Sunday, February 20, 2022

Moscow Seeks to Punish Jehovah’s Witnesses and Isolate Them from Each Other, the Media and Rights Activists

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 29 – Moscow’s repressive campaign against the Jehovah’s Witnesses takes place largely outside of major urban centers and is conducted in a way designed not only to punish and frighten believers but also to isolate them from each other, from the media and from rights activists.

            That is the inescapable conclusion from the data Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses presents that 2021 saw the largest number of sentences,

their harshest level and the greatest number of Witnesses in Russia behind bars avoids drawing this conclusion (

            And it suggests that the campaign against the denomination not only has not softened despite Vladimir Putin’s comments and the declaration of the Russian Supreme Court that no one should be punished for his or her faith but represents continued state policy against the Witnesses, one that if it is not actively opposed will soon spread to other groups.

            The only concession that the Kremlin does appear to have made to outraged public opinion is that the Russian government’s moves against the Witnesses have come almost exclusively in cities and regions outside of major metropolitan areas like Moscow. Sivulsky says that may be because police in the latter have more pressing problems.

            But perhaps the most chilling detail in this campaign that he cites but that has not yet been widely reported is that in contrast to handling those arrested from other groups is that the Russian authorities keep Witnesses in detention longer and confiscate their phones and computers in order to prevent them from reaching out to others, the media, and rights groups.

            As a result, those Witnesses who have been subject to such attacks are isolated, their cases often reported only weeks or months after they happen, and the entire movement is disordered and often depressed. One sign of this: since the 2017 decision against the group, some 10,000 of the 175,000 Witnesses in Russia have emigrated. 

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