of the city administration, he was only interested in demonstrators not interfering with the conference. Neither the violation of the Constitution that was happening at the conference, nor the intolerant attitude and hooligan-like behavior towards the demonstration that was protecting Constitution, were taken into consideration by him. I will remind you that it was I. V. Simonov, a clerk responsible for relations with public and religious organizations at the level of city administration.

Another fact. The Governor of Nizhny Novgorod region, the Mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, the Russian Federation President’s Plenipotentiary in the Privolzhsky region were sent letters with warnings about the anti- constitutional nature of the conference being prepared. However, the only thing they did was not give any greeting speeches at the beginning of the conference. No actions were taken that could bring about the maintaining of Constitutional rights of religious minorities.

The worst thing is that by spreading hatred, the organizers of the conference were trying to force their ideas on teachers, doctors and journalists by organizing so-called "round tables," while in reality these were starting places for propaganda of intolerance among the public of Nizhny Novgorod.

Dear Mr. Plenipotentiary,

I am extremely worried that Russia is becoming a place of anti-religious propaganda and intolerance, that people known for their destructive activity in the field of freedom of conscience are invited. Russians have always had a quality of religious tolerance and now I'm worried that foreigners with doubtful reputations supported by vile religious extremists covering themselves with the Russian Orthodox Church are trying to destroy the Constitutional structure of our country, encroaching on the freedom of faith.

I ask you to consider this situation and take measures in your power to stop the extremist activity of St. Iriney of Leon Center headed by A.L. Dvorkin, and also the above-mentioned organizations and people who took part in organizing and conducting the conference "Totalitarian Sects - a Threat of the 21st century".

We, on our part, can be depended on to do everything we can to not let religious intolerance and hatred towards believers of any confession grow.

With respect,

Yulia Maratovna Azbenova
responsible for public relations of Hubbard Humanitarian Center.



This document in original Russian

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