Supreme Court outlaws neo-pagan sect

The Russian Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Provincial Court in Omsk (western Siberia) to dissolve the “Old Believers-Inglinists” religious association.

The Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Justice had started a legal action against the sect, considered one of the many expressions of neo-paganism in Russia, back in March 2003. According to the injunction, Inglinists are guilty of “spreading white supremacist ideas, based on the teachings of Slavic Aryan Vedas, encouraging this way inter-ethnic hatred.”

The Vedas are said to instruct believers to live “not by the laws of society, which deprive man of his freedom, but according to those of the One God.” Inglinists oppose mixed marriages, salute raising their right arm in Seig Heil fashion, and use the Kolovrat, the symbol of the rising Yarila Sun similar to the swastika, all of which are a reminder of Nazism.

The Court’s decision was based on a 2002 Russian federal law prohibiting the use of Nazi symbols that “insult the memory of the victory in the Great Patriotic War”. The Court also ruled that the group was guilty of inciting people not to respect the established order.

According to the sect’s attorney, Lidia Okhimenko, “Inglinist doctrine is not based on white supremacy. All it does is to encourage every nationality to preserve its indigenous culture, traditions, and basic faith.” Ms Ohkimenko added that the Kolovrat was different from the Nazi swastika, which “stands on edge at 45 degrees and is black in a white circle on a red background. By contrast, the Inglinists use only red and blue colours.”

Despite losing before the Supreme Court the Omsk community has not given up. It plans to ask the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Russian Supreme Court to force the Russian government to amend the law banning Nazi-like symbols.

According to Ms Okhimenko, other religious communities are in the Inglinists’ predicament. “The law forbids any use of Nazi symbolism, but the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol and is used by many religious confessions. So that if one followed the law it would be necessary to prohibit several Buddhist temples, Christian icons, and architectural monuments,” she said.

Aware of the contradictions of the law, Moscow City Council dealt with the problem by adopting a by-law “allowing the use of Nazi symbols for artistic, documentary, historical and scientific purposes.”

The Omsk Inglinist Church was founded in 1992. It opened its “Temple of the Wisdom of Perun” the following year and set up seminaries for men and women. It is largely self-financed although it does receive funds from some corporate sponsors. Its congregation is estimated at about 3,000.

Its name and that of its followers comes from the Russian Inglia, which means “infinity”.

Inglinists also call themselves “Old believers” even though they are in no way related to the Pravoslavnie Starovery, the “Orthodox Old Believers”, who broke away in 1652 from the then reforming Russian Orthodox Church.

Inglinist religious doctrine draws from different sources blending many Western and Hindu ideas whilst using pre-Christian Russian pagan symbolism.

According to the high priests of the sect, neo-paganism is not a faith, but rather an anti-faith with its own gods who represent mostly the forces of nature. Consequently, the seasons and cycles of nature govern life’s celebrations. Nothing is explicitly forbidden, neither are there any specific rules, nor any compulsory rites.