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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Center to Teach Family Values

Who is the boss around here? If Irina Korchagina has her way, it's an issue Russian families will stop arguing over.

A more humane family environment - including a reduction in domestic violence - is the goal of Korchagina and the Happy Family center she is setting up. A journalist who specializes in women's issues, she feels that, just as Russia has left totalitarian politics behind, its husbands and wives should stop dictating as well.

Although in Russia it's generally husbands who abuse wives more than the other way around, Korchagina chose an anecdote involving henpecked husbands to illustrate her point: Sociologists assemble 100 men on a square and ask those whose wives are heads of the households to leave. Only one man stays. Asked to explain, he shrugs and says, "I don't know anything. My wife brought me here and told me not to leave."

Family relations "have been a reflection of the authoritarian society we have lived in," said Korchagina, 45.

Korchagina, who has degrees in linguistics and psychology, started a women's paper, Delovaya Zhenshchina, or Business Woman, in 1990. She specializes in writing about women, which resulted in the 1997 book "Paradoxes of a Russian Woman's Soul." She currently writes a column for Materinstvo, or Motherhood magazine.

In December 1998, she was invited to a monthly roundtable meeting at the Labor Ministry for leaders of various social organizations. There she met Olga Zuskova of Fakel, or Torch, a society that helps the handicapped. Zuskova told Korchagina that Fakel had received a 270-square-meter room in the basement of an apartment building on Ulitsa Lesteva in southwest Moscow from the Russian Culture Fund for a social project. Korchagina shared her idea for a family center and Zuskova agreed.

"This will be the ideological headquarters spreading the new family values," Korchagina said.

The center will offer courses, seminars and lectures intended to teach people to respect each other's demands and freedom and not to dictate rules and compete for leadership in the family. That's a tall order in Russia, where a shortage of affordable housing means several generations often occupy the same crowded apartment.

Russia's chronic problems with wife-beating will be addressed through a course entitled, "No to Domestic Violence." It's designed to prevent any kind of violence - physical, moral or emotional - among the members of a family.

Then there will be a program for men, called, "Take Care of Men," aimed at increasing the disastrously low life expectancy of Russian males.

"Healthy Child" is a program concerned with social adaptation for children who have become the victims of a family conflict, such as divorce, or have gone through the illness or death of a parent.

"Preparing for Parenthood" will include working with young men and women, teaching them how to make sure that their pregnancy goes well.

The idea of the center has found some supporters. "This is a socially significant program," said Tamara Istomina, deputy chairman of the committee on family and youth affairs of the Moscow city government. The only and the biggest problem, Istomina thinks, is finding money. Fakel is going to pay the rent for the basement, and other supporters plan a charity ball in June to help.

Korchagina plans to finish repairs and open the first part of the center during the summer.

She remains optimistic about funding. "Lack of money can be the biggest excuse for not working on something," she said.

To help the Happy Family center, call 174-0018.