06MOSCOW10370, ORTHODOX CLASSES NOW MANDATORY IN SOME RUSSIAN

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06MOSCOW10370.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10370 2006-09-18 07:06 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5531
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0370/01 2610706
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 180706Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2427
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 010370 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/13/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM RS
SUBJECT: ORTHODOX CLASSES NOW MANDATORY IN SOME RUSSIAN 
REGIONS 
 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Alice Wells. 
Reasons: 1.4(B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY. Public schools in the Bryansk, Kaluga, 
Smolensk, and Belgorod regions have incorporated a mandatory 
Orthodox culture course into their curriculums.  Eleven other 
regions are offering the subject as an elective.  Supporters 
say the move is needed to counter the spiritual vacuum left 
by Soviet atheism and replace the ideology of communism with 
a new Russian ideology that will protect traditional Russian 
culture and values.  Critics, on the other hand, claim that 
such a course goes against the Russian Constitution and 
fosters the growth of Russian nationalism, which will drive a 
wedge between ethnic and non-ethnic Russians.  END SUMMARY. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
What Happened To Church/State Separation? 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Moscow City Duma Deputy and Science and Education 
Commission Chairman, Evgeniy Bunimovich, told Embassy 
September 14 that the mandatory "Foundations of Russian 
Orthodox Culture" course, which was publicized only two days 
before the school year began on September 1, contradicts the 
Russian Constitution, which explicitly endorses the 
separation of church and state.  Bunimovich explained that 
the ROC was taking advantage of the ten to twenty percent of 
a region's curriculum that is not federally mandated to avoid 
having to obtain the Education Ministry's approval of the 
course.  He said Education Minister Andrey Fursenko has long 
opposed mandatory Orthodox classes and backs the idea of an 
elective on the history of world religions, even preparing a 
textbook on the subject.  Fursenko this week called on the 
Public Chamber to take a look at the issue.  However, 
President Putin has consistently encouraged the Russian 
Orthodox Church's (ROC) ascendant role in society, saying 
recently that "today the ROC is not only a keeper of the 
centuries-long spiritual and cultural traditions of our 
people ... it plays an important role in the education of 
young people - educating them in the spirit of patriotism, 
justice, and commitment to family values." 
 
3. (C) Father Zacchaeus, Representative of the Orthodox 
Church in America to the Moscow Patriarchate, in a September 
8 meeting, said the course is just the latest example of the 
growing influence of the ROC, which in the past few years has 
forged an increasingly close alliance with federal and local 
governments.  "The trend is very troubling," he said. 
"Despite the resistance from the Education Ministry, the ROC 
is pressing very hard to advance its interests in schools and 
wants to assume the dominant ideological role in society." He 
expressed concern about what might happen if Putin's 
successor were not as religiously inclined, stressing that 
the ROC needs to look beyond the short-term benefits of 
cooperating with the regime (i.e., obtaining funds for church 
restoration). 
 
4. (C) Another Orthodox priest, Father Georgiy Chistyakov, in 
a separate meeting told Embassy that many in the 
intelligentsia think the Moscow Patriarchate serves Putin, so 
they stay away from the ROC, some converting to other faiths. 
 He opposes teaching any religion in schools because it 
creates a barrier in an individual's personal relationship 
with God.  In addition, he said Orthodox classes might pull 
impressionable young people away from God and towards 
nationalism.  Chistyakov thought that many new ROC converts 
joined the church for nationalistic reasons, and they have an 
"aggressive-defensive" attitude toward the ROC that is 
similar to communism -- that the country is surrounded on all 
sides by enemies and needs to be protected at any cost. 
 
5. (C) According to Sergey Filatov, Senior Research at the 
Institute of Oriental Studies and head writer of the 
Oxford-sponsored Encyclopedia of Religious Life in Russia 
Today, the attempt to create a national philosophy to unite 
all Russians has a long history.  He told us that from the 
16th-century idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, through the 
19th-century concept of "Orthodoxy, autocracy, and the 
national idea" and on to the Stalinist concept of "building 
Socialism in one country," Russia's leaders have tried to 
develop national philosophies that were effective in 
mobilizing the population behind state policies.  In 
Filatov's opinion, Vladislav Surkov's creation -- sovereign 
democracy -- whose basic idea is that Russia is a sovereign 
nation with its own traditions and the right to determine its 
own path and stand up for its interests where it feels they 
are threatened by the activities of other actors, internal or 
external, is a 21st-century rehash of the previous concepts. 
Filatov worried that if Orthodoxy and a national idea in the 
form of sovereign democracy were resurrected, history might 
repeat itself and autocracy would not be far behind. 
 
MOSCOW 00010370  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
ROC Claims No Student Forced T
o Study A Specific Religion 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
6. (C) In contrast to other high-level ROC interlocutors, 
Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesperson for the Russian 
Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate, stressed to us that 
discussions about the nature and content of religious or 
moral education in Russian schools were ongoing.  There was 
no unanimity in the Education Ministry or even within the ROC 
about what schools specifically should do.  The ROC's broad 
preference is that students be given an option to choose 
among several courses that would be based on the differing 
Russian religious traditions or on secular principles.  He 
pointed to the example of Serbia, where students can choose 
among six religious traditions or opt for a course in secular 
ethics.  No student would be forced to study a specific 
religion, but students should have grounding in some moral 
teaching.  Chaplin did not foresee clergy teaching such 
courses, noting that the ROC did not have enough priests to 
minister to existing congregations.  Instead, the government 
in consultation with religious groups should develop 
curricula for moral education. 
 
------------------------------ 
Why Teach Orthodoxy In School? 
------------------------------ 
 
7. (C) Father Zacchaeus thought that one reason for the push 
to teach Orthodoxy in schools is that, while most ethnic 
Russians identify themselves as Orthodox, only a fraction of 
them actually attend church regularly.  He said it was a 
"lazy and dangerous way" to solve the problem of educating 
young people about Orthodoxy.  He was also concerned that the 
end result would be that more young people would be bored 
with being forced to take several years of mandatory classes 
and turned off from the ROC rather than attracted to it. 
 
8. (C) Most of the interlocutors believed that religion does 
not belong in public schools, although they were unanimously 
in favor of a mandatory course on the history of Russian 
peoples, which would take the focus off of religion and 
promote increased inter-ethnic tolerance.  They said religion 
was better taught by parents or at Sunday school, during 
elective after-school courses, in private schools, at 
spiritual seminars, etc.  And, if the course continues to be 
taught in schools, they worried that the teachers would not 
be qualified.  According to Landysh Latfullina, a Muslim 
expert from the Moscow State Pedagogical University, 
approximately 10,000 instructors will be trained at divinity 
schools and secular pedagogical colleges by 2010, but the 
teachers or clergy currently teaching the course are 
ill-prepared.  Father Chistyakov said that there are too many 
conservative elements in the Orthodox Church who could take 
advantage of the course and push their own religious 
interpretations and agendas. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Feedback From Non-Orthodox Religious Denominations 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
9. (C) Latfullina joined others with whom Embassy spoke in 
maintaining that mandatory Orthodox classes could drive a 
wedge between Russians and non-ethnic Russians.  She claimed 
that non-ethnic-Russian students are often treated with 
condescension in the classroom, and any course that 
highlighted who is Orthodox and who is non-Orthodox would 
only make matters worse.  The official opinion of the Council 
of Muftis, Latfullina averred, was that the introduction of 
such coursework could threaten the relative stability of 
Russia's various religious communities.  She reported that 
the Council recently announced it would push the government 
to expand instruction of Muslim culture beyond the Muslim 
republics in the North Caucasus to other regions with 
established Muslim communities and that it has already 
developed a textbook and curriculum on Muslim culture, which 
is taught in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Tatarstan. 
However, she personally does not approve of such an 
initiative, saying that it would likely lead to less 
tolerance, while a world religions or history of Russian 
peoples course could improve mutual understanding. 
 
10. (C) Despite their personal differences, Jewish leaders 
Berel Lazar and Adolf Shayevich agreed that it is necessary 
to teach respect for people of different nationalities, and 
if the basics of culture and religion are taught in school, 
it should be all the traditional religions of Russia. In an 
interview with a Moscow radio station Lazar contended that 
the Orthodox course will "divide children into different 
classes" and ostracize minorities.  In addition, Shayevich's 
 
MOSCOW 00010370  003 OF 003 
 
 
Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities of 
Russia (KEROOR), an umbrella group for non-Chasidic Orthodox 
congregations, stated that Jewish parents should report cases 
where Jewish children are pressured in any way in the 
classes. The group said it was not protesting the course 
itself, but that it had been made mandatory. 
 
11. (C) The Roman Catholic Church supports including the 
course in the curriculums of Russian schools. Reverend Igor 
Kowalevski, general secretary of the Conference of Catholic 
Bishops in Russia, told Interfax that "whatever the private 
opinions of representatives of various confessions may be, 
they still should remember that we live in Russia in which 
Orthodoxy is a culture-forming religion." Therefore, the 
teaching of Orthodox culture "cannot harm anybody." 
 
12. (C) COMMENT. Although teaching Orthodox classes in public 
schools has been debated for several years, it appears the 
ROC is beginning to gain the upper hand over the Education 
Ministry.  The ROC is successfully pursuing a new strategy of 
mandating classes from the bottom up (i.e., via local and 
regional governments) rather than from the top down (i.e., 
via the federal government).  It is adopting a parallel 
ideology to sovereign democracy, playing on ethnic Russians' 
insecurities about their demographic situation in order to 
convince school administrators that making the course 
mandatory will help preserve Russian (Orthodox) culture from 
being diluted.  However, the danger in this strategy is that 
it might add to the increasing tensions between Orthodox and 
non-Orthodox citizens in the regions instead of trying to 
foster tolerance for all religions and ethnic groups. 
BURNS

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: