Abstract Many post-Soviet governments are still unable to identify the attitude to religious freedom and religious activity. The human rights trend adjoins with a very suspicious attitude to the religious phenomena as a relic of the Soviet regime of the state–church relationships. Moreover, the professional communities and society as a whole were not appropriately prepared for the religious diversity or the new role of religion in public and private life. This article discusses why the government is very careful in the regulation of religious processes. The article also explains the reasons of inattention by Kazakhstani lawyers to human rights and religious issues and analyses the situation regarding religious freedom within frames of existing legislation in Kazakhstan. INTRODUCTION In 2016, the Republic of Kazakhstan celebrated 25 years of independence. All these years, the new state tried to build a new political, economic, social, and legal system that differs considerably from the Soviet times. The main characteristics of the post-Soviet Kazakhstani state are mentioned in Article 1 (section 1) of the Kazakhstani Constitution (1995): the Republic of Kazakhstan proclaims itself to be a democratic, secular, legal, and social state whose highest values are an individual, his life, rights, and freedoms. Despite the declarative nature of constitutional provisions, the priority of the individual instead of the state has extreme importance because it means there is an absolutely different regime of individual–state relationships, even on a declarative level. It is obvious that Kazakhstan has achieved certain successes in some areas during the first years of independence. The state conducted a lot of economic reforms, which have created an economic system that allows transfers from the administrative side to the economic market. The government created a very good environment for business activity. In the World Bank Doing Business data (2017), Kazakhstan ranks 35 out of 190 economies.1 The Kazakhstani economical system is one of the most attractive for foreign investors in Central Asia and many of them operate within Kazakhstan. Many economical and business successes of Kazakhstan can be explained by the very popular principle of the government policy, which can be shortly expressed in the slogan ‘The First goal is the economy, the political reforms can wait’.2 In all the years of independence, the liberalization of economic life was not accompanied by the same liberalization of the political system and public life. The economical development absolutely prevailed over the political system’s reforms. If business received the benefits and privileges, the civil society sector received new instruments of government control and supervision. It does not mean that Kazakhstan did not pay attention to political reforms and democratization. Institutional and other reforms have led to a separation of powers, elimination of state ideology, court system strengthening, decentralization of public administration, etc. The state has signed the international human rights acts and adopted laws providing individual rights and freedoms. It can be easily explained: in modern political-legal reality, the Kazakhstani state cannot avoid the human rights or democratization issues due to its own Constitutional declarations, international obligations, and pressure from the national and international community. However, the democracy and human rights have not become the principles of the government’s policy as a whole. They appear as necessary attributes of the modern Kazakhstani legal system without a real state obligation to provide or respect it. Freedom of religion is a very good example of the government’s attitude. The state recognizes the freedom of religion (freedom of conscience in terms of Kazakhstani Constitution)3 but has done little in order to guarantee this freedom. Such inattention to human rights, including the religious freedom issues, is typical not only for the state but also for legal science. The majority of research in Public Law has focused on the status of different state bodies. The only three significant monographs on the legal issues of human rights were published in post-Soviet Kazakhstan.4,5,6 One of them is devoted to the Eurasian Human Rights Conception. The author states that human rights in Eurasia must be perceived from the position of their accordance in regards to collective and public interests and expectations, as well as their mutual responsibility.7 LITERATURE REVIEW The issues of religious freedom, relationships between law and religion, the state and believers or their associations also do not hold a large amount of interest for the legal scholars or practical lawyers in Kazakhstan.8,9 For instance, all the above-mentioned human rights publications do not even touch on religious freedom issues. There are different explanations for such unpopularity. (1) Kazakhstan has no experience in the issues of freedom of religion or legal regulations between the state and religious associations.10 Despite the existence of the regulatory acts in religious areas in Soviet times, most of them were—as a matter of fact—the administrative orders of the Soviet public administration or Communist Party bodies.11 They contained a lot of duties, restrictions, and limitations for the believers and religious associations. There was no sense in studying the rights or other legal possibilities of the believers and religious associations because such rights and possibilities simply did not exist. There was also no sense in studying religious issues since religion was proclaimed as a temporary phenomenon, which must disappear in the foreseeable future. The rare works of legal scholars in the Soviet Union (mainly made by the authors from the Russian Federation and Ukraine)12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19 on religious subjects were devoted to the explanation of government policy and interpretation of the mentioned administrative orders. Today, the believers and religious associations in Kazakhstan have legally recognized freedoms and rights as well as a lot of bans and limitations of their activity and nobody believes that religion will disappear within a few decades.20 But lawyers, both scholars and practitioners, are still not interested in the issues connected with religion or religious associations’ activity. It should be noted that, as a whole, the private law issues are more attractive for local lawyers than the public law issues. In the case of religious matters, the lawyers do not think that they are worthy of their attention. The religious matters look strange for many of them. (2) After many years of atheistic ideological domination, many people still do not consider religion as part of their individual life or social environment. Religious rights and freedoms, as well as religious issues in general, are not a priority for the state or society. For instance, issues of religious symbols, religion in public or working places, and other issues that are problematic in many other countries are not practically discussed in Kazakhstan. The only exception is the problem of religious dress in schools, which is discussed in the country from time to time with the final conclusion that such attire is prohibited in schools. Religious issues draw attention in the time of big religious holidays, in the time of high-ranking religious leaders’ visits to Kazakhstan, or in the case of problems with non-traditional Islam or followers of other religions. There is one more period when everyone in Kazakhstan speaks about religion or inter-religious dialogue. Every three years, Kazakhstan organizes the Congress of Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions (five such congresses have been held so far). For instance, 80 delegations from 42 countries, the United Nations Secretary-General, the Secretary General of OSCE, and three state leaders participated in the most recent one (in 2015). One of the values of congress is religious leaders of very different scale and religious affiliation may meet each other. It is very probable that these leaders sit down together and talk to each other in other times and in other places. Certainly, the Congress is a very prestigious event for Kazakhstan and, unfortunately, such an event has no influence on religious life in Kazakhstan. Internally, religion still does not play any significant role in social processes despite the increased religiousness of the general population21 and an existence of ‘spiritual lacuna’ after the collapse of the Soviet ideological system. (3) Believers and religious associations themselves do not use the legal instruments for the protection of their rights and freedoms. In spite of the serious government pressure, property, or other legal problems, it is rather a surprise to see believers or religious organizations in the courts or in the administrative bodies. Often, the religious associations become more active in case of the threat of liquidation. Some representatives of Christian organizations show unwillingness to go to court or to use legal instruments by the Scripture. There is also a secular explanation of such unwillingness: after many years of suppression, believers and religious associations do not believe that secular courts can protect them. In such circumstances, it is still difficult as a whole to do impartial legal research or to have practice in the human rights or religious freedoms field. Very often the decisions in this field are adopted by taking into account not legal principles and rules, but the issues of political or ideological expediency. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS Religious Freedom and Human Rights Environment Continuing the subject of religious rights and freedoms, the general situation with human rights and freedoms in the country should also be mentioned. The situation with religious freedom cannot be considered in isolation from the situation with other human rights and freedoms, as well as without understanding the general policy and legal regime. If there are systemic problems with many rights and freedoms, religious freedoms cannot be distinguished by the high level of the development or protection. It touches both individuals and collective dimension of freedom of religion. As Johan D. Van Der Viper wrote: The right to self-determination of faith communities and the exercise of sphere sovereignty by the organized structures within those communities do not exist. And cannot be exercised, in isolation from a whole range of other basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to equal protection and nondiscrimination, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and associations, and an effective remedy to vindicate the freedom of religion or belief or for the protection of the integrity of members of the faith community or the property interest of its organized institutions.22 From a formal point of view, during the independence period, Kazakhstan has taken the necessary steps in providing human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion. Aside from the human rights-oriented constitutional provisions, many new laws regarding various human rights were adopted in the country [for instance, Laws ‘On Order of Conduction of Peaceful Gatherings, Meetings, Processions, Pickets and Demonstrations’ (1995), ‘On Social Associations’ (1996), ‘On Media’ (2001), ‘On Child Rights’ (2002), ‘On Political Parties’ (2002), ‘On Religious Activity and Religious Associations’ (2011), ‘On Trade Unions’ (2014), ‘On Access to Information’ (2015)]. Kazakhstan has ratified important international documents that touch on religious freedom, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ratification was made on 28 November 2005), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (8 June 1994), and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (11 February 2009). At the same time, Kazakhstan has not signed the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in spite of the fact that part of the Kazakhstani territory belongs to Europe. The Government also established human rights organizations and positions, whose status will be discussed later. Several independent, non-governmental human rights organizations were also created in the country. The most famous among them are the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and Almaty Helsinki Committee, which were both very active in the protection of human rights. Representatives of international human rights organizations and other organizations with human rights agendas are also operating in the country (Freedom House, Penal Reform International, Soros Foundation, and others). Twice—in 2009 and 2014—Kazakhstan submitted Reports on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. In 2010, Kazakhstan was the Chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The human dimension, which covers human rights, is regarded as one of the three dimensions of the security concept, which this organization is working towards. In 2012, Kazakhstan was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for 2013–15. Thus, Kazakhstan has been incorporated into the international system of human rights organizations and protection. Despite the obvious progress with human rights in comparison to the Soviet period, Kazakhstan still has problems that are confirmed by the internal and external human rights organizations and experts. Numerous local NGOs have stated that the situation regarding fundamental political rights and civil liberties has not changed significantly. They even noted that it has deteriorated in some areas in comparison to 2011, prior to the consideration of Kazakhstan’s initial report on the implementation of the ICCPR submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee.23 The UN Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations on the second periodic report of Kazakhstan made on the 9 August 2016 addresses only four measures taken by the state party and, at the same time, mentioned more than 50 principal matters of concern and recommendations (four of them touch religious issues).24 The Human Rights Watch in its annual report (2015) states that Kazakhstan took few meaningful steps to tackle a worsening human rights record in 2015. The authorities continued to close newspapers, jail and fine people for holding peaceful protests, ban peaceful religious practice, and misuse the vague and overbroad charge of ‘inciting social, national, clan, racial, class, or religious discord’.25 In practice, such a situation means that believers, along with the religious freedom problems, have difficulties in the realization of other fundamental rights (the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freedom of associations, the right to liberty of movement, the right to freedom of expression, etc). For instance, in the case of the right to peaceful assembly (Article 21 of ICCPR), the believers of religious associations cannot conduct public events, either religious or non-religious, without government permission. Under the ‘Law On Order of Conduction of Peaceful Gatherings, Meetings, Processions, Pickets and Demonstrations’, dated 17 March 1995, the local government administration can permit or prohibit public events after consideration of application. The right to freedom of association (Article 22 of ICCPR) also depends on government permission. Under the ‘Law on Social Associations’ dated 31 May 1996, activity of non-registered associations is prohibited. So, believers cannot create associations based on charity, youth, education, or sport without government registration. Moreover, affiliation with a religion means additional limitations for the individuals. One of the examples is the right to liberty of movement (Article 12 of ICCPR). If an individual is recognized as a missionary, their right of movement can be limited by the place of his/her registration due to religious legislation and sub-laws. Another example is the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 of ICCPR). In the case of expression of religious ideas and religious information, the general legislation regarding freedom of expression is not applicable. The regulations are made within the religious legislation that contains a lot of limitations of such expression (see below). In such a general environment for human rights, it is no surprise to see problems with the freedom of religion. It is also emphasized by local and foreign human rights groups and other experts and organizations. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, in his Report after the Mission to Kazakhstan (in 2014) stated that: ‘he noticed adverse attitudes towards some non-traditional religious communities. The State monitors religious activities strictly, with a view to preventing extremism and to combating “sects” deemed destructive to people’s well-being. Many of the measures adopted for this purpose are not in line with international standards of freedom of religion or belief. Moreover, the mandatory registration of religious communities, in conjunction with tightly knit stipulations, largely hampers free religious practice, which take place in an atmosphere of legal insecurity’.26 The European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance in its Annual Report on the State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World (2016) states the Constitution defines Kazakhstan as a secular state and theoretically provides for freedom of religion and belief, as well as for the freedom to decline religious affiliation. Other laws (particularly the 2011 Religion Law), however, place these freedoms as conditional upon explicit state permission.27 The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its Annual Report (2016), describes Kazakhstan as a country of particular concern ‘where the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and are characterized by at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious”’.28 After the signing of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the citizens of Kazakhstan have gained the ability to apply to the UN Human Rights Committee. Some applicants applied in connection with the violation of their religious rights and freedoms. As of May 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee has issued 10 decisions regarding applications from Kazakhstan. One of them touches freedom of religion. The Committee has decided that Kazakhstan violated the Article 18 of ICCPR when it fined and deported a foreign citizen for his participation in worship without government missionary registration.29 Internal Human Rights Institutions and Freedom of Religion As we mentioned before, special bodies and positions directly connected with the human rights protection were established in Kazakhstan in post-Soviet times. On 12 February 1994, the President established the Republican Human Rights Commission and approved its statute.30 Later, this commission was re-named to the Human Right Commission under the President of Republic of Kazakhstan. On 19 September 2002, the President established another institution—the Human Rights Ombudsman and approved the Ombudsman’s Statute.31 The official status of the Ombudsman in Kazakhstan is significantly less important than in other countries.32 For a long time, unlike many other Human Rights Ombudsman organizations, the Kazakhstani one was appointed and dismissed by the President of the Republic. Under the constitutional amendments in 2017, the Ombudsman is elected by the Senate (higher Chamber of Parliament). The Ombudsman’s activity is provided by the state institution ‘National Human Rights Centre’. Today these two institutions are the main official human rights units in the country.33 Both of them are closely connected to the state. This fact obviously influences on its human rights activity, which can be characterized by a reference to the government’s position in most cases. The Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman adopt similar positions on many issues. Although, at the time of these institutions creation, it was presumed that the Commission should deal with the human rights state policy and strategy, methodological concepts and assistance to the President as a guarantor of individuals’ rights and freedoms. As for Ombudsman, it should concentrate on the consideration of individual and collective appeals in the human rights field.34 In practice, both institutions consider the appeals and make recommendations. The two bodies are also very similar in relation to freedom of religion. Religious freedoms are not a priority for them for different reasons. Firstly, the violation of other rights and freedoms are encountered much more frequently than violations of religious freedom. Other rights mean economic, social, and cultural rights. Besides that, people very often lodge complaints against the courts and administrative bodies actions (or inactions) and decisions. Secondly, both institutions are of the opinion that freedom of religion is protected by the state sufficiently and there are no grounds for concerns in this area. For instance, in 2015 Report, the Ombudsmen stated that the state fully guarantees freedom of conscience and infringement of freedom of religion has a non-systematic character. The complaints regarding violations of freedom of religion composed only 1.7 per cent of all complaints made to Ombudsmen. Some violations were possible as a result of illegal actions by certain government officials. Most actions that terminated religious worship were recognized by Ombudsman as legal. Ombudsmen found the violation of freedom of religion in publications and public presentations touched some religious associations (mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses). In these publications and presentations, organizations were labeled as sects, preaching heretic teachings.35 The Human Rights Commission in its report for 2014–15 also thinks that Kazakhstan guarantees free development of all religious confessions and realization of religious freedom. The complaints regarding violations of freedom of religion composed only 0.35 per cent of all complaints made to the Commission. The Commission did not mention any violations of freedom of religion at all. Regarding the very problematic issue of mandatory registration of religious associations and missionaries, the Commission stated that such registration does not create obstacles for religious associations, citizens, and missionary activity and it is just aimed at structuring and systematization of religious areas.36 The independent human rights organizations have another opinion. For instance, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law—the most active NGO today in areas of religious freedom—in its Analysis of Religious Legislation of Kazakhstan mentioned the serious limitations of religious freedom in legislation and law-enforcement practice. These limitations concern legal definitions, religious worship, obligatory registration of religious associations, missionary activity, dissemination of religious literature, alternative military service, religious examination, and many other issues.37 It should be noted that the local independent human rights organizations have no proper interest in issues of religious freedom [except the above-mentioned Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. (The other local human rights organization mentioned in this article—Almaty Helsinki Committee—is not active these days)]. This is one of the reasons why religious freedom problems do not attract public attention. The State and Religious Processes The limitations of religious freedom and restrictive government actions can be explained by the government’s general attitude to religious issues. In the case of religious processes, the state is neither a neutral observer nor the subject that just creates general legal framework. The government plays a more active role and resists the increase of religious influence in society. This expresses not only through drastic legislation. Very often political leaders and government officials underline the secular character of the Kazakhstani state. There are many informal prohibitions regarding, for instance, the religious dress or religious literature in public institutions. The paradox of such a situation is, from the one side, that the state recognizes the positive role of religious values, religious diversity, and the significance of religious associations for the society. From the other side, the state is afraid of religious development. One of the best examples is the result of re-registration of religious associations after adoption of the ‘Law On Religious Associations and Religious Activity’ on the 11 October 2011.38 Before the start of the re-registration process, 4551 religious associations operated in Kazakhstan. After the re-registration, the number of religious associations was reduced to 3088.39 It is strange to see such a decline if the state wants to develop or provide religious freedom.40 There are also different explanations for such a paradox. Firstly, the state traditionally does want to recognize the religious associations as harmless units or social partners. And, it is presumed, religious activity is affiliated with the social danger. This is the legacy of Soviet times. In such a view, everything connected with religion must be under control, making the state appear as a guardian or supervisor of religion.41 Secondly, the state and society are not yet ready for religious diversity. It could be much easier to cooperate with the religious associations of the two main religions of Kazakhstan—Islam and Russian Orthodoxy (their values are recognized by the Law. Under the preamble to the ‘Law On Religious Activity and Religious Associations’, Republic of Kazakhstan recognizes the historical role of Hanafi School of Islam and the Orthodox Christianity in development of culture and spiritual life of people, respects other religions that blend with the spiritual heritage of the people of Kazakhstan, and recognizes the importance of interconfessional harmony, religious tolerance, and respect for religious convictions of citizens). But today, many other religious associations exist and operate in the country.42 Among them are new religious movements, religious associations with unusual practices and associations having problems in other countries. With regard to the latest associations, the state directly or indirectly supports the NGOs whose aim is to counteract the so-called ‘non-traditional’ organizations, sects, totalitarian cults, etc. It is ironic that some of these organizations have been registered by the government. Thus, the state, on the one hand, legally recognizes some religious associations and, on the other hand, combats them. Thirdly, the issues of terrorism and extremism in the country are becoming more and more resonant in Kazakhstan. Most terrorist acts or attempts of such acts that have taken place in Kazakhstan have carried religious affiliation. In this light, any religious activity is considered by the government as potentially dangerous; thus, religious associations fall under the strict requirements of anti-terrorist and anti-extremist legislation.43 Moreover, the state is afraid that opposition sentiments or protest potential can be expressed in religious forms with unpredictable consequences. Obviously, such a fear is mostly connected with Islamic institutions.44 So, any attempts of radicalization of Islam are toughly prosecuted. But, despite all efforts, groups of prohibited Islamic organizations are discovered from time to time within the country. Their members are periodically convicted by the Kazakhstani courts.45 According to official information, about 400 Kazakhstani citizens participate in the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant activity.46 This suspicious attitude to Islam has an impact on the whole religious situation. The above-mentioned can help to understand why the state undertakes steps to restrain religious activity, adopts rigid legislative provisions, and restricts free practice of religion. The interests of state stability (or stability of the political regime), social order, and national security are much more important than the religious rights and freedoms as well any other rights and freedoms. As Martha Brill Olcott notes: ‘all Central Asian states have legal systems that grant governments the responsibility to monitor religion in the interest of public well-being, and all have legislation in place that ensures that the needs of national security far outweigh any constitutional protections afforded citizen’.47 Although, there was a period in the history of post-Soviet Kazakhstan (we evaluate this period from 1991 to 2005), when the state was more liberal. The religious associations were considered to be the same as any other organizations and the government did not spend significant resources on control of believers and religious associations. And, symbolically, there were no serious conflicts in the religious area during that period. The Religious Freedom After New Legislation The comparatively liberal period finally came to an end in 2011 when the ‘Law On Religious Activity and Religious Associations’ was adopted (11 October 2011). The main aims of the law were to strengthen, control over religious associations, and create restrictions for religious activity.48 Interestingly, that Human Right Commission under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan stated that the Law 2011 was recognized as a liberal one.49 Five years after the implementation of the law, the rules and law-enforcement practice demonstrate that: (1) The state constantly stresses its secular nature and follows its nature in policy, legislation, and law-enforcement practice in regards to religious issues. The Kazakh understanding of secularism excludes believers and religious associations from public life. The principle of separation of religious associations and state is understood primarily as non-interference of religious association to political activity. (2) The government’s main attention is on collective religious activity. So, limitations and restrictions of freedom of religion are directed towards religious associations rather than individuals. (3) Unregistered collective religious activity is strictly prohibited. Before 2005, there was no requirement in Kazakhstani legislation regarding the mandatory registration of religious associations. The government registration (the justice bodies are responsible for such registration) is a mandatory condition for religious associations’ activity. The registration is considered not to be the recognition of the new property status of the group of individuals (as in case with the commercial units), but as permission to exist and operate. The same requirements exist for missionaries. Missionary activity is permitted only after government registration (the local executive bodies are responsible for such registration).50 The unregistered activity of religious groups and missionaries is recognized as an administrative offence and is punished in accordance with the Administrative Offences Code (2014). But in spite of the threat of legal liability, approximately 2000 unregistered religious associations operate within the country. We include in this number the religious associations that could not make re-registration in 2011–12 and small religious groups without the status of a legal entity, which can legally exist before the Law 2011. It is evidence that the state cannot force religious groups to register themselves with the government. This situation is reminiscent of the Soviet times when many unregistered religious associations also existed, and Soviet authorities (which were much more powerful in police and security sense) could not cope with unregistered activity.51 (4) Types of activity, which are allowed for believers and religious associations, are limited to religious rites, worship, and missionary activity. An exception is made for charitable activity and—to a small degree—for religious education. (5) Religious education can be provided only by special religious educational institutions created by the regional and republican religious associations. Today only two religious associations (Muslim and Orthodox) have such institutions. It is prohibited to take part in any religious activity within schools, universities, and other educational institutions. (6) In the case of individual satisfaction of religious needs, it is not allowed to perform religious rites and ceremonies, as well as missionary activity in buildings and their assigned territories of government bodies, organizations and institutions, military divisions, and educational organizations (except religious educational organizations). This prohibition was most disputable in the time of the adoption of the ‘Law On Religious Activity and Religious Associations’. Even some deputies of Parliament who agreed with most draft articles raised objections against this provision.52 (7) Access to the public sector (education, health system, social security sector, etc.) is also limited. Religion is considered as a purely private matter like many decades before. Although, religious associations have a huge interest in the public sector and ready to help the state with social and other problems. (8) Distribution of religious literature is allowed only inside the religious association buildings (premises) or in bookstores approved by the local state administration. All religious literature and other materials of religious content (including calendars, booklets, posters, and hymns) must be approved by the government. Since 2012, religious affairs bodies made religious examinations of 32,000 informative materials and literature of religious content. Five hundred pieces of informative material and 640 items of literature were prohibited from use and distribution in Kazakhstan. The negative results of the religious examinations were issued in respect of 1916 internet sites and 900 of them were blocked by the court’s decision.53 At the same time, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan has recognized that authorities cannot cope with the ‘internet recruiters’. (9) The areas in which religious associations can freely operate are limited. In accordance with the general approach, religious activity can be conducted (i) within the territory of registration and (ii) only inside the buildings and premises of religious associations. Moreover, such buildings and premises should be specifically designed for religious purposes. Any religious activity outside of the buildings and premises belonging to the religious associations must be approved by the government. (10) Most religious associations are registered on a local level. It means that their activity is possible only within the territory of one of the 16 biggest administrative–territorial divisions of Kazakhstan (14 oblastei, Astana and Almaty cities). Many religious associations seek a regional (more than one oblast) or republican (all oblasti) status. The regional or republican status gives religious association more opportunities to expand their activity and—this is much more important for some associations—to create educational religious institutions (academies, seminaries, and schools). The local religious associations have no right to create religious educational institutions. In fact, followers of only a few religious associations (Islam, Russian Orthodox, Baptists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) have regional and republican units [Only Spiritual Administration of Moslems of Kazakhstan and Metropolitan Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan (Russian Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan) have the status of the republican religious association]. The creation of such associations is extremely difficult due to severe legislative and administrative requirements [it needs to have at least 250 (for regional level) or 300 (for republican level) members in each oblasti (totally 500 and 5000 members correspondingly) who live and have registration on the respective territory. Police authorities make the special review of all believers-founders. Any mistake in registration data means refuse in registration], as well as general unwillingness of the government to increase the number of regional and republican associations. Also, worthy of note is that the situation with the acquisition of the republican status reveals two problems. The first problem is in regards to the church autonomy. The Law stipulates that the structure of republican religious associations must include one republican center and branches in all territorial divisions. The branches (filials) have no rights as a legal entity, ownership rights, and all other rights typical for legal entities. Sure, some religious associations are content with such a structure because it allows religious administration to control all religious, proprietorial, and other activity in the branches. However, for some other religious associations (for instance, protestant associations) such a structure is unacceptable due to the more democratic principles of organization and administration of religious life. The Kazakhstani legislation does not give any chance for the religious associations to be organized in accordance with their own rules. The second problem is the inattention of civil legislation to the peculiarities of religious associations as legal entities. The Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (1994) does not take into account such peculiarities as single-level or multi-level associations; the presence of their own religious rules, including the rules of administration; or the desire and necessity of local religious associations to be founders of big associations. (11) The government thinks that the existence of a special body dealing with the religious issues is extremely important. Currently, the Committee on Religious Affairs Under the Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society is responsible for the realization of government policy in religious areas. The local religious affairs departments (subordinated to the local government administration) operate on a local level of public administration. These special state bodies are responsible for missionary registration, providing religious examinations, approval of the foreign religious activity in Kazakhstan, and appointment of the religious leaders by foreign religious centers. They also analyze the activity of religious associations, missionaries, religious educational institutions, make proposals on prohibition of religious associations operating with violation of legislation, and conduct administrative investigations in the case of administrative offences in religious areas. Most believers and religious associations have adapted to the current general and legal framework after the adoption of the ‘Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations’. The representatives of almost all confessions have been re-registered under the requirements of the new law (despite the reduce of the general number of the religious associations). Only the Ahmadiya community (the SAMK does not recognize this community as Moslem and the state takes into the consideration the opinion of SAMK. Ahmadiya community still tries to obtain government registration) and Scientology Church (the state does not recognize the Scientology Church as a religious association) could not make re-registration. Both of them unsuccessfully tried to dispute the government’s refusal in re-registration in courts. These days, very few criticize the existing rules of religious activity. Even believers and religious associations, when asked, say they would rather not have these rules changed too often or to limit the discretionary interpretation of the law’s provisions. It is fair to say that, currently, government authorities try to diminish tension in religious areas and solve the emerging problems without a strong administrative influence. Also, appeals to international institutions began to affect local issues. For instance, the General Prosecutor officials asked representatives of one religious association to suspend consideration of a complaint by the UN Committee of Human Rights in order to solve problems directly within Kazakhstan. The government also tries to create platforms for dialog with the religious associations representatives. CONCLUSION Human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, is not a priority for the Kazakhstani state in spite of constitutional declarations and international obligations. Religious freedom is a matter of secondary importance, even among other human rights. This is largely due to Soviet heritage when religion was considered as a temporary and harmful phenomena, which must be under strict government control. The politicization and radicalization of some religious groups and believers (mostly affiliated with Islam) is also one of the main reasons for the control of and suspicious attitude towards believers and religious associations. Thus, the modern state of Kazakhstan, in terms of its attitude to religion and religious freedoms, can be described as a controller but not to the extent of its neighboring countries: Tajkistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan. The Kazakhstani government is ready to make compromises, especially in those areas that do not affect the ideological issues or the existing state and public order. The transition to the other role—guarantor or promoter of religious freedom—is hardly possible in Kazakhstan today. Such a transition may take place in the case of political reforms, fundamental changes in the relationships between the state and civil society (the parts associated with the religious associations), and revision of government policy towards religious freedom. Footnotes 1 ‘Ease of Doing Business in Kazakhstan, 2016’ www.doingbusiness.org/data/exlploreeconomies/kazakhstan (07 November 2016). 2 N Nazarbayev ‘Kazakhstan on the Way of Accelerated Economic, Sociological and Political Modernization’  Kazakhstanskaya Pravda 3. 3 M Rittmann We Are Not the Enemy: Violations of Workers’ Rights in Kazakhstan (Human Rights Watch Short Reports New York 2016). 4 M Baimakhanov (ed) The Combination of International Legal and Domestic Forms of Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen (KazGYUU Astana 2007) 368. 5 Z Busurmanov The Eurasian Concept of Human Rights (KazGYUU Almaty 2006) 157, 353–4, 481. 6 A Sman ‘The Legal Status of the Individual in the Republic of Kazakhstan’ Konstitutsionno pravovoi aspect (KAZGYUU Astana 2008) 384. 7 See Busurmanov, above n 5. 8 R Podoprigora State and Religious Organizations: Administrative and Legal Matters (Arkaim Almaty 2002) 324. 9 S Alimov The Legal Status of Religious Unions in the Republic of Kazakhstan (Bastau Almaty 2011) 252. 10 R Podoprigora ‘Kazakhstan’ in G Robbers and C Durham (eds) Encyclopedia of Law and Religion (Brill. Nijhoff Leiden 2016) 3, 187–8. 11 V Kuroedov and A Pankratov (eds) Legislation on Religious Cole’ts. Collection of Materials and Documents (Yuridicheskaya Literature Moscow 2016) 336. 12 M S Baynova ‘The State and the Ideology, the Religion’  Mater Afanasiev Read 2, 29–35. 13 G Gol’st Religion and the Law (Yuridicheskaya Literature Moscow 1975) 112. 14 M Adrian ‘Religious Freedom at Risk: The EU, French Schools, and Why the Veil Was Banned’  Muslims Global Soc Series 8, 1–16. 15 A Barmenkov Freedom of Conscience in the USSR (Myisl 1986) 224. 16 N Gayevaya Soviet Legislation on Freedom of Conscience (Naukova dumka Kiev 1988) 141. 17 L Vickers Religious Freedom, Religious Discrimination and the Workplace (Hart Publishing Bloomsbury 2016). 18 V Klochkov Religion, State and Law (Myisl Moscow 1978) 287. 19 V Klochkov Law and Religion (Politizdat Moscow 1974) 160. 20 L Lindkvist (ed.) Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press New York 2017) 85–9. 21 A Smailov (ed) Census of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2009. Brief summary. Statistical collection (Statistics Astana 2010) 10, 101. 22 J D Van Der Vyver ‘Freedom of Religion or Belief and Other Human Rights’ in T Lindholm, C Durham and B Tahzib Lie (eds) Facilitating Freedom of Religion or Belief (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers Leiden 2004) 123. 23 ‘Comments of Kazakhstani Human Rights NGOs on Kazakhstan’s Second Periodic Report on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ www.bureau.kz/files/bureau/Docs/Reports/2016/Alternative/Kazakhstan-Joint-NGO-Report-to-the-UN-Human-Rights-Committee.pdf (07 November 2016). 24 R Marchetti ‘Partnerships in International Policy-Making: Civil Society and Public Institutions in the European and Global Affairs’ International Series on Public Policy (Great Britain Palgrave Macmillan 2017). 25 ‘Kazakhstan. Events of 2015’ www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/kazakhstan (07 November 2016). 26 D Urkumbaeva ‘Prosecutors Are Almost Powerless Before Online Recruiters’ (2016) www.zakon.kz/4820524-prokurory-pochti-bessilny-pered-onlajjn.html (10 November 2016). 27 ‘Annual Report on the State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World (2016) of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance’ p. 67 http://www.marketinginnovation.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/FoRB_Annual_Report_2015-Final.pdf (21 November 2016). 28 ‘Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’ (2016) www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202016%20Annual%20Report.pdf (07 November 2016). 29 E Burova and A Kosichenko Actual Problems of Development of Religious Situation in Kazakhstan (Institute of Philosophy, Politics and Religious Studies Almaty 2013) 56. 30 Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the establishment of the post of Commissioner for Human Rights”, the meeting of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 1994. # 9. Article 89. 31 Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the establishment of the post of Commissioner for Human Rights, Kazakstan’s President's Meeting and Kazakhstan’s Government. 2002. # 30. Article 328. 32 See Baimakhanov, above n 4. 33 O Petryshyn ‘The Democratic Principles of Legal and Social State’  J Natl Acad Legal Sci Ukraine 1, 32–41. 34 Above n 25. 35 ‘Report on the Activities of the Human Rights Commissioner in the Republic of Kazakhstan’ (2015) 12, 73–7. www.ombudsman.kz/upload/report2015.pdf (07 November 2016). 36 K Sultanov Report on the Situation with Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan (Astana 2015) 18–21, 122. https://bureau.kz/news/download/399.pdf. 37 ‘Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Assessing Compliance of Legislation of the RK on Freedom of Conscience and Religion (Belief) with International Standards’ www.Bureau.Kz/En/Analysis/On_Going_Legislation_Analysis/ (26 October 2016). 38 Vedomosti Parlamenta Respubliki Kazakhstan (2011) 17. 39 L Sharif ‘Religious Literacy is a Guarantee of the Security of Society’  Kazakhstanskaya Pravda 3. 40 A Moukhashov ‘The Law Is Called to Unite, and Not to Disunite’  Kazakhstanskaya Pravda 3. 41 A Abdirasylkyzy ‘The Main Thing Is Not to Leave the Society Without Supervision’ (2015) http://www.zakon.kz/4822098-ajjnur-abdirasilkyzy-glavnoe-ne-ostavit.html (11 October 2016). 42 ‘Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society’ (2016). Religious unions in the Republic of Kazakhstan. www.din.gov.kz/rus/religioznye_ob’edineniya/?cid=0&rid=1638 (07 November 2016). 43 ‘Christian Church Was Condemned by the Law on Combating Terrorism’ https://www.zakon.kz/4827813-v-vko-khristianskuju-cerkov-osudili-po.html (11 November 2016). 44 ‘Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society’. The list of terrorist and extremist organizations banned by a court decision on the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan. www.din.gov.kz/rus/press-sluzhba/spisok_zaprexhennyx_organizaci/ (09 November 2016). 45 ‘Forum 18 News Service, 8 June 2016, KAZAKHSTAN: 31st Criminal Conviction since December 2014’ www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2186 (09 November 2016). 46 A Zhussupova ‘Kazakh Volunteers in the Ranks of IGIL: Death “in Pursuit of Illusions”’ www.zakon.kz/4747832-kazakhstanskie-dobrovolcy-v-rjadakh.html (09 November 2016). 47 M B Olcott ‘Religion and Security in Central Asia: Recommendations for the Next U.S. Administration’  Rev Faith Int Affairs 14, 50. 48 Law On Freedom of Religion and Religious Associations (1992): https://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1226_1495184122_azerbaijan-law-freedom-religious-beliefs-1992-am2015-en.pdf. 49 See Petryshyn, above n 33. 50 Above n 45. 51 R Podoprigora State and Religious Organizations: Administrative and Legal Issues (Arkaim Almatyi 2012) 241. 52 B Tleukhan ‘The Ban on Prayers in State Institutions Can Contribute to the Development of Extremism in Kazakhstan’ (2016) www.sunna.kz/ru/news/view?id=726 (09 November 2016). 53 ‘Will Salafism be Banned in Kazakhstan: For and Against?’ www.zakon.kz/4825693-zapreshhat-li-v-kazakhstane-salafizm-za.html (09 November 2016). © The Author 2017. 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Statute Law Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 28, 2017
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