Saturday, February 17, 2024

Russia Now has More Churches than Schools, Sparking Worries about Country’s Future

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 13 – Since Putin became president, the number of schools in the Russian Federation has declined from 68,000 to 40,000, according to the latest data from Rosstat, while the number of churches has risen from 21,000 to 42,000, according to the Russian Orthodox Church.

            This decline in the number of schools is the product of the Kremlin leader’s drive to save money by consolidating smaller schools, a process he calls “optimization,” while the rise in the number of churches reflects the Russian government’s support for construction of churches (

            Most of the schools which have been closed are in the villages, but their elimination has had serious consequences. When the schools are shuttered, villages tend to die because parents move to where the schools remain open; and that is leaving large swaths of the country without any residents.

            Many Russians are worried about this especially because the rate of closure of schools appears to have accelerated as Moscow scrambles to find money to finance its war in Ukraine. Concerned teachers and parents note that even during World War II, the Stalin regime did not close schools and ask why Putin can’t find money for them.

            And some see consolidation not as offering children more education opportunities but setting the stage of a return to the situation in rural areas of the Russian Empire at its end. One Nizhny Novgorod oblast teacher says that if current trends continue, what will re-emerge will be parish schools tied to churches, something that will destroy rural Russia’s educational prospects.


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