Staunton, October 25 – Children born to ethnically mixed couples consisting of Tatars and ethnic Russians should be raised as Orthodox Christians, Metropolitan Feofan of Tatarstan and Kazan says; and if possible, this should be agreed to by the both members of the couple before they get married (golosislama.com/news.php?id=30382).
On the one hand, this is little more than the standard view of the leaders of all confessions, although most of them suggest that the children should be involved in the choice. But on the other, it represents an effort by the Moscow Patriarchate to intervene in one of the most sensitive areas of life and to make religion more important than nationality.
In Soviet times, children of mixed Russian and non-Russian couples almost always had their children identified as ethnic Russians. Since 1991, however, that has changed, and where more often parents decide to have their children identified as members of the titular nationality of the country or republic in which they live.
As a result, in the USSR, ethnically mixed marriages generally led to an increase in the number of ethnic Russians in the population from one generation to another; but in post-Soviet times, the reverse has been true particularly in non-Russian areas. The metropolitan’s intervention is clearly intended to stem that.
But it is striking that the Russian churchman did not refer to religiously mixed marriages where his remark might be more anodyne but to ethnically mixed ones, suggesting that in his view as in the view of many others, religion is the defining characteristic of ethnicity and that to be Orthodox is to be Russian.
For some Tatars, Feofan is notorious for his pro-ethnic Russian positions. When he assumed his post, he referred to Kazan as “an immemorial Russian land.” He has promoted conversions of Muslims to Orthodoxy despite the Patriarchate’s official opposition to such things.
And even more than his predecessors, he has pushed for raising the status of the Kryashens, a ethnic community Tatar in culture and language but Orthodox Christian in religion, demanding that Kazan allow schools where the Kryashens live in compact majorities to be controlled by the Kryashens rather than by Tatar officials.
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