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Russian Factory Abandons Condom Plans After Orthodox Protests

  • Tom Balmforth

The factory is due to start production in 2017.

The factory is due to start production in 2017.

MOSCOW -- A factory that hoped to manufacture condoms in a Russian village acclaimed for its Christian heritage will forgo the contraceptives production after protests by Orthodox activists, says its managing partner.

Pavel Spichakov told local media on December 16 that the factory, owned by Bergus, will stick to making adhesive bandages and diapers, placating religious conservatives who had categorically opposed condom production.

Dozens of protesters staged a rally in Bogolyubovo last month with banners and slogans like "Mother of God, save us from desecration" and "No condom manufacturing on a holy site."

The factory is due to start production in 2017.

The planned site -- about 180 kilometers northeast of Moscow in the Vladimir region -- is near a monastery in Bogolyubovo, whose name is a compound of the Russian words for "God" and "lovers."

Spichakov told local news site Gubernia33 that the protests generated so much publicity for the manufacturer that it was inundated with interest from big companies at a recent business expo.

"As a result, orders for 'Lelia' diapers, which we had on display, turned out to be many times higher than expected. So we made the decision to devote more manufacturing and storage space to diapers than was earlier planned. All the rest of the space in Bogolyubovo will be taken up by adhesive bandages. There is physically no more space for condoms."

"The activists exerted influence on moving production [to another location] by virtue of the fact that they made the factory well-known and provided it with big orders for diapers," he said. "I am only grateful to them for this."

The village carries the name of 12th-century Russian Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, who built the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, a landmark on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list.

Kirill Vasilyev, a local journalist, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that "many" of the more than a dozen people who were leading the protests against condom manufacturing "are not residents of the village of Bogolyubovo," including "many Muscovites."

The country's practicing Russian Orthodox population is thought to compose only around 15-20 percent of its 142 million or so people, although many more Russians are nonpracticing believers.

The Russian Orthodox Church permits its adherents to use condoms, while noting, however, that "the deliberate refusal to have children because of selfish urges devalues marriage and is undoubtedly a sin."

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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