Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Moscow Backs Away from Plans to Restrict Religious Instruction in Primary Grades

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 23 – In apparent deference to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian enlightenment ministry has dropped plans to eliminate courses in specific religions and give parents and children in the primary grades only a choice between a survey of the cultures of the traditional religions of Russia and foundations of civic ethics.

            Instead, a new draft of the Federal Educational Standards leaves unchanged the current system in which parents and their children can choose from among Orthodox culture, Islamic culture, Buddhist culture, Jewish culture, foundations of religious cultures of the peoples of Russia or civic ethics (

            The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church had complained about the earlier draft, and the decision to keep the course choices where they have been for several years appears to reflect its intervention. Earlier this month, Patriarch Kirill called for the introduction of an additional course for all students on Russian culture.

Representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities, on the other hand, generally support the original plan to move from religion-specific courses to the two more general ones.  Rushan Abbbyasov, deputy head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR) and Yury Kanner, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, are among them.

Abbyassov says that “we consider that one must think about a subject which will unite all Russian residents. Russia is a multi-national state and one needs to know the habits and culture of one’s neighbors.” An additional reason is that in many schools there aren’t enough instructors for many of the religion-specific modules.

Kanner for his part takes an even broader view. He says he would leave only one course in this module, “Foundations of World Culture” because “religion and culture and indivisible.”  RBK did not report speaking with anyone from the Buddhist community, the fourth “traditional” religion of the Russian Federation.

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