Anatoly Krasikov, president of the Moscow chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association and former Yeltsin aide, spoke out during a meeting on March 29 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters.
Asked about the prospects for religious freedom in Russia, Krasikov pointed to recent changes in the country’s leadership.
“On the one hand, President Vladimir Putin, in his mid-January declaration, emphasized that it should be remembered that Russia is multi-religious and that religious liberty must be safeguarded,” said Krasikov. “But on the other hand, Putin also made sure that the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was present in the transfer of power and given a bodyguard from the Kremlin. In this way one can see that the same line adopted by President Yeltsin is being adopted.”
Krasikov said he wanted to remain hopeful for the future, but there were aspects of concern, especially in the area of church and state.
“We always hope for the best. Russia, after all, is not like Turkmenistan, which is now worse than North Korea in its religious freedom and human rights violations. United States founding father James Madison warned that ‘When there is a union of state and church, this has often resulted in using religion to uphold political tyranny.’ Madison’s warning has proved extraordinarily true for many countries. On the territory of the former Soviet Union, there are some new states, for example, Turkmenistan, where this political tyranny already exists.”
Illustrative of the religious intolerance of the government of Turkmenistan is its actions in bulldozing an Adventist Church and imprisoning and expelling Baptist and Adventist pastors.
Krasikov also warned against those who wished to use religion in government.
“A considerable part of the political elite and part of the Orthodox clergy continue to undertake great efforts in an attempt to turn Orthodoxy into a new government ideology. Supporters of the clericalization of the government, acting within the Russian Orthodox Church, are trying to bring potential members into the church by means of secular authority.”
In response to the argument that such matters are purely internal matters for individual countries, Krasikov pointed to the resolution of the Moscow Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1991. “Questions concerning the rights of man, fundamental freedoms, democracy and supremacy of law, are of an international nature. These questions are independent of any domestic issues of any respective government.”
Krasikov has been in the United States for three months working at the Woodrow Wilson Center researching the subject “Religious Factors in Politics.” He attended Congressional hearings and held a number of interviews during his stay.