No love for Valentine's Day there

MOSCOW Tue Feb 8, 2011 12:46pm EST

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Not everybody in Russia is in love with Valentine's Day.

Authorities in Belgorod province are urging schools and other state institutions to refrain from celebrations marking the heart-shaped holiday, seen by some conservative Russians as a unhealthy foreign phenomenon.

The initiative is part of a recent directive on "measures to provide for spiritual security," which calls on officials to ban Valentine's Day and Halloween celebrations in educational and cultural centers in the province, Russian media reported.

"The very atmosphere of these holidays does not foster the formation of spiritual and moral values in youth, and holding them primarily benefits commercial organizations," RIA quoted provincial government consultant Grigory Bolotnikov as saying.

The directive was signed by the Belgorod governor's top deputy and "blessed" by the province's Russian Orthodox bishop, the state-run news agency said.

Many nightclubs and other businesses in the province 600 km (380 miles) south of Moscow, have also been urged not to plan any special events for the February 14 holiday, according to RIA.

The dominant Russian Orthodox Church has grown increasingly powerful since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union in 1991 and enjoys close ties with the Kremlin leadership.

Its efforts to influence education and secular life have drawn criticism from rights groups and members of minority faiths.

Western-style holidays such as Valentine's Day and Halloween have also gained popularity since the Soviet collapse opened up Russia to the world.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly; editing by Steve Gutterman and Paul Casciato)

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