Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Some Publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses Included in the ‘Extremist List’ (FLEM)?

The inclusion of a number of books by Jehovah's Witnesses in the FSEM is the only reason for accusations of extremism brought against followers of this religion in Russia. Why are Bible-based publications, freely distributed throughout the world in hundreds of languages, declared "extremist" in Russia?

1. Due to the unclear definition of extremism in the law. In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that the Russian state "revise the Federal Law 'On Countering Extremist Activities' without undue delay in order to ... establishing clear and specific criteria by which certain materials can be classified as extremist. All necessary measures should be taken to prevent the arbitrary application of this law and the Federal List of Extremist Materials should be revised" (CCPR/C/SR.3157, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation).

2. Due to errors of experts or judges. Court decisions, sometimes contrary to common sense, are based on expert opinions. The obvious bias or incompetence of specialists led to the appearance of a concretizing provision in the law on extremism: "The Bible, the Koran, the Tanakh and Ganjur, their content and quotations from them cannot be recognized as extremist materials" (Article 3.1). Unfortunately, despite this, the courts continue to receive lawsuits from the prosecutor's office to recognize the Bible itself, as well as publications with its quotations, as "extremist materials".

3. Due to the selective application of "anti-extremist" legislation. Lev Levinson, an expert at the Institute for Human Rights, explained: "The campaign of persecution of [Jehovah's] Witnesses for statements common to all religious texts is a gross violation of the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience and equality of religious associations before the law. I am not calling for the same approach to be applied to the Russian Orthodox Church or Jewish communities, but only to emphasize its discriminatory and absurd nature." The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation in his report for 2012 noted: "The religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses remains the "record holder" for the number of such inspections. [...] Organizations are actually deprived of the opportunity to defend their sacred values in court, challenging the opinions of experts on the part of the prosecution. [...] Any creed is based on the position of its own "truth" and the "falsity" of other creeds.

There have been dark pages in the history of various countries when a ban was imposed on the translation and distribution of the Bible. In some cases, it came to the mass destruction of this book and the persecution of those who owned it. That is why many sensible people in Russia are trying to prevent a repeat of the mistakes of the past.