Infiltration of Scientology into the Russian System of Education


Tatiana Karpacheva, Associate Professor of Philology at the Moscow City Pedagogical University, Russia


Only few organizations are as notorious all over the world for their crimes as scientologists. And their delinquencies have been investigated deeply enough. But scientologists have set up a lot of affiliating organizations. The organisatons position themselves as secular, though in fact their aim is to implement the cult into different spheres of life and win new followers to their side. They can be found in education, medicine, social sphere. The ABLE association works in four following directions: Applied Scholastics, Narconon, Criminon and The Way to Happiness. Hereafter I would like to scrutinize the problem of scientology penetrating into the system of education.

The Scientological organization Applied Scholastics, as they allege, aim at distributing “educational materials and services based on L. Ron Hubbard’s works”. Their Moscow head quarters, “Applied Scholastics in the CIS”, is a part of the “International Association of Applied Scholastics”. The organization “Applied Scholastics in the CIS” offers various courses to adults and children with tutorials based on Hubbard’s works. For example, “Guidelines on the Basics of Education”, “Learn How to Learn”, “Living and Working with Children”, “Communicative Skills”, etc. It is a well-known fact that Hubbard did not have a higher pedagogical education nor any other higher education. Actually he was expelled from the university at the 2nd year for poor progress. However scientologists consider Hubbard having discovered a technology that can answer any questions how to learn whatever one needs, i.e. any subject, at any age, with any tutorial, in any language. The truth is Hubbard’s method is about learning the meanings of words from dictionaries and making sentences with words where they are used either correctly or incorrectly. It turns out if even one word is interpreted wrongly, the entire test can be misunderstood. According to scientologists, the problem of education failure at school is caused by some words being misunderstood.

Doing a course at “Applied Scholastics in the CIS” people, in fact, start learning their native language from scratch. People get convinced that if they can not formulate a definition of a word, they do not understand it. For example, a person may be asked, “What is the definition of a book?” They know exactly what a book is but they might not be able to give a dictionary definition on the spot. So the person says, ‘’What do you mean what is a book? Well, this is a book, for example. And that one, too.” And the answer would be, “You do not know the definition. Learn it from the dictionary.” Or, “What is a hand?” – “What do you mean what is a hand? This is a hand.” – “You do not know the word.”

And once a person is convinced they do not know their own language and made learn definition of words, it makes the task easy to convince them of whatever else. That is the way people can be manipulated at Scientological educational courses. Besides scientologists offer English courses and tuition for schoolchildren. However you would be told that if your child did one of Hubbard’s courses (it is even better if you join them, too), they would not need extra tuition any more.

The main aim of “Applied Scholastics in SIC”, as well as other centres of “Applied Scholastics”, is recruiting new followers of Scientology. And as we can see it is done as follows. In their Tutorials a special Scientological vocabulary is widely used. Mostly those are usual words with a wrong meaning. For example, “mass” in Scientology is not a physical quantity but “subjects/objects a person studies”.

Scientologists say, “We provide the mass of a subject studied”. It means they are speaking of visual aids: studying a flower you are looking at a flower, though it does not mean they weigh the flower. It is just the word “mass” is not used in a usual way but it is given another, Scientological meaning. And of course, Hubbard is considered as having invented the method of visual aids in the training process, nobody else could think of it before him!          

The main idea of Scientological training is constantly looking up words in the dictionary. That is called Clearing. It is a genuine Scientological term. A clear is a person who has come through auditing, which is also trained for at the “Applied Scholastics in the  CIS[1]”. For example, at the presentation of Hubbard’s method the lecturer, a scientologist, told a following story. She was conducting a lesson of the “Applied Scholastics” technology. Students were reading a text. When suddenly a woman felt ill, she had a hysterics. It appeared the bout of hysterics was caused by the word “whose” that she associated with unpleasant memories. When getting married she could not make up her mind whose surname to take, her husband’s or her own. I wonder if she never saw the word “whose” before. Or maybe she went hysterical every time? But the purpose of the story is clear: we can see preparation for auditing which is, though, a religious Scientological practice. During this rather expensive training a person has to answer a lot of detailed questions. The questions may be personal, including some intimate particularities. The activity is supposed to help a person get rid of unpleasant memories. Meanwhile it provides scientologists with endless opportunities to abuse the information, to manipulate and blackmail people.

In the tutorials of the “Applies Scholastics” centres we can find a specific scientological term “a dominant person”. According to scientologists any antagonist of the cult is a “dominant person” and you have to give up any communication with them. It may be a mother, a father, a wife, etc.

So being trained at “Applied Scholastics” a person is specially prepared to become a follower of the cult. Also supervisors of Scientological training centres send their staff to do the Hubbard’s courses. “Applied Scholastics in the  CIS” grant their own Scientological licenses to set up new “Applied Scholastics” centres. And unfortunately such centres are open and working. The oldest of them, “Studema”, is in Yekaterinburg. In Moscow city and the region we discovered 8 “Applied Scholastics” centres. 1 of them works as a school, 2 are out of town schools, there is also 1 out of town nursery school and 4 private nursery schools. However there may be some more.

On December 9th, 2009, activity of a boarding school “Elite”, an “Applied Scholastics” centre, was stopped and legal proceedings were instituted according to article 171 of Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that is “Illegal entrepreneurial activity”. However on January 11th, 2010, the establishment resumed its activity.

The problem is parents may not realize the Scientological orientation of a school when bringing their children there, as headmasters do not like to demonstrate their connection with scientology. They usually answer the question about the schools being connected with scientology like this, “We only use Hubbard’s teaching method, we know little about scientology. Well, we hear about Hubbard having launched his own religion, too, but it is just he was a genies. So he set up a lot of things. But we are regular teachers, we are only interested in his teaching ideas”. That is a lie. Activity of all Scientological organizations is fully managed by the head organization of the cult, Religious Technology Center. The Applied Scholastics brand as scientologists allege is a trade mark which belongs to Religious Technology Center. And they grant licenses for using their trade marks, this one in particular, to the Church of Scientology International and its affiliates. Thus, we can see that “Applied Scholastics” centres are Scientological affiliates. Applied Scholastics trade mark can be seen on websites as well as on the corporate documents of schools which are “Applied Scholastics” centres. Moreover, as we have already seen, Scientological faith components (explanations about a dominant person, preparation for auditing) are included into the training courses offered by the “Applied Scholastics”.

Supervisors of “Applied Scholastics” centres deny their connection with scientology. But when I asked them directly “Are you a scientology follower” all them said Yes.

 “Applied Scholastics” centres in Moscow and the region have not got the state accreditation and teaching license. Their activity is mainly registered as a private business.

The problem of scientology penetrating into education also rises in some state establishments. Maria Struve, headmaster of a public school of arts in Moscow, president of Russian choral conductors Guild, began actively promoting ideas of scientology a few years ago. She also attracts new followers of the cult among the teaching stuff and the parents. Besides, special Scientological events are arranged in the school.  The headmaster makes teachers attend Hubbard’s courses. There they are trained with help of various tutorials, among them there is a book “Teaching instruments for tutors” with a subheading “based on the works of Ron L. Hubbard”. Narconon, a pseudomedical scientological organization, carried out lectures for the high school students. At the lectures children were given Hubbard’s brochures “The Way to Happiness”. At the same time I would like to mention the fact that methods of Narconon as well as any other methods connected with Hubbard were prohibited according to the decree of Minister of Health Care on June 19th, 1996.

           Now a few words about some private centres of “Applied Scholastics”. The oldest “Applied Scholastics” centre in Moscow, “Edelweiss”, was founded in 2000. Marat Said-Galiyev, the founder and supervisor, tells us on his website that he was born in 1970 in Tadzhikistan, studied at a university, though it is not mentioned which one and whether he graduated from it. Then he was a P.E.  teacher, after that in the late 90s the future headmaster was a market vendor, then he opened 2 shops and moved to Moscow in 1999. And in 2000 he suddenly opened the training centre “Edelweiss”. I can not help being surprised at this swift shift of interests and activity in his biography!

            “Edelweiss” centre, though having no appropriate license, acts as a children’s school. Children spend there all day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Edelweiss” signed a contract with a Moscow school and the “Edelweiss” children are registered in that school as student externs. They also do final tests in that school and get a high school diploma from it. Nevertheless the children are taught by scientologists in strict compliance with Hubbard’s method. And all their education is managed by the head centre of “Applied Scholastics in CIS”. Now there are about 35 students trained in the centre on a permanent basis. That is beside those attending tuition courses. Also in the centre there is a so called “Life improving course” including the same programs as in the “Applied Scholastics” centre. They are “Guidelines on the training basis”, “Learn to learn”, “Communication skills”, a booklet “Ethics and morale”, “Supervisor’s minihat” – by the “hat” Scientologists mean the job position and correspondent duties.

Some time ago a WISE[2] centre was open at the school. WISE is another Scientological organization of businessmen using Hubbard’s method of running a company. Hubbard’s trainings in “Edelweiss” are far from being cheap though they are held in quite modest conditions. Currently the monthly fee makes about 790 USD. While there is no separate building (the centre is situated on the ground floor of a dwelling house), nor a playground as well as a nurse’s room. And little children spend a whole day there.. Scientologists consider it unnecessary. According to them if a child has a stomach- or headache that is because they do not understand a meaning of a word. If they are explained the word or, what is even better, make it out of plasticine, the pain will go. That is a favourite scientological method: they make the subject discussed out of plasticine. Children’s meals are not the school authorities’ concern either. You can bring home food, or have a meal at home if you live nearby, or order a meal at school and warm it up in a school microwave for an extra fee. Compared to that in usual, non-scientology certified private schools in Moscow children can have the following services for approximately the same price: education, a separate school building, security, regular meals (with child’s food allergies taken into account), medical care at school, a school psychologist, swimming pool lessons. Thus, sending their children to the “Edelweiss” centre the parents risk both children’s psychological and physical health while financing the cult of scientology, an organization which is far from being poor. Some years ago its revenues made 3-4 mln USD per day.

The educational process in Edelweiss looks like this: children of different grades (for example, the 4th, 9th, 10th and 11th grades) learn in the same room. I had a chance to visit one of Russian classes there.  Students of the 4th grade were sitting together and reading a fairy tale with a teacher. High school children were sitting separately and doing tests for a final exam supervised by another teacher. The beginning of the class was bewildering:  they had a kind of warming up which is called “a gasp of the present” (???) in scientology.  The teacher gave orders: “look at the ceiling”, “then at the floor”, “touch any desk around you”, “clap your hands twice”, “touch your back”, “then the forehead”. Everything would be said very quickly.

During the class there is no educational process as it is. The teacher does not explain anything. Children learn the material on their own with help of so called control sheets. There is a special course in the “Applied Scholastics” centre, “How to make control sheets”. Every child has a control sheet with certain tasks. On every sheet of paper there is the above mentioned trade mark of Applied Scholastics in the left top corner. Below there are words “Applied Scholastics centre” printed. And further down there are words “Edelweiss educational centre” printed. Thus, the connection between Edelweiss and the Scientological headquarters is obvious.

An important thing is that a person can not be hired to “Applied Scholastics” centres without mastering Hubbard’s method. According to the employers’ rules an educated experienced specialist first works as a trainee. So it looks like they do not need state diplomas but are orientated at the cult leader’s method. Rules for hiring staff say inexperienced applicants are preferable at “Edelweiss”.

A boarding school “Wonderlands” is situated in a settlement nearby Moscow and takes a three-storey cottage with a 5-hectare plot. An inspector (tutors are called so here) works with 7- to 14-year-old children instead of teachers specializing in particular subjects. Just like in the “Edelweiss” school they do not explain any material but supervise children mastering it on their own with help of the above mentioned control lists made in the “Applied Scholastics in the CIS” centre. If a child stops to do something else the inspector’s task is to find out which word they misunderstand. According to the headmaster 80% of learning time is given to “clearing up words”. In 1.5 hours children “clear up” about 20 words. I wonder when and how they learn there. All children of different age sit in the same room with their control sheets, which is supposed to replace school education for them. There is no blackboard or any other traditional accessories. It is important that in the contract parents sign nothing is said about providing children with educational services by the school. Thus we can see an obvious fraud committed by the founders towards the parents. To get a job in the “Wonderlands” boarding school an applicant has to do three courses in the “Applied Scholastics” centre.

And now a few words about a private nursery school “Nastyusha”. From the very beginning it became notorious with parents. In one of Internet forums you can find a following reference from a parent concerning the school. “Dear parents! If you do not wish your child to degrade both intellectually and spiritually, by no means send your children into that establishment supervised by Ms Zhanna Tsymbal. It is a scientological nursery school!” The contract parents sign up says the following: “All arguable questions are to be solved through clearing up the clauses of the contract”. “Clearing up clauses” is the same as clearing up words. So in the contract we can see elements of scientological terminology. If necessary a representative of Applied Scholastics is invited to help. A monthly fee in the nursery school is about 840 USD including meals. Once I had a chance to see what the children eat. They got dumplings of quite a low quality. At the same time children get vitamins glorified by scientologists but not approved by Ministry of Health Care of the RF. Almost all children walk around barefoot, and the teacher, too. It is called conditioning to the cold. On that occasion two of the children complained about a headache and a girl fell asleep on the floor in the bathroom. The teacher explains this attitude to children like this: they consider children should not be pitied, otherwise other children will notice the heightened attention paid to an ill child and will feign illness. They consider a child should be praised for their achievements while illnesses should not be mentioned at all. You must not say “Do not hang with your head down. You are going to have a headache”. Children incited by scientologists call it a “postulate” (one more example of a word used in a wrong way). They mean if you say this you are sure to get a headache. In the documents attached to the contract this position is grounded for the staff and the parents: “Our nursery school is good. If we consider it good, it will be good!” Here we face the principle of positive thinking (as if a person can manage a situation with help of his thoughts) that is characteristic of scientology as well as a lot of other cults.

There is no nurse’s room in the school. It is typical of Scientological schools. They do not hire a psychologist on principle, either. As we know, scientologists do not recognize psychology. According to them their children are the best, the cleverest, the smartest. So they have no problems.

But there is one. It is a problem of involving children, parents and teachers into the cult of scientology, one of the most destructive and dangerous totalitarian cults in the world. And they get involved through the educational system.

The bad news is that scientologists from all over the world collaborate and exchange experiences. For example, in 2008 the public school of arts signed a collaboration agreement with a private school Greenfields, Great Britain, using the methods of “Applied Scholastics”. Deputy headmaster of Greenfields visited Moscow in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and conducted a number of workshops on Hubbard’s method in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 2007 Mr. Martin Runov, the founder of “Studema”, a private school of “Applied Scholastics” in Sweden, conducted a seminar in the “Edelweiss” educational centre. Scientologists from “Wonderlands” are guided by a Danish Applies Scholastics centre. On the website of Wonderlands there is an article How To Get Along With a Rebellious Child by Hanna Himmingscholt. Half of the article is given to explaining (or “clearing”) simple words. The author is trying to give definitions to words like “to subordinate”, “confrontation”, “hostility”, “love”, “stable”, “discuss”, “safe” and the like. As a result the article looks inadequate. Either the author does not know meanings of the words herself and is trying to understand them or she considers the readers stupid. In both cases her opinion is unlikely to be authoritative in pedagogy. While she positions herself as an expert there.

In conclusion it is necessary to mention that scientology is considered a destructive religious organization (totalitarian cult) in a number of Russian official papers and its activity is inadmissible in the system of education:

1.      A regulation of State Duma “State Duma and Federal Assembly address President of the RF concerning some religious organizations effecting dangerously the health of society, family and citizens in the RF”, on December 15th, 1996;

  1. An instructive letter of Mrs. Chepurnykh, Deputy Minister of Education in the RF, sent to all educational bodies in the RF, where scientology is rated among organizations inadmissible in educational establishments. And it is mentioned that it is necessary “to prevent unconventional religious organizations from penetrating into educational establishments of the RF”;
  2. In the guidelines for headmasters and teaching staff “About preventing unconventional religious organizations and destructive cults from penetrating into educational establishments”, 2000.

However neither Russian executive nor legislative powers are likely to be authoritative enough for scientologists.

Any educational establishment using Hubbard’s method, as we can see, is sure to be connected with the cult of scientology. And accordingly its activity is inadmissible in the system of education in the RF. That is what we proclaimed to the Department of Education in Moscow and Ministry of Education in the RF. Nevertheless the jeopardy of Scientological ideas penetrating into the system of education is great. The problem is acute. Looking for new effective teaching methods parents, children and tutors take risk being involved into a dangerous destructive cult.

[1] Community of Independent States

[2] Wold Institution of Scientology Enterprises