Christian Confessions and Denominations in Post-Soviet States: By the Numbers.

Mark R. Elliott, Editor

The four issues of Volume 21 (2013) of the East-West Church and Ministry Report contain comparative statistical data for 2001 and 2010 for all Christian confessions and most denominations for the 15 independent states of the former Soviet Union and for 12 states in Central and Eastern Europe. The 2001/2010 table for each state provides the name of each church body and its total number of congregations, members, and affiliates (with the affiliates column including members plus adherents who do not hold formal church membership). The present issue carries tables for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Latvia.

Find below cautionary notes which, for various reasons, render published figures from Operation World as estimates and approximations.

  1. Operation World1. necessarily depends heavily upon self-reporting from church bodies, which have varying definitions for what constitutes a congregation and a member.
  2. Because of self-reporting and, in some cases, a lack of, or incomplete, self-reporting, anomalies sometimes occur in data that indicate 2. the need for further investigation. For example, reported totals for Georgian Orthodox membership and affiliates increased between 2001 and 2010, but the reported number for congregations declined.
  3. Churches have varying requirements for membership. For example, churches that practice adult baptism exclusively will have lower 3. membership and higher affiliate figures than otherwise, while churches that practice infant baptism and include children as members will have higher membership and lower affiliate figures than otherwise.
  4. Orthodox churches typically do not keep membership rolls. 4.
  5. An individual’s cultural and national identification with an historic, majority church does not necessarily translate into regular 5. worship or even Christian belief. This fact should be kept in mind when reading figures, for example, for Orthodox in Georgia, Catholics in Lithuania, or Lutherans in Latvia.
  6. Members and affiliates who do not hold church membership may have dramatically varying profiles of church attendance, from 6. frequent to nominal to nonexistent. In the latter cases, individuals may hold a cultural, national, or ethnic identification with a church without necessarily holding to Christian belief.


Editor’s note: Volume 21, Issues 1 (Winter 2013) and 2 (Spring 2013) include tables for the states of the former Soviet Union, and Issues 3 (Summer 2013) and 4 (Fall 2013) include tables for the states of Central and Eastern Europe. Sources, used with permission, are Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 6th ed. (Carlisle, England, and Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Publishing and Wec International, 2001) and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 7th ed., CD-ROM professional edition (Colorado Springs, CO: GMI, 2010). The 2010 CD-ROM includes HTML, PDF, and Excel formats, with the latter being utilized in this case.

A special word of thanks is in order for excellent work on this project by student assistant Caleb Conover, history major at Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky.