The Russia Program at GW Online Papers, no. 13, April 2024

Islam, Orthodox human rights,

and the ‘Destructology’ pseudo-science:

Roman Silantyev's Trajectory

Alexander Verkhovsky

April 26, 2024
This article is devoted entirely to a single person – Roman Silantyev. Why does this person deserve a separate and detailed analysis? Silantyev rose to fame on two separate occasions. The first time was in the 2000s, as an expert on Islam. 1 The second time was in May 2023 as an expert for the prosecution in the notorious case of Berkovich and Petriichuk (see below). This was when the general public learned about the pseudo-science of “destructology” created by Silantyev and he was profiled in the mass media several times.

Silantyev is definitely an influential behind-the-scenes player. In his own words, he has advised government agencies, including the Federal Security Service (FSB).2 His public behavior is often scandalous. But there are additional reasons to be interested in him. Silantyev has views on many other political and ideological issues and actively promotes them. He is both an academic public expert and an important figure in the “political wing” of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). I think he is a sincere person, although he may deliberately misinform his target groups. I would say that Silantyev is a bright and relatively radical representative of the official Church ideology, and his work gives an idea of the context in which this ideology exists. This includes its interaction with state repression and propaganda apparatus.

An Expert on Islam

Silantyev demonstrated his general approach to social problems in his role as an expert on Islam, and in this capacity, he was quite adequately portrayed by both Kristina Kovalskaya and Sofia Ragozina. In the 2000s, he was already a respected specialist in the religious studies community and frequently participated in conferences at institutions such as the Russian Academy of Public Administration (RAPA). In the 2010s, he was the second-most cited expert on Islam in the Russian media3 and a regular participant in the Carnegie Center seminars.

He has been the author of numerous articles and reports on Islam, as well as a number of books that have caused more or less of a stir.4 These books vary in length and style. They always contain huge amounts of factual information. Each controversial statement the author makes, as well as many others, are backed up by references to sources, just as they should be. These sources themselves are of varying quality—most often media or law enforcement reports. But most importantly, when reading Silantyev, one always feels a severe lack of criticism of sources as such. Some books are systematic and thorough, like The Recent History of Russia’s Islamic Community; others are more like collections of materials, such as the short book 100 Most Famous “Russian Muslims.” None of these books can be called neutral: the author always clearly indicates which groups and figures he considers more or less harmful or beneficial.

These books vary in length and style. They always contain huge amounts of factual information. Each controversial statement the author makes, as well as many others, are backed up by references to sources, just as they should be. These sources themselves are of varying quality—most often media or law enforcement reports. But most importantly, when reading Silantyev, one always feels a severe lack of criticism of sources as such. Some books are systematic and thorough, like The Recent History of Russia’s Islamic Community; others are more like collections of materials, such as the short book 100 Most Famous “Russian Muslims.” None of these books can be called neutral: the author always clearly indicates which groups and figures he considers more or less harmful or beneficial.

A number of Muslim leaders have been accusing Silantyev of Islamophobia since the early 2000s. Back in October 2001, Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia (CMR) Ravil Gaynutdin appealed to Metropolitan Kirill (Patriarch since 2009), head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate, with a request to “dismiss Roman Silantyev, the secretary of the Interreligious Council and a DECR employee, who is known for his anti-Muslim stance.”5 But the muftis of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims (CSAM), a group competing with the CMR, have always been on good terms with Silantyev, even though he has sometimes spoken unfavorably of them as well. The CSAM continues to support Silantyev at the time this article was written.6

His most scandalous book, The Recent History of Russia’s Islamic Community, first published in 2005, contained a lot of compromising information about various Muslim activists, imams, and muftis, often presented in rather scathing terms. However, no one managed to refute the facts presented, and no one seriously tried. The book received rather favorable assessments from several serious religious scholars7 and was not actually Islamophobic. The same can be said about the conflicts in subsequent years. For instance, when a court banned Elmir Kuliev’s “translation of the meanings of the Quran” in 2013, CMR Deputy Chairman Rushan Abbyasov accused Silantyev and the muftis of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of calling for the ban.8 But they did not: they considered Kuliev’s text to be Wahhabist and harmful, but on the contrary, called for his translations of the Quran to be removed from the list of potentially banned books.9

Nevertheless, Silantyev almost never acted as “just a researcher.” He has always had a public mission, around which he built a suitable theory. He classified all “non-traditional” Muslims as Wahhabis, although he was definitely aware of the differences between different movements. Though, at times, he may have sincerely failed to distinguish some groups from others, such as Fethullah Gulen's followers from the rest of Said Nursi's followers.10 At the same time, “Wahhabism” was understood only as a terrorist ideology and practice. This was followed by a clear conclusion: “There are only two ways to fight” against radicals – “displace them or destroy them.”11 Their views should be banned, and the imams and muftis who defend them should be deprived of their official status, right up to the complete closure of the Russian Council of Muftis.12

Silantyev did not invent facts, but very often failed to analyze them, simply interpreting them in the way he found convenient. For example, it is true that Mufti Nafigullah Ashirov wrote that the radical Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir was not a terrorist party,13 and it is also true that Mufti Ashirov made numerous very radical statements, including those cited by Silantyev. But it is not true that Hizb ut-Tahrir commits or plans terrorist attacks, or that it is a Wahhabi party in the doctrinal sense, or that Mufti Ashirov supported this party. Another example: it is true that Said Buryatsky, a famous ideologue of the Salafi terrorist underground in the Northern Caucasus, studied at the Al-Furqan madrasa in Buguruslan (Orenburg region), which was closed by the authorities, but Silantyev did not even try to prove that it was the madrasa that had influenced him so greatly.

Confronting and counteracting radicals and their accomplices falls within the framework of the concept of “traditional religions” (which the state should assist and support, including in their opposition to “non-traditional” ones), which was already well developed in the early 2000s. In this concept, the distinction between “traditional” and “non-traditional” trends within one religion presented a challenge: no criterion was found that would be suitable in this regard for all “traditional religions.” Thus, the question of how Silantyev determined which Muslims should be considered “non-traditional” and, therefore, undesirable or even hostile, is of fundamental importance, because this term is practically official and is very actively used in politics. He does this quite simply: “For Russia, the only traditional Islam is the one whose followers are ready to be law-abiding citizens of their state and respect the Christian majority.”14 With a single phrase he combines statism and the idea of the hierarchy of religions, both views quite typical of the Church leadership.15

It is clear that such a declaration is not an expert's opinion, but a slogan, by means of which the expert tries to influence his target audience. This pragmatic approach seems to be quite typical for Silantyev. Notably, in his 2019 textbook on destructology (see below), when the state policy towards “non-traditional Muslims” had long since settled and it was no longer necessary to scare the public and the authorities with a united Wahhabi front, Hizb ut-Tahrir, supporters of Said Nursi, Tablighi Jamaat, and the Muslim Brotherhood were no longer classified as Wahhabis, but were described in the chapter “Non-wahhabi destructive Islamists sects.”16

In another example, when Silantyev spoke in support of the authorities of the Republic of Mordovia, which banned headscarves for schoolgirls, one of the arguments of the defenders of headscarves was that in Chechnya, on the contrary, schoolgirls are forbidden to come to school with uncovered heads. In response, Silantyev quickly transformed the theme of traditionality into that of ethno-cultural uniqueness: “In Chechnya, people are not against the wearing of headscarves; but in Mordovia they are.”17

Thus, Silantyev’s activities as an expert on Islam were largely devoted to the promotion of his views and, most importantly, attempts to influence public policy. It is unclear to what extent Silantyev was merely following the state’s repressive policy against “non-traditional Islam” and to what extent he actually influenced its content. In private conversations with the author, many experts on Islam stated that his influence was significant, but we have no proof of this.

However, it should also be noted that Silantyev retained the ability to sometimes be critical of the use of harsh measures. For example, he was one of the main proponents of banning the religious tracts of what he considered to be “Wahhabi” or “sectarian” movements because he believed that banning fundamental works would prevent the spread of the corresponding beliefs.18 But he recognized that expanding the list of prohibited texts is ineffective in the fight against terrorism and that “the prosecution of controversial works often seems unduly harsh.”19
A Head of the Human Rights Center of the World Russian People's Council

Roman Silantyev is not only a scholar. He is also a longtime staff member of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1998, before even graduating from university,20 he started working for the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate, where his work concerned interfaith relations. He remained a ROC employee until 2009. And from 2010 he was the director of the Center for Geography of Religions at the DECR,21 until this center was abolished at the end of 2015.22

In July 2001, Silantyev was appointed executive secretary of the Interreligious Council of Russia. The ICR is a club of seven (at the time) “traditional religious organizations”: ROC, three Muslim associations, two Jewish, and one Buddhist. In the 2000s, the ICR was seen as a collective partner of the authorities and as an embodiment of the then gaining popularity of the concept of “traditional religions.” Silantyev held this position until 2005, when he had to leave because of protests against his book (see above). Between 2004 and 2006, he also served as secretary-coordinator of the Interreligious Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Starting in 2005, Silantyev, already a PhD candidate in Religious Studies, began teaching not only at the Faculty of International Economics at MGIMO, but also at the Moscow Theological Academy, where he read Islamic studies to graduate students. Since the mid-2010s, his academic career has been linked more to the Moscow State Linguistic University (see more on this below), but since the fall of 2022, he also became a professor at the Department of Islamic Studies at the Kazan Theological Seminary.23

In October 2006, Silantyev became, and still is, the head of the Human Rights Center (HRC) of the World Russian People's Council (WRPC).24 WRPC is, in fact, the political project of the Patriarchate, dating back to 1993. But while the large conferences (councils, or sobors) of the WRPC were relatively pluralistic, its leadership and bodies followed the ideological line of the leadership of the ROC, especially since Metropolitan Kirill became patriarch, and the WRPC could take a more distinct ideological and even political position than the church leadership itself could afford.

So when in 2009 Silantyev was appointed the new deputy chairman of the Expert Council for State Religious Examination under the Russian Ministry of Justice, he was in fact there both as a religious scholar and as a representative of the WRPC. It must be noted that many expected this council, headed by Alexander Dvorkin, the main Russian voice fighting against “totalitarian sects,” to cause a great deal of trouble, but that didn’t happen.25 The Human Rights Center of the WRPC under Silantyev deals with a variety of issues. In the past, protests in defense of Christian minorities in non-Christian countries and in countries that were “too secular” occupied a prominent place on its agenda. The center’s tasks also included protecting the Russian Orthodox Church and the country as a whole from various threats such as radical Islam, pressure from secularists, “totalitarian sects,” and Orthodox religious associations unfriendly to the Moscow Patriarchate, primarily in Ukraine.

Among these topics, Silantyev saw occasional opportunities to display a certain radical judgment. For example, in 2013, he suggested sending, if not troops, then at least volunteers to Syria to protect Christians from jihadists.26 This sounded radical at the time, although later it was troops that were sent to Syria, albeit not exactly for the purpose of protecting Christians. However, as head of the Human Rights Center, Silantyev generally did not deviate from the usual rhetoric and agenda of the church leadership. It is worth noting that with respect to “totalitarian sects” Silantyev was more moderate than the authorities. For example, he supported the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses, but argued that they should not be imprisoned, since they were seeking the image of martyrs.27

The center also did some work on protecting ethnic Russians from the “threat posed by migration,”28 although this issue, important to society in general, was not a typical one for church leadership. Of course, Silantyev did not defend racist violence against migrants, but he discussed the issue in a rather idiosyncratic manner. At the very beginning of the 2010s, when the far-right movement was at its peak, Silantyev, like the then head of the Department for External Church Relations, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, believed that it was necessary to single out relatively sane individuals among Russian nationalists and cooperate with them. As an example of positive evolution, he cited Russia's most famous neo-Nazi, Maksim (Hatchet or Tesak) Martsinkevich, who switched from bad deeds, such as attacks on migrant workers, to good ones, that is, attacks on alleged pedophiles and drug dealers.29 At the end of 2013, infamous for the official anti-migrant campaign and racist riots, Silantyev insisted that to end the ethnic clashes, it was necessary, first of all, to fight “ethnic crime” (this expression always means organized crime among ethnic minorities). This statement was accompanied by the song titled Zero Tolerance by a neo-Nazi music collective You Must Murder; the song’s content was similarto the title of the band.30

It can be said that Silantyev did sympathize to some extent with Russian nationalists in the years when many people saw them as a promising political movement, that is, in the early 2010s and possibly earlier, but then he lost his interest in them. It can also be assumed that, similarly to the ideology espoused by Patriarch Kirill, ethnopolitics for Silantyev is subordinated to “higher” issues – the politics of the empire, religious politics, and the theme of “civilizational confrontation” with the West.

During the years of the Donbas war of 2014-2015, Silantyev spoke in support of the “Russian Spring” and on behalf of the HRC threatened to seek recognition of the Kyiv Patriarchate as an extremist organization in response to the seizures of Moscow Patriarchate churches in Ukraine.31 He was planning to participate in a large international conference of pro-Russian far-right activists from various countries in 2015,32 but authorization for the conference was apparently withdrawn by the authorities, and as a result it was held in a more modest format33 and without Silantyev. He also contributed to the then (and even now) popular theme of fighting “Russophobia,” understood very broadly, including anti-Russian actions in ethnic or general cultural sense, both anti-Orthodox in general or directed against the Russian Orthodox Church in particular and simply anti-Putin. But at that time, others (Alexander Shchipkov, first of all) were key players in this theme in the WRPC,34 and for Silantyev the theme of “Russophobia” had almost no continuation.

With the appointment of Konstantin Malofeev, a sponsor and organizer of loyal Orthodox nationalism, to the post of first deputy head of the WRPC in 2019 (the head of the WRPC is the Patriarch, so Malofeev practically headed the organization35), one could expect a turn to the theme of Russian nationalism, including in the activities of the HRC.36 But Malofeev's political activism was rather limited then37 (clearly at the request of the Kremlin) and is still unfolding very gradually.38 In March 2020, Silantyev declared: “Earlier the Human Rights Center was mainly concerned with interethnic and interreligious conflicts and fighting destructive movements; now the range of issues we work on has become much broader.” 39 The broader range of problems includes the protection of children from “LGBT propaganda,” and also the protection of the rights and interests of the Russian Orthodox majority in general.40 According to the HRC, “changing the ethno-confessional balance itself can provoke extremism,”41 and therefore migration should be restricted. However, this thesis has long been a popular cliché, and the topic of the fight against LGBT became an official mainstream in 2020.

The HRC did not defend the interests of the aforementioned majority regularly, but did not ignore the topic entirely either. For example, during a conflict between ethnic Russians and Roma in the village of Chemodanovka (Penza region) in 2019,42 the HRC wrote about the conflict multiple times, spoke unequivocally in support of the “Russian side,”, and justified its decision to speak out against the lynching of the Roma people by the fact that “ethnic organized crime groups…have a serious advantage in the field of extrajudicial killings.”43 Surprisingly, however, the HRC of the WRPC did not join the active anti-migrant media campaign that unfolded in 2021.44 By that time, news related to “destructology” (see below) was unquestionably dominating the HRC news.

The fight against migration and other nationalistic topics were taken up by the leadership of the WRPC itself, headed by Malofeev, who is actively pursuing it. The patriarch himself also felt it necessary to speak twice about the threats posed by migrants at the end of 2023.45 The church leadership nearly made its position official/practically codified its official position in the WRPC political declaration in March 2024.46 So Silantyev now rarely speaks out on these topics and does so more legalistically. He assures for instance that “no one wants to profess the national superiority of the Russians.” He proposes rather moderate measures to tighten migration policy. He approves of anti-migrant vigilantism (which began to rise again in 2022-2023), but only if it stays within the law. However, even here, he has proposed an original idea: “If a fight breaks out between migrants, that is one kind of responsibility. If migrants attack the indigenous population, the terms and consequences may be doubled. …Believe me, this will lead to a dramatic drop in crime.”47

In the conclusion of this chapter, it is impossible not to mention the accusations of anti-Semitism against Silantyev. In connection with the case of Yevgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk (see below), he said in May 2023: “It is not the first time I have observed that Jews are actively supporting Wahhabis, as if to spite Russians.”48 The Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) accused him of anti-Semitism and even appealed to law enforcement agencies.49 It does not seem, however, that Roman Silantyev is exactly a Judophobe. For example, he considered the statement by Vice-Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy about the role of “those who jumped out from beyond the pale” during the Revolution of 1917 to be completely erroneous and inappropriate. But he felt it necessary to add that condemnation of anti-Semitism should not be harsher than condemnation of Russophobia (and as already mentioned, he has a very broad interpretation of this term).50

It is more probable to assume that he thinks of ethnicity in a very essentialistic way, and could therefore, for example, draw attention to Berkowitz's Jewishness in order to emphasize the absurdity, from his point of view, of a Jew standing up for jihadists (to which he equates Wahhabis). This is not the first instance of such a clear manifestation of his primordialist approach. For example, in 2017, Silantyev co-authored an article about Russian-speaking Jews who joined various Islamist organizations.51 The subject of the article itself is quite legitimate. But it is interesting that the authors of the article did not bother to explain based on what criteria they consider the people mentioned in the article to be Jews, and even more so, how the fulfillment of these criteria was ascertained. Only one of the characters is said to have practiced Judaism before Islam, and several others repatriated to Israel. The nuances of terminology are also interesting. For example: “a ‘Russian’ Wahhabi of Jewish origin, Viktor Dvorakovsky, was put on the federal wanted list.” The quotation marks around the word “Russian” are of interest.

The essentialist understanding of ethnicity, undoubtedly dominant in late Soviet society and presently dominant in Russian society, is not in itself equal to ethnic nationalism, but, naturally, it contributes greatly to sympathy for the latter.
The Inventor of the Science of “Destructology”

This pseudoscience was personally invented by Silantyev himself. Its foundations were provided in an article he published in 2018.52 According to it, this new science is needed because security challenges are becoming increasingly hybrid—the same group can, for example, commit terrorist attacks and sell drugs. The article even offered a preliminary classification of destructive trends, ranging from trading dietary supplements all the way to the Islamic State, and specifically promised to create an applied science that would be useful for teachers and law enforcement officers.

The possibility of creating a new science about multiple “destructive,” or socially dangerous, trends at once stemmed from Silantyev's previous experience. Previously, he had applied general approaches to very different trends within Islam, conceptualizing them as a single Wahhabi threat. For many years, he has also been involved in the fight against "totalitarian sects" (Alexander Dvorkin's calque of the English “destructive cults”), as he classified many movements, including obviously very peaceful ones, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses53 and Hare Krishna,54 and other “sectarians,” such as Jews for Jesus.55

The aforementioned Silantyev’s article claimed that such a generalized approach to security threats is not unique. As an example, the author cited a certain “terrorology” as a comprehensive science about terrorism (the creators of this science are Vitaly Kaftan and Igor Sundiev), and mentioned as an analog the allegedly emerging science of “dissidentology,” dedicated to various “deniers” of scientifically established facts, medical, historical, geographical (flat-earthers), etc. Silantyev recognized that “destructive neoplasms” are heterogeneous and therefore it was not easy to create a single science encompassing them. But it was necessary to do so in order to cover the whole spectrum of threats and contribute to the protection of the “spiritual security” of the country.56

In his article, he even introduced a rather peculiar classification, dividing destructive currents into “socio-commercial,” which included neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and a specifically Russian variant of romanticization of criminal life, the Prisoners Criminal Unity (Arestantskoe Ugolovnoe Edinstvo, known by the abbreviation AUE); “socially significant” new formations, which included magicians, healers, Falun Dafa, etc.; “socially dangerous,” which included subcultures fascinated by suicide, medical dissidents, etc.; and “socially aggressive,” which included the bulk of extremist and terrorist (as defined by Russian legislation) associations. The classification would later be changed, of course: for example, in Fundamentals of Destructology, the textbook on the new pseudoscience, published the following year, he uses a different classification system.

By 2018, Silantyev had already had a long history of collaboration with the Moscow State Linguistic University (MSLU). He had been an assistant professor of world culture there since 2008. The MSLU published two editions of his book Muslim Diplomacy in Russia. History and Modernity, and in 2020, it published Russian Muslims. Developing his book on diplomacy, Silantyev defended his doctoral dissertation at MSLU in 2014. However, the thesis was not written under the academic supervision of the MSLU, but under that of the chief official strategic institute of the country—the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), and the review on behalf of the RISS was signed by Dmitry Volodikhin,57 a well-known patriotic historian and science fiction author (science fiction is not mentioned coincidentally here, see below; by 2020, Volodikhin was assistant to the chairman of the Publishing Council of the Moscow Patriarchate.58)

In 2016, Silantyev became a professor at MSLU and was working at two departments (theology and world culture); at the same time, incidentally, he became a member of the Higher Attestation Commission expert council on theology.59 And then, by the end of 2018, the Destructology Laboratory was founded at the MSLU with Silantyev as its director. According to the lab’s web page, in addition to the laboratory head, there are six more employees: Anna Korolenko, Galina Khizrieva (also the director of the Center for Linguistic Expertise at the MSLU), Olga Strekalova, Shamil Kashaf, Elena Zamyshevskaya and A. M. Shirshov.60 Since then, a number of books have been published on the topic, including a textbook, Fundamentals of Destructology. Since then, a number of books have been published on the topic, including a textbook, Fundamentals of Destructology.61

Aside from Anna Silantyeva, the co-authors of the textbook are other members of the Department of World Culture at the MSLU,62 and Malygina is the head of this department. Apparently, the textbook was being prepared before the lab was created. But later, Silantyev's other co-authors were not colleagues at the laboratory, with the exception of Olga Strekalova (a former employee of the General Prosecutor's Office). One co-author, Yurii Ragozin, is a longtime employee of the missionary department of the Novosibirsk diocese,63 an advocate of censorship and equating “cultural extremism” with political extremism for the sake of “spiritual security.”64

Another co-author – Sergei Chekmaev, a science fiction writer – is even more interesting.65 In fact, Silantyev is no stranger to this genre. We do not know what works he has written, but at the very beginning of the 2010s he, together with Chekmaev, was involved in the organization of the “patriotic fiction” collections for the Antiterror-2020 series and was even twice awarded prizes for co-authoring the forewords to these anthologies.66 The collections with the distinctive titles Antiterror 2020 and Ruthless Tolerance – with all the variety of works included therein – fit well into the wave of revanchist fiction. Incidentally, he received one of the awards at the Bastcon convention, a conference of fiction writers organized by “the literary and philosophical group Bastion headed by its spiritual leader...writer Dmitry Volodikhin,”67 mentioned above in another capacity.

In an interview on science fiction that Silantyev gave as one of the organizers of a science fiction forum in Yekaterinburg in 2013, he explained his ideological approach to science fiction. In particular, in response to a question about values, he answered: “Yes, imperialism, traditions, traditional religions, of which our president also says that they are the backbone of the country, first of all, Orthodox Christianity, which has played an exceptional role, without which the country would not have been possible, but Muslims have also played a significant role.” He went on to say that there were enough movies “about the anti-retreat troops, the Gulags, the suffering of the intelligentsia – it is no longer interesting, not in demand, and people are simply furious...People want to know something good about their country.”68

Incidentally, Snezhnyi Kom Publishing, which has published three destructology books, also specializes in science fiction. So it is not surprising that the “destructology” books, and not only those co-written with Chekmaev, resemble pamphlets rather than research monographs. Similarly to his prior work as an expert on Islam, Silantyev amasses a huge number of facts, but arranges them to strictly align with a predetermined concept.

For example, the book Necromancers of Our Days is about the Citizens of the USSR movement—that is, people who believe that the USSR continues to legally exist. The author of another book on this movement, Mikhail Akhmetyev pointed out that Silantyev calls Citizens of the USSR “necrocommunists,” while almost all of them have nothing to do with Soviet ideology proper. Silantyev also refers to the associations of Citizens of the USSR as “sects”; this word is understood by “destructology” very broadly – as associations that are based “on ‘rigid opposition to society’ and conspiracy doctrines, have hierarchies with ‘external’ and ‘internal’ circles, require unconditional obedience to leaders, and have developed dubious enrichment schemes.” To which Akhmetyev reasonably responds that, in the vast majority of cases, “communities of Citizens of the USSR do not meet even these criteria.”69

In the book, Silantyev and Strekalova merely speculate that Citizens of the USSR might turn to terror. But at the conference Xenophobia and Extremism: Global Challenges and Regional Trends on October 26, 2021, Silantyev titled his report on them openly as follows: “New Generation Terrorism – Sects of Necrocommunists and ‘Living Non-humans’.” Despite the fact that no terrorist attacks had been committed by Citizens of the USSR by that time, except for a ridiculous and unsuccessful attempt to assassinate a rabbi in 2019.70 We are clearly dealing with the same old alarmism, but this time on a very meager factual basis.

The latest book so far, Satanists against “Biotrash” combines two typical “destructological” approaches: the authors try to use one very general concept to unite rather heterogeneous phenomena while at the same time relying uncritically on media reports and press releases from law enforcement agencies. The book includes rather heterogeneous chapters on the teenage suicide cult (known in Russia as Blue Whales), on Satanists and neo-Nazis, and on school shootings. The introductory chapter is devoted to some unified "misanthropic ideology" (sometimes called Satanist by the authors), the development of which is outlined starting with the Church of Euthanasia, Crowley, LaVey, etc.

I cannot assess the credibility and the selection of the facts in the chapters on Blue Whales and school shootings. But it should be noted that the whole topic of Blue Whales is often characterized as typical moral panic.71 In the chapter, the authors, relying on the opinion of other experts—Denis Davydov, the director of the Safe Internet League, known for fighting for Internet censorship, and Eastern Orthodox psychologist Mikhail Khasminskii—understand suicide groups on social networks as a psychological weapon that operates mainly from Ukraine.72 Note that the book was published as early as the fall of 2022. It is important to note that the authors do not replicate all media myths. For example, the book’s recommendations on how to prevent and counteract school shootings state that it has nothing to do with shooter computer games.73 A “destructological” approach is designed to construct one's overall threat picture, not simply compile the ones already available.

The chapter devoted to Satanists and neo-Nazis (who are for some reason lumped together) is easier to analyze. Misanthropic sentiments are indeed not uncommon among both. In the case of neo-Nazis, this is especially evident in the movement that calls itself “people hate.” The pages devoted to Satanists are full of stories of human and animal murders. But the authors fail to separate real crimes or threats from fictional or at least dubious ones. For example, the authors could not pass up the only “Satanist” group on the list of banned extremist organizations, the Noble Order of the Devil, although they immediately specified that its members “did not manage to kill any people.” From the history of this group we know that these young people (many of them minors) did manage to make speeches, get drunk, take drugs, jump on graves, and have sexual relations. However, in describing all of the above, including the alleged “sexual slavery” of the group leader, the book refers only to the media,74 not the verdict, which essentially had just one charge – committing lewd acts.75 Neither are the descriptions of ideological variations of Satanism and misanthropy always reliable. The book goes as far as to mention the Islamic version of Satanism, allegedly promoted by the famous Islamist Geydar Dzhemal, by the name of “clumsy (krivorukie) Manicheo-Sheytanists.”76 Clearly, for Geydar Dzhemal, an intellectual with a counterculture background, a name like this was nothing but a joke.

On the other hand, the chapter's descriptions of the actions of neo-Nazi groups, such as Pavel Voitov's gang called “Misantropic Division,” are quite adequate.77 But the main focus of this chapter, ideally suited to the concept of the book, is the MKU network community (the most popular reading of this Russian acronym is “Maniacs. Kult of Murder”): it combined neo-Nazism and pure “people hate”; it was indeed set up by a Ukrainian and operated in Ukraine, Russia, and a few other countries; finally, it was built on the network principle and was, essentially, independent action by separate groups and individuals inspired by common ideas and acting, at least in part, on assignments from “curators,” gradually becoming more and more radical. A different matter is that the real scale and nature of MKUs activities are still largely unknown. All that can be said for sure is that the community was popular online and its main materials were inarticulately edited videos of violent scenes and false reports of alleged terrorist attacks. Silantyev and his co-authors rely on law enforcement reports that were circulated in the media, but these, too, are actually quite vague.

The observations of the Sova Center make it possible to say only the following: MKU is not a vertical community, but a multitude of people of ultra-right views, who were interested in the ideas and materials of MKU to some degree; some of these people were already organized into independent ultra-right groups. Some did commit violent crimes (likely more in Ukraine than in Russia). A great many of the ultra-right (at least a hundred) were detained in Russia in 2021-2022 in connection with this case, but by the end of January 2024 we know of only 25 people convicted of graffiti, vandalism, or violence, and in at least half of these cases, their connection to MKU was not proven.78 So it is still difficult to assess the real harm caused by this particular community inside Russia. But for the authors, everything is clear: this is the most dangerous terrorist network, responsible for “dozens of murders and attacks,” which “became a specialized project in which its creators united misanthropes in general, ultra-right, Columbine fans, and suicidal people.”79 Yet not a hint of what exactly the subcultures of school shooting and suicide have to do with the MKU is provided in the book. Further, MKU is linked to the activities of Ukrainian special services engaged in Internet warfare, but this connection is corroborated only by the opinion of the information and analytical outlet One Homeland80 – an anti-Ukraine website devoted mainly to the course of the war.

“Destructology” is a politically actual science. This book is proving that very different “destructive currents” are being projected from the West, where it originated, to Russia through Ukraine. Therefore, “rockets turned out to be the best cure for misanthropic ideology.”81 The topic of the influence of Western countries is covered only in passing, apart from the introductory chapter on the roots of “misanthropic ideology.” It is only in reference to Blue Whales that the authors express bewilderment at the fact that the “curators” of the teenage suicide operate from Ukraine: after all, Ukrainian teenagers suffer from it as well. And then the authors cite Yevgeny Venediktov, director of the Center for Research on Legitimacy and Political Protest, who is sure that Blue Whales is the job of Western intelligence services.82 However, later, Silantyev himself said that the organization of serial murders and school shootings in Russia was being carried out by Western specialists and that “Ukrainian security services are involved in this role only as executors.”83
Practical Application of “Destructology”

Evidently, “destructology” as a one-size-fits-allpseudo-science somewhat resembles a similar phenomenon in the legal sphere—Russian anti-extremism legislation. The way it was conceived and the way it is developing and being implemented in the practice of law enforcement, this legislation is intended to cover a wide range of activities that are considered by the authorities to be ideologically motivated and threatening to state and public security, and that the authorities are prepared to criminalize. For example, in the sphere of religion, since the late 2000s, anti-extremism law enforcement has been applied not only to politicized religious groups and movements, but also to those that were seen as encroaching on “spiritual security” and even on traditionalism in terms of religion itself.84 Silantyev, as is clear from what has been said above about his work as an Islamic scholar and fighter against “sects,” was, and continues to be, quite supportive of this broad understanding of anti-extremism. Over time, the state has of course expanded its understanding of “extremism,” mainly by being willing to criminalize all new forms of speech and behavior that were seen as threatening.

But the idea so intrinsic to “destructology” of understanding any socially destructive behavior as an element of a single whole provided a sound basis for an expansion of anti-extremism and anti-terrorism policies that was surprising, even for today’s Russia. In early June 2020, the Human Rights Center of the World Russian People’s Council recommended drastically expanding the list of threats that the state must fight within the framework of its anti-extremism and anti-terrorism policies: “We recommend expanding the classification of new forms of extremism, manifested not only in organizations, to include the names of subcultures and decentralized network communities. For example, the Columbine subculture does not fall under the definition of an extremist organization, but in fact carries out terrorist activities. Suicidal games on social networks, the AUE subculture, and the necrocommie [necrocommunist, AV] subculture, which, although not calling for violence, promotes the idea of secession of part of the country's territory, should also be recognized as forms of extremist ideology.”85

And the state partially follows these recommendations. In fact, at the time when the Human Rights Center was adopting them, the Supreme Court decision of August 17, 2020 was already being prepared, banning the so-called Prisoners Criminal Unity as an extremist organization, despite the fact that such an organization has never existed as such. What actually exists is commercial exploitation of teenage romantic notions of criminal subculture and a myth about a certain movement on this basis.86 In 2022, the so-called Columbine Movement, that is, supporters of school shootings, was banned as a terrorist organization, although this is only a subculture, as well as individual killers usually not connected with each other. Religious groups, whose harmful practices consisted only of “non-traditional healing” were prohibited as extremist on more than one occasion (the latest example is one of the local organizations of Falun Dafa; several foreign organizations of this movement were declared “undesirable”87). Organizations of Citizens of the USSR began to be recognized as extremist as early as 2019. And all the bans listed here entail new criminal charges. However, in the case of religious groups or Citizens of the USSR, it is impossible to claim that it is the influence of the HRC or Silantyev personally that has an impact here.

During the COVID pandemic, Silantyev also classified anti-vaxxers as a “destructive formation” and part of “medical dissidence,” but neither his traditional methods of frightening the audience with the terrorist potential of anti-vaxxers88 nor direct calls to criminalize their activities89 were effective in this case. The authorities never implemented such broad repressive measures.

“Destructology” is intended for and is already being used in forensic examinations, albeit so far, apparently, only by Silantyev personally and his colleagues. Only a few instances of this use are known,90 and what is known is most likely but a small fraction. Alas, the reports of these forensic examinations are not available for study because they are not published. In fact, we do not even know the number of cases where “destructological” expert examinations were conducted, and no other examinations by the same experts in their main specialties. Expert conclusions can only be leaked into the public space if the defense side allows it, but usually defense lawyers are not inclined to do so.

Sometimes this concerns people who are far from public life, like Polina Dvorkina, who killed her father and tried to shoot boys in a kindergarten after falling under the influence of misandrist ideas.91 At other times, the accused are quite socially active, but for some reason their lawyers did not make their findings public, as in the case of the active hate preachers schema-hegumen Sergius (Nikolai Romanov), a prominent Orthodox fundamentalist, and his assistant Vsevolod Moguchev, a former ultra-right winger.92These examples show that Silantyev and his colleagues also participate as experts in trials in which the law is on the side of the prosecution.

This is important to note, as the most well-known expert report by Silantyev and co-authors was the complex report on the case of Evgenia Berkovich and Svetlana Petriichuk, dated May 3, 2023.93 The two women are accused of justifying terrorism (no verdict has yet been delivered) for a play they staged about the wives of jihadists, and in this case the charge clearly has no legal precedent.94 The play focuses on the fate of women who, for one reason or another, often romantic, became involved with jihadists and were later brought to trial. The play is clearly filled with sympathy for these women. Jihadism itself remains in the background, but is presented as an evil force.

It was obviously Silantyev who wrote the “destructology” section of the expert report, while his lab colleagues authored the other two sections: Elena Zamyshevskaya was responsible for the psychology section, and Galina Khizrieva for the linguistics section.95The report describes jihadists’ ideas as the ideas expressed by the play itself, even though they are barely mentioned; the report also equates the romanticization of loving a terrorist with the romanticization of terrorism itself. Although none of the characters are described as being involved in jihadism themselves, the report claimed that the play contained signs of “a subculture of Russian neophyte Muslim women who are wives (including virtual wives) of extremists and terrorists” in ISIS. Note that women who practically support their jihadist husbands certainly exist in reality and even form communities (or at least they used to), but the play contains no mention of any subculture or complicity in jihadism. And yet the report substantiates the thesis that the play justifies terrorism, although this judgment is inherently juridical and should not appear in the report (this legal norm is violated almost everywhere). Finally, noting the play's criticism of Russia's “androcentric social structure,” Silantyev also found, for some reason, that the play contained signs of radical feminism, even though they clearly were not present there.

The most striking idea expressed in the expert report was that the defendants, in their theatrical performance, were able to simultaneously promote the ideology of the Islamic State and radical feminism. The authors of the report explained that radical Islamism is based on preaching the inescapable humiliation of Muslims in a non-Muslim world, and radical feminism is based on preaching the equally inescapable humiliation of women in a world of male domination, so there is a common denominator here.

Berkovich and Petriichuk’s trial turned out to be a very high-profile case, probably because the play was successful and won two Golden Mask awards (the highest Russian theater prize), and even more so because Berkovich became widely known in 2022 for her anti-war poems. The interest surrounding the case brought light to the expert report and, of course, to its main author. Several small dossiers about Silantyev were published in different media outlets. But his co-authors also received attention. For example, some recalled that the psychologist Zamyshevskaya authored an expert report in the case of “discrediting the army” against Ilya Myaskovsky, an activist from Nizhny Novgorod. She saw “signs of informational and psychological influence” in his anti-war publications due to the presence of the words “war” and “shoot.”96

“Destructology” in general also received some attention. In May of that year, 204 scientists signed an open letter protesting against such abuse of the scientific method, among them a number of academicians and members of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), including Evgeny Alexandrov, Chairman of the RAS Commission on Pseudoscience.97 At the end of June, at the request of the defense, the Russian Federal Center for Forensic Science under the Ministry of Justice (RFCFS) reviewed a expert report and concluded that destructology was not present on the list of registered scientific specialties, and therefore no such expert report could exist.98 This caused yet another wave of arguments about what can be considered a science at all, including in relation to forensic examination. But apparently, the RFCFS is formally right: forensic science is based on the law that governs it, and the law understands only “registered sciences.” However, this position too was challenged by one of the most prominent theorists and practitioners of forensic science, Elena Galyashina, who since the beginning of the war has taken a very tough stance against those experts and scientists whom she sees as opposition to the political regime.99

In the case of Berkovich and Petriichuk, the prosecution later carried out another examination, which was not “destructological.” But it remains to be seen whether the expertise written by Silantyev and his colleagues will be recognized and accepted by the court. The court's decision in such a high-profile case will probably be important for the future of “destructology” as an expertise tool, although other “destructological” expertise has been accepted by the courts in the past, so it is likely that the applied use of this method in courts will continue. And it will certainly continue outside the courts, in the preparation of official opinions.
Who Is the Enemy?

Finally, there is a topic that is not—yet—covered by “destructology,” but which Roman Silantyev finds deeply resonant: the onset of “liberal fascism.” He addressed this particular threat in 2015 at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Human Rights. That meeting was devoted to the threats posed by various radical currents. He argued that “there are more fascists who hold liberal views in Russia than fascists of illiberal views” and that the country was facing an unprecedented surge of Russophobia “coming from representatives of liberal circles.” 100 Silantyev also spoke about the need to protect the majority, traditionally minded and supportive of President Putin, from various minorities. He ended with the statement that, as a representative of the World Russian People’s Council, he had the right to speak on behalf of the ethnic Russians.101 Speaking in this manner in front of the council in 2015 was clearly provocative, but my personal impression was that this address was delivered quite sincerely.102 The use of the word “fascism” in this case did not refer to any political science terminology. As is generally accepted in Russian political rhetoric, it was used simply to label liberals as a dangerous threat, comparable in this respect to fascism, which in turn is associated with the existential threat to the country posed by the aggression of Nazi Germany.

A year earlier, a week after the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over Donbas, Silantyev called Igor Strelkov, one of the key figures of the 2014 Donbas irredenta, who was later convicted by the International Criminal Court for being complicit in the plane attack, a hero. Silantyev explained that the friendship between different peoples of Russia was growing stronger in the trenches of the Donbas War, where they united to “shoot fascists, Banderites, and other liberal scum.”103 While taking a decidedly anti-Ukrainian stance on all topics discussed in relation to Ukraine since at least 2014, Silantyev has always understood it in the broader context of confrontation with the West. For example, he linked the history of the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, in opposition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, to his view of the United States manipulating the Patriarch of Constantinople.104

As one could gather at least from what was written above about the book Satanists against “Biotrash”, for Silantyev, the West is the source of liberal evil. And long before the current official fashion of focusing on the “Anglo-Saxons,” he preferred to talk about the UK and the US. For Silantyev, they were the main enemies in the great confrontation of civilizations, and he occasionally spoke quite definitively about their machinations. For example, when asked about ISIS, he could refer directly to the fact that the radicalization of Islam was set up by the United States, that “there is a hypothesis that the Wahhabis are one of the projects of British intelligence,” and that in general, the United States supported non-governmental organizations, human rights activists, and “sects” in order to destabilize regimes around the world.105 Silantyev often used the word “human rights defenders” as a pejorative, but he explained that he was referring to “wrong” human rights defenders, as opposed to those like his WRPC Human Rights Center: “In Russia, human rights defenders protect only minorities, based on their political or financial interests. But the majority also needs protection.”106

Opposition to the West and all those who can be understood as “liberal scum” also implies the existence of a circle of those figures and experts with whom Silantyev has collaborated or is collaborating. It should be said at once that there are no truly radical characters among them, but there are those who combine ideological motivation with the desire to fit into the mainstream, or at least not to oppose it. We already mentioned Denis Davydov, the director of the Safe Internet League, Dmitrii Volodikhin, the leader of the Bastion group, and repeated collaboration with the RISS. Silantyev's texts looked organic and fit well with the reports of the Institute of National Strategy by the prominent nationalist intellectual Mikhail Remizov107 (he, by the way, became a member of the WRPC Council in 2019). A “destructology” textbook was published by the Smolin Publishing House, which also publishes works of its owner, Mikhail Smolin, for example, his book Russia Will Remain an Empire. And so on.

Some of Silantyev's partners may be considered radicals by some, but that is debatable. For example, the critic of “non-traditional Islam” Rais Suleimanov, whom Ragozina also categorized as an “expert alarmist,” was once even persecuted in Tatarstan.108Komsomol’skaya pravda journalist Dmitry Steshin, who helped Silantyev write the book about Citizens of the USSR, is known, among other things, for his personal relationships in the 2000s with the leaders of the neo-Nazi group BORN, who were sentences to life for a series of political murders, but was only a witness in that case.109 However critical he may be of certain officials, Silantyev himself has never, as far as we know, had any problems with the authorities.


The sharp escalation of the conflict with the West in 2022 allowed many semi-official experts, and especially propagandists, to become noticeably radicalized, but Silantyev had practically no need to do so—he had already been supporting the positions now endorsed by the state. This was also true to the full extent of his public position on Ukraine. Of course, it is hard to say whether such a close convergence between his positions and those of high-ranking officials is to some extent the result of his influence. But sometimes, this does seem to be the case.

Back in March 2022, Silantyev said that the influence of neo-paganism was growing in Ukraine and, generally, a certain particular “religion of hatred” was forming.110 In October of the same year, General Alexei Pavlov, an assistant to the Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, in an interview on the same topic, spoke about the decisive political influence of “sectarians” and Satanists in Ukraine.111 Silantyev later expanded this idea, on the basis of his “destructological” research, to reflect his notion of a complex impact of the enemy on Russian society. And he formulated this opinion, as was customary, using strong expressions and rather liberal interpretations of the facts and figures: “Ramzan Kadyrov's statements that Russia is at war with Satanists are true. Since 2014, Ukraine has been purposefully killing our citizens, mostly children, through information and psychological operations. This includes the spread of ‘death games’ on social networks, propaganda of neo-Nazism and the Columbine terrorist movement, and phone terrorism. Because of this, we have lost up to 500 children who were driven to suicide and died in school shootings.”112

Silantyev only had to develop this idea a little further, which he did in 2023. According to him, since “the Ukrainian authorities chose neo-paganism leaning towards Satanism as their ideology,”113 a “religion of Ukrainian-ness” and “esoteric Nazism” were taking root there; unless the current regime changes, they would replace Christianity, at least among the elites. But still, relying on his understanding of religious tradition, Silantyev remains optimistic about history: the interview quoted above is titled The Monks’ Prophecy About the Reunification of Russia is Coming True.114 In other words, Silantyev acts specifically as a systematic and diverse fighter in the “total war”115 waged by the West and by liberalism in general against everything that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church defends. The positions of the Russian authorities and the Moscow Patriarchate are coming closer and closer together, and therefore Silantyev is increasingly in demand.

Today, at the beginning of 2024, it is difficult to name a topic where Silantyev’s approaches would be more radical or substantially different than the official ones. Of course, some past unresolved disagreements remain, such as whether medical dissidence should be criminalized. There might be other disagreements, but they are irrelevant in today’s acute global confrontation. For instance, Silantyev is willing to concede that even a Satanist convicted of a series of murders could actually repent if he enlisted, went straight from prison to the front and fought for six months to earn a pardon.116 Unlike some of the fighters against the threat of the liberal Western, Silantyev today does not criticize the authorities harshly, even when he probably considers their actions insufficiently ambitious. In the past, Silantyev obviously enjoyed the image of a somewhat radical and even scandalous critic, but now he is willing to give it up.

[1] At least two scholarly works refer to him in that capacity. Christina Kovalskaya, “Nationalism and Religion in the Discourse of Russia's Critical Experts of Islam,” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations 28, no. 2 (2017): 141–161. Sofia Ragozina, “Zashchishchaia ‘traditsionnyi’ islam ot ‘radikal'nogo’: diskurs islamofobii v rossiiskikh SMI,” Gosudarstvo, religiia, tserkov' v Rossii i za rubezhom, no. 2 (2018): 272-299.
[2] “Avtor kursa po novoi nauke destruktologii podtverdil svoe sotrudnichestvo s FSB,” Interfaks, November 25, 2019.
[3] Sofia Ragozina, Politicheskii obraz islama (na materiale tsentral'nykh rossiiskikh pechatnykh SMI, 2010-2017) (PhD diss., Russian Academy of Sciences, 2019, 136.
[4] Noveishaia istoriia islamskogo soobshchestva Rossii (Moscow: Ikhtios, 2005); Noveishaia istoriia islama v Rossii (Moscow: Algoritm, 2007); Sovremennyi islam v Rossii. Tematicheskaia entsiklopediia (Moscow: Algoritm, 2008); Musulmanskaia diplomatiia v Rossii. Istoriia i sovremennost (Moscow: MGLU, 2009); Sovet muftiev Rossii: istoriia odnoi fitny (Moscow: RISI, 2015); 100 samykh izvestnykh “russkikh musulman” (Yekaterinburg: Yekaterinburgskaia eparkhiia, Missionerskii otdel, 2016); Sovremennaia geografiia islamskogo soobshchestva Rossii(Moscow: RISI, 2016); Russkie musulmane (Moscow: MGLU, 2020).
[5] “Sekretar Mezhreligioznogo Soveta OVTsS – Borets. s Islamom?”, October 24, 2001,
[6] “Muftii Asharin nagradil Romana Silant'eva vtoroi medal'iu,” IslamNews, February 19, 2024,
[7] “Vedushchie rossiiskie religiovedy ne schitaiut islamofobskoi knigu ispolnitel'nogo sekretaria Mezhreligioznogo soveta Rossii,” Blagovest-Info, December 5, 2005,
[8] Roman Silantyev, “Moiu pozitsiiu predstavili s tochnost'iu do naoborot,”, October 4, 2013,
[9]“Rossiiskii islamoved predlagaet sozdat' ‘belyi spisok’ musulmanskikh knig,”, September 23, 2013,
[10]Roman Silantyev, “Religioznyi faktor vo vneshnepoliticheskikh konfliktakh na Kavkaze,” Religiia i konflikt (Moscow: Rossiiskaia politicheskaia entsiklopediia (ROSSPEN), 2007): 130-150.
[11] Andrei Ivanov, “‘Islamskoe gosudarstvo’ prishlo v Rossiiu,” Svobodnaia pressa, November 7, 2014,
[12] See, for example: Roman Silantyev, “Pora stavit' vopros o polnom zaprete vakhkhabizma v Rossii,” EurAsia Daily, January 29, 2016,; Roman Silantyev, Sovet muftiev Rossii: istoriia odnoi fitny (Moscow: RISI, 2015).
[13] “DUM Aziatskoi chasti Rossii vystupilo s zaiavleniem po povodu soderzhaniia propagandistskikh materialov ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’,” Sova Center, November 28, 2005,
[14] A. Melnikov, “Prinuzhdenie k mezhobshchinnomu miru,” Nezavisimaia gazeta, February 2, 2011.
[15] They took shape a long time ago and I presented them as follows: Alexander Verkhovsky, “‘Kirill’s Doctrine’ and the Potential Transformation of Russian Orthodox Christianity,” Orthodox Paradoxes. Heterogeneities and Complexities in Contemporary Russian Orthodoxy, Ed. Katya Tolstya (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2014): 71-84.
[16] As clearly demonstrated much later, in the textbook on destructology: R.A. Silantyev, I.V. Malygina, M.A. Poletaeva, A.I. Silantyeva. Osnovy destruktologii (Moscow: Snezhnyi Kom, 2019).
[17] “Sviashchennosluzhiteli o khidzhabakh u shkol'nits,” Novosti Federatsii, October 30, 2014,
[18] “Slushaniia v Obshchestvennoi palate: ‘Primenenie i vozmozhnost' sovershenstvovaniia zakonodatel'stva ob ekstremizme primenitel'no k religiozno-obshchestvennym protsessam. Otvetstvennost' za oskvernenie pochitaemykh veruiushchimi predmetov,’” Sova Center, April 26, 2012,
[19] “Karta etnoreligioznykh ugroz. Severnyi Kavkaz i Povolzh'e,” Institut natsionalnoi strategii (Moscow, 2013), 10.
[20] In 1999, Silantyev graduated from the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University and started graduate studies at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In June 2003, he defended his PhD thesis there on “Ethnosocial, political and religious aspects of the split of the Islamic community in Russia.”
[21] “Tsentry,” WRPC website,
[22] “Tsentr geografii religii,” Drevo, Otkrytaia pravoslavnaia entsiklopediia,
[23] “Monografiia professora Kazanskoi dukhovnoi seminarii rekomendovana dlia ispolzovaniia v vysshikh dukhovnykh uchebnykh zavedeniiakh,” Pravoslavie v Tatarstane, November 17, 2022,
[24] “Tsentry,” WRPC,
[25] A list of the Council's opinions since 2009 is available here: “Expert Council for State Religious Expertise under the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation,” Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, last updated December 15, 2001,
[26] “Islamoved predlagaet rassmotret' vopros o napravlenii v Siriiu rossiiskogo dobrovol'cheskogo korpusa,” Interfaks-Religiia, September 9, 2013,
[27] “Iegovistov ne nado sazhat' v tiur'mu, tam im sozdaiut oreol muchenikov – ekspert,” Roman Silantyev - religious scholar, destructologist” community on VK. February 21, 2019,
[28] For example: “Pravozashchitnyi Tsentr VRNS o situatsii v Penzenskoi oblasti,” WRPC, June 15, 2019,
[29] Ivan Zuev, “‘Russkii marsh’ dolzhen byt' za russkikh, a ne protiv nerusskikh,” Nakanune.Ru. November 2, 2012,
For more on Tesak's activities, see: Martsinkevich Maksim (Tesak), “Russian Nationalists” Sova Center Directory,
[30] “Prichinoi mnogikh mezhnatsional'nykh konfliktov iavliaetsia pereizbytok tolerantnosti,” Roman Silantyev's VK account. December 21, 2013,
[31] “Vo Vsemirnom russkom sobore groziat sudebnym presledovaniem tem, kto pytaetsia zakhvatyvat' khramy na Ukraine,” Interfaks-Religiia, February 26, 2014,
[32] “Vsemirnyi slet natsionalistov namechen na oktiabr',” Roman Silantyev's VK account. February 24, 2014,
[33] Still, it has become the largest such event in Russia. See: “V Sankt-Peterburge proshel Mezhdunarodnyi russkii konservativnyi forum,” Sova Center, March 23, 2015,
[34] “Vsemirnyi russkii narodnyi sobor sozdal spetsial'nyi issledovatel'skii tsentr po izucheniiu rusofobii,” WRPC, April 3, 2015,
[35] Till March of 2024.
[36] “Address by K.V. Malofeev, Deputy Head of WRPC,” WRPC,
[37] Tsargrad, community // Russian Nationalists Sova Center Directory (,_%D0%BE%D0%B1%D1%89%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE).
[38] See about this period, for example, the chapter "The Prehistory of Today's Far Right Field" in Vera Alperovich, “Nationalists ‘tame’ and ‘wild,’” Public activity of far-right groups, summer-fall 2023, Sova Center, January 12, 2024,
[39] “Sobornoe zastupnichestvo,” Human Rights Center WRPC, WRPC, 2020.
[40] Ibid.
[41] “Pozitsiia Pravozashchitnogo tsentra VRNS po novomu variantu ‘Strategii protivodeistviia ekstremizmu v Rossiiskoi Federatsii do 2025 goda’,” WRPC, June 3, 2020,
[42] “Vynesen prigovor za draku v Chemodanovke,” Sova Center. July 14, 2021,; Aleksandr Verkhovsky, “Poboishche v Chemodanovke: draka russkikh s tsyganami ili sotsial'nyi protest?” Forbes, June 18, 2019,
[43] “Pravozashchitnyi Tsentr VRNS o situatsii v Penzenskoi oblasti,” WRPC, June 15, 2019,
[44] Vera Alperovich, “You die and start again from the beginning…” Public activity of far-right groups, summer-fall 2021, Sova Center, December 24, 2021,
[45] “Patriarkh obespokoen vozmozhnoi poterei russkoi identichnosti iz-za pritoka migrantov,” Sova Center, October 26 – December 21 2023,
[46] “Nakaz XXV Vsemirnogo russkogo narodnogo sobora ‘Nastoiashchee i budushchee Russkogo mira’,” WRPC, March 27, 2024,
[47] “Kak ne dopustit' rosta prestuplenii na natsional'noi pochve, sovershaemykh migrantami,” Radio Komsomol'skaia Pravda, January 7, 2024,
[48] “Ekspertiza mezhnatsional'noi rozni,” Kommersant, May 25, 2023,
[49] Konstantin Rodman, “‘Dve degradiruiushchie organizatsii,’ Roman Silant'ev obvinil REK i DUM v khaipe,” Sobesednik, June 6 2023,
[50] “Pravoslavnyi pravozashchitnik schitaet glavnymi vinovnikami revoliutsii dvorian, a ne ‘vykhodtsev iz-za cherty osedlosti’,” Interfaks-Religiia, January 25, 2017
[51] A. Kasiuk, R. Silantyev, M. Poletaeva, A. Amelenkov, “Russkoiazychnye evrei v ekstremistskikh i terroristicheskikh organizatsiiakh islamistskogo kharaktera,” Vestnik MGLU, Gumanitarnye nauki, no. 11(784), (2017): 209-219.
[52] Roman Silantyev, “O nekotorykh teoreticheskikh osnovaniiakh destruktologii kak novoi nauchnoi distsipliny,” Vestnik MGLU, Gumanitarnye nauki, no. 2(791)/2, (2018): 262-269.
[53] “Mezhreligioznyi sovet Rossii privetstvuet reshenie suda o zakrytii moskovskoi obshchiny ‘Svidetelei Iegovy’,” RIA Novosti, March 30, 2004,
[54] Roman Silantyev, “Mezhreligioznye sovety Rossii i SNG,” Religioznaia tolerantnost. Istoricheskoe i politicheskoe izmereniia, (Moscow: Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, Academia, 2006): 207.
[55] Oksana Alekseeva, “Evrei protiv sektantov,” Kommersant, May 16, 2001,
[56] “Avtor kursa po novoi nauke destruktologii podtverdil svoe sotrudnichestvo s FSB,” Interfaks, November 25, 2019.
[57] “Otzyv vedushchei organizatsii na dissertatsiiu…” MSLU,
[58] “V Moskve predstavili sbornik statei ‘Dukhovnyi krizis v russkoi literature i revoliutsionnye potriaseniia KhKh veka’,” Russkaia pravoslavnaia tserkov, January 27, 2020,
[59] “Tsentry,” WRPC,
[60] “Destructology Laboratory," MSLU,
[61] R. Silantyev, I. Malygina, M. Poletaeva, A. Silantyeva, Osnovy destruktologii (Moscow: Snezhnyi Kom, 2019); R. Silantyev, S. Chekmaev, Destruktologiia. Kak bystro i nadezhno lishitsia deneg i zdorovia (Moscow: Izdatelstvo M.B.Smolina, 2020); R. Silantyev, O. Strekalova, Nekromanty nashikh dnei (Moscow: Piatyi Rim, 2020); R. Silantyev, Yu. Ragozin, Parapravoslavnye sekty v sovremennoi Rossii (Moscow: Snezhnyi Kom, 2021); R. Silantyev, S. Chekmaev, Yu. Ragozin, Satanisty protiv “biomusora” (Istoriia mizantropicheskoi ideologii v Rossii, ili Ubei biomusor! (Moscow: Snezhnyi Kom, 2022).
[62] Anna Silantyeva appears to be working or studying at the MSLU. But there is no other information about her.
[63] “Ragozin Yurii,” Missionary Department of the Novosibirsk Diocese,
[64] “Yurii Ragozin. Opasnye igry v tolerantnost,” Russkaia narodnaia liniia. February 22, 2022,
[65] Chekmaev Sergei Vladimirovich,” Laboratoriia fantastiki,
[66] “Vostokoveda Rakhamima Emanuilova i islamoveda Romana Silantyeva nagradiat za vklad v razvitie rossiiskoi fantastiki,” Interfaks-Religiia, August 19, 2011,; “V Moskve vrucheny premii za sborniki fantastiki ‘Antiterror-2020’ i ‘Besposhchadnaia tolerantnost’,” Ibid, January 30, 2012,
[67] Pavel Vinogradov, “Rossiiskaia fantastika: put' k vozrozhdeniiu,” Nevskoe Vremia. January 28, 2010,
[68] Roman Silantyev, “Nuzhno ne zanimat'sia kopaniem v griazi, a nakhodit' preemstvennost' v nashei istorii,” Nakanune.Ru, October 11, 2023,
[69] Mikhail Akhmetyev, Grazhdane bez SSSR: Soobshchestva ‘sovetskikh grazhdan’ v sovremennoi Rossii (Moscow: ROO Tsentr “Sova”, 2022): 7.
[70] “Vynesen prigovor o pokushenii na ubiistvo glavy evreiskoi obshchiny Krasnodara,” Sova Center, June 17, 2021,
[71] A.S. Arkhipova, M.D. Volkova, A.A. Kirziuk, E.K. Malaia, D.A. Radchenko, E.F. Iugai, “Gruppy smerti: ot igry k moral'noi panike,” Moscow: Rossiiskaia akademiia narodnogo khoziaistva i gosudarstvennoi sluzhby pri Prezidente Rossiiskoi Federatsii, 2017.
[72] Roman Silantyev, Sergei Chekmaev, Yurii Ragozin, Satanisty protiv “biomusora” (Istoriia mizantropicheskoi ideologii v Rossii), ili Ubei biomusor! (Moscow: Snezhnyi Kom, 2022): 98.
[73] Ibid., 216.
[74] Ibid., 69-70.
[75] “V Mordovii vynesen prigovor po delu ‘bandy satanistov’,” Sova Center, July 19, 2010,
[76] Silantyev et al. Op.cit., 51.
[77] Ibid., 76-87.
[78] The bulk of the detentions and arrests occurred in 2021-2022, which culminated in the organization being banned as a terrorist group. As of February 2024, the Sova Center has information about 25 people allegedly linked to M.K.U. and convicted of crimes ranging from incitement graffiti to knife attacks and preparation of a terrorist attack. But only half of the cases have any known connection to M.K.U.. See: “Verkhovnyi sud priznal M.K.U. terroristicheskoi organizatsiei,” Sova Center, January 16 – March 15, 2023,; Natalia Yudina, “The New Generation of the Far-Right and Their Victims. Hate Crimes and Counteraction to Them in Russia in 2023,” Sova Center, February 14, 2024,
[79] Silantyev et al. Op.cit., 88.
[80] Ibid. 91-91; Aleksandr Sevidov, “‘Rytsari’ informatsionnoi voiny,” Odna Rodina, March 30, 2017,
[81] Silantyev et al. Op.cit., 202-203.
[82] Ibid., 106-107.
[83] Ivan Petrov, “Sponsor prokazy: zachem VSU geroiziruiut maniakov sredi rossiiskikh detei,” Izvestiia, February 3, 2023,
[84] Alexander Verkhovsky, “The State against Violence in Spheres Related to Religion” in Religion and Violence in Russia: Context, Manifestations, and Policy (Washington D.C., CSIS, 2018): 11-42.
[85] “Pozitsiia Pravozashchitnogo tsentra VRNS po novomu variantu Strategii protivodeistviia ekstremizmu v Rossiiskoi Federatsii do 2025 goda,” WRPC, June 3, 2020,
[86] Dmitrii Gromov, AUE: kriminalizatsiia molodezhi i moralnaia panika (Moscow: Neprikosnovennyi zapas, 2022).
[87] “Sud kassatsionnoi instantsii podtverdil reshenie o priznanii ‘Falun Dafa’ ekstremistskoi organizatsiei,” Sova Center, July 12, 2021,
[88] Melnikov Andrei, “Ob okkul'tnykh korniakh dvizheniia bortsov s privivkami,” NG-Religii, November 30, 2021,
[89] “Roshal predlozhil vvesti ugolovnoe nakazanie za podstrekatelstvo protiv vaktsinatsii,” Vesti, October 21, 2021,
[90] Aleksandr Soldatov, Andrei Karev, “Tsaritsa nauk,” Novaia gazeta, May 6, 2023,; Vadim Redkin, “‘Sektoved’ glazami ‘sektanta’,” Krasnoyarskii rabochii, November 11, 2023,
[91]“Ocherednoi prigovor vynesen s ispolzovaniem destruktologicheskoi ekspertizy, vvedennoi v sudebnuiu praktiku rukovoditelem Pravozashchitnogo tsentra VRNS,” WRPC, July 5, 2023,
[92]“Eks-skhiigumen Sergii i ego pomoshchnik prigovoreny k realnym srokam,” Sova Center, January 27– September 8, 2023,
[93]In January of the same year, a preliminary examination was carried out at the MSLU; it concerned a video of a 2019 play reading. We do not know who the authors of that expertise are.
[94]“Delo ‘Finista Yasna Sokola’,” Sova Center, May 5 – June 30, 2023,; Venera Galeeva, “Ot IGIL do feminizma. Chto imenno potianulo na ugolovnoe delo v spektakle ‘Finist Yasnyi Sokol’,” Fontanka, May 5, 2023,
[95]The text is not known in its entirety, but in large part: “Meduza publikuet ‘ekspertizu’ po delu ob ‘opravdanii terrorizma’ v spektakle ‘Finist yasnyi sokol’,” Meduza, May 5, 2023,
[96] Aleksandr Lugov, “Kogda ‘Net voine’ amoralno. Delo aktivista Ilyi Myaskovskogo,” Svoboda, December 26, 2022,
[97] Council on the Ethics of Scientific Publications, “Open letter,” May 30, 2023,
[98]“Tsentr pri Miniuste nazval nenauchnoi destruktologicheskuiu ekspertizu po delu Berkovich,” Kommersant, June 30, 2023,; “VFBU RFTsSE pri Miniuste Rossii v otvet…” VLAger Telegram channel, June 30, 2023,
[99]“Na zlobu dnia – vneplanovaia,” Elena Galyashina's VK, September 12, 2023,
[100] Transcript of a special meeting of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights on the topic ‘The Growth of Radicalism in Society as a Threat to Human Rights,’ website of the President of the Russian Federation, March 30, 2015,
[101] Ibid.
[102] As a member of that Presidential Council at the time, I attended that meeting.
[103] “Pravoslavnyi pravozashchitnik nazval Strelkova ‘geroem nashego vremeni’,” Interfaks-Religiia, June 24, 2014,
[104] See for example: Roman Silantyev, “Konstantinopol' otkryl novyi front protiv russkikh sviashchennikov,” Vzgliad, September 14, 2018,[105] Maksim Vasyunov, Roman Silantyev, “Zapad prines khristian v zhertvu,”, September 9, 2014,
[106] “Roman Silantyev, ispolnitelnyi direktor programm Vsemirnogo russkogo narodnogo sobora: ‘Bolshinstvo tozhe nuzhdaetsia v zashchite’,”Izvestiia. December 25, 2006,
[107] The final version was compiled in the book Needinaia Rossiia, Doklady po etnopolitike, ed. M.V. Remizov (Moscow: Institut natsionalnoi strategii, Knizhnyi mir, 2015).
[108] “Vozbuzhdeno ugolovnoe delo v otnoshenii kazanskogo religioveda Suleimanova,” Sova Center, February 9, 2016,
[109] Mariia Klimova, Egor Skovoroda, “11 druzei BORN,” Mediazona, January 19, 2015,
[110] “Prishlo vremia sdelat' odnoznachnyi vybor,” Interfaks-Religiia, March 18, 2022,
[111] Aleksei Pavlov, “Chto variat v ‘vedminom kotle’. Na Ukraine nabrali silu neoiazycheskie kulty,” Argumenty i fakty, October 25, 2022, chto_varyat_v_vedminom_kotle_na_ukraine_nabrali_silu_neoyazycheskie_kulty.
[112] “Roman Silantyev: Voina na Ukraine nachinaet priobretat religioznyi kharakter,” Radonezh, November 2, 2022,
[113] Mikhailov Vladimir, “Religioved Silantyev objasnil izgnanie UPTs iz Kievo-Pecherskoi lavry ‘ukrainskim satanizmom,’ MK, March 14, 2023,
[114] “Prorochestvo monakhov o vossoedinenii Rusi sbyvaetsia” (Radio KP interview), WRPC, January 11, 2023,
[115] “Shchit ot destruktiva. Kak protivostoiat' provokatsiiam iz-za rubezha?,” WRPC, April 24, 2023,
[116] “Religioved vyskazalsia o pomilovannom za uchastie v SVO sataniste,”, November 21, 2023,
  • Alexander Verkhovsky

    Sova Research Center
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