ARTICLE 209 OF THE UkrSSR CRIMINAL CODE “Encroachment on the individual and civic rights under the pretext of carrying out religious rites or on other pretexts”
Article 209 of the UkrSSR Criminal Code can only be quoted. Here, with amendments from 27.06.1961:
“The organization or leadership of a group whose activity is carried out under the pretext of preaching religious beliefs, carrying out religious rites or on other pretexts, combined with harm caused to the health of citizens, sexual debauchery, or other encroachment on the individual and civic rights, as well as with the incitement of citizens to reject civic activity or to carry out their civic duties, -
shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a period of up to five years with exile for the same period, or without, or exile for a period of up to five years with or without confiscation of property”.
Active part in such a group was punishable by a sentence of up to 3 years.
The article was changed in the version from 15.05.1982:
“Encroachment on the health of citizens under the pretext of carrying out religious rites. The organization or leadership of a group whose activity is carried out under the pretext of preaching religious beliefs or carrying out religious rites, combined with harm caused to the health of citizens or with sexual debauchery, -
shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a period of up to five years”.
In Soviet legislation this was the definition of a crime which served as one of the criminal law weapons for persecuting the leaders and active members of those religious communities which were considered “not loyal” to the Soviet regime: “Catacomb” Orthodox believers who did not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church and especially believers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Baptists and others. People charged under Article 209 were accused of organizing religious rites combined with inflicting physical or psychological damage on other participants (for example in communities of eunuchs or flagellants), even of recommendations to believers to avoid taking part in official public organizations, in ideologically slanted events (communist subotnyky – supposedly voluntary Saturdays which all gave up for the sake of some civic work, etc) or to simply avoid secular forms of entertainment (the cinema, theatre, etc).
The Article was removed on 14 April 1989. Those sentenced under Article 209 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 138
Based on material from "Memorial", Moscow