Staunton, May 18 – The authorities in the post-Soviet states have long recognized the role of Western-backed NGOs in promoting disruptive change and even color revolutions, according to a commentary on a Russian Orthodox site. But they have been slow to recognize that Protestant sects are playing an equally important role in undermining state and society.
Not only are sectarian groups more difficult to track than NGOs – they remain unregistered, change their meeting places frequently, and recruit one by one – in some places, such as South Osetia, the Third Rome portal says, they now “outnumber the KGB, however anecdotal that sounds” (3rm.info/publications/56979-zapadnye-sekty-usilili-podryvnuyu-deyatelnost-vdol-granic-rossii.html).
But in the view of this Orthodox site, such groups are closely connected with politics and in many cases have been dispatched by the US or by Ukraine for the purpose of destabilizing Russia and its neighbors. Consequently, they must be a matter of far greater concern than they are now if the threat of instability and color revolutions is to be countered.
The Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian authorities have always had a very negative attitude toward Protestant denominations, but this article suggests that support for repressing them is growing and that Moscow not only will come down harder on these groups within its borders but push other former Soviet states to do the same.
The portal sites a variety of cases, including the recent detention of 12 foreign Protestant missionaries in Kyrgystan. Five of the 12 were Americans; the remainder were from Ukraine, Canada, Brazil, Sweden and South Korea. The group was focused on ethnic Uzbeks rather than Kyrgyz, apparently out of a belief that this could trigger a new round of nationality conflicts.
A few days after this, the portal says, the Osh militia arrested a second group of Protestant “missionaries,” whose ranks included a Russian, two Englishmen, and three Ukrainians. Significantly, it adds, “both the first and the second group arrived in Kyrgyzstan from Ukraine.”
The Third Rome portal says that “if the activity of NGOs is quite easy to follow and check, including their sources of funds, then the work of sectarian structures as a rule is much more secret.” NGOs by their nature work in public, while Protestant missionaries can operate well below the radar screens of the police and security agencies.
That of course makes the sectarians especially valuable agents for hostile foreign powers like the United States and Ukraine, the portal says.
And it says that while the subversive work of Protestant sectarians is clearly in evidence in Ukraine, “neo-Protestant and certain quasi-Eastern sects in recent years have become extremely active throughout the entire post-Soviet space.” Even in Muslim Central Asia, it notes, actions by Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostals has been “extraordinary.”
In the Caucasus, the Third Rome portal continues, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Salvation Army have been especially active now that, thanks to Mikhail Saakashvili’s policies in Georgia, they have a base for operations. In addition, it says, the Mormon church has become more active, including in particular in South Osetia.
There, at present, the portal says, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals have created “an abnormal religious disproportion,” one that threatens the republic with a revolution: there are up to 5,000 adepts of these groups in that republic, an enormous number given that the total population of South Osetia is no more than 30-40,000.
Certain sectarians “even occupy major government positions” in South Osetia, “including in the force structures, despite the fact that their religious doctrines prohibit them from taking part in military conflicts,” the portal says.
The South Osetian authorities are having a difficult time controlling the situation, the Orthodox site says, “the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not registered as a religious community and consequently, one cannot prohibit that which doesn’t legally exist.” As a result, these groups are growing and their membership now exceeds that of the local security service.
Up to now, the portal concedes, “there have not been noted any direct attempts from these sects to influence the political or social life of the republic, but the situation itself is extraordinarily explosive, all the more so because all the leading centers of the sectarians are located on the territory of Georgia” and because Osetins have been afraid to talk about them.