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Dissident movement in Ukraine
Glossary

ARTICLE 138 OF THE UkrSSR CRIMINAL CODE (ON THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE)

17.11.2006

Article 138 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR (“Violations of the laws on the separation of Church and State and of schools and the Church”) in Soviet legislation was the “crime” which served as one of the criminal law weapons for persecuting active believers, both members of the clergy and laypeople.

The second part of the formulation was used for this, on “separation of schools and the Church”, with it being interpreted extremely broadly.  Criminal charges based on this article were brought against individuals who taught others about the foundations of religion, against preachers, missionaries, priests who gave religious education to the young, and even in some cases to peoples who were bringing their children up in religious faith. There are no records of the first part of the article (about the separation of Church and State) having been applied.

Article 138 appeared in 1960 (coming into legal force on 1 January 1961) on the wave of the Khrushchev anti-religious campaign. The punishment allowed for was corrective work for up to one year or a fine of 100 roubles. In 1966 the article was supplemented by a second paragraph which increased the punishment to up to three years deprivation of liberty.

The article was withdrawn from the Criminal Code on 14 April 1989. Those sentenced under Article 138 were eligible for rehabilitation in accordance with the Law of the UkrSSR “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine” from 17 April 1991

Cf. also Article 209

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