Postdoctoral researcher Mikeshin Igor

178600 €

Prisoners of Conscience: Persecutions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and their Reception in Finland

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

My project is a unique study of a persecuted community of Jehovah's Witnesses. Focusing on Russian-speaking Jehovah's Witnesses in Finland, I will study the ways they make sense of their persecution in Russia, their reception in Finland by state authorities, and what their case reveals about religious policy in Russia. In 2017, Russian courts labeled Jehovah's Witnesses an "extremist organization" and the New World Bible translation they use as "extremist material." Since then, more than 600 members of the community have been accused and more than 200 convicted of being "organizers" and "facilitators" of an extremist organization, and more than 60 have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Finland became a popular refugee destination for Russian Jehovah's Witnesses due to its close proximity to Saint Petersburg and a migration policy that seemed liberal during the refugee crisis of 2015. In Finland, however, many believers faced much hesitation from the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), resulting in a rejection of most of their applications. Although the official reason for the rejections is the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses are banned as an organization, though anyone can believe the teachings and freely worship, believers themselves admit that there are simply too many of them for Finland to handle. Due to harsh persecutions in Russia, the community does not enjoy much attention from researchers. Individual researchers or research groups face the threat of being labeled "extremist" or "an accomplice to an extremist organization." Hence, I plan to conduct a study of Russian Jehovah's Witnesses in Finland.