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RUSSIA: Alexander Dvorkin, an enemy of religious minorities, is turning 65 today

– Happy birthday, Mr Dvorkin. USCIRF dedicated a special research paper about your crusades against Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities

– HRWF (20.08.2020) – For more than 25 years, Alexander Dvorkin, the Russian notorious enemy of any non-Orthodox religious movement in Russia and the post-Soviet space, has been spreading hate speech about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Hare Krishna devotees, Falun Gong practitioners and other minority movements in total impunity. He will be 65 today, 20 August.


Who is Alexander Dvorkin?


Alexander Dvorkin was born in Moscow in 1955. On 6 March 1977, he emigrated from the Soviet Union on an Israeli visa. He did not go to Israel but went to the United States. While in the US, he got baptized in 1980 in an Orthodox Church of New York. In 1984, he received American citizenship. In 1988, he graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy inMedieval Studies with a dissertation titled Ivan the Terrible as a Religious Type. In 1992, he returned to a newly-independent Russia with many anti-cult ideas to work for the Russian Orthodox Church.


In 1993, he founded the Saint Irenaeus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies, an anti-cult propaganda center, which was blessed by the then Patriarch Alexey II of the Russian Orthodox Church and which became a global network of local Orthodox-oriented anti-cult civic groups and missionary departments of Orthodox dioceses.[1]


The Saint Irenaeus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies is also the head centre of the Russian Association of Centres for Religious and Sectarian Studies (RATsIRS). The president of RATsIRS is also A.L. Dvorkin; the vice-presidents are Archpriest Alexander Novopashin and Archpriest Alexander Shabanov; the executive secretary is priest Lev Semenov, Ph.D., associate professor.


Since 1993, Dvorkin has been chairing the Saint Irenaeus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies which later on became the Russian member association of FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects), an international anti-cult organization.


Last but not least, Alexander Dvorkin has for years been the vice-president of FECRIS which was created and is based in France, whose constitution strictly separates state and religions.  Oddly enough, FECRIS is heavily financed by French public powers, supposed to be secular, while its Russian member association, headed by Alexander Dvorkin, is heavily financed by the Russian Orthodox Church.


Quite recently, the nefarious role of Dvorkin has been recognized by a prestigious US state institution, USCIRF. See hereafter some excerpts of this report:

USCIRF Report: The Anti-Cult Movement and Religious Regulation in Russia and the Former Soviet Union[2]

Excerpt 1 about Jehovah’s Witnesses

“By the time the Russian government banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in April 2017, Alexander Dvorkin, a Russian anti-cult activist, had spent years lobbying for strong measures against groups he frequently refers to as “totalitarian cults” and “destructive sects”—and the Jehovah’s Witnesses were at the top of his list. In an interview with state media shortly after the ban, Dvorkin claimed that the group maintains “strict control over every aspect of its members’ lives, including even the most intimate moments

of their family lives as spouses have to report on one another.” Just as in the days of Stalin, “All members have to keep an eye on each other, to spy on one another,” he said. Dvorkin believes that the international human rights community, especially those who advocate for freedom of religion and belief, enable these destructive organizations to prey on society. According to him, “the struggle for human rights is being supplanted with the struggle for the rights of organizations which violate human rights.” Banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to his mind, was not a violation of fundamental freedoms, but rather an essential step for their preservation.”

Excerpt 2 about Dvorkin’s hate speech and lack of academic legitimacy

Dvorkin has long provided the anti-cult movement with a veneer of intellectual credibility. Since 1999, he has taught Sectarian Studies at the ROC’s University of St. Tikhon; yet, his degree in Medieval Studies provides no academic grounding in religious studies or the sociological and psychological concepts on which he so frequently relies. At a seminar in 1993, he allegedly coined the term “totalitarian sect,” a concept which effectively merged Western anti-cult ideas with the post-Soviet context, where anxiety about the return to the Stalinist past competed with fears about an unstable present. Totalitarian sects, Dvorkin explained, were “authoritarian organizations whose leaders strive to dominate and exploit their followers” through various deceitful “masks.” He has compared such leaders to Hitler and Lenin, equated religious communities with the Stalinist Gulag, and said that NRMs had more in common with totalitarian political regimes than “real” religions like the ROC.”

Except 3 about Dvorkin as vice-president of FECRIS

“Dvorkin’s influence has also extended outside of the post-Soviet orbit. In 2009, the same year in which he was appointed head of Russia’s Council of Experts, he also became Vice-President of the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism (FECRIS), a French anti-cult organization with pan-European influence. The French government provides the majority of FECRIS’ funding and the group regularly spreads negative propaganda about religious minorities, including at international forums like the annual Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimensions conference. Dvorkin’s SILIC is the primary associate of FECRIS in Russia and receives significant financial support from both the ROC and the Russian government.”

Much more is to be found about Dvorkin in USCIRF’s report by Jason Morton, Policy Analyst and also in “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality/ A Case Study: FECRIS – FECRIS and its Affiliate in Russia. The Orthodox Clerical Wing of FECRIS ”, pp 267-307 (By Human Rights Without Frontiers correspondent in Russia)[3]

In its recommendations, USCIRF says among other things the U.S. government should:

  • Publicly censure Alexander Dvorkin and the Saint Irenaeus of Leon Information-Consultation Center (SILIC)) for their ongoing disinformation campaign against religious minorities;
  • Counter propaganda against new religious movements by the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism (FECRIS) at the annual OSCE Human Dimensions Conference with information about the ongoing involvement of individuals and entities within the anti-cult movement in the suppression of religious freedom;

Human Rights Without Frontiers considers that Alexander Dvorkin qualifies for the implementation of the US sanctions under the Magnitsky Law.

[1] https://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2012-1014-FECRIS-BOOK-last-version-2012.pdf, pp 278, 302-304

[2] https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2020%20Anti-Cult%20Update%20-%20Religious%20Regulation%20in%20Russia.pdf July 2020

[3] https://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2012-1014-FECRIS-BOOK-last-version-2012.pdf


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