education minister Vladimir Filippov is allowing schools to teach a religious education course devised by the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox culture course, to be included in the basic curriculum, will be the first non-secular RE course to be approved for use throughout Russia.
Church-based RE courses are taught in some schools, but Mr Filippov's approval of the 30-page course, written by senior Orthodox clergy, provides a national framework.
The clergy, who have clashed with education officials over the introduction of church-based studies, welcomed the move.
Kiprian Yashchenko, dean of teacher-training at a Moscow theological institute, and one of the authors of the new course, said the decision marked the education ministry's acceptance of a church role in RE.
Authors of the course say that although written from a church standpoint, it contains no instruction in ritual and is designed to be taught by ordinary teachers.
The education ministry suggests that the course be taught once a week at primary schools and twice a week at secondaries.
A ministry spokesman said the course had to be optional. "Russia is a multinational country with citizens of many different cultural and religious backgrounds. Russia has deep Orthodox roots, so this course is relevant to RE studies, but is only optional."