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Russia's Orthodox Church Reintegrates Youth Through Parkour

A parkour enthusiast jumps from the roof of an eight-story building to the roof of a five-story building in St. Petersburg.
A parkour enthusiast jumps from the roof of an eight-story building to the roof of a five-story building in St. Petersburg.
Airbrushing Patriarch Kirill’s extravagant watch, banning Zombie parades, calling for punishment of the Pussy Riot members for their “performance” in Moscow's Orthodox cathedral, and passing a law banning “homosexual propaganda” in St. Petersburg are just a few examples of the stories which over the past year have made their rounds in the international press and framed the image of Russia’s Orthodox Church.

While criticism for meddling in state affairs and extending its influence on the country’s civil institutions is nothing new, the BBC now reports that the church has been providing a valuable public service: teaching troubled teenagers the popular yet risky urban sport of parkour, where runners jump, climb, and run using the city’s urban landscape as their main prop. The sport is originally based on the military training called “parcours du combattant,” an obstacle training course.

A center for teenagers on probation, St. Basil The Great Adaptation Center in St. Petersburg, has partnered with ParkourCity, to weed kids off the streets and reintegrate them into society.

For the past three years, celebrity parkour artist Evgeny Krynin has been providing training for teenagers who have struggled with alcohol and drugs.

Although parkour first gained fame in the 1990s in France, Krynin argues that the sport's idelogy is best understood in the Russian context.

"It suits our national psyche. Our appetite for risk and love of speed. I guess we're crazy," he tells the BBC.

The sport is not without risks, especially when practitioners of parkour, called “traceurs," try to carry out dangerous stunts such as jumping from one building roof to another. Five months ago, a 24-year-old woman died after attempting a similar jump from the roof of a building in St. Petersburg.

Parkour has additionally gained popularity in action films, most notably in Luc Besson’s 2004 film “District B13” and in James Bond’s 2006 installment “Casino Royale.”

-- Deana Kjuka

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