eurel     Sociological and legal data on religions in Europe and beyond
You are here : Home » Estonia » Current issues and debates » 2024 » Estonian Parliament about to declare Russian Orthodox Church a terrorist (...)

Estonian Parliament about to declare Russian Orthodox Church a terrorist support organisation

  • April 2024

On 27 and 28 March a National Congress was convenedin Russia, presided by Patriarch Kirill who deemed the war in Ukraine a holy war and presented an instruction for the Russian state authorities about the promotion of the Russian World. After these news from Russia, the Minister for Internal Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Lauri Läänemets, asked the representatives of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (EOC-MP) to clarify their position with regard to the leader of their mother church. They had already been invited three times to the Ministry to explain their position about the statements made by Patriarch Kirill. Although the bishops of the EOC-MP distanced themselves from the decisions taken at the National Congress (but not, however, from Patriarch Kirill), the minister concluded after this meeting that the canonical and constitutional ties between the EOC-MP and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) had to be cut in order for the church to continue serving its flock in Estonia. The representatives of the EOC-MP claimed that the local church was not responsible for the statements made by the Patriarch and, therefore, rejected the demand to leave the canonical jurisdiction of the ROC.

In an interview on 11 April, Minister Lauri Läänemets stated that, on the basis of the Internal Security Service’s recent assessment and his own knowledge of the matter, he had no choice but to propose to the Estonian parliament that the activities of ROC be declared terrorist and that the ROC be declared an organisation supporting terrorism. He said that there were no differences between Islamic terrorist groups declaring war to the West and the ROC declaring a holy war against Ukraine and the West. He added that, "this will not affect congregations, and it does not mean that churches will be closed, but it means that the connection with Moscow will be cut."

This means that the EOC-MP as a church will probably be dissolved. Central bodies of churches are registered as NGOs in Estonia, but every single congregation is similarly registered as a NGO. The minister can ask the court to terminate a NGO. According to the law a NGO can be terminated, when its purpose or its activity is contrary to the law, constitutional order or good manners; or its activity does not meet its statutory objectives (§ 40).

As the majority of EOC-MP property belongs to the state owned or to municipalities, the question of whether the EOC-MP congregations’ leases should be terminated has also been raised. In Talllinn, the capital of Estonia, a new coalition agreement was signed on 14th April, stating that all rental agreements with organisations or individuals that expand the influence of the Russian Federation, or organisations of Russian Federation, will be terminated. This may result in the termination of the rental agreement of several churches in Tallinn, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral opposite to the Estonian Parliament, because the congregation is under the direct leadership of Patriarch Kirill and according to its constitution is the official representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in Estoni.

Another Orthodox Church in Estonia, an autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is willing to discuss the matter of including the EOC-MP congregations in its structure.

On 12 April, the Estonian Internal Security Service published its yearbook, in which a paragraph is devoted to Metropolitan Yevgeny, the leader of the EOC-MP, whose residence permit was not extended in January 2024 and who had to leave Estonia the following month. This decision was motivated by the promotion of Russian state narratives and intervention in Estonian domestic politics. The report added: “From Russia’s perspective, it is crucial to maintain the entities associated with the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, along with their influence and assets, because the church is one of the few remaining levers for Russian influence operations that are not yet directly affected by international sanctions.”

D 18 April 2024    APriit Rohtmets

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Follow us:
© 2002-2024 eurel - Contact