Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ethnic and Religious Tensions High in Schools of Russian Capitals, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 4 – Pupils aged 14 to 16 in 16 Moscow and seven St. Petersburg schools were given open-ended questions about various social issues. Their answers show that they are indifferent to civic identity, have only a weak knowledge of cultural values, and are worried about ethnic and religious problems in their midst and in Russian society.

            In an article on about this survey, Marina Malafeyeva, a specialist on religion, says that the students’ answers raise some serious issues that she suggests educators and other officials need to focus on before the attitudes they reflect harden in the future (

            The first problem the survey identified, she says, is “an indifferent attitude to issues of civic identity.”  Among Moscow pupils, this was expressed in the lack of seriousness in responding to the questions.  Asked to propose a title for a film that would illustrate “patriotic feelings,” several students suggested “’I am Not a Patriot.’”

            Pupils in St. Petersburg responded somewhat differently: they in many cases simply didn’t want to answer questions in this area.  Asked if they had taken part in any social activity several said that they considered this “stupid” and never had in the past or planned to do so in the future. 

            The second problem the survey highlighted, Malofeyeva says, “is the absence of one’s own position on major social questions.” That was especially true in Moscow where the pupils simply repeated slogans they had hear.  In St. Petersburg, pupils either ignored the questions or showed they didn’t understand them.

            For example, asked about tolerance, pupils in the northern capital said that it mean observing the laws of etiquette or simply not breaking up with a friend if the latter was of a different religion.

            The third problem the survey found was a confused understanding “about traditional cultural values,” Malofeyeva continues.  Moscow pupils said that traditional values included “listening to the president on December 31, going to church on Easter, one-man rule, visiting churches and mosques, and observing annual fasts.

            St. Petersburg pupils offered even more “absurd” answers, the religious specialist says. Among the Russian national traditions they identified were alcoholism, drug use, Kurban Bayram, praying five times a day, love for the opposite sex, and self-expression.

            The fourth problem and in Malofeyeva’s view, “the most dangerous” is “a high level of ethno-religious tension among the young. This is found in both capitals.  Asked to name no less than three causes of conflict, the Muscovites pointed to racial differences, religious differences and class differences. The St. Petersburg answers were similar.

            Among the social problems that the pupils said were agitating them are homophobia, terrorism, nationalism, and immigration.

            One major difference between the two cities concerns how the pupils think problems should be resolved. The Muscovites are in favor of getting adults involved; the Petersburgers make now such recommendation. Instead, they call for compromises, conversations or even fights to resolve them. 


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