Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


War in Ukraine: What does it mean for Scientology there and in Russia?

Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has had drastic consequences for millions of people, most obviously the ten million Ukrainians who are now refugees. The Russian people also face imminent hardship as Western sanctions take effect. Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers have already ‘mobilised’ in Ukraine’s westerly neighbour to aid (or exploit) the wave of refugees fleeing the country (see the earlier story on the Bunker). But what effect will the war have on Scientology and Scientologists in Russia and Ukraine?

Scientology’s presence in Russia and Ukraine has followed differing paths over the years, reflecting the different trajectories of the two countries. During the 1990s it enjoyed exceptional success in post-communist Russia as entrepreneurs, and even some local governments, latched onto L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘management technology’ as a way of modernising. Scientology, Dianetics and management training centres were established in numerous Russian cities.

In Ukraine, where Scientology’s activities were directed from Moscow, success was more modest. By 2006, there were reportedly around 50 Scientology outlets (orgs, missions and “Hubbard Learning Centres”) around Ukraine. Scientology claimed then to have a few thousand members in Ukraine (though this number was likely exaggerated, as is common with Scientology’s membership figures).

In both countries, Scientology came under increasing suspicion and scrutiny, through a combination of scandals, opposition from anti-cult campaigners and government intervention. The government of Vladimir Putin has taken an increasingly hard line that has involved raids on Scientology outlets, legal actions against Scientology organisations and the arrest of a number of Scientologists on charges relating alleged financial crimes. In the most recent crackdown, five members of the St Petersburg Scientology org are facing trial on a variety of charges.


While Russia’s trajectory has been one of increasing authoritarianism, Ukraine has become steadily more liberal and democratic following the revolution that overthrew the authoritarian pro-Moscow government of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Putin’s first invasion of Ukraine followed soon after with his annexation of the Crimea and occupation of the Donbas region of south-eastern Ukraine. As Russia has become more authoritarian, Scientology has faced greater pressure from the Russian authorities. It was spared similar difficulties in Ukraine, though it faced obstacles in registering itself as a religious organisation and appears to have been under scrutiny from the SBU, Ukraine’s rough equivalent of the FBI.

The outbreak of war has almost certainly led to Scientology being largely or totally disrupted in Ukraine. Many of the cities where it had a presence are under bombardment, with much of the Ukrainian population either sheltering in bomb shelters or fleeing as refugees. In frontline cities such as Kharkiv, it’s likely that Scientology premises face physical destruction.

What will happen to the relatively small number of Ukrainian Scientologists is unclear. All males of fighting age are being conscripted, but it’s possible that they may be able to use ministerial exemptions to avoid war service. Scientology’s own ability, or willingness, to help Ukrainian Scientologists is also unclear. In the past, Scientology has reportedly brought Eastern European Scientologists to Clearwater on religious visas. Might this be an escape route for Ukrainian Scientologists? It is perhaps more likely that refugee Ukrainian Scientologists may be taken in by Scientologists elsewhere in Europe.

In Russia, the economic and social impacts of sanctions are likely to have a profound effect on Scientology. Daily life in Russia is changing drastically, business life more so, and the impacts will deepen rapidly as the sanctions take effect.

Simply getting in and out of Russia is now much more difficult due to flight and visa restrictions – most Western countries currently advise against all travel to Russia. Many Western credit cards and payment methods are unavailable. Transactions in dollars are severely limited, partly by government policy and partly for lack of hard currency. Logistics are heavily affected due to the decision of Western transportation companies to stop serving Russia. Businesses are unable to obtain parts and raw materials from Western suppliers, which will quickly lead to the loss of millions of jobs as producers shut down. With everyday commodities already running out, hyperinflation is likely in the near future.

All of these economic factors will affect every aspect of Scientology in Russia. Foreign Scientologists will find it much harder to get into the country, though Russian Scientologists can still get out (for now). Simply importing essential Scientology materials – books and e-meters, which aren’t made in Russia – will be much more difficult and expensive. Russian Scientologists will find it much harder to pay for their courses, whether through lack of dollars or the loss of their jobs. Russia’s middle classes, from where Scientology has drawn most of its recruits, will almost certainly be the hardest hit by sanctions. Many Russian Scientologists will likely be forced to drop out of Scientology for economic reasons.

With many businesses about to collapse, Scientology will likely find little success in selling its previously lucrative management courses to Russian firms. The Russian government’s restrictions on transferring money overseas and the devaluation of the ruble will make it difficult if not impossible for Scientology to send money out of Russia. This will cut it off from what had previously been a very lucrative source of income. According to the Russian authorities, the St Petersburg org alone was transferring at least three to four million rubles ($45,000-61,000) a week out of Russia, and had potentially transferred as much as three billion rubles ($46 million) in recent years. That money pipeline is now almost certainly closed.

Scientology has weathered economic crises in Russia before. The economic collapse of 1998 caused severe difficulties, though on that occasion Scientology not only hung on but actually ended up prospering as Russian companies turned to Hubbard’s ‘Management Technology’ to overcome their economic problems. Three things are different this time, though: the sheer scale of the crisis, Russia’s expulsion from the global economy – a big problem for an organisation as globalised as Scientology – and, perhaps most worryingly for the church, the rapid apparent slide of Russia from authoritarianism to totalitarianism.

Scientology has been in the crosshairs of the Russian authorities for nearly twenty years, but crackdowns have become increasingly severe in the last few years. The St Petersburg Scientologists currently facing trial have been charged with membership of an “extremist community.” In September 2021, the Russian authorities declared the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises and the Church of Spiritual Technology to be “undesirable” organisations.

In a recent address, President Putin railed against “fifth columnists” who hold pro-Western views, calling them “scum and traitors” who the Russian people “will simply spit … out like an insect in their mouth, spit them onto the pavement.” His call for “a natural and necessary self-detoxification of society” has been widely interpreted as signaling a severe crackdown on any person or group deemed to be a pro-Western element. With its close association with America, Scientology should have good reason to be worried.

I had previously predicted that Scientology might be able to use creative corporate maneuvres, a tactic employed elsewhere, to evade Russian government restrictions. That now seems much less likely to work as the rule of law in Russia disintegrates. Scientology no longer has the option of going to the European Court of Human Rights, a course it has previously taken with some success against the Russian government. Russia’s withdrawal/expulsion from the Council of Europe has ended the ECHR’s jurisdiction there and ended all cases against the Russian government. It has also opened the door to drastically more repressive laws in Russia, including arbitrary detention and the reintroduction of the death penalty (already trailed by former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev).

In short, the future for Scientology in Russia looks bleak. It is likely to hang on in some form even if its orgs are shut down, but individual Scientologists are highly likely to face increased repression and the loss of personal freedoms. Its position in Ukraine is perhaps a little brighter – there is no prospect of it being banned or repressed there – but it is unlikely to be able to operate normally, or at all, as long as Putin’s war continues. On both sides of the Russia/Ukraine border, Scientology is likely to find its gains over the last 30 years becoming yet another casualty of the conflict.

— Chris Owen



Bonus items from our tipsters

Meanwhile, back here in the US, everything is going Ideal.



Sign up for a daily email when we post a new story on Scientology.

Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.


Source Code

“Let’s get the idea that right this moment you’re engaged in killing a woman. Now let’s remember this as an incident that occurred 20 years ago. Now let’s get the idea that you’re right this moment engaged in killing a man. Now let’s remember this as though it happened 35 years ago. All right….Now let’s get the idea of being a space ranger, a space man being shot to death right at this minute. Now let’s get this on recall now, as something that happened a hundred thousand years ago. This very incident. All right. Now let’s get the idea, right this moment you’re engaged upon being a sultan. Being a sultan. And now recall this as having happened 200 years ago. Now let’s get the idea of being a general, a general who is engaged in slaughtering a million troops. Killing them all to the last troop. Now let’s get this as having occurred a hundred and fifty thousand years ago. Now let’s get the idea of you being engaged this moment, successfully engaged upon blowing up the entire physical universe. Now get this as having happened yesterday. Now let’s get the idea of your own universe at this moment being blown to pieces. Now throw your memory into action as though it happened last night. And now as though it happened 50 years ago. And now as though it happened a billion years ago. And now as though it happened a trillion years ago. And now as though it happened 76 trillion years ago. Now, let’s get the idea right now of being engaged upon the construction of an entirely new universe. Now let’s get this as though you were engaged upon it, actually, at six o’clock this morning. OK.” — L. Ron Hubbard, March 22, 1954



Avast, Ye Mateys

“SECURITY: Remember, we were doing great until we forgot our security in letters, telexes and radio comms and ceased to be archaeologists or moving pictures people. Get our security in.” — The Commodore, March 22, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I suspect their are insane SPs somewhere who have the power to destroy multiple planets at once.”


Past is Prologue

1996: Martin Hunt reported that he received a phone call from a Scientology member pretending to be performing a government survey. “He was a nice young clam who lied about who he was and used call-block to stop his number from being displayed to me. He said he was doing a survey for the government, and wanted to do a ten-minute interview with me over the phone about how I felt about my college. His real reason for calling? Who knows? Perhaps just to verify that this is really my number, and he also asked for me by my real name (not in the phone book). I asked the clam nicely for his number, but he said he couldn’t give it to me. I asked him why he couldn’t give it to me, and he said that it wasn’t done like that. The clam then asked if he could call me back at a more convenient time, but I just asked him for his address. He gave me an address on Howe Street in Vancouver not far from the little cult offices and storefront on Hastings.”


Random Howdy


“Margery Wakefield writes in ‘The Road To Xenu’ about how they were allowed and encouraged to watch Star Trek in the mess hall. They would laugh about how the ‘wogs’ didn’t understand what they were watching were real Whole Track memories.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next pretrial conference May 31. Trial scheduled for August 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference March 25 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for April 8.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Hearing held on February 15, awaiting ruling.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Valerie’s motion for reconsideration denied on March 15.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Scientology has said it will file an anti-SLAPP motion.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Scientology on the ground: Despite church PR, things look very grim as the pandemic lingers
[TWO years ago] Scientology tries to rah-rah its way through the pandemic while endangering its members
[THREE years ago] Here’s the police report on Scientology’s sad attempt to mess with ‘Aftermath’
[FOUR years ago] Scientology TV gives viewers a glimpse of the church’s most secret locations — but why?
[FIVE years ago] The real reason Leah Remini is taking a wrecking ball to Scientology
[SIX years ago] Trial set in New York on April 7 over Narconon drug rehab hiding connection to Scientology
[SEVEN years ago] ‘Going Clear’ subject Hana Eltringham Whitfield fills us in on a Scientology secret or two
[EIGHT years ago] Jon Atack: Why I call Scientology a cult and not a church
[NINE years ago] Scientology’s Sneaky Infiltration of New York City Schools
[TEN years ago] Russia Still Going About Things All Wrong, and More in our Scientology Stats Roundup


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,611 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,116 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,636 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,656 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,547 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,854 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,722 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,496 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,827 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,300 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,616 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,182 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,101 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,269 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,850 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,111 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,147 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,862 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,387 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 742 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,917 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,468 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,617 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,937 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,792 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,911 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,267 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,570 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,676 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,074 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,950 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,533 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,028 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,282 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,391 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 22, 2022 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email