Russia’s New Required Religion Class for 4th Graders


This year Russia required fourth graders across the country to take a religion class. There are six choices: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, secular ethics or world religions. Most Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but most did not choose that class for their children. Matthew Brunwasser reports.

The fourth graders in this “Basis of Orthodox Culture” class are discussing some pretty heavy duty concepts.

“God is a creator,” says the teacher. “How do you understand this? what does it mean?”

A small girl answers, “he created the whole world.”

The teacher is using brand new textbooks and audio/visual materials prepared by the education ministry.

This little classroom in St. Petersburg is one of the fruits of a two-decades-long battle by the Russian Orthodox Church to introduce religious education into every school in Russia. Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin says it was a tough slog.

“We had very uneasy and sometimes emotional discussions with some state officials,” said Chapin. “Some members of the pedagogical bureaucracy are still very much Soviet-minded.”

In the end, Chaplin says, the church is pleased with the outcome.


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