- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

MOSCOW Russia is to introduce Orthodox religious education in schools for the first time since the czars.
Under a proposal by the education ministry, head teachers will be able to schedule courses in a subject called Orthodox Culture.
Vladimir Filippov, the education minister, has proposed the course, though it will not be compulsory. Opponents of the plan say the multiethnic nature of Russia, home to a substantial number of Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, makes it unsuitable.
In the time of the czars, children studied divine law, a course offering Orthodox religious and moral guidance. After the revolution in 1917, religious studies were replaced by courses in Marxism and Leninism. History, geography and other subjects were tailored to suit the ideological requirements of the communist leaders.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, education has remained secular, but in recent years the Orthodox Church has called for the inclusion of religious studies.
The timetable for introducing the course is not clear, but officials say a 30-page document issued by the education ministry sets out the subject matter to be included.
Among the topics will be the traditions of Orthodoxy, asceticism, the liturgy and the Bible, as well as religious art and literature.
After decades of Soviet atheism, few Russians are religious, but there has been a resurgence in the number of churchgoers and interest in the Orthodox Church in the past decade. Leading officials have sponsored several large projects, including the building of a huge Orthodox cathedral in Moscow.
The Orthodox Church says that teaching religion would add a moral dimension to the lives of typical Russians and help counter alcoholism, AIDS, crime and drug addiction.


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