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Southern Russian Hospitals To Display Orthodox Icons

ASTRAKHAN, Russia -- Two large maternity hospitals in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan will soon display Russian Orthodox icons of the Virgin Mary, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

The icons are to be unveiled in a ceremony scheduled for June 29.

In addition, all patients in maternity hospitals and prenatal clinics in Astrakhan will be given small versions of the icon for free.

The initiative was organized by the Russian Orthodox Church and has provoked controversy, since 20 percent of the population of Astrakhan is Muslim, mainly ethnic Kazakhs and Tatars.