Scientology in Russia, a series by historian Chris Owen, part 2: The Putin years - 2021-01-28
Scientology enjoyed a rapid expansion in Russia through the Boris Yeltsin era in the 1990s. Under his successor, Vladimir Putin, it faced a much more difficult and dangerous environment, characterised by increasingly frequent police raids and eventual criminal charges against senior Russian Scientologists.
Putin's new regime appealed to nationalist sentiment, and in particular to the support of the Russian Orthodox Church. Opposition to foreign sects became an increasingly prominent issue for Putin's supporters, and eventually for the Russian government itself.
Public demonstrations of opposition to Scientology have been closely linked to political actors. In September 2003, the 100,000-strong pro-Putin youth group Walking Together launched a coordinated series of demonstrations outside Scientology centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaluga, with the support of Russian Orthodox youth groups and clergy. Another pro-Putin youth group, Young Russia, held similar demonstrations at Russian universities in 2008 to protest against Scientology's efforts to recruit university students.