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After initial hesitation, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for President Vladimir Putin's proposal to resurrect the musical setting of the communist Soviet national anthem.

President Putin is pushing ahead with the proposal, which is about to be discussed by the Duma in Moscow, despite stiff opposition from liberal politicians and intellectuals. Putin's plan has caused astonishment in Western capitals.

The president wants Russia to have a range of national emblems combining both tsarist and Soviet symbols, including the tricolor pre-revolutionary flag, the tsarist double-headed eagle and the music of the Soviet national anthem by Soviet composer, Alexander Alexandrov, for which new lyrics are to be written. Putin believes this mix will ensure a sense of continuity with the many strands of Russia's past.

"I think that the president has made a very worthy decision," the spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, told Interfax news agency this week. "It is very important that all the symbols of the country are viewed in a combination: a pre-revolutionary flag and coat of arms, which show the continuity with the pre-revolutionary period of our history, and at the same time Alexandrov's music, which shows continuity with the Soviet era, in which, of course, there were terrible tragedies, but there were also a lot of good things. Thus the continuity of all Russian history is restored and demonstrated."

During a heated public debate about the anthem, several Russian media outlets reported, without citing any sources, that the church's head, Patriarch Alexei II, opposed the return of the Soviet anthem. But Chaplin stressed this week that the patriarch had never publicly ...

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