Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


The Nuclear Option – Seminar on Religious Freedom & Business at Russia’s Nuclear University

3 May, 2014

Strikhanov and Grim, Moscow


As the conflict on the border of Russia and Ukraine dominates world headlines, scholars from both countries made their way to the Russia’s National Research Nuclear University MEPhI in Moscow for an unprecedented event – an international seminar on religious demography, religious freedom and business.

Behind the gates of the high security institution lie innovations in religion and public life that made news before the April 30 seminar. Within the nuclear science university, its head, Rector Mikhail Strikhanov (pictured above), established a department of theology. By his account, the department helps provide ethical and spiritual input for the future top scientists of the nation so that nuclear science develops for the good of humanity. Some, however, argued that religion had no place in the halls of science.

MEPhI has just launched a Theology Department, opened a chapel for students, and encouraged application of theology and ethics to professional and scientific life.

The department is chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church and, by some accounts, the number two figure in the Church. Staff in the department include physicists who, after graduating from the university, became priests and monks in the church.

Within this unique context, Dr. Brian Grim, a quantitative social scientist and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, led a seminar hosted personally by the Nuclear University’s rector. This full-day seminar was the culmination of a series of lectures on religious freedom’s relationship to social and economic outcomes at Moscow’s two leading institutions – Higher School of Economics.

These lectures and seminars are part of the Society, Religion, and Science Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the Postgraduate School of the Russian Orthodox Church  and the University of St. Thomas. They are organized by Rev. Vladimir Shmaliy, Dr. Iryna Khromets, and Dr. Dmitry Uzlaner. The lecture series brings prominent international scholars to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev.

Grim is not a newcomer to the region. He previously directed economic development projects in Soviet Central Asia during the final years of the USSR, and more recently lectured in the first international demographic conference hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. He is also a contributor to the forthcoming Russian Encyclopedia of World Religion.

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