Russia's War on Halloween

MOSCOW - While many in the U.S. bemoan what they see as a war on Christmas, in Russia a very different holiday is under attack: Halloween. Here some don't see it as the holiday of tricks and treats, but as a sinister celebration that endangers children.

The latest salvo came from a group of Russian Orthodox Church leaders and a group of Cossacks, who are spearheading an effort to cancel Halloween celebrations in the region of Stavropol Krai, in southern Russia. A nearby region, Krasnodar Krai, recently prohibited celebrating the holiday in schools.

But why are the church and the Cossacks, the feared horseback defenders of the tsars, spooked by Halloween?

"I consider it absolutely unacceptable for certain reasons. Halloween celebrations have been imposed on us for 20 years, and we are perfectly aware of how it all looks: revelry, baboonish behavior and scoffing at death, and thus at the memory of our deceased loved ones, whom all of us certainly have" said Andrei Sakhno, a youth leader at the local diocese in Stavropol Krai, according to RIA Novosti.

The head of Stavropol city's Cossack community agreed, saying "I believe this holiday must be banned."

RIA Novosti also quotes the regional education ministry saying Halloween "contradicted the principle of secular education and could have a destructive impact on young people's morals and mental health."

The justification in Krasnodar Krai is similar. The Education Ministry there quoted unnamed psychiatrists saying the holiday "poses a great danger to children" and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.

Like Valentine's Day, which has also been criticized as it has grown in popularity here in recent years, Halloween is a western holiday that was imported after the fall of the Soviet Union. While some Russians have embraced them, others fear them as foreign to the country's culture.

In 2003, Moscow's Education Department banned Halloween celebrations from the city's schools, citing concerns about "rituals of Satanically oriented religious sects" and saying it promotes "the cult of death."