Ban of legal entities

Vasily Kalin: "I received a certificate of a victim of political repression. And what kind of certificate does the Ministry of Justice want to provide me today?"


The text of the explanations made on April 7, 2017 at the Supreme Court of Russia by Vasily Kalin from the steering committee of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia".

Dear court! I am not a lawyer, so I will try to speak in simple words, simple expressions, so that it is clear to you, dear court, as well as to a respected representative of the Ministry of Justice.

On March 15, 2017, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation appealed to you with a request to recognize as extremist and liquidate all religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia at once. And there are many of them - this is one centralized organization and 395 local religious organizations throughout Russia. Is it legal? I don't think so. The Administrative Center does not agree with the statements of the Ministry of Justice, since it has not carried out extremist activities and is not currently carrying it out.

Over the 26 years of the organization's official existence as a legal entity, the Administrative Center has never been held accountable for violating any provisions of the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations", as well as the Federal Law "On Countering Extremist Activity". If so, then I, the chairman of the governing body, have a question: if we were good for 26 years and did not commit crimes, then I wonder on what day we became extremists? What has the Administrative Center done that is being demanded to be liquidated? Personally, I did not find an answer to this question in the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice claims that the lawsuit was filed in order to strengthen the rule of law and prevent violations of state and public security, protect human and civil rights and freedoms, as well as to counter extremist activities. Where are these grim facts? I do not argue that the fight against extremism is indeed an important and noble goal. But the fact is that by satisfying the claims of the Ministry of Justice, the state will achieve not the stated goals, but the exact opposite - violation of the rights of believers, trampling on their freedom and returning to the dark past. The supremacy of the law provided for in Article 4 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation will be violated, and significant harm will be caused to the legitimate rights, freedoms and interests of more than 175,000 citizens of the Russian Federation - men, women and children.

In addition, meeting the demands of the Ministry of Justice will further intensify the repression of Jehovah's Witnesses on religious grounds, which has already begun. In fact, the court's decision to liquidate all religious associations of Jehovah's Witnesses will be interpreted by law enforcement officials as a nationwide ban on the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in declaring their peaceful worship criminal. As a result, tens of thousands of believers will be illegally persecuted just for getting together, reading the Bible, and we have already gone through this.

Already now, even before the Supreme Court makes a decision on this case, on the basis of the order of the Ministry of Justice of Russia dated March 15, 2017, the activities of the Administrative Center have been suspended, the organization's bank accounts have been blocked, and therefore the Management Center is unable not only to continue normal economic activities, but also to pay the state fee. The administrative center has already been included by the Ministry of Justice in the list of terrorists and extremists and is put on a par with organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban movement, Aum Shinrikyo and many others.

We heard a representative of the Ministry of Justice, speaking without batting an eyelid, say that Jehovah's Witnesses are extremists, i.e. criminals, and this is in the lawsuit. The very fact that the lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice was granted will be the embodiment of extremism, blatant injustice and a return to the times of the Soviet Union, when thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses were brutally persecuted, placed in the Gulag and exiled forever to Siberia just because they professed the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. In modern history, no state of law has allowed itself such actions in relation to its people. On the contrary, Jehovah's Witnesses legally operate in more than 240 countries and territories, including all countries in Europe, and have a worldwide reputation for respect, peace, and law-abiding people.

Dear court! You have the power and legal basis to make a decision in this administrative case that will show that the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia on the basis of accusations of extremism must be stopped. There can be only one fair, honest and legal decision in this case - the refusal to satisfy the claim of the Ministry of Justice.

Jehovah's Witnesses were never extremists, and they are not today. Their beliefs contradict the manifestations of hatred, enmity and violence. These are peaceful, conscientious, respectable members of society and the state who follow the biblical commandments: to make prayers, petitions and supplications, thanksgiving for all people, for kings, for all rulers, so that we may lead a quiet, serene life, in all piety and purity. This is a quote from the Bible, the apostle Paul's letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1-2. Also in the Bible, in the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, chapter 13, verse 1, it is said that every soul should be subject to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God. This means that Jehovah's Witnesses, in obeying this biblical instruction, show deep respect for authority and show respect and love for people. They are not extremists.

The history of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia goes back more than 100 years. And during this time, there has not been a single case when Jehovah's Witnesses called for violence, overthrowing the government, or otherwise threatening the security of the state. On the contrary, Jehovah's Witnesses, both in the past and now, often receive praise from the state for their good deeds for the benefit of society. Representatives of the authorities presented their religious associations with written letters and gratitude, there are many of them here, and something was provided in court.

The Christian doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses is based solely on the Bible and does not contain the signs of extremism listed in the Federal Law of the Russian Federation "On Countering Extremist Activities", and does not call for extremist actions. The basic creed notes that believers treat others as they would have them treated. This is a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12. And Jehovah's Witnesses have always adhered to and still adhere to the principles of peacefulness. And the spread of faith is due to the desire to do the will of God, which is also recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14, and the desire to help other people draw closer to God, to find hope for eternal life in paradise on earth. These documents were provided to the court.

During the Soviet Union, when the state waged an irreconcilable struggle against dissent, Jehovah's Witnesses, along with believers of other faiths, were severely persecuted simply because they read the Bible, printed publications based on it, and professed their biblical views. In 1951, thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses, peaceful citizens of the USSR, were exiled forever to Siberia. All the property of believers, their houses, belongings, livestock were confiscated. Later, hundreds of believers were convicted on charges of anti-Soviet activities and served their sentences in the Gulag system. The question is: for what? Only because they professed the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and followed the biblical commandments.

My family and I also went through political repression for the same thing we are accused of today, but then we were rehabilitated. I was born on February 5, 1947 in Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk region. And on April 8, 1951, at the age of 4, together with our family - parents, grandmother, two older brothers and a sister - we were exiled to Siberia forever, to the Irkutsk region. We were transported in dirty freight cars for more than 20 days in inhuman conditions, in which cattle are usually transported. There were men, women, children, no toilet, no food, no conditions.

Our exile to Siberia was connected with Stalin's decree and concerned people who profess the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. My parents were Jehovah's Witnesses. But one thing that was interesting to me was that my parents, as well as any of Jehovah's Witnesses who were to be expelled at that time, could have avoided this fate. It was only a small thing to do - to renounce the faith, to sign a document of renunciation. Interestingly, if you are a criminal and therefore you are subject to severe punishment, it is unlikely that anyone will have such an opportunity. But this opportunity was given to Jehovah's Witnesses only because they were not criminals. Clearly, Jehovah's Witnesses also did not commit any crime at that time, but were persecuted.

The state simply did not like the position of these people, which was very different from the ideology of building a godless society, which was alien to people. The exiled Jehovah's Witnesses in Siberia also continued to study the Bible and tell others about what was written in it. Despite the further terror and persecution and slander against these innocent people, Jehovah's Witnesses did not lose their deep convictions, they did not become embittered, they did not rebel against their oppressors. They continued to be honest, highly moral, decent people, showing love and respect for all the people around them, regardless of their beliefs, nation and origin. Why? Because they held God's law very high to "love your neighbor as yourself."

Today, nothing has changed. Yes, my childhood was spent more in poverty, hunger, humiliation, ridicule, because I grew up as a child of enemies of the people. How would you react, dear court, if a five-year-old child asks for bread from his mother, and the mother turns away so that the child does not see her tears, and says: "Son, be patient a little, we will soon have a lot of bread." And this kid who asked for a piece of bread... I thought for a long time, how much bread will we have? Probably a whole bun! That crying woman was my mother. That kid begging for a piece of bread was me.

The question arises: for what? Why were these people in such poverty? For what crime were these children deprived of the joy of their childhood, a simple piece of bread and a free life? And, of course, later, as a young man, it was very difficult for me to compare that reality with the humiliating propaganda of that time about a happy childhood given to us by a great country. And what about the lies that were generously showered on these innocent honest workers? During my school years, I sometimes felt like an outcast.

The judge asks to speak closer to the essence of the case.

Kalin: Dear court, I did not want to advertise my family and myself personally. I wanted to show by the example of the past that we are returning to the same thing today. Because today what is already happening, even the fact that the lawsuit has been filed with the Supreme Court to liquidate Jehovah's Witnesses, we are already seeing a lot of what is happening today. Today, too, many people, or some people, are already prejudiced against Jehovah's Witnesses, there is already persecution and ridicule of schoolchildren at school, they are already collecting lists of Jehovah's Witnesses in some places, etc. Therefore, if today we follow the path that the Ministry of Justice offers us – to liquidate the Administrative Center, to liquidate all local religious organizations on the territory of Russia, the same thing will happen.

I really liked the words of one official who told me: "Vasily Mikhailovich, a legal entity can be liquidated, but faith is not." What does the Ministry of Justice think, having fulfilled their desire to liquidate Jehovah's Witnesses, will we really abandon our actions, our faith? Never. But what will happen? Exactly what has already happened in Russia, such as the trial in Taganrog. People have already received official imprisonment, people have already been convicted, and their families have also suffered a lot of persecution. Therefore, looking at the whole situation that is happening today, of course, it is very unfortunate that we are returning to that state.

For me, for example, the question is so incomprehensible: I received a certificate as a victim of political repression. I was once a criminal, just like my parents. Then this charge was dropped from me. And what kind of certificate does the Department of Justice want to provide to these people, whom they call extremists? What deeds, what actions have Jehovah's Witnesses carried out, that they are equated with those who commit crimes today?

Therefore, I believe that the lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice is brought back and demands that they be deprived of the right to jointly profess the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses in God. Otherwise, we face harsh prison terms and possibly subsequent complaints. If during the Soviet years Jehovah's Witnesses were tried on the basis of a vague article of the Criminal Code on anti-Soviet activities, today the basis for prosecution (is) the same vague and vague article of anti-extremist legislation. However, as I have already said, Jehovah's Witnesses have never posed a threat to the state, either in the past or now, and they will not provide such a threat in the future.

Addressing the representative of the Ministry of Justice, I want to remind you that the demand to liquidate the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia will outlaw those people who wish you and all citizens of Russia peace, happiness and love. I hope that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will not allow the Ministry of Justice to bring back those shameful pages of history that I and many other Russians of my age had to go through. Therefore, I ask you to refuse the claim of the Ministry of Justice. Thank you very much.