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Dozens of Russia MPs Form New "Religious" Lobby in Parliament - Paper
Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, in Russian 9 Jun 03

Several dozen members of the Russian parliament have come together to lobby the interests of the country's main religions, reports the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper. Among its principal aims, the new group is said to be interested in Russia's "moral improvement". Its members are hoping to push through restrictions on the broadcast of foreign films on Russian television. The following is excerpt from the article, which was published on 9 June. Subheadings have been inserted editorially.

(Passage omitted) Russia's principal religions now have their own parliamentary lobby. It was formed within the framework of an MDO (inter-faction deputy association) named "In Support of Traditional Spiritual and Moral Values". It includes several dozen deputies who represent all the Duma factions except Yabloko, which was not able to delegate one of its representatives because they do not have many deputies and they are all busy. A new "conciliation commission"

On Friday (6 June) an expanded session of the MDO was held in the Duma; it elected the MDO's council. Valeriy Galchenko, a representative of the People's Deputy faction, became coordinator of the MDO. Within the framework of the council the backbone of the religious lobby was formed - the so-called inter-religion conciliation commission, which included deputies representing the four principal religions of Russia. The Orthodox are represented by deputy Sergey Glazyev (KPRF) (Communist Party of the Russian Federation), the Muslims by Gadzhi Makhachev (People's Deputy), the Jews by Gasan Mirzoyev (Unity), and the Buddhists by Bato Semenov (OVR) (Fatherland-All Russia). As Oleg Yefimov, secretary of the MDO, said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, these candidates were recommended by the Inter-Religion Council of Russia (MSR), a consulting body that brings together the leaders of the traditional Russian religions. It was the instigator in forming the conciliation commission.

According to Roman Silantyev, secretary of the MSR, however, the formation of this commission does not yet mean that the deputies who join it will be the official exponents of the position of this or that particular religious organization. "The conciliation commission was formed in order to coordinate Duma contacts with the traditional religious organizations, thereby avoiding any 'tilt' in favour of some particular one. The Duma now has specific people who are responsible for contacts with each of these organizations," Silantyev explained in his Nezavisimaya Gazeta interview. As the MSR secretary claims, all the deputies elected to the conciliation commission have good relations with the different, frequently competing, religious organizations who represent this or that particular tradition. For example, the candidacy of Gadzhi Makhachev suits both Islamic spiritual leaders - Ravil Gaynutdin (chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia) and Talgat Tadzhuddin (chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Russia and CIS European Countries). Similarly, Jewish representative Gasan Mirzoyev is supported by the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities (KEROOR) and the Federation of Jewish Communes (FEOR).

Campaigning for "moral improvement"

Whatever the official status of the members of the conciliation commission may have, it is apparent that their primary task will be to lobby for the interests of the religious organization that they represent. Among other things, the deputies intend to get the Duma to pass amendments to the Russian Land Code that would permit religious organizations to receive free, unrestricted use of the plots of land where their religious buildings are located. The new deputy association will also lobby for the schools to introduce study of the "foundations of culture" of that religion that is widespread in the given region. Needless to say, the deputies also intend to labour in the field of moral improvement of the country. Among other things, they will try to get restrictions on the showing of foreign films on television. In the opinion of MDO members, these films promote violence and cruelty.

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