Jehovah’s Witnesses have been present in Ukraine for more than a century. They obtained legal registration on February 28, 1991, shortly before Ukraine became an independent nation.
The Nazi and Soviet regimes greatly oppressed Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine. On April 8, 1951, Soviet authorities exiled more than 6,100 Witnesses from western Ukraine to Siberia. The situation improved slightly in June 1965 after the Supreme Court of Ukraine ruled that the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses was of a religious nature and not anti-Soviet. The authorities stopped arresting people for reading Witness literature but continued to imprison Witnesses for talking to others about their beliefs. In September 1965, a government amnesty released all Witnesses who had been exiled to Siberia in 1951, but most were not allowed to return to their former residences. Severe persecution continued into the early 1980’s.
Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy freedom to meet together for worship and carry out their public ministry without hindrance from the authorities. However, Witnesses have often been victims of hate crimes. The authorities have done little to protect the Witnesses from attacks on them personally and on their houses of worship and in most cases have not prosecuted the perpetrators. The authorities’ inaction has allowed the perpetrators to act with impunity and, together with the unrest in the eastern part of the country, has resulted in an increase of attacks against the Witnesses.