Russia and FECRIS: When a picture is worth a thousand words

Archpriest Alexander Novopashin lectures against “Ukrainian recruiters of terrorists” —and continues to display a huge FECRIS logo.

French version

By Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (22.04.2024) – The strange story between the anti-cult federation FECRIS and Russia continues.

FECRIS is the European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, an international anti-cult umbrella organization largely supported by French taxpayers. It has been criticized by scholars and even by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for spreading discriminatory attitudes against groups it stigmatizes as “cults.” “Bitter Winter” has documented its dangerous connections and support for the bloody repression of minority religions in Russia and China.

One of the largest and most active FECRIS affiliate operated in Russia. Since 2014 (and in fact even earlier), it systematically supported the aggression against Ukraine by Putin’s regime. When Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022, this support became a source of embarrassment for FECRIS. Yet, FECRIS waited until March 2023 to severe its connection with its Russian branch. This means that for more than one year the Russian FECRIS leaders supported Putin’s crimes against the Ukrainian people while remaining members of FECRIS in good standing, which caused strong reactions in Ukraine.

FECRIS was compelled by international pressures to put an end to this in March 2023. Or was it really the end?

On April 18, 2024, Archpriest Alexander Novopashin, who is the Vice President of what was until March 2023 the Russian affiliate of FECRIS (the President is the not less notorious anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin), reported on his own website (in case he will cancel the article, we at “Bitter Winter” have of course preserved it) that in the same day he conducted a seminar on “Destructive Organizations” at Maslyaninsky School No. 1 in the Novosibirsk Region.

He did not say anything new and vituperated as usual against “the war waged by the collective West, represented by the United States and its European henchmen, against our country.” He claimed to have evidence that after the recent terrorist attack in Moscow, recruiters, “mostly from Ukraine,” “write to Russian schoolchildren and offer to commit sabotage for several hundred thousand rubles,” adding death threats if they refuse the offer or inform the police.

Nothing is more similar to a lecture by Novopashin than another lecture by Novopashin.

However, what is interesting is that, as late as April 18, 2024, Novopashin lectured by repeatedly showing to its audience a large FECRIS logo and posted the pictures with that logo on his website. Why he exactly did it is unclear. The real relationships between Russian anti-cultists and the FECRIS are known to a happy few only. It seems that the former have with the FECRIS the same relations many Russians have with the bottle of Vodka. They may have been told countless times to put it down—but they simply cannot.


Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website