07MOSCOW1780, CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY IN RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW1780 2007-04-18 14:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9439
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1780/01 1081458
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181458Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9468
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001780 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2017 
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV RS
SUBJECT: CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY IN RUSSIA 
 
REF: 99 MOSCOW 29205 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Alice Wells: Reason 1.4(d) 
 
 1. (C) SUMMARY. The Church of Scientology is growing in 
Russia, and has established a nationwide network even though 
it lacks status as a registered religion.  The Moscow branch 
recently won a landmark decision against the GOR at the 
European Court of Human Rights.  The decision should help the 
Moscow branch register as a religious organization, but may 
not set a precedent for other Russian Scientology branches. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
Legal Process of Registering a Religious Organization 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
2. (U) The 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious 
Associations (reftel) establishes three legal classifications 
of religious associations: informal religious groups, 
registered religious organizations, and centralized 
organizations. 
 
- A religious group is defined as a voluntary association of 
citizens who may carry out worship services, religious 
rituals and ceremonies, and teach about their religion. 
Groups have no legal rights, they may not own property, enter 
into contracts, or invite visitors from abroad; members of 
the group may act on behalf of the group for those purposes. 
 
- A group may register as a religious organization if it 
consists of at least ten Russian citizens and meets one of 
these three conditions: (a) belong to a centralized religious 
organization; (b) had registered as a religious organization 
prior to the enactment of the 1997 law; or (c) have existed 
for at least 15 years in the locality where it is 
registering. 
 
- A centralized organization may be formed by joining a 
minimum of three local religious organizations of the same 
faith. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Official Status of Scientologists in Russia 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) The Church of Scientology (COS) has 45 groups 
operating across Russia: 24 "Church of Scientology Missions," 
20 "Dianetics Centers," and one "Hubbard Humanitarian 
Center."  Some of these are registered as social 
organizations, and some are religious groups.  The COS does 
not have a national organization that can provide overall 
numbers, but a spokeswoman said that 200 employees work for 
the Moscow branch, which serves 5000 active members in 
Moscow, 500 of whom visit the center on an average day. 
 
---------- 
ECHR Cases 
---------- 
 
4. (U) The Moscow branch was denied registration as a 
religious organization 11 times by the Moscow Justice 
Department from 1998 to 2005.  The Russian courts ruled in 
favor of the Moscow Branch, but the Moscow MOJ refused to 
register them, and the COS sued Russia at the ECHR.  On April 
5, the ECHR ruled in favor of the Moscow COS, noting that 
because it had been registered as a religious organization 
prior to 1997, it met all legal requirements for 
registration. 
 
5. (C) According to Larisa Krylova, the COS trial attorney, 
the COS has unsuccessfully tried to register four of its 
affiliates (Moscow, Nizhnekamsk, Surgut, and St. Petersburg) 
as religious organizations.  Appeals to Russian courts in 
those cases were ultimately unsuccessful, and the COS filed 
suit at the ECHR.  The ECHR has combined the cases for 
Nizhnekamsk and Surgut and should hear these cases within six 
months, Krylova said. The application for the St. Petersburg 
case has not yet been accepted for review. 
 
6. (C) Krylova was optimistic that the COS would win the 
pending Nizhnekamsk-Surgut case, but cautioned that it 
differed significantly from the Moscow case.  The Surgut COS 
registered in 1994 as a social NGO, not a religious 
organization, and the Nizhnekamsk COS was founded as a 
religious group only in 1998, after the 1997 Law was passed. 
Consequently, neither meets the conditions described in 
paragraph 2, above. 
 
7. (C) Moscow COS Press Secretary Yelena Shklyarova told us 
that the COS will again attempt to register as a local 
religious organization in Moscow, and will eventually attempt 
 
MOSCOW 00001780  002 OF 002 
 
 
to register as a centralized organization.  (Note: Under the 
1997 Law, the COS would have to first register at least three 
local religious organizations before it would be eligible to 
register as a centralized organization.  End note.)  Krylova 
believed that it would be difficult to register the COS as a 
centralized religious organization until the 15-year waiting 
period is fulfilled by at least three COS branches. 
 
------------------------- 
Reaction to the Decision 
------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Krylova described the Moscow COS decision as a 
landmark for the Scientologists in Europe, not just Russia, 
since the ECHR had refused to even hear prior COS appeals 
against Germany, Sweden, and France. 
 
9. (U) On April 13, the COS held a
press conference with 
other church and human rights NGO leaders to discuss the 
court victory.  Anton Lychkin, President of the Moscow Church 
of Scientology, portrayed the decision as a win-win for the 
COS and Russia since "Russia now has the chance to become a 
leader, ahead of the other Europeans, in human rights." 
According to Igor Rakhmilov, Head of the Russian Lawyers 
Guild International Department, the ruling confirmed the 
principle that all religions, even non-traditional ones, must 
be treated equally. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10. (C) The main difficulty that the COS faces is the legal 
restriction in the 1997 Law -- in most cases COS groups in 
Russia do not meet the legal requirements for registering as 
a religious organization (specifically the 15-year rule). 
The COS has the option to wait until their 15-year waiting 
period expires in 2013, or seek to have the requirement 
invalidated by the courts or amended in the Duma.  Until 
then, the COS (except for the Moscow branch) may legally 
operate only religious groups or social organizations. 
BURNS

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