Vienna, June 16 – An instructor at the Oil and Gas State University in Tyumen has told her students that Jews drink the blood of Christian children, that Islam is a “pseudo-doctrine,” that Catholics are “heretics,” and that Protestants are “sectarians,” an indication of just how dangerous the introduction of religious instruction in Russian schools could prove to be.
According to a transcript of her lectures that was posted online last Thursday by the Slavic Legal Center (www.sclj.ru/news/detail.php?ID=1902), Svetlana Shestakova, a sociologist in the religious studies department there, she has also insisted that her students must serve as defenders and missionaries for the Orthodox faith, a clear violation of Russian law.
The center, which tracks violations of the rights of believers in Russia and offers them legal defense, said that Shestakova’s remarks were “an example of how a course on ‘Foundations of Religious Culture’ might be taught,” especially with regard to non-Orthodox faiths about which many teachers are completely ignorant.
Not surprisingly, this report has outraged Jews, Muslims and Christians, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, in Tyumen, but because it surfaced during the long Russian holidays and because the transcript has not yet been confirmed as genuine, only a few outlets have commented so far (www.islamrf.ru/articles.php?razdel=1&sid=3370).
If as seems likely given the track record of the Slavic Legal Center, this report is confirmed, that will add a new dimension to debates about efforts to introduce religious instruction into Russian schools this fall, not because most Orthodox share Shestakova’s views but because some do and could use these courses to spread the hateful notions she expresses.
One hopes that the Orthodox Church itself will disown Shestakova’s ugly words and that Russian investigators will launch an investigation into this obvious case of someone drawing a government salary igniting inter-religious and inter-ethnic hatred. After all, Russian prosecutors routinely have investigated others for doing far less.
And more broadly, one hopes her outrageous statements will prompt more of good will both in Russia and abroad to criticize those in Moscow who currently are denouncing the principle of separation of church as an anti-Russian and Western-imposed idea that the Russian people should now dispense with. (For an example of this, see evrazia.org/article.php?id=512.)
UPDATE for June 25. Shestakova’s statements have now been confirmed by her husband, who teaches in the same department at the same university and whose own attitudes concerning Jews and indeed all religions other than Russian Orthodoxy appear to be equally bigoted (www.russned.ru/stats/2349 and www.sclj.ru/news/detail.php?ID=1902). The actions of both instructors have now sparked protests by representatives of all faiths represented in the Congress of Religious Organizations o of Tyumen Oblast (KROTO), which plans a large public meeting about the Shestakovs later this week (www.islamrf.ru/articles.php?razdel=1&sid=3518).
UPDATE for June 27: Russian religious and human rights groups are beginning to condemn Shestakova’s views, but she has also attracted some supporters in the extreme Russian nationalist media. For a survey of both, see www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=comment&id=1424.