Putin chooses religious studies scholar to head education ministry


RIA Novosti, 19 August 2016


Dialogue between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) will acquire a "more rational" character with the appointment of Olga Vasilieva to the office of Minister of Education and Science of the RF, RIA Novosti was told on Friday by Alexander Shchipkov, the vice-chairman of the synod's Department for Relations of Church and Society and News Media of the Moscow patriarchate and political scientist and sociologist of religion.


Earlier Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with the suggestion of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to appoint Olga Vasilieva, an official of the presidential administration, the new head of the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF.


From 1991 to 2002 Vasilieva worked in the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where she was the director of the Center for the History of Religion and the Church. From 2002 she was the head of the Department of State-Confessional Relations of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service under the president of the RF. In recent years she occupied the office of deputy chief of the Administration for Public Projects of the Russian presidential administration. The area of her academic interests: history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century; state-church relations in the soviet period; religion and politics; international relations; the church and foreign policy; and problems of religious political extremism.


"The problem of Russian bureaucracy, when it acts in cooperation with the Orthodox church, is not that it treats the church badly, although unfortunately that sometimes happens, but that, as a rule, Russian bureaucracy, even when it wishes to cooperate somehow normally, cannot cooperate by virtue of the fact that it badly imagines what the church is and it does not understand the nature of the church and the nature of religiosity and so forth. Because of this, mutual misunderstanding arises and there often arises a situation that the Orthodox people in the person of the church speaks one language and the bureaucracy speaks a completely different one, and a stalemated situation simply arises," Shchipkov said.


He said that Olga Vasilieva "understands all of this and knows and feels all this splendidly." "Although of course in the sphere of her responsibility there will by no means be only problems connected with religious education and cooperation with the church, and the circle will be wide, large, and complex and this also must be understood," the news agency's interlocutor added.


"The fact that dialogue will be easier and more productive, of that I have no doubt, and considering the professional skills and personal qualities of Olga Yurievna and the fact that His Holiness the patriarch has known her personally more than a decadeā€”it seems to me that some more constructive changes in our mutual relations and dialogue await us," Shchipkov said. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 August 2016)



Interfax-Religiia, 19 August 2016


The head of the synod's Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Ilarion, noted the contribution of the newly named minister of education of the RF, Olga Vasilieva, to the development of pioneering scholarship and training of cadres, including for the church.


"For the Russian Orthodox Church, your works have enormous significance in the area of the study of the history of the church in the period of persecutions. You created a whole academic school of church scholars, among whom are dozens of leading specialists in the area of the history of the church and religious studies and many clergy who now occupy responsible positions in ecclesiastical academic institutions," the metropolitan's congratulations of O. Vasilieva say, which were turned over Friday evening to Interfax-Religiia.


The head of the synodal department notes that archival research by O. Vasilieva and her new concepts and academic works have become the basis for ground-breaking studies in church history, and the department of state-church relations of the RANGKhiGS, which she has headed since 2003, has prepared dozens of kandidats and doctors of science who are successfully developing church scholarship today.


The hierarch pointed to the fact that O. Vasilieva has cooperated many years with the church-wide post-graduate and doctoral program of which Metropolitan Ilarion is the rector. "One of the fruits of such cooperation has been the creation of a United Dissertation Council for the academic specialty of theology, of which you are the vice-chairman," the church's representative notes.


In conclusion he expresses confidence that O. Vasilieva's labors in the new office will produce many fruits and serve the active development of domestic scholarship and education and church-state cooperation in this area, and he wishes the minister God's help. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 August 2016)

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