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    MOSCOW, JANUARY 7, 2004, /RIA-NOVOSTI NATALIA GORBUNOVA/ -- President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation is to leave for the city of Zvenigorod near Moscow today, visiting a children's home at a local monastery there.

    The Russian head of state, who traditionally visits Orthodox Christian shrines every Christmas Day, travelled to the ancient Russian city of Suzdal 200 km from Moscow January 6, touring the local Spaso-Yevfimiyevy monastery and attending a Christmas service at an ancient city church.

    Putin is to visit a children's home at Zvenigorod's Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery, which was founded in November 2001. The orphanage accommodates 28 boys aged between six and sixteen; these children either come from underprivileged families or are orphans. The home, which facilitates their comprehensive development, has game rooms, sports facilities and a library, as well as hobby groups, which offer lessons in wood-cutting, clay molding and drawing. Moreover, the boys attend school in a nearby town, also studying at Zvenigorod's sports and music schools.

    Zvenigorod, which is located 46 km from Moscow, ranks among the most ancient Russian cities. This city was first mentioned by medieval chroniclers in the early 14-th century. Zvenigorod, which used to be a fortress guarding western approaches to Moscow, is now one of the Moscow region's municipal entities with a population of 14,700. Famous Russian author Anton Chekhov worked at the local hospital in the late 19-th century. Two white-stone cathedrals, which are the Moscow region's oldest, and which feature frescoes by ancient Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev, are located on the territory of the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery.

    This monastery was founded in 1398 by priest Savva Storozhevsky and subsequently named after him. This monastery eventually became one of Russia's most revered spiritual centers, with Russian tsars also praying there.

    The monastery's 15-16-th century unique architectural ensemble, which has remained almost intact to this day, is the most popular local sight. The monastery itself was shut down after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and reopened 80 years later.

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