KAZAN, Russia -- It was a time of turmoil in Russia's Tatar Autonomous Republic. In 1994, local officials were demanding independence for the historically Muslim region, and taxpayer dollars were rebuilding mosques that had been converted to warehouses during Soviet times.

Fifteen Jews decided it was time to reassert their own spiritual heritage. They applied to the government and obtained title to a pre-Revolutionary synagogue that had been converted into a state-run teacher's organization. And when the teachers refused to heed an eviction order, the Jews blockaded the building.

"Nobody was against giving us the synagogue, of course, but they were procrastinating," said Mikhail Skoblionok, a 56-year-old businessman who was part of the protest. "So we decided to put pickets at the doors and not let the teachers in. . . . Of course it was a scandal, but otherwise we wouldn't have gotten the building back."