Key Russian Scientology Center Appears Threatened with Dissolution
October 6, 2010
Law enforcement agencies have recently been paying close attention to the Scientology organization in Russia. A key Russian Scientology center appears threatened with dissolution: the nonprofit partnership "Management Center of Dianetics and Scientology Dissemination", located in the town of Losino-Petrovsky
in the Moscow Oblast
On July 22, 2010, the Investigations Division of the Investigative Committee of the prosecutor's office for the Moscow Oblast (Shchyolkovo
, Moscow Oblast
) launched criminal proceedings against this organization under Part 1, Article 282
of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("inciting hatred or hostility or abasement of human dignity"). Investigators are presently gathering the evidence that will provide the basis for charging the organization with violations of Russian law. The Scientology Center (as it is called for short) distributes literature containing the fundamental principles that shape the Scientologists' view of the world, and the center also organizes training courses for activists of the movement. Among other publications, the Scientology Center distributed various writings by the founder of the Scientology teachings, L. Ron Hubbard. These works were ruled as extremist by the Surgut city court on March 26 and, as a result, they have been added to the federal list of extremist materials, which is posted on the official website
of the Ministry of Justice. In this list, items 632 to 660
cover a total of 15 books and 17 booklets by L. Ron Hubbard, as well as 116 discs with recordings of his lectures.
The investigation and the future judicial examination may result in the dissolution of the organization, a ban against its activities, and criminal prosecution of the persons responsible for distributing the extremist literature. In particular, charges may be brought against the president of the Scientology Center, Natalia Dvoryadkin. The maximum penalty for such offenses is imprisonment for up to five years.
The Surgut court's decision gives new possibilities for judicial action against the Scientology organization, which for many years has been the object of complaints to Russian law enforcement agencies. In the past, other articles of the Criminal Code have been invoked against it: fraud, illegal business activity and, on a particularly large scale, abuse of power. The main criminal proceedings have been against organizations involved in the rehabilitation of drug addicts, namely Scientology's Narconon program. In 1999, one of the movement's structures was the target of a criminal case under Article 171 ("illegal business") and, at the same time, the Serbsky Institute for Social and Forensic Psychiatry
undertook a study to identify cases of damage to the health of cult followers. As a result of the study, law enforcement officials asserted that the supplements used during a particular procedure called "purification" (which is obligatory for all followers of Hubbard's teachings) contain psychoactive substances. However, it has been very difficult to prove that mental changes were directly induced by ingestion of these supplements, given that the investigators did not possess the results of a health study for the subjects of the research before they joined the Scientology movement.
The complaints that law enforcement agencies aim at Scientology and Dianetics centers are also related to the suspected violation of other rights of individuals, including those related to the actual religious practices of the sect. There is increased interest in the specific practice of confession, to which all followers of the teachings are subjected. The confession a Scientologist is not only verbal, but its contents are written by the minister in a special report and filed in the follower's personal folder. As they continue their training, the most successful activists travel to foreign training centers for Scientologists. According to policy, the personal folder of a church member follows him around the world, wherever he goes. How and by whom the confidential information can subsequently be used - all this remains a question for the Russian authorities.
The standard form that any visitor of a Scientology organization is asked to fill out at the first visit contains questions about the attitude of the guest toward compulsory military service and about whether the visitor has relatives connected with intelligence agencies.
Court decisions in recent years have resulted in the shutdown of sixteen Scientology organizations of various kinds throughout the regions of Russia: St. Petersburg
, the Kursk Oblast
, the Oryol Oblast
, the Altai Krai
and the Krasnoyarsk Krai
In the meantime, a criminal case against the Scientology Center in Losino-Petrovsky would provide an opportunity for the Church of Scientology of Moscow to appeal to European institutions, complaining about restrictions to freedom of conscience and the right to openly profess and propagate their faith. The Church of Scientology of Moscow has filed appeals to the district court of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (Khanty-Mansiysk)
with an application for recognition as a defendant in the case in order to characterize future trials as proof of the violation of the rights of believers in Russia, and an appeal for a judicial review of the Surgut city court's March 26, 2010 decision that works by Ron Hubbard are extremist.