RUSSIA

The Orthodox church in Russian schools

Material collected by our Russian/former-USSR reporter, Maria Antonova Classes on the fundamentals of Orthodox culture have been introduced in the schools and universities of several Russian regions. They have become an important part of the curriculum- they are mandatory and graded. Representatives of the Orthodox church recognise that during the Soviet period, atheism and materialism led the population away from the Orthodox culture. Now, parts of Russia are using the religion as a means of reinforcing a national identity. However, Russia is a secular country, where at least one quarter of the population is not Orthodox Christian.

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Material collected by our Russian/former-USSR reporter, Maria Antonova

Classes on the fundamentals of Orthodox culture have been introduced in the schools and universities of several Russian regions. They have become an important part of the curriculum- they are mandatory and graded. Representatives of the Orthodox church recognise that during the Soviet period, atheism and materialism led the population away from the Orthodox culture. Now, parts of Russia are using the religion as a means of reinforcing a national identity. However, Russia is a secular country, where at least one quarter of the population is not Orthodox Christian.

Religious education in Russia

Andrei is an archaeologist and teacher. He lives in Moscow and teaches at a private school and at a university. He is also a blogger. Andrei attended several meetings with other teachers about the introduction of religious education in Russian schools.

The main thing is that the history of religion and related disciplines will not only be taught by secular professors but also by priests. That is not what was promised. Moreover, schools that introduce classes on religion will receive financial support from the Ministry of Education as well as from the Orthodox church. Private schools who participate will be able to get reductions on their rent.”

"It's simply Christian propaganda"

Yulia Zaitseva is a mathematician living in Moscow. She is shocked by her young son’s new textbook.

The writers of this book did not try to hide the fact that Orthodox priests wrote the chapter on religion. The writers were split over a declaration in the chapter directed at non-Orthodox readers: ‘Each individual is free to believe, or not, in the sacred origin of the holy book. But it should be read by all.’ However a little later, in the section on the theory of evolution, secular education takes a blow: ‘Dear children, do not forget that the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created healthy and pure, and that mankind was corrupted only thereafter.’And then later in the book, ‘Do you know what happens to fishermen who do not believe in God? They go to Hell and suffer for eternity.’

That said, ladies and gentlemen, let’s end these discussions about religious studies right here. This simple schoolboy’s textbook is full of Christian propaganda, sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.”

"Those who need God will come to church"

Dmitri Struev is an Orthodox priest from Lipetsk. He wrote this entry after someone asked him to teach a religion class at a school.

I categorically refused to teach the course. Those who need God will come to church. Or they will ask me to come to their home. This type of teaching at school will have a negative impact on the youth. I would not be comfortable there. And for the non-believers, it would be an opportunity for mischief. As for me, I would not be happy in this position."