The controversial Scientology organization has gotten into trouble in Russia. The Russian inland secret service has become increasingly interested in the activities of the organization. Not only the Russian Orthodox Church would like to bring the structure and activities of the organization to light, but also the state district attorney and the tax officials. The Russian authorities have already been investigating the allegedly religious organization for almost a year on suspicion of illegal commercial operations, coercion of members, and incitement to civil disobedience. The FSB inland secret service - the successor to the notorious KGB - and the tax officials have searched through several Scientology establishments in Moscow.
According to Russian media reports, the investigations of Scientology may even be extended to include suspicion of spying for a foreign country. A spokesman for the secret service refused to make any comment on that issue. In response, Alexej Dantschenkow, speaker of the "Ron Hubbert [sic] Humanitarian Center," named after the Scientology founder, dismissed the investigations, "Those are only rumors to discredit us. We pay our taxes and our employees have committed no crimes."
Nevertheless, some of the 15,000 folders looked at during the search operations were confiscated by the authorities. According to a statement made by Scientology, the majority of these folders contain only the addresses and telephone numbers of members. Other files were said to contain confidential statements made by the Scientology members about their lives.
A portion of the accusations against Scientology, which has been active in Russia since 1993 and says it has about 30,000 members, also revolve around personal and confidential statements. A former Scientology member reports that, on order from the management, he had, for months, gathered "information on those who criticize the organization, particularly priests and journalists." The ex-member, who does not want his identity revealed, alleged that Scientology is not a religious movement, but is organized in a military manner, and that denunciation among members is customary.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which is among the most vehement critics of Scientology, welcomed the intensified proceedings by the authorities. Leading Church official Alexi II stated that now it would be revealed whether "this sect brings people good will and peace or confusion and unhappiness." Scientology speaker Dantschenkow counter-charged the authorities of wanting to make the Russian Orthodox Church a "uniform ideology." He referred to the ban of the Scientology scriptures in the former Soviet Union and accused several Orthodox dignitaries of "very close connections to political power."
The Orthodox Church, however, denies any allegations of the kind. "The Orthodox Church had nothing to do with the police searches," assured the director of the church-affiliated Sect Information Center, Alexander Dworkin, and mentioned that, in his opinion, the real problems had to do with the Scientologists' activities, "Every day people call me up and complain that the Scientologists have destroyed their families."
Russian Secret Service searches Scientology Offices in Moscow
Moscow (dpa) - The Russian domestic intelligence service (FSB) and the revenue police searched through four offices of the Scientology organization in Moscow on Thursday. Scientology is being investigated for illegal business practices, reported the the Interfax news agency, at the behest of security officials.
The procedure by the Russian authorities has been strongly condemned by by Scientology. The President of the international cover organization of the Scientology Church in the USA, Heber Jentzsch, described the action as a sign of an "anti-American, anti-western campaign by extremist Russian officials, together with the Russian Orthodox Church." He further stated that the accusations were pure fabrication by an alleged ex-member, who was just as fabricated as the accusations.
A criminal charge had been drawn up in the past few weeks. The investigators were assisted by a special forces unit of the military in the search.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Scientology has become active in more that 40 large Russian cities. A year ago, Sergei Kirijenko, Russian administrative chief at the time, ran into some criticism because of alleged contact with Scientology. By October 1996, the revenue police were already seizing assets of the Scientology branch in Saint Petersburg.