Frequently Asked Questions

Are Jehovah's Witnesses Actually Banned in Russia?


No. According to the statement of the Government of the Russian Federation, "the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 20.04.2017 and the appellate ruling of the Appellate Board of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 17.07.2017 do not assess the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, do not contain a restriction or prohibition to practice the above teaching individually."

Commenting on the unfair verdicts against Jehovah's Witnesses, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Tatiana Moskalkova, said on June 10, 2019: "These events make us think about the existence of a conflict between the constitutional right to profess one's religion individually or jointly with others and the signs of extremist activity specified in Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation."

On October 28, 2021, the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that the divine services of Jehovah's Witnesses, their joint rituals and ceremonies do not in themselves constitute a crime under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, despite the liquidation of their legal entities.

What did the Supreme Court of Russia ban in 2017? The court banned the activities of 396 registered and operating Jehovah's Witnesses organizations. This decision has been challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.

The statement of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights of 20.06.18 says: "This decision of the [Supreme] Court contains an exhaustive list of legal entities subject to liquidation. At the same time, the court's decision does not contain conclusions about the ban on the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses as such."

Is it allowed in Russia to practice religion without forming a legal entity? Yes. Jehovah's Witnesses have lived in Russia for more than a hundred years, and for most of that time they practiced their faith without the organizations that emerged in the late 1990s under the Freedom of Conscience Law and lasted less than 20 years. The presence or absence of such organizations does not mean the prohibition of entire religions, and even more so does not give grounds for criminal prosecution of citizens for their beliefs.

Is it possible to ban people, ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings? This is both impossible and unacceptable. According to Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, everyone has the right "to freely choose, have and disseminate religious and other beliefs and to act in accordance with them." This right extends to believers of all views and beliefs, including Jehovah's Witnesses. No court in Russia has ever recognized the religion or beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses as criminal. Such a decision would be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

How does the international community regard connivance with the actions of Russian officials who persecute Jehovah's Witnesses? The campaign of persecution of believers was unanimously condemned by the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union, individual countries of the world (Germany, USA), and a large number of international organizations.