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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Russian Christians celebrate Easter
By Steven Eke
BBC correspondent in Moscow

Easter worshippers in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow
Church attendance has increased dramatically in recent years
Services have been held in thousands of parishes across Russia to mark Orthodox Easter celebrations.

Many of the country's top politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, decided to attend religious festivals.

Opinion polls suggest the vast majority of Russians are marking Easter, reflecting the dramatic revival of religious belief in Russia over recent years.

Orthodox believers marked Easter in a variety of ways.

Many attended church services or watched them on television while others visited relatives' graves.
Patriarch Alexiy II
Put aside your everyday vanities, problems and grievances
Patriarch Alexiy II

In his Easter greeting, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexiy II, said he hoped the celebrations would help Russians put aside what he called "everyday vanities, problems and grievances".

President Putin praised the growing participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in culture, education and charity.

Referring to the unprecedented scale of Easter celebrations this year, Mr Putin described how a "revival of centuries-old Christian tradition" is under way in Russia.

Strong comeback

Opinion polls show that more than 80% of Russians are marking Easter, with more than half describing it as a "special and important day".

Some liberal politicians in Russia say the country is at risk of losing the separation between church and state and that the Russian Orthodox Church is intolerant of minority faiths.

Easter worshippers in Macedonia
Macedonians also marked the resurrection of Christ
But there is no denying the strength of the religious revival.

During the seven decades of Communist Party rule, Russia was officially an atheist country.

Now, only a small number of Russians say they have no belief in God.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Orthodox Christmas
07 Jan 03  |  Europe


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