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Religious education: Orthodox Theological Education
Orthodox Theological Education in Russia
Theological Schools subordinate to the Educational Committee under the Holy Synod
Orthodox St. Tikhon Theological Institute
Tsaritsin Orthodox University Named after St. Sergy of Radonezh

Orthodox Theological Education in Russia

All over the world Christianity experiences a serious crisis. Perhaps it would be more proper to say that the crisis goes on and develops from those problems and attitudes that we have inherited from previous generations. Nature of this crisis is essentially the same everywhere although it has its own image, its peculiarities and - often - tragic circumstances in every country and in every Church.

Problems of theological education in Russia have peculiarities resulting from a lengthy, historically unprecedented genocide endured by the Russian people along with other peoples of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Spiritual consecution and - for a larger degree - culture have been destroyed along with tens of million people. Attempts to form a "new man of Communist era" have made contemporary people think in categories different than those of their ancestors; the people have lost common language with preceding generations. They were estranged and alienated from the century-old Russian culture and a unique spiritual heritage of Russia.

It is natural that contemporary man who opens for himself spiritual treasure of Russian history is unable to fully comprehend it, understand its nature and evaluate it properly. This requires a feat and, unless man is ready for it, may lead to a further repudiation, a still greater alienation of spiritual life and tragic degradation of personality that rejects its spiritual life and chooses bread, peas and stew (Gen. 25:34).

Another unfavorable variation in comprehension of opening spiritual possibilities resembles a colonizer to promptly utilize the treasure found disregarding culture and experience of aboriginals. Such psychology makes a fertile soil for various sectarian and fundamentalist teachings, occultism, witchcraft, and magic. At the moment everyone understands that the Church is the only body in Russia that has survived the tragedy of the XX century. And people turn to it more and more often despite that the Church has also lost a lot of its both material and spiritual treasures. How can the Church respond to this? Sunday schools, Orthodox kindergartens, Orthodox gymnasia, diosesan schools and - finally - Orthodox institutes providing a higher education form the field of our educational activity in Russia. Two routes may be isolated in the process.

The first stems from the initiative "from above" from bishops' wish to arrange diosesan religious schools and - if possible - seminaries. Diosesan schools and seminaries are monitored by their bishops and the Educational Committee under the Holy Synod, receive a financial support from the Church, and purposefully train personnel for the Church clergy, candidates for holy orders, choir singers and readers. Two Theological Academies - in Moscow and St.-Petersburg - and three Theological Seminaries - in Moscow, St.-Petersburg, and Odessa - that have survived the Khrustchev's persecution period are the leading educational institutions that set the route for new and continuously arising theological educational institutions. Noteworthy among them are Tobolsk Theological Seminary, Stavropol Theological Seminary, Smolensk Theological Seminary, Theological School in Kostroma, Kiev and Minsk Theological Seminaries.

The second route stems from the initiative "from below", in Church communities, brotherhoods, and sisterhoods. Here Orthodox kindergartens, gymnasia, Sunday schools, courses and even institutes are organized. They are mainly registered with and monitored by the Department for Religious Education and Catechization of the Holy Synod but have no Church financing on the higher than parish level. Of Orthodox higher educational institutions of the second type, one may name the Orthodox St. Tikhon Theological Institute, Russian Orthodox University of St. Apostle John, Volgograd (Tsaritsin) Orthodox University, Moscow Orthodox Higher School of St. Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Theological Department in Minsk and a number of other undertakings.

Whereas the first route tends to be more traditional in forms and curricula, the second is more unconfined and free to experiment. Of course, this division into two routes is a matter of convention; while institutions of the second type, at their inception, caused some mistrust and suspicion with the Higher Church Authorities, the time gives a prompt approbation to all undertakings which are gradually adopted or rejected by the Church. Bishops seek support in energy of Church communities, while the initiative of parishes requires bishop blessing and support.

Common for all theological educational institutions are problems of teaching personnel, manuals, significant financial hardships and the lack of necessary space. As to curricula, programs and manuals, they are in the phase of intensive research and development, since traditional educational literature is mainly obsolete and has little to offer today. In this respect, it is essential for us to organize higher theological education that would provide Orthodox and then State institutions with required Orthodox teachers and specialists as well as the main educational material. 


Archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov
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Theological Schools subordinate to the Educational Committee under the Holy Synod

Subordinate to the Educational Committee under the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church are Theological Academies, Seminaries and Schools, and pastors' courses, in other words, theological schools aimed at teaching clergymen and priests.

Up to the late Eighties, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) had only 2 Academies and 3 Seminaries. Graduates of these educational institutions were in extreme demand even to fill vacancies in the then existing parishes (about 7,000) the number of which was very far from meeting the needs of the Church.

Since that time, following the Local Council of 1988 and especially in the Nineties, with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, the network of theological schools was significantly extended, their number increased manifold. At the moment, the ROC has 4 Theological Academies. From 1988 to 1996, the number of seminaries increased from 3 to 20. This is over one third of the number of seminaries existing before the revolution. In 1996, a Belgorod Seminary of missionary orientation opened. In the same years (from 1988 to 1996), 24 theological schools and 5 pastors' courses opened. As a rule, in theological schools the term of education is 2 years; on pastors' courses, which are considered as temporary schools to be consequently transformed into theological schools, education term lasts 1 year.

Moscow and St.-Petersburg Academies and a number of seminaries and theological schools have precentor schools, departments, or classes aimed at training precentors and church choristers. Moscow Academy as well as Kursk, Tobolsk, and Tomsk seminaries have icon-painting schools that train icon painters and restorers.

Under several theological schools there are extramural sectors or departments. The total number of students in all ROC stationary theological schools with correspondence and external students is about 6000. Lecturing in theological schools are above 800 professors, readers, and teachers.

Moscow and St.-Petersburg Academies with their most qualified professorship, still remain the leading ROC theological schools. These schools feature the best scientific theological libraries. Reputation of the schools attracts the best prepared applicants.

At the moment, the Holy Synod formed a work group to develop a new concept of theological education; essential provisions of the concept were formulated at the Bishop Council of 1994. Under resolutions of the Bishop Council, seminaries are to become higher schools by the year of 2000, whereas academies should be aimed at training specialists in individual branches of theology and other Church sciences to be taught at a proper level in theological schools.

Besides a manifold increase of the number of theological schools, printing of manuals on a number of subjects for academies, seminaries and theological schools has become a major breakthrough in the field of improvement of theological education. In the process of preparation to print, quality of manuals has been significantly improved. Methods of teaching in theological schools is being improved; new forms of education are introduced.

Despite significant success, the system of theological education exists and develops under hard conditions. The most serious difficulties today are not in the field of Church-State relation as it was before, they are of financial and personnel nature. The lack of qualified teachers makes ruling bishops invite persons with no higher theological education as teachers in theological schools.

On the one hand, financial difficulties place restrictions on extension of the theological school network and increase of the number of applicants adopted, while on the other hand make the majority of theological school teachers work free. With that, they have other church obedience, sometimes in parishes located hundreds kilometers from the theological school where the priest teaches part-time.

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Orthodox St. Tikhon Theological Institute

Orthodox St. Tikhon Theological Institute was officially constituted by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II in March, 1992, and registered with the Ministry of Justice as a religious association. The Institute was granted State license in May, 1993. In 1994, first 36 students graduated from the Institute.

The Institute is a confessional educational institution and trains personnel required for the Church: candidates to clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, specialists in the field of theology and history of Church, teachers of the Word of God and other Church disciplines, missionaries, cathechizers, lecturers, specialists in the field of Russian language and literature, history, foreign languages, teachers of Orthodox gymnasia and secondary schools, specialists in translation of holy heritage and works of church authors of the Christian Orient, specialists in the field of Christian art, icon painting, mosaics, murals, restoration, church embroidery, museum science, science of architecture, precentors, choristers, and teachers of church singing schools.

In the Institute, students study at 6 faculties: Theological and Pastors', Church Art, Church Singing, Missionary and Cathechizers', Pedagogical, Historical and Philological. Students study at day-time, night-time departments and by correspondence. There is an external department for teachers and a preparative department (for all faculties).

By blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and as a response to requests of diocese bishops, Institute branches in Kemerovo, Ekaterinburg, Arkhangelsk, Yoshkar-Ola, Ufa, Vilnyus, and Naberezhnye Chelny have been organized. Besides, an Orthodox Educational and Methodical Center for Theological Education of Servicemen operates under the Institute.

At the moment, 2,016 students receive their education in the Institute; of them 1,036 at the day-time department, 659 by correspondence, and 321, in branches. The Institute has students from Moscow and Moscow Region and from 78 dioceses, including 6 dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, from the Estonian Autonomous Orthodox Church, from Vilno diocese; 2 students from Sweden, 1 student from Berlin diocese, and 1 student from Jerusalem Patriarchate.

In the period of 1992-1996, 207 students graduated from the Institute receiving the title of Bachelor. Graduates of the Institute work in Synodal and other organization of the Russian Orthodox Church, in classic gynmnasia and schools, in Sunday schools and other educational institutions, in monasteries and parish churches. Of day-time department students and graduates, 25 were consecrated priests, 13, deacons.

Two hundred and sixteen teachers and 88 employees work at the Institute. Among teachers there are 23 priests and 1 deacon. Seven teachers hold degree of Doctor of Sciences, 45, Candidate of Sciences. Among teachers, there are 10 Moscow Theological Academy and 69 Moscow State University graduates. Thirty five teachers who graduated from the Institute work within its walls, the Institute trains teachers for itself.

Classes are mainly held in the building of the which provides the Institute with its space free of charge and in the Institute building in Novokuznetskaya street. The First City Hospital, the Brotherhood in the Name of Savior the Merciful, the Resurrection Church in Kadashy and several other Church and state organizations also render their assistance to the Institute in organizing of the educational process.

The Institute has 4 icon-painting workshops, 3 mosaics workshops, 1 frescoes workshop, 5 church embroidery workshops, and 3 icon restoration workshops. The educational process involves students' practical vocational training. Students of restoration undergo practical training in the field - in the towns of Yaroslavl, Rostov, and Tutayev. Students of the historical department underwent archeological practical studies twice. Students of the pedagogical department undergo practical studies in over 30 parish Sunday schools of Moscow and Moscow Region as well as in asylums, gymnasia, youth palaces, in the children rehabilitation center.

The Institute actively carries out educational and methodical work along various lines. To carry out scientific work, the Institute has received financial support from several Funds: the Russian Fund for Fundamental Research, the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund, and others. In 1996, programs of 5 grants were completed and another 7 grants received. Between the end of January and the beginning of February the Institute annually holds a Theological Conference where prominent theologians from Russia, France, Germany, Poland, Norway, USA, and Georgia are invited to attend. The Conference has become a major Church event revealing and mobilizing creative and scientific potential of theological educational institutions and Church intelligentsia.

The Institute took part in a number of conferences and seminars held in various Russian cities. Representatives of the Institute regularly attend and address Russian and international conferences. Institute teachers published numerous papers in various scientific readers and journals; several books were published. The Institute has its publishing house. Sixteen books and brochures were published in 1995-1996.

The Institute actively exchanges experience with foreign educational institutions, among them Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, St. Vladimir Theological Academy, St. German Theological Seminary, St. Tikhon Theological Seminary in America and Canada, universities in USA and Great Britain.

The Institute maintains contacts with a number of foreign public and charitable organizations: the World Council of Churches (within the Round Table "Education for Change and Diaconia"), the Faith in the Second World (Switzerland), the Orthodox Book for Russia (USA), the Society to Disseminate Christian Knowledge (USA), the Bernardo Clesio Institute (Italy), Orthodox Youth Movement SYNDESMOS (France), the Paraklito Monastery (Greece), German charitable organizations "Diakonisches Werk" (Berlin) and "Partnerschaftsaktion Ost" (Magdeburg).

Last year the Institute hosted 47 foreign delegations and private persons from abroad. There was a number of visits related to scientific and educational cooperation. Several visits were devoted to cooperation in the field of diaconia. On the whole, the Institute was visited by 144 guests from USA, Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, and Slovenia. Three foreign guests from Norway, USA, and Slovenia underwent practical training in the Institute. In turn, 4 students of the Institute undergo practical training abroad.

The Institute gives much attention to missionary work. In August 1996, an Institute group headed by archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov, Institute Rector, carried out missionary expedition in Yakutia in response to request of His Excellency German, Bishop of Yakutsk and Lensk. Activity of the group covered an extensive area: rivers Vilyui, Aldan and Kolyma. Priests of the group served Holy Liturgy, baptized local population. About 1,500 people received the Sacrament of Baptism. In many locations, Holy Liturgy was served for the first time in history. The missionary expedition contributed to spiritual awakening of the local population, to establishment of auspicious relations between local administration and formed Orthodox communities.

Today an important work is being done in the form of radio and TV broadcasts regularly carried out by Institute lecturers. Series of talks on the radio are given by archpriest Valentin Asmus, archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, archpriest Arkady Shatov, archpriest Alexandr Saltykov, archpriest Vladislav Sveshnikov, priest Artemy Vladimirov, priest Alexy Emelyanov. The "Radonezh" radio has a weekly Theological Institute program; recently a similar program started on the "Meditsina dlya vas" ("Medicine for You") radio station.

Telephone for contacts: (095) 233-22-89

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Tsaritsin Orthodox University Named after St. Sergy of Radonezh

Tsaritsin Orthodox University (in the city of Volgograd) was constituted in November, 1992, by blessing of His Holiness Alexy II Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and bears the name of St. Sergy of Radonezh. Students started their classes in September, 1993. Today 270 students of day-time department and over 200 students of night-time department and by correspondence study at the University. There are 48 employees and teachers on the staff. German, Archbishop of Volgograd and Kamyshin, is Rector of the University.

The Orthodox University has status of a non-state educational institution. Arrangement of educational activities, main documentation, employees' and teachers' salary are similar to those in state higher educational institutions. The education is free; students making normal progress receive allowances like in state higher educational institutions.

Aims and Goals of the University

The following provisions determine the essence of foundation of the Orthodox University:
  1. Without revival of normal ethics of man, Russia is unable to overcome current multilateral crisis. Man's ethics cannot be revived without awakening his conscience, and majority of people acquire conscience in the faith in God.
  2. The most proper way to restore ethics of the people is to acquire Orthodox faith and strengthen Orthodox way of life. Today the number of active Orthodox in the society is too small.
  3. For the Church alone, weakened by 70 years of devastation, the task of spiritual and moral recuperation of the people is complicated. To resolve the task, creatively thinking, active people in all social spheres are required.
  4. Under current conditions, restoration of effective spiritual and ethical education and Orthodox way of life is difficult to bring about without scientific research and methodological developments.
The main aim of the University is to render assistance to Motherland in speeding up revival of people's faith in God and Orthodox way of life. To attain the major goal, the University is resolving the following tasks:
  • gathering Orthodox intelligentsia of Volgograd and its region in order to unite efforts in the cause of spiritual and moral normalization of the society;
  • upbringing and preparation of Orthodox intelligentsia through day-time, night-time, and by correspondence education (the University provides education in disciplines omitted in state educational institutions);
  • spiritual enlightening and bringing active, creatively thinking employees and managers in all social spheres to the cause of spiritual and moral normalization of the society;
  • organization and arrangement of scientific research and methodical developments in spiritual and moral education of the population and creation of normal environment for man's spirit and conscience.
In the time after 1917, there was a discontinuity, a gap between the Church and the state. Therefore, one of the main goals of the University is to become a bridge to connect the Church with the state and the society.

University Subdivisions and Activity Lines

The following structure and activity lines of the Orthodox University established as early as in the first two years of its existence have virtually remained unchanged during the next two years (it was only on the third year that a Department of church singing was founded).

Theological Department trains theologians and clergymen. Under the Department, there is a 1-year Ecclesiastical School that teaches fundamentals of Orthodox dogmata and, at the same time, serves as a preparatory department for the Theological Department. Education at the Theological Department with no preparatory studies lasts for 4 years. The Theological Department also has Children's Sunday School and Courses of Catechization for Adults.

Environmental Department trains experts in system environmental protection and preservation of nature on the scientific and Orthodox spiritual and moral basis. Education term is 4 years. About a half of students are trained specially, under agreement with environmental protection stations and other organizations.

Higher Courses of Catechization and Church Pedagogic trains clergymen, catechizers, and teachers of the Word of God. Education term is 3 years. The Courses also operate as a night-time and extramural institution, with education term of 4 years. The Department has a night-time Catechumens School to teach Orthodox faith to adults, and a Children's Sunday School.

Department of Church Singing trains precentors and people chorus conductors. Education term is 4 years. It is intended to obtain state license for training in qualification of chorus conductor. A Children's School of Church Singing operates under the Department.

Research Department for Favorable Systems Development. The Department carries out scientific and educational work along with the Volgograd State Technological University in development and application of approaches and methods of creating various favorable social technological systems on scientific and Orthodox spiritual and ethical basis. Favorable systems are understood as those the most useful and harmless for man's body, psyche and spirit, and the environment. Under the Research Department there is a Computer Center equipped with up-to-date computer technology.

Fundamental Library of Orthodox and spiritual literature. Serves employees of the University and people of Volgograd region. Publishing Department publishes "University Works" , a "Pravoslavnoye Delo" ("Orthodox Cause") newspaper, brochures and calendars for Orthodox enlightening of people aspiring the Faith and strengthening in Orthodox way of life.

Summer-Time Orthodox Settlements. The University organizes work of two Orthodox settlements - for children and students - in summer-time.

Management Group of the Volgograd Division of the World Wide Russian People Council. The main purpose of the Group is to fulfill purpose-oriented program "Spiritual and Ethical Education of People of Volgograd Region" through efforts of University students and employees, and active Orthodox intelligentsia of Volgograd and the region.

University Relations with Society and State Structures

The University has and extends unilateral relations with society, the Church, and state institutions. I would like to name and thank our benefactors without whom the University could not come into being and sustain its existence.

First of all, these are constitutiors of the University - the Volgograd Diocese and the "UNIVESTCOR" company. They provided both the main material base and a significant financial assistance to the University. The Volgograd State Technological University gave shelter to the majority of indigent students in its dormitory, provided required rooms and laboratory equipment. The Round Table "Education for Change and Diaconia" assisted in acquiring publishing equipment, computer technology, and a significant part of the Fundamental Library. Administration of Volgograd Region and the regional Duma supported development of the purpose-oriented program and provided budgetary financing.

A strong support was and is being rendered by many organizations and persons who - within their capabilities - give free help and pray for arrangement and strengthening of our University.

Unfortunately, today the University is largely disunited - its three educational facilities and three students' dormitories are in distanced locations. Therefore, acquiring of a separate building for education and accommodation of students is an acute concern and need of the University which restrain its further development and - the most important - strengthening of spiritual standing of the University and its students. We pray to God and appeal to authorities to eliminate this need. We also humbly ask you, dear reader of this essay, to pray for strengthening and arrangement of the Tsaritsin Orthodox University, for health of its teachers and students.

University First Prorector
Professor A.I.Polovinkin
Telephone for contacts: (8442) 44-91-86

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