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Putin Targets Jehovah’s Witnesses Because He Assumes Few Will Come To Their Defense – OpEd

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Over the past five years since Moscow outlawed the Jehovah’s Witness organizations in the Russian Federation, the Russian authorities have brought suit against its followers two times as often as they have against all other similarly outlawed religious denominations, Aleksandr Verkhovsky says.

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It is not clear precisely why Vladimir Putin and his regime have it in for the Witnesses, the head of the SOVA monitoring and analytic center says. Some have suggested the size of the denomination threatens the Russian Orthodox Church, a close ally of the Kremlin. But Verkhovsky suggests Putin has another and more powerful motive.

The Kremlin leader may calculate that the Witnesses are a perfect target to send a broader message because they are sufficiently unpopular in many places that few are likely to be willing to come to their active defense. Thus, Putin can attack without fear of the adverse consequences he would suffer in the case of others (takiedela.ru/2022/04/svideteli-iegovi/).

The Witnesses do have a center in the US, Verkhovsky continues, but so do other denominations which have been banned in Russia. What makes them stand out, he suggests, is that they are “a large organization which doesn’t want to have anything to do with the authorities” besides registering and paying taxes. For the Kremlin, that makes them “suspicious.”

Verkhovsky is undoubtedly correct, and his argument should send a message to all other religious groups and those both in Russia and the West concerned about human rights: It is long past time to support the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia against Kremlin repression because they are truly on the front line.

If Putin sees there are real costs involved for moving against the Witnesses, he may back off and not attack others. But if he sees the current situation in which few speak out on the behalf of the Witnesses for whatever reason, he will continue to attack them and then attack the many others who are also on his target list and do so from a stronger position.

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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] .

10 thoughts on “Putin Targets Jehovah’s Witnesses Because He Assumes Few Will Come To Their Defense – OpEd

  • April 28, 2022 at 6:03 am
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    Thus, Putin can attack with fear of the adverse consequences he will suffer in the case of others.

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  • April 28, 2022 at 7:46 am
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    I read your article , I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses and see bible prophecy being fulfilled with the king of the north in the last days . Daniel 11:40 is being fulfilled right now . The king of the south pushed at Putin with oil sanctions , and he he is storming against him . Putin is going to due what he wants is also a prophecy being fulfilled. Prophecy in Ezekiel and Daniel are cross-referencing

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  • April 28, 2022 at 9:07 am
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    “These things I command you, that you love one another. 18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. 20 Keep in mind the word I said to you: A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have observed my word, they will also observe yours. 21 But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me. –

    Signed, Jesus.

    Which countries or people looked to save Jesus, OR the Apostles when they were being attacked, till death? none.

    As you said, if it were someone else? the world is fond of its own.

    My very comment will bring attack, despite it being in the bible.
    the implicative idea is, that the comment is not to include “witnesses”

    Yet the truth remains, if these were 160 thousand catholics, or baptists or Jews, the story would be giant.

    If you see that the world is indeed fond of you.. AND YOUR CHURCH.. AND POLITICAL LEADERS LOVE YOU AND WANT YOUR VOTE AND SUPPORT…what does that tell you? did Jesus lie? or no?

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  • April 28, 2022 at 11:56 pm
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    Putin may be violating the human rights of JWs but the JW organisation violates the human rights of current and former members. Under international human rights law the practice of shunning violates the right to adopt a new religion, or adopt non belief, without coercion. The threat of being shunned if such a choice is made, coerces a person to stay in the religion they no longer believe in, if they want to maintain contact with their jw family and friends. The organisationally mandated practice of shunning also violates the right to family and private life without interference. Governments are starting to tecognise the violations. Norway withdrew government funding from JWs this year because of human rights and children’s rights violations.

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    • April 29, 2022 at 1:51 am
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      Paul Goble Excellent article!! Thank you!! Few people are interested in talking about the cruel and brutal persecution against the peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses!!

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      • May 8, 2022 at 10:12 pm
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        What about the cruel and brutal persecution they put against their families by shunning? And don’t say they knew when they went in. The JW cult pushes them to get baptized before they have time to understand many times. For instance the youth. Being baptized at such a young age to make a life altering decision. And everyone knows it is pedo paradise. Shame on JW’s!

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    • May 1, 2022 at 10:00 am
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      Your anti-JW comment is nothing than an example.of propaganda, a misrepresentation of facts and an example of disinformation similar to the one heavily used in Putin’s Russia propagated by the so-called “anti-cult” centers whose facts are the views of apostates and that is being recycled again and again by the similar groups with their own motives. Your comment resonates in the same manner. The Norway case has already reasonated and been condemed and labelled as dangerous and ungrounded by the international scientifc community and will be appealed (even to the ECHR if necessary because it is a miscarrage of justice). It is based on the same propaganda you are sharing here. If you are interested in facts, though, related to the issues you raise I advise that you consult scholarly studies dealing with JW and these issues (e.g.by Dr. Massimo Introvigne, Dr. Holly Folk and numerous others), opinions of numerous third instance and international courts of law and bodies (including the ECHR that dealt with this issue) as well as scientific symposia (available at cesnur.org, among other places). Your comment is not grounded in facts and your manipulative reasoning is heavily biased towards JWs.

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    • June 8, 2022 at 3:17 am
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      Not true Mrs. Please get the facts.

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  • April 29, 2022 at 8:26 pm
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    I love Jehovah God, his son Jesus, and his organization in heaven and on earth. God has always protected and delivered his servants collectively from those in positions of power. Remember: Pharaoh of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Roman armies in the 1st Century, overturned charges of sedition by US government and resulting exoneration and release from prison in 1918, Hitler of Germany ( He said he would ‘exterminate us’, yet we held a convention on his former parade facility not long after the fall of his regime), Stalin of Russia (his mass deportation of JWs to Siberia only served spread the truth to that region and increase our members). I could go on and on. The current Russian authorities will learn this lesson as well. Jehovah is so patient and merciful in using his organization to help “rightly disposed” individuals, even enemies who have acted out of ignorance, to learn and apply Bible truths and principles that lead to everlasting life in paradise on earth (John 17:3; Luke 23:43; 2Peter 3:9). At the same time, however, Jehovah will continue his track record of protecting and delivering his people until his appointed time to permanently remove his enemies (Psalms 37:10; Isaiah 54:17)

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  • April 29, 2022 at 9:49 pm
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    Correction: exoneration and release from prison in 1919.

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