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“Current issues concerning the development of religious education in the Russian Federation.” Speech at the Federation Council

Dear participants of this exalted gathering!

The concept of education, its essence and meaning are of a spiritual nature. The word “obraz” (image), which shares the same root as the word “obrazovaniye” (education), is one of the fundamental concepts in Christianity. In the literal sense of the word, on the first page of the Holy Scripture we read: “Then God said: Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). According to Christian doctrine, the image of God in a person implies that a person bears some divine qualities, some kind of markings of grace, which the Creator left on His creation. According to patristic interpretation, these qualities are reason, free will and the ability to love and think, that is, the totality of spiritual blessings that make a person perfect.

"Current issues concerning the development of religious education in the Russian Federation." Speech at the Federation Council

Based on the aforementioned, an educated person is not only a bearer of certain information, but above all is a thinking, creative individual who, in addition to material benefits, should bring to society certain spiritual values, the light of truth and splendours which transform the world, likening a person to the Creator. This task can only be undertaken by a person who is fully educated and enlightened. Unfortunately, the so-called technogenic process and the civilization of consumption have most negatively affected the educational process, distorted its purpose and nature. Education has become perceived in the applied, or even in the primitive, sense. One can often observe a sad depiction: a young man after four or five years in a university receives a diploma and at the same time knows absolutely nothing about the moral component of his profession and about academic ethics.

In ancient Rus’, the main purpose of education was the salvation of the human soul through the fulfilment of God’s commandments. Upbringing of children proceeded with this goal in mind; after all, the primary question is not even “what to teach”, but “why teach”. The main task of education was for a person to uncover the image of God, and education without God can be called “bezobraziye” (imagelessness/disgrace). “An unbeliever cannot differentiate between good and evil, but invents these differences for themselves,” said Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

Education is impossible without a cultural-historical and spiritual-moral foundation. It is with the knowledge of religious values that a person is able to view the problems of cloning, abortion, “sex changes” (which are inconceivable for a sound mind), and similar sinful insanities, in a different light.

Education and science without a religious component do not form a creative individual from a person, but a sort of proud being who considers themselves entitled to encroach upon the laws handed down to man by God, to change nature, to invade the “holy of holies” – life, that is, to replace God themselves. There is only one reason for this activity – pride of

the mind, and as a consequence, insanity. And the result of this activity is the degradation of humanity.

We must renounce the false idea of the incompatibility of science with religion and the concocted contradictions between them. Many great scientists were deeply religious people, and their immortal works and discoveries testify that only harmony is possible between science and religion, laid down by the Creator Himself.

Today, hidden propaganda of such values that are alien to us is being spread, which is becoming the main reason for the weakening of Russia. Our opponents reason that, if it is impossible to defeat us economically and militarily, then we must be weakened by other means. And one of the main means of this weakening and separation of the Russian people is, without a doubt, the influence upon education and the upbringing of children; there is an ongoing battle for the minds of young people. Obviously, this is an important field of spiritual warfare. Therefore, it is vital that we focus our attention toward this field in order to protect the country and our Russian world.

The reckless copying of Western models of education has led to serious damage in Russian secondary and higher schools, which had long been considered among the best in the world.

I can only state the undeniable truth: education, along with the military and public health services, is a strategic direction for the development of the state and cannot be financed by leftovers.

The shortcomings of our education system are already leading to serious shifts in society, which call into question the prospect of preserving Russia in the future. First of all, the way of thinking and perception in young people is changing. Mosaic thinking, ingrained by modern television and the Internet, is unable to perceive large volumes of abstract information.

Today, groups of young people have already been vaccinated with the main value of a “qualified consumer” – money. Culture has become commercial. The cult of sin and mammon is perhaps the most widespread religion in our society. In such an environment and with such an education, it is difficult to expect that, for children and youth, love of their Motherland and their readiness to strengthen and defend it, will take root.

Obviously, all these problems in our education system are just symptoms of the disease that affects our entire society. The denial of the spiritual foundations of our Russian world is leading to the point where the very building of this Russian world cannot stand firm and enduring.

Today we may observe a contradiction: Russia must adhere primarily to Christian principles, live according to the commandments of God, but for now we are seeing an increase in the number of abortions and, consequently, a drop in the birth rate. Here there is punishment for battery and rape, but at the same time, unbridledness, sadism and pornography flourish in the media. On television, we see the affectations of children at beauty and singing contests.

Allow me to briefly comment on what measures can help us correct this sad situation.

Holy Rus’ is an ideal for us, but it is not possible to enter that same river twice. In modern conditions, we must find and, I hope, may come to a harmonious combination of our traditional spiritual foundation with the new conditions in which we live. It is important

to find solutions that will allow us to maintain and reproduce ourselves in the face of modern challenges.

An important law of life should be recognised and enacted: that education without a moral core leads to the destruction of the state and society. This can be seen in the example of Western society, which, having raised the banner of liberalism, “tolerance” and permissiveness, has come to the brink of extinction.

In the words of our president, “liberalism is outdated”, but it can drag down to the bottom those who are clutching on to it. In contrast to liberalism, one must turn to the original ideals of traditional religions.

We cannot refuse the good experience that has been accumulated by the Church and the Orthodox community. This experience needs to be developed: we must have a generally accessible and compulsory secondary education system with a clear moral orientation based on the traditional values of the Russian state.

The ongoing process of upholding Russia’s sovereignty in the field of economics and politics cannot be successfully accomplished without sovereign education. Import substitution in educational and spiritual matters demands no less attention than within industrial and agricultural domains.

Today I speak on behalf of those very Russian people, the Orthodox Old-believers, who have always been timid with regards to the issue of education. Literacy was vital for the Old-believers, since in conditions of constant persecution and oppression, each person had to be able to defend their faith, their way of life, their worldview.

According to various estimates, from 60 to 80 percent of the country’s capital was concentrated in the hands of the Old-believers’ entrepreneurs prior to the revolution. The reason for this was not simply their industriousness and honesty, but also their literacy and desire to learn. Our entrepreneurs were the first to introduce advanced technologies and scientific discoveries in their works. They donated huge amounts of money for the construction and organisation of schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions. Just a few years after the declaration of freedom in 1905, Old-believers’ schools appeared in many cities and villages. The collators of the richest collections of not only icons or church books, but also of outstanding works of modern art were also Old-believers for the most part.

Today, many are surprised at how the Old-believers abroad, in a foreign environment, were able to preserve their language and culture. And this is in spite of the fact that most of the Russian emigrants after the revolution had assimilated with the local population in the second or third generation. In this regard, A.I. Solzhenitsyn wrote: “These remaining Old-believers must be seen — their strength, their conviction, their selfless nightly prayers (already beyond our strength), their vital courage and determination — be it 200 years of life in Turkey, or in the span of a generation, without linguistic knowledge or knowledge of the local region, migrating families – by the tens of children each! – from China to Brazil – from Brazil to the States – and now to Alaska, saving these children from the depraved winds of this age. To see how their national appearance and folk character have been preserved, and to hear their preserved original Russian speech. Nowhere in the all the West and not in all places in the Soviet Union can you feel so much in Russia as among them.”

In conclusion, I want to emphasise that the task of the Church is to show a person how to save their soul, and we must try to ensure that, in relations between the state and the

Church, the principle is respected: the Church does not interfere in state affairs, but sets the highest goal and moral standards of the activities of the state.

Nowadays, our Homeland is in a difficult situation spiritually, and therefore its society requires the protection and strengthening of faith, without which we have no future. The experience of the guardians of ancient piety, the Old-believers, can serve to protect and revive sovereign education in Russia. We, Old Orthodox Christians, are ready to share this experience and help our Homeland with prayer and deed.

Thank you for your attention.