Vyborg Castle in Vyborg, where a storm over imported bibles is brewing
Vyborg Castle in Vyborg, where a storm over imported bibles is brewing

The city of Vyborg, northwest of St. Petersburg, Russia, has a painful and turbulent history. Over the centuries, it has been part of Sweden, Finland and Russia. Russia most recently annexed Vyborg in the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties after World War II.

The modern city borders Finland. For centuries, its turreted fortress was a stronghold against various Russian invasions. When I visited in 1992, I was met by a group of bold, enthusiastic people who wanted to see how the internet worked.

A tall, elegant man spoke up during the workshop, claiming to be a Romanov, a survivor of the Russian Royal family. He was keen to use the internet search engines (pre-Google), and our unstable connection, to research his lineage. My interest was more focussed towards connecting communities rather than reinstalling a potential monarch.

Vyborg made a lasting impression on me, not least because our work was new and it was during White Nights. With Russian colleagues we sat by the river at 3 am, drinking Vodka and wondering what Russia would be like in 20 years time. It was a time of hope.

What prompted this memory was a link on Facebook to an Interfax Bulletin with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Vyborg in the title. I wondered what could they have possibly been doing in this unique City? Its modern call to fame is gas distribution. Its river outlets have enabled moderate trading opportunities, most recently for the distribution of paper from Vyborg’s paper mills.

Interfax reports “The Administrative Center for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia has filed a lawsuit with the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbitration Court against Russia’s Vyborg Customs.”

Apparently, Vyborg Customs “blocked a number of holy books from entering the country.”  The books were a consignment of Bibles, not the “silver sword” or New World Translation, but “an official Russian translation made by the Russian Orthodox Church (the ‘Synodal edition’), as well as the ‘Study Bible’ published by the Russian Bible Society.”

I googled “The Russian Bible Society” and they produce four versions of the ‘Study Bible’, with a cost ranging from $9 to $69.

Given the “Silver Sword” Bible release heralded much fanfare in 2013, why would a community of “German Jehovah’s Witnesses” be sending “Russian fellow worshippers,” a “Study Bible” produced in Asheville NC, by the Russian Bible Society?

The Russian Bible Society claims “to have been at the frontline of providing Bibles for Russia since 1944.” They say: “We believe the greatest gift we can give to any people is the pure Word of God in their native tongue. Therefore, we are committed to continually providing word for word translations based on reliable manuscripts, such as the Received Greek Text. Thus, the Bibles we publish are the ‘Synodal Translation’ of the Russian Bible and its accurate translation into the minority languages of the Commonwealth of Independent States.”

They seem to be genuinely concerned that the Russian people have access to an accurate translation.

You would think Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim to have the most up-to-date version of the Bible would want to do the same. There is a Russian translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’, New World Translation of the Bible, so why send copies produced by the Russian Bible Society?

I do not have an answer, but I can offer a theory. The Interfax source for the bulletin is the Watchtower Press Office. There is no another verifiable information source.

Interfax quotes Watchtower’s Russian press service as stating that it is within the Russian law to send Bibles. They are not banned. Watchtower is arguing that the actions of Vyborg customs caused confusion because “the fact that back in November the Russian president signed a bill to protect holy books, including the Bible, from the effect of the anti-extremist laws.”

Whoever sent the books failed to present “any documents to certify observation of the restrictions” set forth by the Federal Law on “Counteracting Extremist Activity.”

My theory is that materials being sent to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are being flagged as extremist, and if you lack the proper paperwork the books, materials or whatever else are sent back, and Watchtower is testing the waters with these Bibles. Or it may just be that someone had a surplus of Bibles and thought they would send them on.

It is not clear what was meant by a consignment of Bibles, or to whom they were sent.

Customs in Russia are alert to Jehovah’s Witness operations. In March 2015, Russia’s Northwestern Transport Prosecutors seized over one million brochures brought into Russia for the ‘Administrative Center for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’.

Interfax refers to the previously confiscated haul and notes that experts identified “some materials that contained arguments or a justification for citizens’ to refuse to perform their civic duties, encouragement of non-friendly treatment of people worshipping other religions in the brochures and then the consignment was arrested.”

Either way, the 2013 launch of the silver sword informed the membership that this version was backed by the Governing Body and had Jehovah’s blessing. Indeed, Jehovah was apparently responsible for the favorable weather conditions at Wallkill while it was being printed. But it is not the “Silver Sword” translation, or the New World Translation, that will be in an exhibit box during the court proceedings.

So the irony is, this lawsuit will defend the right of the Watchtower organization to send the Russian Bible Society’s “apostate” Study Bible to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.









After finishing this article, a Russian contact came forward saying that literature and Bibles have been shipped to Russia from the Finland branch up until January 1st, when shipments ceased. He says all JW congregations in Russia have and use the New World Translation. 

Further reading…

  • Interfax Religion Link
  • Russian Bible Society Study Bible Link

41 thoughts on “Watchtower files lawsuit against Vyborg customs in Russia

  • January 20, 2016 at 5:56 am

    So, why spend all that time and money to send those people through college to be lawyers, if they can’t use that schooling for such a silly lawsuit? That is what I wonder.

  • January 20, 2016 at 6:53 am

    The WT Corporation is getting weirder by the day. From wacked-out cult to Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, and now…..u are entering…the Twilight Zone…LOL

    • January 20, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Hey! don’t you go blaspheming LOTR and HP! I can’t even use the ‘silver sword’. It just smacks of …….. not even sure of the word I am looking for. It just seems wrong.

      • January 20, 2016 at 8:24 am

        During my period of awakening (prior to the release of the silver sword) I came to appreciate the liberties taken with the scriptures on the part of the NWT translators. I also learned that the NWT used the grossly outdated Westcott and Hort Greek text of 1881. Since that time I have used an app called Bible Gateway for iPhone which gives me access to about 50 or so translations with a click of a button. I have found the Holman Christian Study Bible (included in the app) to be a fairly reliable and easy to use version.

        So when the ‘silver sword’ was released, I did little more than leaf through and look at a couple passages. I was surprised that the so-called ‘consistent renderings’ that the NWT used to brag about appeared to have been eliminated (compare the use of the word “soul” at Genesis 2:7 in the old NWT verses the new).


        • January 20, 2016 at 9:25 am

          @WS – :-) caught that huh? Yup, there’s a very sticky issue with using “soul” everywhere, because in the Torah/Pentateuch books soul is linked to blood, and life is linked as “in the blood”. This gives the soul (body) mortality argument a problem because it alludes to the soul being something apart from the main body (living person) and perhaps able to exist/continue apart from a body.

          Just as the lyric and verse “destroy both soul and body” if pondered has doctrinal shattering potential.

          • January 21, 2016 at 3:44 am

            Funny it was the soul of the Watchtower concept that prevented me from accepting the whole religion for about 7 years. I had always believe that the soul was something separate to the body and it did not make sense how the Watchtower was explaining it to me. I eventually gave in and accepted it reluctantly. Looks like I should never have let go of my initial concept.

        • January 25, 2016 at 5:01 am

          Re: ‘grossly outdated Westcott & Hort Greek text’. Just a point, these guys were apparently spiritualists! The ‘New World’ translation was doomed from the start.

        • January 25, 2016 at 5:04 am

          Just a side point – Re: Westcott and Hort; these guys were apparently spiritualists. The NWT was doomed from the start!

      • January 20, 2016 at 9:00 am

        @ Tara

        Now, now, don’t get ur magic ring all in a knot. I didn’t say LOTR & HP were bad, just weird.
        PS Personally, I prefer the Hobbit, & Ted 1&2.

        • January 20, 2016 at 9:08 am

          Lol I’m reading the Hobbit now…. I like weird. Btw, the new Jekyll and Hyde IS weird!

          Think the silver sword may go in my shelf under mythos.

          • January 20, 2016 at 9:22 am

            Be mindful of the fact that “There is more evidence for the historicity and accuracy of the history of Middle Earth and everything that happened there than for gravity, electricity, wind!” Ooooooohhh yeeeeaaahhh.

          • January 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm

            I do believe in Elves, I do believe in Elves…..

          • January 20, 2016 at 5:35 pm

            I am one of those geeks that actually read the appendix at the end of the Return of the King. It read very much like biblical lineage and was very well documented for mere fantasy. Found the Silmarillion of tough read though.


          • January 21, 2016 at 7:19 am

            Me too WS. does this make me a geek?

          • January 21, 2016 at 8:18 am

            A geek? Well in my circles (engineers and scientists) that term is a badge of honor. We often refer to a weekend where we “geek out” by watching all 3 LOTR movies or similar.

            Keep in mind that geeks are cool now – and often wealthy and respected – Bill Gates, Dean Kamen, and Elon Musk come to mind. The Urban Dictionary defines a geek as: The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.

            The Big Band Theory takes the geekiness to an extreme, but we all see those elements within us. So just based on your reading the appendix to LOTR, I cannot say for sure. But you might be a geek and that’s OK by me.


          • January 21, 2016 at 8:58 am


          • January 21, 2016 at 9:56 am

            @ Tara

            “Does this make me a geek?”
            No, u were already a geek. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. U know I’m kidding, right…OK, put down the knife…..

          • January 21, 2016 at 12:16 pm

            Hey guys please talk in simple language please so that others who speak another language will understand what you are saying. We want to learn from all of you.

          • January 22, 2016 at 8:15 am

            To geek or not to geek, that is the question…. my sword was forged in Gondolin by the High Elves of the West… I call it Stick because I stick it in people….

  • January 20, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Watchtower legal has finally met their match. Russia does not play by Watchtower’s legal department rules. Watchtower needs to respect the superior authorities in Russia and stop playing juvenile games.

    • January 20, 2016 at 8:35 am

      The Russian Government seems to be a bit more aware of the hate speech contained in Watchtower publications as opposed to some of the more liberal, Western governments.

      It always bothered me that the Watchtower taught that everyone who was not a JW would soon be killed by God. Especially since I knew some really good-hearted “worldly” folks and some really unpleasant JWs.

      I once asked one of my closest JW friends what he thought about this teaching and he insisted that it was not what the Organization taught. He quoted their doublespeak such as: “many now living may yet begin to serve God, and they too will gain salvation” – meaning many may as yet still convert to being JWs!!! (see full article at: https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/who-saved/). Nice to see that the Russian Gov is more alert to the JW lies than my friend.


      • January 20, 2016 at 9:24 am

        Good to see someone has finally noticed the “non-friendly treatment” toward Non-believers by the Witnesses. Perhaps this finding (now documented) can be used in future anti-shunning lawsuits.

      • January 20, 2016 at 9:55 am

        @WS – you didn’t catch that doublespeak line is a re-hash of the failed “Millions Now Living May Never Die”?

        Another insight on why it is so frustrating debating/discussing reasoning with JW’s is this lesson from Psychology 101,




        Reasons I am increasingly nudged to believe the Watchtower is some bizarre military psyops or civilian psyop experiment in “compliance”.


        It would be an interesting experiment in influencing and controling millions of subjects into complete submission without the use of expensive militarized enforcers. And, formation of effective forms of punishment to ensure compliance.

        Instead of “brown shirts”–no tight-pants or effeminate affectations…

        • January 21, 2016 at 9:14 pm

          Thanks for the info JBob. I am still getting through the info in the links. Not surprising that the doublespeak can be traced back to the “Millions” book. I read it a while back, but I think my focus at the time was more on the outlandish predictions made.


      • January 21, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        You are right

    • January 20, 2016 at 9:13 am

      It seems it takes the tough guys to really challenge WT. 1st, the Aussies, now the Russkies!

  • January 20, 2016 at 8:29 am

    The Finland branch is not closed, but it is possible that the route has been changed to cross the border through some other country.

    • January 20, 2016 at 10:26 am

      Thank you. If our contact is misinformed, we will amend that part of the article.

    • January 20, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Or is that Putin ;)

      • January 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

        Let’s hope WT gets “Putin” their place.

    • January 20, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Wonder if that Russian bible is “New Light”. lol

  • January 20, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Everything is digital–why are they bothering with printed materials? not every one has internet or tablet/personal computer device in Russia? or the USA..

  • January 20, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Frivolous lawsuits like this remind me of the Jerky Boys – You Kicked My Dog. LOL

  • January 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I don’t care if people want different types of bibles in their homes. But I like the fact that Interfax refers to the previously confiscated haul and notes that experts identified “some materials that contained arguments or a justification for citizens’ to refuse to perform their civic duties, encouragement of non-friendly treatment of people worshipping other religions in the brochures.” That part I like. I say confiscate the material and let the people free. I don’t agree with ruining a person’s life because of any of this. I hate scary mixed with stupid. Religion is a marriage of scary and stupid. When scary and stupid go to bed it’s a nightmare. I hate religion and politics. It gets even worse when they fight over land at the same time. I hate all of it.

    • January 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      “Scary & Stupid” – exactly – the 2 primary ways of controlling people since the beginning – Propaganda & Fear. Brainwash people into believing some fairy tale so they’ll blindly obey (like: hey, ur leader(s) just happens to be a god(s); or, ur leader(s) is so much brighter than u peasants, went to Law School, blah blah blah, whatever, so shut up & obey). If that doesn’t work, Fear will. Fear of ostracism, imprisonment, torture, death, etc, etc, etc. Basically, he who wields the biggest club gets to run things.

  • January 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Its all a distraction….there will be lengthy discussion about the stand the JWs have made and this will distract people from the fact that the organization is imploding…and the anomikies of doctribe…and the waiting waiting waiting for the non existant new world and the dumbibg down of the meetibgs and the hush hush hush of the child abuse cover ups…. lets just make the r and f concentrate on…’is Russia the King of the North’…here we go again…distraction distraction distraction…. I hate them for thier dupkicity.

    • January 20, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Sorry…*dumbing….anomilies…doctrine…meetings…duplicity…I have fat fingers and a heap of rage!

  • January 20, 2016 at 8:15 pm


    That’s a good point about this being a distraction.

    Joseph Rutherford declared: “religion is a snare and a racket, religion was introduced into the world by the Devil”. Denouncing other religions is a way to justify the JW religion and gain recruits. Among the prospective recruits are professing Christians who have drifted from their churches and who know little or nothing of Christian doctrine. When these persons hear their churches being denounced, their ignorance of their churches’ teachings and their weak attachment to their churches make them listen sympathetically to the claims of the JWs – I believe Ray Franz made a similar point about the recruiting success of the JWs in his book: “Crisis of Conscience”.

    Denouncing all other religions has been one of the JWs effective recruiting strategy. The JWs will discover that the Russian Orthodox Church is a powerful force in Russia and will not stand for the JWs pouring scorn and abuse on their religion.

    BTW, Singapore has also banned JW publications:

    • January 21, 2016 at 10:28 am

      The Germans tried to mess with the Russians in WWII. Didn’t work out too well for them.

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