Orthodox Church as promoter of the Russian culture
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Patriarch Kirill heads the Russian Literature and Language Society, set up with the Ministry of Culture and Education. The Russian language and Russian literature are means for population cohesion. Schools need to be normatively grounded. Focus must be given to language teaching for the ethnic groups of the Caucasus.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – One of the main concerns of the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular of its patriarch Kirill (Gundayev), is the protection and development of the Russian language and culture.

According to the spiritual leader of the Russian people, only by promoting the country’s artistic, literary and historical heritage can it prevent the loss of national identity and true spirituality, thus avoid the dominant secular culture that prevails in today’s world, especially in West.

To this end, Patriarch Kirill agreed to a proposal made by President Vladimir Putin in 2016 to appoint him as head of the Russian Literature and Language Society, which was set up by the Patriarchal Council of Culture and the Ministry of Culture and of Education, to coordinate all institutions dedicated to language and literature.

After two years dedicated to organisational issues, the Society is now ready to perform its dedicated task, namely promoting a true Russian culture. With this in mind, its board of directors met in the Conference Hall of Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 March.

For Patriarch Kirill, this is nothing new. In the 1990s, the metropolitan of Smolensk, as he was then, was also responsible for the external relations of the Patriarchate. This led him to create the World Russian People's Council, an organisation devoted to bringing together groups that were genuinely interested in the ethical and religious (Orthodox) renaissance of Russia.

As the head of the Council, a position that he kept even after he became patriarch, and as president of the Russian Literature and Language Society, Kirill is clearly expressing his desire to call on all Russians to work together to rediscover the historical vocation of the Russian people.

The meeting of Society’s board of directors was also attended by various ministers, university deans, regional politicians, top Russian Academy of Sciences officials, writers, journalists, teachers and entrepreneurs from all over the Russian Federation and other countries. Next to the patriarch sat Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), head of the Patriarch's Council for Culture.

Discussions included the new standards of teaching the Russian language and literature, seen as a fundamental tool for the cohesion of the Russian-speaking population at home and abroad.

"As everyone knows, the preservation of Russia’s national independence depends not only on military and technical means,” said Education Minister Olga Vassiljeva, “but also on the education of citizens, who need a common national and cultural identity as well as patriotic consciousness. It is no coincidence that the Russian language and literature, like the country's history, are referred to in the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation."

Control over the teaching of history and literature is therefore one of the main tasks of government institutions and the Orthodox Church itself, and the controversy in recent months over the centennial of the Russian Revolution showed the urgency of boosting this at the level of laws, publishing industry and mass media.

In fact, the humanities still reflect very much Soviet ideological perspectives or are left to the independent elaboration and interpretation by individual teachers or the private schools set up in the past 20 years.

Kirill stressed the need to re-establish the so-called "golden rule" of classical Russian literature, that is, the set of "normative" works needed in education and Russian social culture. For the patriarch, this means a "social pact" for culture between teachers, parents, writers of manuals and programmes and all those who care about education.

In his address, the spiritual leader of Russian Orthodoxy also expressed concerns about the low quality of Russian language teaching in the areas of the country inhabited by other [non-Russian] ethnic groups, like the Caucasus, and the need to support the study of the national culture among Russians abroad.

His goal is the develop pastoral outreach for the whole Russian-speaking world, at home and abroad, to which the Church provides pastoral, educational and social care.