Friends House Moscow
Friends House Moscow (FHM) – known in Russian as Дом Друзей (Dom druzei) – supports Quakers and seekers locally, maintains a Russian-language website for outreach, and works with local partners on projects in line with Quaker testimonies.
- Provide training in alternatives to violence and conflict management resolution
- Promote alternatives to military service
- Protect the rights of and provide services for underprivileged groups and individuals, including women, the elderly, disabled people, refugees, homeless children and orphans
- Support Friends and individual seekers interested in Quaker faith and practice
Promote the development of a culture of voluntary social work
Quaker connections with Russia go back to 1656, when George Fox sent an epistle to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, the father of Peter the Great. Sporadic contacts continued throughout the Tsarist period. Quakers were heavily involved in providing relief during the devastating famines of the late 19th and early 20th Century.
In 1923, British Friends sought to expand the small office in Moscow into a Quaker International Centre. For a time, despite some tensions, they were able to work with the Soviet authorities, but during the Stalinist period (1931 and 1956) contacts were very difficult.
After the Second World War, Friends maintained contacts with Peace Groups in the Soviet Union and ran conferences for diplomats, which enabled diplomats from both sides of the Iron Curtain to meet.
In the late 1980s, a small local group in Moscow began to meet ‘after the manner of Friends,’ at the home of historian Tatiana Pavlova. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Meeting expanded, moving into the basement of an Orthodox church, and then eventually into the present premises of Friends House Moscow.
In 1991, British Quaker Peace and Service (QPS), appointed the first their representatives in Moscow for several decades, Peter and Roswitha Jarman.
In 1992, American Friends participated in the International Schools Project, helping to teach ethics in Russian schools. Later that decade, Alaska Yearly Meeting Friends began pastoral visits to their ethnic counterparts among indigenous people in eastern Siberia.
Both Pacific Yearly Meeting in the US and QPS in Britain hoped to establish a permanent Quaker Centre in Moscow. During the 1990s, Friends met in London, Philadelphia and Moscow, to establish a basis for such a foundation
Friends House Moscow finally opened on 1 January 1996.
FHM is run by an international board with members from several countries. There are two paid staff based in Moscow, and a part-time, unpaid, line manager and treasurer. FHM is supported by Friends House Moscow Support Association in the USA, and by Friends House Moscow British Committee in the UK. It also connects with Friends in Europe and the Middle East through affiliation to the European and Middle East Section of FWCC.
FHM runs Alternatives to Violence Projects workshops for army conscripts and in prisons. Projects have been run in Moscow and Leningrad regions, as well as in Ukraine and Lithuania. The Schools’ Reconciliation Project is training Moscow children and teachers in mediation skills.
The right to conscientious objection is not well understood in Russia. A'ternativshchik is a newsletter produced by FHM that provides information about alternative civilian service.
FHM has a number of projects that support disadvantaged children and young people. Big Change helps young people from orphanages, aged 18-30, to get into college, university, and the professions. The Circle works to integrate children and young people with learning difficulties into society, while Save a Child works to increase the number of blood donors in Moscow’s Children’s Clinical Hospital.
FHM works with the Centre for the Adaptation and Training of Refugee Children, which helps the children of migrants from Chechnya and the Central Asian republics.
Finally, Training for Foster Parents is a project funded by a grant from the Radley Trust, a Quaker trust based in Cambridge, UK. Fostering was not practised in Soviet times, and so the service is in an early stage of development. The project emerged from the earlier My New Family project, which brought together a group of foster carers to meet and support one another.