Русский | Russian Cultural Association "RESURRECTION", Oct 8, 2004 - Moscow.
A verbatim record of Vladimir Putin's meeting
with participants in the Bishops' Council
of the Russian Orthodox Church
English Translation by Nina Tkachuk Dimas

"YEVSTAFIY, bishop of Chita: Your Excellency, esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich. I would like to say a few words about the demographic problem. At the present time in Trans-Baikal area, the population is being reduced. And the external reasons by which we can judge this abnormal process is drunkenness. Unfortunately, the mass media helps in this situation as well as the distinguishing feature of our region -- we [share a] border with our neighbor from the south, which has always had definite, so to say, attitudes. And today the people are very afraid of this colonization which, unfortunately is taking place on our border.

The Chinese are very organized, hard working -- a people who love their native land, and today they are the most important competitor in all spheres of activity in which Trans-Baikal area organizations are engaged. Anywhere and everywhere the Chinese are doing the work Russians should be doing today, thus preventing them from earning a living.

The Church today sees the resolution to this problem in introducing spiritual-moral-patriotic education in schools. Today the Church has a certain experience which she uses widely but, unfortunately, this experience is not accepted everywhere, particularly by government officials. One has in mind the introduction to the curriculum of a such a subject as the foundations of Orthodox culture. Experience shows that, there are good and positive results from this subject, but all this good requires major efforts. The Church sees a way out in good Church-state collaboration. Only this condition will allow us to raise our people to a good and positive level.

V. PUTIN: Thank you. You called attention to a very important nationwide problem. <...> As to immigration, including immigration from China, then I must say, that Russia, as well as the overwhelming majority of the societies of practically all post-industrial countries are faced with demographic problems, even regardless of the level and standards of life, and almost all solve the problem through immigration. To tell the truth, it is necessary to recognize that, thus far, unfortunately, we do not have an effective immigration policy. Because those countries which solve their demographic problems this way carry out a sufficiently weighty, rigid, consequential immigration policy. They know where their immigrants come from, which areas they go to, what [work] they do, and so on, and so forth. We need to stop illegal immigration; it [immigration] should be well thought out and should benefit the state instead of creating problems of an inter-confessional and inter-ethnic character.

As for your pastoral activity, I have a question: have you attempted to convert the Chinese to Orthodoxy? This, too, is a possible sphere of activity for the Russian Orthodox Church -- it has always been international, and moreover, each person's spiritual state is important here. This is not a bad sphere of activity -- think about it.

YEVSTAFIY, bishop of Chita: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we have certain problems relating to this question. We are now in the fourth year, actually in the fifth year, that we cannot forward to China some church articles, where a church was constructed at state expense. Today this temple is without church articles, without an iconostasis, and the Chinese are turning to us with a request to consecrate the temple.

V. PUTIN: But, I didn't understand, what is the problem?

YEVSTAFIY, bishop of Chita: The problem is in forwarding the iconostasis which today is in the fourth year of being held at customs. The Chinese place all sorts of obstacles in our way. We know that they have made certain conditions, that without the consent of the Communist Party, they will not allow us to transport and install the iconostasis in this temple.

V. PUTIN: In the near future, I will make an official visit to the Chinese People's Republic, and there will be an opportunity to discuss this problem with friends, Chinese colleagues. We shall hope that this matter can be resolved.

YEVSTAFIY, bishop of Chita: Thank you."