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    ZVENIGOROD, MOSCOW REGION, JANUARY 7, 2004, /RIA-NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT NATALIA GORBUNOVA/ -- President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation visited a children's home at a local monastery here today. Zvenigorod is a city 46 km from Moscow. Meanwhile the afore-said monastery, which was founded in the late 14-th century, is among Russia's oldest.

    Talking to children and local monks, the Russian head of state stressed that Orthodoxy was part and parcel of Russian culture. One should not discern between culture and the church, Putin told those present.

    Surely enough, the church is separated from the state in Russia; however, the people consider them to be one single whole, Putin stressed.

    Putin made this statement, while discussing the issue of relations between the monastery and an architectural-and-art museum on its territory (that was raised during the meeting). The President was informed that plans were in place to site the museum inside a special building some time later. The monastery was shut down by Soviet authorities in 1917 and reopened 80 years later, that is, in 1997. The Russian Orthodox Church hasn't yet established full control over the monastery's buildings, which were nationalized during the Soviet period.

    We should not improve one particular sphere, while damaging some other, the Russian leader noted, advocating a cautious and painstaking approach; moreover, no artificial barriers should be created in relations between religion and culture, Putin said in conclusion.

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