Russian Law Journal

Advanced search

Freedoms Collide: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion in Russia in Comparative Perspective

Full Text:


In the last decade ethnic and religious contradictions became a matter of growing concern and the issue of preserving the balance between the rights and interests of different groups of people comes to the forefront. There are many examples when freedom of expression is in opposition to freedom of religion. Two recent cases, the cartoons in the Danish newspaper and the recent parody of the Prophet Mohammed, show the importance of this issue. However, the notion of manifestation of religious beliefs, which in the paper is considered primary as a part of freedom of expression, is also very problematic. The paper considers models of coexistence of both freedoms adopted at the international level, in Europe and in Russia. The first chapter considers general approaches towards balancing of fundamental rights, including approaches of the Human Rights Committee and the European Court. The second chapter concentrates on the regulation of both freedoms in Russia, relevant international and domestic cases.

About the Author

Dmitry Kuznetsov
Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation
Russian Federation
Senior Officer at the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation (7-235 Engels ave., St. Petersburg, 194156, Russia)


1. «Панк-молебен» год спустя: жалоба в ЕСПЧ и просьба о милосердии [‘Pankmoleben’ god spustya: zhaloba v ESPCH i pros’ba o miloserdii [‘Punk-preying’ One Year Later: Application to the Eur. Ct. H.R. and Ask for Mercy]], RBK (Febr. 21, 2013), <> (accessed June 17, 2014).

2. Asward, Evelyn M. To Ban or Not to Ban Blasphemous Videos, 44 Geo. J. Int’l L. 1313 (2013).

3. Barak, Aharon. Proportionality: Constitutional Rights and Their limitations (Cambridge University Press 2011).

4. Budkina, Irina. Religious Freedom since 1905 – Any Progress in Russia?, 26(2) Religion in Eastern Europe 24 (2006).

5. Burdeau, Georges, et al., Droit constitutionnel 69 (23th ed., LGDJ 1993).

6. Conflicts between Fundamental Rights 33, 84–85, 92–93, 175–78, 191 (Eva Brems, ed.) (Intersentia 2008).

7. Doe, Norman. Law and Religion in Europe: A Comparative Introduction 157 (Oxford University Press 2011).

8. Dr. Gvozdev, Nicolas K. Religious Freedoms – Russian Constitutional Principles: Historical and Contemporary, 2001 BYU L. Rev. 511.

9. Durham, W. Cole, Jr., & Schraffs, Brett G. Law and Religion: National, International, and Comparative Perspective 183–84 (Wolters Kluwer 2010).

10. Dworkin, Ronald. Freedom’s Law: The Moral Reading of the American Constitution 19 (Harvard University Press 1996).

11. Dworkin, Ronald. Law’s Empire 45–86 (Harvard University Press 1986).

12. Ely, John H. Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review (Harvard University Press 1980).Dmitry Kuznetsov 99

13. Evans, Malcolm D. Religious Liberty and International Law in Europe 285 (Cambridge University Press 1997).

14. Fagan, Geraldine. Russia: Pussy Riot, blasphemy, and freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service (Oct. 15, 2012), <> (accessed June 17, 2014).

15. Fedorov, Vladimir. Religious Freedom in Russia Today, 50(4) The Ecumenical Review 449–60 (1998).

16. Freedom under Threat: Clampdown on Freedoms of Expression, Assembly and Association in Russia 42 (Amnesty International 2013), available at <> (accessed June 17, 2014).

17. Hanski, Raija, & Schein, Martin. Leading Cases of the Human Rights Committee 278 (Institute for Human Rights, Åbo Academi University Turku, 2007).

18. Human Rights’ Foundation, Russia’s Violation of the Right to Freedom of Expression: The Case of the Punk Rock Band Pussy Riot, Legal Report (Aug. 16, 2012), <> (accessed June 17, 2014).

19. Legal Analysis. Russia: Draft Amendment to the Criminal Code Aimed at Countering Insult of Religious Beliefs, Article 19 (May 8, 2013), <

20. dpuf> (accessed June 17, 2014).

21. McGuckin, John A. The Issue of Human Rights in Byzantium, in Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction 173–189 (John Witte, Jr., & Frank S. Alexander, eds.) (Cambridge University Press 2010).

22. Murdoch, Jim. Protecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion under the European Convention on Human Rights (Council of Europe 2012), available at <> (accessed Juny 17, 2014).

23. Nowak, Manfred. U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, CCPR Commentary 412 (2nd ed., N.P. Engel 2005).

24. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Towards Decriminalisation of Defamation, Resolution 1577 (2007), at <> (accessed June 17, 2013).

25. Rawls, John. Political Liberalism 295 (Columbia University Press 1993).

26. Russia: Prison sentences for Pussy Riot violate freedom of expression, Article 19(Aug. 21, 2012), <> (accessed June 17,2014).

27. Scolnicov, Anat. The Right to Religious Freedom in International Law: Between Group Rights and Individual Rights 194–218 (Routledge 2011).RUSSIAN LAW JOURNAL Volume II (2014) Issue 2 100 Senden, Hanneke. Interpretation of Fundamental Rights in a Multilevel Legal System: An Analysis of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union 7 (Intersentia 2011).

28. Sir Elias, Patrick, & Coppel, Jason. Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion: Some Thoughts on the Glenn Hoddle Case, in Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information. Essays in Honour of Sir David Williams 51–63 (Jack Beatson & Yvone Crips, eds.) (Oxford University Press 2000).

29. Taylor, Paul M. Freedom of Religion: UN and European Human Rights Law and Practice 207, 309 (Cambridge University Press 2005).

30. Taylor, Paul M. Freedom of Religion: UN and European Human Rights Law and Practice, 294 (Cambridge University Press 2005).

31. Titova, Tatyana. Precarious Future for Half-finished Taganrog Mosque, 2000 Keston News Service.

32. Troper, Michel. Sovereignty and Laïcité, 30(6) Cardozo L. Rev. 2561, 2561–74 (2009).

33. Vyver, Johan D. van der. Freedom of Religion and Other Human Rights, in Tore Lindholm et al., Facilitating Freedom of Religion and Belief: A Deskbook 104–5 (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 2004).

34. На глазах у россиян государство и церковь сближаются [Na glazakh u rossiyan gosudarstvo itserkov’ sblizhayutsya [The Russians See How the State and the Church Are Getting Closer]], Inopressa (Nov. 1, 2012), <> (accessed June 17, 2014).


For citation:

Kuznetsov D. Freedoms Collide: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion in Russia in Comparative Perspective. Russian Law Journal. 2014;2(2):75-100.

Views: 3162

ISSN 2309-8678 (Print)
ISSN 2312-3605 (Online)