Atheist blogger accused of hate speech against the Orthodox Church wins in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) awarded the head of the Karelian Youth Human Rights Group, Maksim Efimov 10,000 euros as compensation for moral damage. In 2012, the blogger was accused of inciting religious enmity and humiliating the dignity of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)/ Moscow Patriarchate for the post “Karelia vs. Pops”. He had been added to the Russian “list of terrorists and extremists.” Read the full judgment.

Yefimov and Youth Human Rights Group v. Russia (nos. 12385/15 and 51619/15)

Registrar of the European Court (07.12.2021) – The applicants, Maksim Mikhaylovich Yefimov, and Youth Human Rights Group, are a Russian national and a Russian non-governmental organisation respectively. Mr Yefimov was born in 1976 and he founded Youth Human Rights Group in 2000 in Petrozavodsk (Republic of Karelia, Russia).

The case concerns the law in Russia providing that an association may be dissolved if it refuses to expel a member who has been suspected of an extremist offence.


In 2011 Mr Yefimov was charged with an extremist offence of hate speech in connection with his publication in which he criticised the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in public life. Two years later, the Youth Human Rights Group was liquidated for failure to expel from its ranks Mr Yefimov, who had been charged with an extremism offence.


Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Mr Yefimov complains of his prosecution for expressing his views. Relying on Article 11 (freedom of association) the applicants complain of the order to expel the first applicant from Youth Human Rights Group and the order to dissolve the latter.


Violation of Article 10 in respect of the first applicant
Violation of Article 11 read in the light of Article 10 in respect of both applicants


Just satisfaction:
non-pecuniary damage: EUR 10,000 to the first applicant


HRWF Comment

Efimov had posted a short note on the newspaper’s website Zero Hour (Час Ноль), “Karelia is fed up with priests” («Карелия устала от попов»), which read as follows:

“Anti-church attitudes are on the rise in the Karelian capital. Nothing surprising about that. Thinking members of society have realised that the church is also a party in power. The Russian Orthodox Church, just like the [ruling] United Russia party, is fooling people with fairy-tales about our good life while raking in money. Total corruption, oligarchy, and the absolute power of security services are the reasons for a revival of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Churches in Karelia are being built with public funds while there is no money for basic needs; ROC gets day nurseries for use at a time when childcare facilities are desperately lacking. Bearded men in fancy robes – modern-day ideology instructors – have filled the television screens. They give their opinion on everything, from canalisation to modernisation. All of this makes normal people puke; unable to do anything about the clerical stranglehold, they express their attitude to the ROC’s provincial officials by tagging walls in places where the Orthodox scum hangs out. ‘Pay and pray’, ‘Christ is dead’ [is written] on the walls of the Orthodox Centre in Petrozavodsk … which once was a day nursery.”

With such “an offence”, many people in France, Belgium and other EU countries would be prosecuted for hate speech against the dominant religion.


More incidents and cases of “offending the feelings of believers in Russia” here in Russian and in English with the automatic translation.


Photo : Picture of Maksim Yefimov (Credit: Credo Press)

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website