“Nobody Pressed Hard, and People Listened to the Message of the Kingdom”. Jehovah’s Witnesses of Sverdlovsk Region: a Historical and Anthropological Study
This article considers the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious movement in Sverdlovsk region between the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This is an attempt to study the most closed and unwanted religious minority in contemporary Russia. The study references mass media materials, websites, including those officially owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, magazines, and other print media used as instructive materials. The authors also conducted field research, making observations and collecting interviews among Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2014–2016. The information obtained helps them reconstruct the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region and determine their number, social status, age, and gender. The article shows that their numbers grew rapidly in the early 1990s. Active confrontation with the Orthodox Church and the tightening of state policy towards this movement started in the first decade of the 21st century. This brought about the further isolation of the religious group and influenced their religious practices. It is established that the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region reached 3,000 followers in 2016, with the largest community of over 1,000 members being based in Yekaterinburg. The core of their religious practices is the study of the Bible on their own, together with their families, or as part of their weekly gatherings and sermons. This religious minority provides spiritual support and answers to a number of social issues that neither the state nor other denominations have been able to cope with so far.