Cultural Revolutions

Anatomy of a Murder

The November murder of a missionary Orthodox priest in Moscow highlighted the threats to Russia’s stability from extremist groups, including Muslim terrorists and the far right.  The priest, Daniil Sysoyev, and his aide, Vladimir Strelbitsky, were shot down in a church in Moscow’s Southern Administrative Okrug on November 19.  The gunman, whom some sources described as North Caucasian in appearance, entered the church and asked, “Who here is Sysoyev?” before opening fire.  Other sources report that the killer likely called the church first by cellphone to verify Sysoyev’s presence before entering to commit the murder.

Sysoyev, an ethnic Tatar and the author of a number of books (including The Orthodox Answer to Islam), had directed his missionary work primarily at Muslims and had taken part in a long-standing religious debate with the country’s Muslim intelligentsia.  He had also been the target of a lawsuit by Nafigulla Ashirov of the Council of Muftis of Russia.  Ashirov had claimed that one of the priest’s missionary brochures for Muslims violated “anti-extremist” legislation; similar complaints from Muslim groups were made in 2008.  Meanwhile, Russian nationalists claimed that Ashirov’s complaint amounted to a death sentence for Sysoyev.

Sysoyev had, in fact, been the target of a number of death threats, the latest coming in calls to his church...

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