Protestanter blitt synonym for utlendinger og forrædere i Putins Russland, i den spesielle alliansen mellom den ortodokse kirken og regime. Ordbruken om protestantiske kirker minner om tidligere tideres antisemittisme.

Russerne går ikke i kirke i særlig grad, men ortodoks tro og nasjonalisme utgjør identiteten til stadig flere. I dette rommet er det ikke plass til andre trosretninger. De ses på med mistenksomhet. Myndighetene benytter de samme byråkratiske triks som mot NGO’er: man finner formelle påskudd til å nekte bruk av bygninger, og tillatelse til å danne en organisasjon, osv

There was a time after the fall of Communism when small Protestant congregations blossomed here in southwestern Russia, when a church was almost as easy to set up as a general store. Today, this industrial region has become emblematic of the suppression of religious freedom under President Vladimir Putin.

Just as the government has tightened control over political life, so, too, has it intruded in matters of faith. The Kremlin’s surrogates in many areas have turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers. They have all but banned proselytizing by Protestants and discouraged Protestant worship through a variety of harassing measures, according to dozens of interviews with government officials and religious leaders across Russia.

This close alliance between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church has become a defining characteristic of Putin’s tenure, a mutually reinforcing choreography that is usually described here as working «in symphony.»

Det skumle er at både Putin og kirken appellerer til fremmedfiendtlige, antivestlige holdninger.

The church’s hostility toward Protestant groups, many of which are based in the United States, or have large followings there, is tinged with the same anti-Western sentiment often voiced by Putin and other senior officials.

The government’s antipathy also seems to stem in part from the Kremlin’s wariness toward independent organizations that are not allied with the government.

Det er spesielt å høre en prest kalle andre kristne for Jesu drapsmenn. Men det kan man høre på en russisk TV-kanal.

Here in Stary Oskol, 300 miles south of Moscow, the police evicted a Seventh-day Adventist congregation from its meeting hall, forcing it to hold services in a ramshackle home next to a construction site. Evangelical Baptists were barred from renting a theater for a Christian music festival, and were not even allowed to hand out toys at an orphanage. A Lutheran minister said he moved away for a few years because he feared for his life. He has returned, but keeps a low profile.

On local television last month, the city’s chief Russian Orthodox priest, who is a confidant of the region’s most powerful politicians, gave a sermon that was repeated every few hours. His theme: Protestant heretics.

«We deplore those who are led astray — those Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, evangelicals, Pentecostals and many others who cut Christ’s robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ’s holy coat,» declared the priest, the Rev. Aleksei Zorin.

Such language is familiar to Protestants in Stary Oskol, who number about 2,000 in a city of 225,000.

The Rev. Vladimir Pakhomov, the Methodist minister, recalled a warning from an FSB officer to one of his parishioners: » ‘Protestantism is facing difficult times — or maybe its end.’ «

Det er rundt 2 millioner protestanter i Russland, og bare noen hundre tusen katolikker.

Russia embraces its church, distancing western faiths