The big boss didn’t like the song, and he ordered to do "so that they don’t come here anymore".
The “building on Sovetskaya” in Izhevsk is the territorial united head office of the security agencies. A "particularly important case" in the capital of the region has been investigated since 2017. The first court did not find violations of the law in the songs of the Hare Krishnas and acquitted them, then the police drew up the second protocol - on illegal missionary work on VKontakte! Such controversial accusations became possible in relation to religious associations after the entry into force of the “Package of Yarovaya”.
Novye Izvestia spoke with Timofey Trefilov, a Hare Krishna follower who now defends in the courts the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.
- Timofey, your persecution began with songs in the town square. What spiritual movement follower are you?
- The Sankirtan movement is an ancient spiritual practice. In Sanskrit, it means "the joint chanting of the names of God". The postulates are reflected in a number of Indian scriptures - in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Kali Santarana Upanishad, for example. I have been a supporter of this direction for many years and have come to this, having gone a long way in spiritual quests. I never hid this - neither in a friendly circle, nor at work.
- Where did you work?
- First, in the State Council [Legislative Assembly of the UR], then the head went to work in the Central Executive Committee of the Udmurt Republic, invited me there to the post of head of the organizational department.
- You mentioned that after the adoption of the “Yarovaya package” they began to look askance at you. What was this expressed in?
- Before the “Yarovaya package”, such my “peculiarity”, so to speak, had no significance for the leadership, but the adopted law changed everything. For example, I’ve been a vegetarian for quite some time now, I don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol at all, I don’t drink tea and coffee, and when at some general meetings, corporate parties everyone gathered at common tables with refreshments, I began to notice a negative reaction from the authorities. Or, for example, I wear Kanthimal beads. They are tall and sometimes were visible from under the shirt, I received a comment from the boss about this - I had to hide the beads under the collar. At the same time, there were no such claims against employees who wear crosses. In 2012, when I was going on vacation to India, he told me: "Bear in mind, Timofey Mikhailovich, I do not work with sectarians." But the irony was just felt in this remark, because, judging by the fulfillment of the tasks in the interests of the state, which were set before me, so to speak, no one ever considered me unreliable.
In March 2017, I knew that the situation was escalating “from above” and quit, not waiting for me to be chased under shameful, far-fetched formulations, but in fact - “for faith”. The chief asked me to remain in the commission until the end of the election - they say, it will be inconvenient for him to speak with the Head of the Republic in the midst of the election campaign. But I quit my job as the head of the department and was now freer in my actions, I could come to meetings with a tilak on my forehead [a sacred sign that the Hare Krishnas put on the forehead and other parts of the body].
- And they went?
- Walked. And in meetings - with tilak and continued to sing with his brother in the streets of Hare Krishna. I was the youngest member of the commission, and as the head of the department I still interacted with each member of the Central Executive Committee of Udmurtia, and never with my colleagues I had problems and disagreements on religious issues - on the contrary, they were interested in learning something on an unknown topic. We got along. When I quit, I didn’t explain the reasons, I said that I was leaving for business, but my colleagues asked questions, were perplexed, I would say, sympathized.
- In March 2017, the police detained you for the first time.
- The policemen used to come to us, ask different questions, often showing sincere curiosity. After sincere conversations, we peacefully dispersed. We went with harinams not only in Izhevsk, we traveled with fellow believers both to Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg, and never people in uniform have found fault with us. In March 2017, in the central square, we sang Hare Krishna in every way. Detectives in civilian clothes and one man in police uniform approached us, began to grab hands, brought to the Oktyabrsky district department, drew up a protocol on an administrative offense for allegedly illegal holding of a mass event. My brother and I continued to sing Hare Krishna until the end of the trial, now walking alone in the city. Then, for solitary appearances, the police had not yet detained in the streets. The hearing in our case took place three months later - in the Oktyabrsky District Court of Izhevsk.
- What arguments did the police bring in court?
- The arguments of the police, in my opinion, were unconvincing. The captain, who was detaining us, said: "I will force you to coordinate your events." But I’m a lawyer myself, and I know for sure that the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” No. 125 does not extend the notification order to religious events where public order protection is not required. The one who interrogated us tried to substantiate his position with the question “What if Muslims come and beat you?”. It's a strange thing, then let's close all decent people home, and let the hooligans walk - the main thing is that they have no one to beat on the streets.
- As a result, you won the first trial?
- Yes, the court recognized for us the statutory right to gather peacefully and did not see anything illegal in singing Hare Krishna.
- Remember what the judge referred to when he refused the policemen who initiated the administrative case?
- Just on this same 125th Federal Law. Religious events do not need to be coordinated if there is no threat to public order. Freedom of religion. The police appealed the decision of the first instance, but the appellate court upheld the decision in our favor.
I heard an interesting dialogue between the police then in the Supreme Court, while I was waiting for the meeting to begin. Major Ignatieva asked bewildered Captain Porhuna: “Why did you detain the guys? Why is this hemorrhoids? ” “They told us - we need to bring it to a result,” the captain replied, he had a tone of excuses.
- Did they conduct this dialogue right in front of you in the court corridor?
- Yes, a meter away from me, I was sitting on a nearby bench, and they obviously did not whisper and did not hesitate to hear them.
- So you understand that in the case against you there is a certain customer and he is most likely not in the police?
- Yes, it was obvious that the captain who was detaining us, and the major who wrote the protocol, felt stuck in this burdensome process, and they were uncomfortable.
- In the case, as you said before, was there still some kind of expertise from the Office for Internal Policy of the Administration of the Head of Udmurtia?
- My brother and I singing Hare Krishna in the square did not attract a rally, so the police, having violated all conceivable administrative procedures, destroyed the first protocol and made up a new protocol two weeks later with a different offense. The very illegal protocol was supplemented by the conclusion of an expert from the Administration of the Head of the Udmurt Republic. This expertise is the most interesting part of my business. It is she who shows how difficult it is to defend one’s rights and answer the charge brought on behalf of the state.
The police transmitted the video recording of our brother and I singing in the square to the Administration of the Head of the Udmurt Republic, where she was examined by the Department of Internal Policy in the department for the development of civil society institutions. The name of the department implies fairness in evaluating our actions. But the deputy head of the department, who signed the conclusion, showed either complete incompetence or bias.
Ilyinsky, an official who draws up a conclusion on the basis of materials, is a candidate of historical sciences with, in my opinion, dubious competence in religious studies, nevertheless, he conducted a religious study, which in reality is a linguistic research. The result is a conclusion that, as I see it, shows the author’s complete ignorance of the topic. Judge for yourself, I am quoting: “Based on the content of the material reviewed, it can be said that the event indicated on 03.03.2017 can definitely be attributed to the category of religious and ritual cult actions characteristic of the followers of the teachings of Vaisnavas - one of the areas of the ancient religion of the Indian peoples of Hinduism (“ Vishnuism ” ), modernized by the spiritual master Swami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. The associations of believers in this direction are called Krsna consciousness societies, and the followers themselves are called Vaishnava acaryas”.
As a candidate of historical sciences, Ilyinsky should have known that the society of Krishna consciousness is the name of an international organization, and if I say “Hare Krishna”, this does not mean at all my membership in this organization. Moreover, in Russia alone there are officially at least 5 registered organizations that preach faith in Krishna. And the second: Acharya - a very high position - means one who acts in a perfect way and teaches others by his own example. Ilyinsky, calling all the followers “acharyas - Vaishnavas”, made a mistake unforgivable for the expert, it is as if all parishioners of the Orthodox church were called the Patriarchs of All Russia.
Ilyinsky is not sure of his own assessment - he writes “can be said”, “can be attributed”. That is, you can name it, or you can not name it, you can attribute it, or you can not do it. But what about the presumption of innocence, enshrined both in administrative law and in all legislation of the Russian Federation? You can’t unequivocally (this is a key word) prove a person’s guilt - it means he is innocent. Religious topics are complex, and interfaith relations are indeed not easy. And Ilyinsky, if he is a specialist, must be aware of his responsibility, because in such cases it is expert opinions that become the basis of the evidence base, and judges rely on them in the first place, making decisions and sentences. And this is the fate of people. An incompetent expert can become the instigator of dangerous conflicts.
- They gave you a break for two years.
- Yes. During this period, some positive changes have occurred in the relationship of believers with the state. For example, the FMS allowed Hindus to be photographed for documents with a tilak, just like Muslim women - in a hijab.
Unless there was only one call from a member of the regional branch of the International Organization “Society for Krishna Consciousness” - the largest Krishna organization in Russia, one might say, recognized by the official authorities. He offered a meeting. The conversation was peculiar - they say, you go and sing, and they ask us for this “from that building”. This conversation is probably the saddest thing in recent years. Because greetings from different buildings were predictable, we understood that they would be watching us. But the fact that co-religionists, instead of jointly searching for solutions to emerging problems, after working through the bodies, was content with self-censorship - this is what makes you worry. I hoped that in the event of harassment, we would defend freedom together, and instead received from our brothers in faith a strong recommendation that we should not come closer to the “building”.
- In 2019, a second case appeared.
- This time everything was more civilized. I got a call from the center "E" and was invited to give explanations about the post on VKontakte.
- What was this post?
- There was a video - my brother and I are walking along Voroshilov Street, we are singing Hare Krishna and there was a signature under it. One innocuous phrase is a proposal to join the chanting of Hare Krishna (now I don’t know if it can be literally reproduced in the media). The police qualified him as illegal missionary activity, namely, an illegal call to join the ranks of our organization, but did not indicate the organization that we allegedly called to join.
- You went without a subpoena?
- Before that, there was a positive experience of interaction with authorities, the first court as a result sided with us. I was hoping that I would go, debunk another misunderstanding.
The official part of the conversation with operative Grigoryan quickly exhausted itself. He asked if I posted this post, who is on the video, and when it was. This ended the interrogation. The policeman did not really understand my religious views, so he constantly apologized, asking if he was insulting my feelings at the moment. In the office on his desk was Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
- The very script that they tried to add to the federal list of extremist materials in Tomsk in 2011, which resulted in the biggest international scandal. India even threatened to break off diplomatic and trade relations with Russia, after which Lavrov had to justify and explain. Dozens of countries sent their own expertise to Russia - scientists, teachers, religious associations, politicians, artists, and artists. The judicial demand, which received the comic award “Insanity of the Year”, was followed by the whole world - protests broke out in different parts of the world because of the process that had begun. Tomsk University refused to write a linguistic examination, after which the desired was received from Kemerovo University, but Tomsk judge Butenko still did not wave and dismissed the lawsuit. It would seem that the bullet point was set forever already, but Izhevsk nine years later happily climbed on the same rake?
- Today, not a single scripture of Hare Krishnas, literature published by Hare Krishnas, the Society of Krishna consciousness itself and its branches are recognized as extremist.
- It's true. I checked the federal list - 575 pages today.
- This same book was lying on the table of Grigoryan, and for some reason he shared his impressions of reading: “I understand almost nothing, but I need to figure it out.” The conversation turned into an educational channel. It was not without pleasure that I answered all his questions about the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. I must say that he listened to me with great interest, and I saw that he understands everything that I say. In his office on the wall was a Muslim calendar - prayers, religious holidays. I was inspired then, thought that as two believers we will understand each other.
- But a few days later, on those testimonies, you were summoned to the prosecutor's office?
- The police sent materials to the prosecutor's office to initiate proceedings.
- What were you accused of the second time?
- “Yarovaya Package” introduced the concept of missionary activity, which includes any call provided by the authorities to join the ranks of a religious organization. Recently, because of these new rules, for example, one Muslim religious organization was fined, which posted an announcement about the date of the next meeting of supporters. An information board was in the common corridor of the business center, where they rented a room. If they had posted this announcement in the premises - the police would not have had any questions. But the announcement of the date of the meeting, hanging in a common corridor - is a "call to join the ranks" for an unlimited circle of people - and that's it, the job is done! That is, it has become possible to judge believers by formal signs, simply for informing, and there is no hint from the police themselves of any destructive activity ...
- In your post, the Udmurt police and prosecutors also saw an appeal to join the ranks of your movement?
- Under this law, even expressing one’s opinion regarding religion is considered missionary work. And now only the head of the organization registered in the Ministry of Justice, or the person to whom such permits are issued, can engage in missionary work. Our organization is not registered in the Ministry of Justice, so now, in order to legally invite to our ranks, we must hold a general meeting in advance. At this meeting, we must give in writing members of our association, whom we consider worthy to speak on behalf of our association, with this right. This written permission must also be registered with the Ministry of Justice. That is, my brother and I should get together and give each other a friend the right to invite supporters to our unregistered organization and go to coordinate it with the Ministry of Justice? ... Without all these procedures, “according to the Yarovaya package” we are violators, illegal missionaries. But the prosecutor’s office doesn’t even name the organization in which I allegedly urge people to join! There is no organization.
At the prosecutor's office, again, short protocol explanations and a heart-to-heart conversation. I also asked the assistant prosecutor Maltseva my eternal question: “Do you consider the post where my brother and I sing Hare Krishna a crime?” “No, just make the group closed so that they don’t cling to you,” sounded in response as a friend’s advice.
The second time I was invited to the prosecutor's office to pick up a copy of the decision to institute administrative proceedings. Her boss entered the office of Maltseva and, pretending not to notice me, without reading, signed the decree.
- The second trial was launched.
- Getting acquainted with the case materials, I noticed that in them, as well as the last time, there was again the conclusion of a specialist Ilyinsky. Ilyinsky again gave a religious conclusion on the video with the singing "Hare Krishna." However, similar material has already been considered, therefore, for a new offense it is necessary to have new reasons, and in the fresh conclusion of the specialist Ilyinsky, they, who would doubt it, were found. Now, yesterday’s “religious-ceremonial cult action”, which is not prohibited by law, has turned into a “targeted religious propaganda event,” forbidden to be held by the Yarovaya package, unless there is a special permission from the organization in whose favor it is held. And Vaishnavism from "one of the directions of the ancient religion of the peoples of India" has turned into a "new religious movement."
The police, the prosecutor’s office and the specialist were not at all worried about the presence of an assessment of a particular event already given by the court, the decision made thereon, or the legislation of the Russian Federation on freedom of religion and conscience, moreover, no one paid attention to the fact that there were no groups of Krishna supporters on the list of banned organizations . Just depending on the tasks set, the same expert rewrites his conclusions. The review was scheduled for September 2019. In the courthouse, I met operative Grigoryan, who in the summer explained the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita. I was focused and silent, but he came up to me and thanked: “Now I understand what Krishna is talking to Arjuna!” “Hare Krsna! You are welcome!" I answered him.
- On the second attempt, did the judge support the police and prosecutors?
- The case was reviewed by a retired judge who was called from retirement to replace the temporarily absent judge. She invited the assistant prosecutor to her office, and I was invited only after 10 minutes. In explaining the case, I saw that the judge had already made a decision. After listening to me, she quickly turned over several more pages of the case and declared: “To convict an administrative offense, impose a fine of 5,000 rubles.” The entire review took 5 minutes. At the same time, in making the decision, in my opinion, the judge went beyond the charges brought by the prosecutor's office. Our organization is unregistered, and even with the greatest desire, I cannot get the established permission for missionary activity from such an organization. Nevertheless, my violation, according to the court decision, was expressed precisely in the absence of this permission. The appeal did not find any material violations in the adjudication of the justice of the peace and upheld the decision of the justice of the peace.
I eagerly read the motivation of the judge: “The arguments of Trefilov T.М. court evaluates critically. These arguments follow from the protective position of TM Trefilov, serve the purpose of evading administrative responsibility”. I have never met a more “reliable” argument in my life. Your arguments are not accepted, because you defend yourself against the charge of violating a law that you did not commit. It is my right to defend myself, and the judge, it turns out, does not recognize him.
The judge makes decisions based solely on expert opinions and protocols of officials who are trusted a priori. Officials draw up protocols, always apologizing and asking the “accused” himself to explain to them what they actually write about in these protocols. Conditional expert Ilyinsky changes his mind about the same event from conclusion to conclusion. And what about the riddle about freedom and lack of freedom? Let this conditional Ilyinsky ask himself this question! The collar does not crush the obedient slave.
- Today you are waiting for the appeal in the Supreme Court of Udmurtia? There was no desire to play by the same rules and file counterclaims about insulting the feelings of believers and oppression for confessional reasons?
“ I don't blame any of the employees, you see.” I see that we communicate well with them, that there is mutual understanding and sympathy on their part, and that they simply carry out the instructions of their superiors, this is their work. My job is to ensure that the court recognizes our right to believe freely and to express our opinion freely.
- You quit the work in the CEC. What are your sources that help you to survive in the material world?
- My brother and me registered as the entrepreneurs. Family business. We opened a vegetarian cafe, which did not have a success. Now we are engaged in shoe repair.
- Have you had any questions for the business activity of a legal entity?
- No, you see, I don’t think that this is some kind of order specifically against me. In my opinion, this is precisely the trend of universal suppression - fear is imposed on people to any statements - about religion, about power. In this period, when the economy is deteriorating, household incomes are falling, the function of government is aimed primarily at something else, but not at improving people's lives. Therefore, in this way and in such deeds as mine, we are simply forbidden to talk about how we live, to jointly search for meanings, to realize spiritual needs. Although, it would seem, in difficult moments, it would be just unreasonable to obstruct the realization of their freedoms.
- A few co-religionists supported you at this moment?
- There were 7 of us. We never campaigned for anyone to join our ranks, and, ironically, they judge us precisely for this. With the onset of problems, almost all of our few brothers in faith - 4 people - left us and broke off contacts with us. This pressure made a strong impression on them. There was only a brother, mom and me.
But, you know, any situation where you have to fight for your own dignity, I perceive as a part of the path. Obstacles and resistance are encountered by all active people in their lives. The only way to resist is to make such arguments that it is impossible to make unfair decisions, naming white as black and black as white.