ISSN 2330-717X

Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Revive Soviet-Era House Churches But With Laptops And Kindles – OpEd


The Russian Supreme Court in April declared that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were an “extremist” organization, prohibited its missionary activities, and declared that the Witnesses’ 396 Kingdom Halls were to be handed over to the state. The Witnesses have appealed that decision and a final hearing on their case will be take place on Monday.

Because of the appeal, the government has not yet implemented all the aspects of the original decision, and Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses are hopeful for a positive result, either there or later at the European Court of Human Rights. But the Russian government action has already had a serious impact on the community.

Taking their cue from the Russian government, Russians have attacked Witnesses more often—with the number of such attacks up by 750 percent between the month before and the month after the court decision — and expressed more hostility toward the Witnesses — almost 80 percent of Russians said they did not approve of the group according to one recent poll ( and

Not all Russians have fallen victim to this official campaign. According to a report in Novaya gazeta today, for example, one policeman asked Witnesses who continue to engage in missionary activity to do so somewhere other than on his beat but then relented and allowed them to go ahead (

More seriously, Jehovah’s Witnesses deprived of access to their Kingdom Halls have created house churches that resemble in some ways the underground religious groups that existed in Soviet times. But they are doing so with many modern touches: many rely on laptops and even read the Bible on kindles.

Some Russian Witnesses are thinking about emigrating given the crackdown against them in Russia today, but most say that they “do not want to leave the country because of the ban. We love Russia. We love the Russian language. [And] we love these people,” the Witnesses say.

In the words of one Russian Witness, “Witnesses don’t take up arms, they do not participate in wars and meetings. We will struggle but by purely legal methods. I don’t understand why they are banning us. But it seems to me,” he said, “that those who are doing the banning don’t know the answer either.”

What is obvious, however, is that Vladimir Putin has chosen to attack religious groups that he believes Russians won’t defend and that the West will not stand up for, going after the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Pentecostals, and thus create precedents for moving against denominations as well.

While some in Russia and in the West have spoken out in defense of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, not enough have, perhaps because they do not yet fully understand how serious the challenge Putin is posing by his campaign against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, first to members of that denomination, then to followers of other religions and finally to all people of good will.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

8 thoughts on “Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Revive Soviet-Era House Churches But With Laptops And Kindles – OpEd

  • July 15, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    None of your statements are based on facts. If Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons believe in Jesus and base their beliefs on him and claim to follow him, then who are we question them? Any religion can claim to be the true Christian church. If we do not agree with them, then we have the obligation to investigate and ask them questions. You calling a group that does not believe in your interpretation a “cult” does not make them be what you call them to be.

    • July 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      Didn’t Jesus say, “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you”
      Jesus had nothing to do with the government, but preached to everyone about the kingdom.
      They hated the founder of Christianity, and they also killed him.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses , are following Christs example, remain neutral to government affairs, be law abiding, and share the kingdom good news.
      God will judge us all, won’t he…

    • July 17, 2017 at 7:57 am

      I disagree with you. They are definately a cult because they do not allow those within their church to have the freedom to investigate and do their research. Many within the walls of Watchtower have discovered errors with teachings and when they pointed it out to them (church elders/others within their congregation) the next thing they know is that they are disfellowshipped and shunned.

  • July 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

    It is written: Jesus says; John 15:20; Bear in mind the word I said to you. A slave is not greater than his master, if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also, if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also.

  • July 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    If the world wants to fast track Armageddon, they should keep persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses. No one wants that day to arrive before its due time but Jehovah – the only GOD will not stand for attacks on HIS people.

  • July 17, 2017 at 5:27 am

    The translation of the Russian word митинги is not meetings as given in the article. It is political protests or rallies.

  • July 17, 2017 at 6:01 am

    The Lord Jesus calls His lost sheep out of the darkness (Babylon-false religion) into His wonderful light. (1Pet 2:9) He corrects and disciplines those He loves (Rev 3:19) with ” “fiery trials” to save them from the fires of hell. (1 Pet 1:6-7) So may Jesus’ lost sheep hear His voice, turn from their sins, and turn their hearts fully to “the Shepherd and Guardian of our soul”. (1Pet 2:25) May they be given God’s love for Jesus, strong faith in Him, an obedient spirit, and comfort thru the Holy Spirit to patiently endure the sufferings of our Lord (which is how we come into contact with His shed blood) which cleanses us from every sin so that we may be brought to God’s eternal glory innocent of sin and at peace with Him when Jesus returns. (Jude 1:24) “Blessed are the ones who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ( Rev 7:14; 22:14)

  • July 17, 2017 at 7:08 am

    8500 Jehovah’s witnesses in Brighton Southern England over the last three days at a football stadium.
    Not one Policeman in sight. All who question Jehovah’s witnesses come and see for your own eyes at any meeting at a kingdom hall or convention that we love peace. We follow God’s word the bible. As in the days of Noah, as in the days of Lot they did not listen but please take notice of Jehovah’s warning for our time. Take time to listen with a open heart.


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