2001 BYU L. Rev. 631 (2001)
Religious Freedom and Legislation in Post-Soviet Estonia

handle is hein.journals/byulr2001 and id is 641 raw text is: Religious Freedom         and Legislation
in Post-Soviet Estonia
Ringo Ringvd
This article focuses on the issues of religious freedom and legisla-
tion in Estonia during the 1990s and compares Estonia's experience
with that of the other two Baltic countries-Latvia and Lithuania.'
These three countries share a recent common history in the struggle
for independence. All of them are part of the so-called post-socialist
or post-Soviet countries. However, at the same time they are unique
in many aspects due to their cultural differences. These differences
are reflected in these countries in legislation concerning religious or-
After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, some of the
nations of the Empire started to fight for their independence. In
1918, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania declared their independence.
The first independence era lasted until 1940 when the three Baltic
States were incorporated into the Soviet Union.
The changes in Baltic political life and society affected religious
life in Estonia, as the official ideology of the Soviet Union was Marx-
ist atheism. Consequently, Soviet policies focused to some degree on
abolishing religion from the lives of the people in the Soviet Union,
and Soviet officials began interfering vith the life of religious com-
e: Department of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Estonia. Mr. Ringvee
graduated with a M. Th. from the University of Helsinki. He has taught courses in world relig-
ions and religion in contemporary society at Tallinn University of Educational Sciences, Esto-
nian Institute of Humanities, Theological Institute of Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church,
and Theological Seminary of United Methodist Church in Estonia.
1. In Estonia, the legal framework for religious organizations is given by the Law on
Churches and Congregations [LCC], Riigi Teataja [Herald of the State] 11993, 30, 510; 44,
637; 1994, 28,425; in Latvia, by the Law on Religious Organizations [LRO], Latvias Vestneis
26.09.1995, No. 146; Zinjotais No. 21, 1995; and in Lithuania, by the Law on Religious
Communities and Associations [LRCA], Valstybes zinios, 1995, No. 89-1985; 1997, No. 66-
1618; 2000, No. 40-1115.


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