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Losing Their Religion in Crimea

Russia’s Restrictive Religion Laws Take Their Toll

An Orthodox monk prays next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014. Baz Ratner / Reuters

 

“Our people survived [deportation by] Stalin,” commented a manager of ATR, which, until April 1, was the only Crimean Tatar television station left. “Will they not survive these current problems?” Russian authorities had just shut it down—along with other media outlets—by refusing to register it under Moscow’s complex religion laws.

Shutting down the station was only the latest affront. A year after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, much has changed—and not for the better—for the peninsula’s three million people, particularly its 300,000 Muslim Crimean Tatars who are among its original inhabitants. Reports of human rights abuses in Crimea, including violations of freedom of religion or belief, abound. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, is observing in Crimea what it has long seen in Russia: The abuse of religious communities, including those the Kremlin views as threatening the pre-eminence

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