Jehovah’s Witnesses initially enjoyed peaceful worship in Russia after the Russian Federation granted national registration in 1992. The Witnesses registered again in 1999 under the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. There are hundreds of local religious organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses registered and operating throughout the country.
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses face increasing challenges that seriously threaten their religious freedom. Since 2009, law-enforcement agencies have sponsored a nationwide campaign against the Witnesses by misapplying the Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity. Russian courts have declared dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications—including the Witnesses’ official website, jw.org—to be extremist. Police have searched hundreds of homes and places of worship. Prosecutors have charged Witnesses with administrative and criminal offenses merely for attending or conducting religious meetings.
Despite censure by the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies, authorities in Russia have done little to alleviate the harassment and discrimination that Jehovah’s Witnesses experience. Law-enforcement officials are incrementally intensifying their efforts to restrict the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.