On September 24, a Chinese official organization revealed that on July 25 FECRIS treasurer Didier Pachoud and his organization GEMPPI hosted the notorious Roman Silantyev.
by Massimo Introvigne
FECRIS, the European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, may have acquired some experience on “cults,” politics, and fund-raising, but its knowledge about cats is still lacking. Since the first days of April, FECRIS travels with a cat carefully hidden in its bag. Little did FECRIS know that cats always come out of the bags.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. This created the worst crisis in FECRIS’ history, since the leaders of its Russian affiliates, including FECRIS board member and its Vice President from 2009 to 2021, Alexander Dvorkin, emerged as staunch supporters of the invasion—which was not surprising, since they had accused Ukrainian democratic politicians of being “puppets of the cults” since at least 2014.
FECRIS condemned the invasion but did nothing about its pro-Putin Russian members until the first days of April 2022, when without public announcements or press releases the names of the Russian affiliate organizations disappeared from FECRIS’ web site. Dvorkin, according to publicly available documents, remained a board member. We heard rumors that the situation might have been changed but a mail sent on September 3 by CESNUR to FECRIS asking for clarification remained unanswered.
Russian anti-cultists, meanwhile, continued to be among the most aggressive supporters of the war in Ukraine. Perhaps the worst of them was Roman Silantyev. On March 18, he said he expected soon to participate in “the upcoming parade of victory over Ukrainian Nazism,” and accused the Ukrainian intelligence to sponsor Satanist and other cults engaged in shootings in schools and sabotage in Russia, targeting children and even massively killing Russian cats, a claim he has since repeated several times.
According to official records, the treasurer of FECRIS is Didier Pachoud. He is also a representative of GEMPPI, a French FECRIS affiliate whose acronym stands for “Groupe d’étude des mouvements de pensée en vue de la prévention des individus” (Group for the Study of Thought Movements for the Protection of the Individual).
On September 24, 2022, on timesnewswire.com, a website publishing articles for a fee, a “press release” appeared informing that on July 15, 2022, a conference was held in Paris to discuss “how religious cults affect mental health, social relations and politics.” “The conference, we read, was opened by Didier Pachoud who presides the Group for the Study of Thought Movements for the Protection of the Individual (GEMPPI). Mr. Pachoud presented the activities of his group and discussed at length their efforts to help the victims of radical religious sects and their families and to prevent sectarian aberrations.”
The press release is written in bad English, and it is also possible that the names of some participants, who reportedly attacked Soka Gakkai, the Unification Church, Falun Gong, and The Church of Almighty God have been misspelled. However, at least one name was spelled almost correctly. “Professor Roman Silantiev [sic: it should be “Silantyev”] talked about the new applied science called ‘destructology’ that studies destructive ideologies of both religious and secular nature.”
“Destructology” is a pseudo-science invented by Silantyev that deals with “destructive cults” and “extremism.” It incorporates the main tenets of the anti-cult ideology, but with a paranoid twist typical of Silantyev. It insists on “psychological operations” allegedly carried out by U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence to promote “cultism” and Satanism, particularly in the Russosphere.
The dates are interesting. Silantyev started giving interviews strongly supporting the Russian invasion and describing Ukrainian leaders as inspired by “occult and pagan” ideologies in March 2022. He went to Donbass on June 28–29 to indoctrinate students in the occupied area of Ukraine on “destructology” and his anti-Ukrainian and anti-Western ideology. According to the press release, on July 15 he attended the Paris conference organized by FECRIS’ treasurer, whether in person or via the Internet is irrelevant. This was more than three months after the names of the Russian FECRIS affiliates disappeared from FECRIS web site.
The conference is not mentioned on GEMPPI website. It became only known through the September 24 timesnewswire.com press release. We awaited a few days for a possible counter-statement by GEMPPI denouncing the press release as fake news. It did not come.
Why a press release on September 24 about a conference on July 15? There is a reason for this. Almost immediately, on September 26, quoting timenewswire.com as the source, the information was translated into Chinese and published by several websites in China, including by the China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association, the official government-controlled anti-cult association in China.
In the last few weeks, there have been massive arrests of members of Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God, two groups that were explicitly mentioned in the press release, and Chinese propaganda has always insisted that its repression of “cults” is reasonable because it is supported by Westerners who live in democratic countries.
I insist that there is still the possibility that these were fake news, possibly created by Chinese intelligence. We would be pleased to publish a GEMPPI or FECRIS statement to that effect, which in this case should denounce the Chinese anti-cultists with whom they have cooperated for decades as a bunch of liars.
If the information is true, on the other hand, as the fact that nobody has denied it so far may suggest, it is evidence that FECRIS never really terminated its relations with Russian anti-cultists, not even after their support for the invasion of Ukraine and tall anti-Ukrainian tales became an international scandal. They just hid the cat in the bag. Now their Chinese friends cut a hole in the bag, and the cat is out.