Rising and decline of Scientologists in St. Petersburg
- 11.Sep ‘20
The Hubbard’s advocates appeared in Leningrad in 1984, it was the era of the fascination with the forbidden dissident literature, when citizens of the USSR became engrossed in reading the works of Castaneda and other esotericists. The list included also works written by Ron Hubbard himself.
By the early 1990s, the organization was increasingly acquiring the features common to religious structure. Even then, Scientologists placed emphasis on the protection of religious rights and freedom, which would be very important for their continuing existence. In 1991, they finally took shape as a religious community, which very soon split apart and one part retained the old Soviet setups towards dissidence and reading books, while the other part made contact with the international Church of Scientology. And it is needless to say that the first group of dissenters disappeared very quickly, and the second was rising higher and higher.
With the support of American advisers and with getting foreign financing, the Church of Scientology in the Northern capital was developing quite rapidly, which could not fail to attract the public attention of the St. Petersburg. During that time, Scientologists were so powerful that under the aegis of the UN they even staged the all-European 4,000 km human-right-race called Multathlon 2002, which went through Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. At that time even the Russian Olympic champions took part in the race.
The first conflicts with the Russian Orthodox Church began when Orthodox community organized pickets called Let’s break the sectarian blockade and the state joined in very soon. In 2007, by a decision of the St. Petersburg city court, the public organization Scientology Centre was eradicated. Nevertheless, the religious group that bore the name of the churches continued to exist and operate, and even won a case in the European Court of Human Rights, suing Russia 10,000 euros. And in 2011 was held the pompous opening of the Moscow branch of Scientology.
In 2008, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office began frequent checks, during which they seized the personal files of parishioners that were transferred abroad. All this time, city politicians and the media bombarded Scientologists by publishing incriminating materials against them. The young deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Vitaly Milonov exceled especially. The lease for the church building was not renewed, Scientology books were not allowed through customs, and some of the key works were listed as extremist materials.
The last straw was the case of 2014, when Ekaterina Zaborskikh, the head of the organization called Olimp, donated 130 million rubles to the church. The problem was that Ekaterina Zaborskikh received this money by deceiving shareholders who did not receive an apartment in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. Furthermore, she provided significant financial assistance not only to the Church of Scientology in St. Petersburg, but also to the Moscow branch of this church.
In 2015, the Moscow branch was closed by a court decision. The reason was the fact of registration of Scientology as a trademark, the copyright holder of which is the Religious Technology Centre in the United States.
In 2016, the similar process began in St. Petersburg, and by 2017 Scientologists were completely defeated, through constant raids and checks conducted by FSB, during which all documentation was seized.
During the investigation the media got information that during the existence of the Church of Scientology in Russia, 3 billion rubles collected from adherents of Dianetics were sent abroad. Strangely, at once all foreign rights committees unanimously lowered the rating of religious freedom in Russia and interceded for the convicts, among them was Ivan Matsitsky, the main top manager of Scientologists in Russia. The fans of Dianetics have long tried to placate human rights organizations, sponsoring them through their main foundation, the Religious Technology Center (USA), including also the money of Russians thereby earning protection for themselves.
Now in St. Petersburg Scientologists are like clandestine partisans driven, who continue to do their business, but not with the extent they used to do twenty years ago.