The future looks dimmer for religious freedom in Russia after elections in December tripled the number of Communists in the country's Duma, the lower house of Parliament.

Yet, many Christian leaders believe nothing definitive will occur to restrict religious liberties until after June's presidential election. Communists captured 22 percent of the vote in the December election, twice as much as any other party. Despite democratic reforms of the past six years, the resurgent Communists, radical nationalists, and other factions may roll back the tide of reform, perhaps jeopardizing constitutional protection of free expression of religious faith.

THE NEXT ATTACK? Gleb Yakunin, former deputy of the Duma and long-time defender of religious liberties in Russia, believes that those who would limit freedom of religion may seize their opportunity to change the law as early as this month. Yakunin believes that foreign missionaries may be forced to curtail their activity within the next two years. The next attack, he predicts, will come against Protestants and Catholics who disagree with powerful Orthodox Patriarch Alexi II. More than half of Russia's 150 million people are reported to be Orthodox. In 1993 the Orthodox church defrocked Yakunin after he led a Parliament fight against restrictions on minority churches and foreign missionaries (CT, Dec. 13, 1993, p. 54).

Yakunin lost a position in the new Duma after he failed to gather enough signatures to secure a place on the ballot. Last September, he formed a public watchdog organization to monitor freedom-of-conscience violations.

Yakunin and a handful of others waged an intense campaign to amend the current law on freedom of religion, seeking passage of a compromise draft in the final ...

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