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La théologie dans l’enseignement supérieur

Article 87 of Law 273-FZ of 29 December 2012 on education in the Russian Federation also includes provisions regarding theology teaching in higher education organisations* and religious educational institutions (seminaries, etc.).

Higher education in Russia includes ’theology’ as a specialist subject with an official national curriculum adopted by order of the Ministry of Education on 2 March 2000. Through this specialism, it is possible to teach religious facts, history and doctrines without seeking to convert students to a religion or train them as religious ministers. The official national curriculum also offers university degrees in ’religious studies’ (religiovedenie) – (see section on ’Russia/Teaching and research’).
Teaching of Orthodox or Muslim doctrine as part of university courses in ’theology’ is considered to be secular in nature, while in the context of a seminar aimed at preparing future priests it is classified as religious education. The difference between ’secular theology’ and ’religious theology’ is highlighted by the difference between the two terms in Russian – the Greek-derived word theologia is used to refer to the university course of ’theology’ while the Russian equivalent bogoslovié (bog=theos, slovo=logos) is used to describe the course taught in seminaries. While these two words were previously regarded as synonyms, attempts are now being made to highlight the difference between them – one being secular and the other religious.
The results of theology teaching in public higher education organisations have been mixed. In Russia, theology has traditionally thrived in professional religious education institutions. Even under the Russian Empire, the subject was not taught in secular universities. At present, those who study ’theology’ at university do not have equivalent status to seminary students as they receive no religious training and are, therefore, unable to give religious services. Despite this, some secular experts specialising in religion perceive academic theology as disguised bogoslovié.
Under paragraphs 5 and 6 of Article 87 of the Russian Federation Education Act, professors delivering theology courses in universities must obtain a recommendation from the appropriate central religious organisation. These religious organisations are also involved in preparing courses and writing curricula and textbooks for academic theology as well as those relating to the ’foundations of religious cultures and secular ethics’.
In Russia, degrees from religious higher education institutions are not recognised as being equivalent to degrees issued by public higher education organisations. Degrees and ranks bestowed by religious universities are only valid for the relevant faith.
Federal Law 14-FZ of 28 February 2008 furthermore supplemented Article 19 of the law of 1997 on freedom of conscience and religious affiliations by stating that it is possible to teach secular disciplines within the scope of religious education curricula. Based on an official certification (’attestation’) from the Ministry of Education and Science, religious higher education institutions can acquire the right to also deliver higher education qualifications recognised by the state.
Consequently, seminarians can obtain two qualifications – one from a religious higher education (bogoslovié) institution, which is only valid within the Church and, at the same time as this ecclesiastical qualification, an academic qualification in history, philosophy, etc. provided of course that they have passed the two courses. In reality, seminaries and Orthodox academies generally opt to obtain official certification for the specialist subject of ’theology’ (academic) or ’religious studies’ as its content coincides with ecclesiastical courses on several points, thus avoiding doubling students’ workload.
Article 87 Paragraph 9 of the above law confirms the right of central religious authorities to introduce higher education curricula that are compliant with state education guidelines in religious education institutions.
Under paragraph 10 of this article, religious organisations retain internal control over the content of religious education curricula and training of religious ministers in religious education institutions.
According to official data, religious education organisations were split as follows on 1 April 2014 : 56 Russian Orthodox, 109 Muslim, and 27 Protestant.

* The title ‘higher education organisations’ now replaces the previous legal title of ’higher education institution’ as concerns the universities.

D 4 septembre 2014    AMikhaïl Chakhov

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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