Some 200-500 Sects Operating in Russia – Expert

MOSCOW. Oct 23 (Interfax) – From 200 to 500 religious sects are currently operating in Russia, depending on what kind of organizations can be considered sects, Russian Inter-Religious Council Executive Secretary Roman Silantyev told a press conference in Moscow on Friday.

“Some regions are actually free of sects, and others, on the contrary, suffer from them,” Silantyev said.

Citing Justice Ministry information, Silantyev said the largest number of sects act in Primorye territory, where they account for about a quarter of all registered religious organizations.

At the same time, no sects are registered in such regions as Evenkia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and the Aginsk-Buryatsk autonomous district, where the population is mostly Muslim or small in number.

There are also many sectarian organizations in the Khanty- Mansiisk and Yamal-Nentsi autonomous districts and also in Krasnodar and Stavropol territories and the North Caucasus in general, he said.

The largest and most rapidly growing sect is Jehovah’s Witnesses, which numbers about 150,000 adherents in Russia now, Silantyev said. He also mentioned the Scientologists, followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, numerous groups of Satanists and Neo-Pentecostalists among relatively influential sects.

“At the same time, the Krishna sect has become notably degraded and has lost its strength in this country in recent years,” he said.

Silantyev claimed that sects posing as Islamic are the most dangerous today. “Tens of thousands of so-called Wahhabites are currently active in Russia now, who are not really like the true Wahhabites living in Saudi Arabia, and there are no reasons to suppose that this phenomenon will end in the near future,” he said.

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Interfax, Russian Federation
Oct. 23, 2004

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