MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Russian revelers can now swap vodka and dancing for tea and reading at new "spiritual nightclubs" being set up by Orthodox Church, media said on Monday quoting a top religious official. In the latest suggestion by the increasingly powerful Church, youths will be able to "have the opportunity for serious dialogue, reading, unhurried conversation so they can have a cup of tea," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.
"A nightclub does not have to be a place where debauchery, boozing and drug addiction reign," said Chaplin, who added that the Church-inspired clubs will stay open till 5 a.m. like most of Russia's drinking holes.
Endorsed by Russia's leaders as the country's main faith, the Orthodox Church has grown increasingly powerful since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union in 1991.
Its efforts to influence education and secular life have drawn criticism from rights groups and members of minority faiths. Russia's 20 million Muslims make up a seventh of the country's population.
Chaplin outraged feminists earlier this year when he said women should dress more modestly and refrain from walking down the street "painted like a clown."
The Church has also waded into the country's abortion debate, calling for tougher rules to reduce the number of the procedures carried out in Russia. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato)