The majority of religious organizations that were required to re-register with the government in order to be recognized in Russia have done so, although a significant minority — from the Salvation Army to Buddhists — were turned away from such official approval and may face liquidation.
In 1997 Russia passed a measure requiring all religious groups that had registered prior to that year to re-register before December 31, 2000 or face losing status and possible liquidation by the authorities. Frontier (No. 1, 2001), a newsletter of the Keston Institute, a group monitoring religious freedom in communist and former communist lands, randomly selected various Russian regions to determine how the re-registration process had worked.
A majority of religious groups were found to comply with the law on schedule. For instance in the Kursk region, four groups had failed to re-register, compared to 282 which had done so.
Those groups failing to re-register either never registered at all, were too small to be required to register or had disbanded in the meantime, were in too remote a location to re-register (in Siberia, this was most often the case for not re-registering), or were refused registration or re-registration by the local authorities This latter problem is most often the case with groups with foreign ties. The Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order based in Moscow but with a Japanese leader attempted to re-register five times prior to June 2000 before deciding to exist on an unofficial basis.
Similar rejection has greeted Jewish, Baptist, and Jehovah’s Witnesses groups. In many cases, they are forced to accept legal status as a “religious group” rather than as a “religious organization,” which means they have fewer rights and more difficulties renting buildings for meetings.
(Frontier, Keston Institute, 4 Park Town, Oxford OX2 6SH, U.K.)