Vol. 2, No. 1, Winter 1994, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe
is Alive and Well in Russia:
Some Notes on a Survey of Religion
University of Chicago researcher Fr. Andrew Greeley has done the
public a service by making available to a wider audience findings of a
scientific nationwide survey of religious belief in Russia. Since
data were collected in 1991 from 2,964 Russians before the final
collapse of communism, estimates on the extent of religious belief
probably should be considered conservative.
Fascinating findings include the following:
Several reservations about the report should be noted.
Almost half of those surveyed expressed belief in God, and almost half of believers said they previously were atheists.
Less than one percent gave an affiliation other than Russian Orthodox.
- 75 percent of respondents expressed a "great deal of confidence" in
the Orthodox Church and its leaders. (The laity apparently put
little stock in reports of the current Orthodox hierarchy's past
entanglements with the KGB and Communist Party watchdogs, or have
forgiven their leaders, or are largely unaware of the complicity.)
40 percent of Russians believe in miracles.
Approximately one third believe in heaven and hell.
75 percent believe antireligious books should be banned.
"The change from atheism to theism of about a fifth of all
Russians...is especially likely...among younger Russians....Some 30
percent of Russians under 25, 25 percent of those between 25 and 34,
and 20 percent of those between 35 and 44, report that they have
switched from atheism to theism."
"The pattern is somewhat different for the conversion to the Orthodox
Church. The change has been greater among those over 45, and in
that respect, builds on an already existing base of Orthodox
affiliations with the result that identification with Orthodoxy
correlates positively with age, from a high of almost half over 60 to a
low of a little more than a fifth for those under 25."
Author Andrew Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, and novelist.
It contains a surprisingly large number of typographical and
grammatical errors, perhaps reflecting hurried production of what is
admittedly titled a "First Draft."
The frequent contrasts drawn between former East Germany and Russia
require further explanation, including the impact of the newly
instituted church tax on those former East Germans declaring Lutheran
The report's frequent, politically correct references to God in the
feminine will undermine its reception in Russia where believers will
find the usage offensive, and nonbelievers will find it puzzling.
For the full 35-page analysis, contact the National Opinion
Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th St.,
Chicago, IL 60637; tel: 312-753-7500; fax: 312-753-7886.
NORC advises, "Decisions on mailing copies will be determined on
receipt of letters." The Russian Center for Public Opinion
Research (VCIOM), Moscow, under the direction of Dr. E. Petrenko,
administered the Russian language self-completion questionnaire in
1991. Findings are based on 2,964 Russian Republic respondents,
aged 16 and over. Two centers hold the raw data:
Zentralarchiv Fuer Empirische Sozialforsuchchung der Universitaet du
Koln -- ZA --, Bachemer Str. 40, 50931 Koln, Germany; tel:
49-221-47694-45; fax: 49-221-47694-44; and the University of
Michigan Consortium, Interuniversity Consortium for Political and
Social Research, Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106; tel:
313-764-2570; fax: 313-764-8041. For a helpful summary of
the Greeley report, see Michael Hirsley, "Religion in Favor with the
Russians," Chicago Tribune, 17 December 1993, 2/10.
Andrew Greeley, "Some Notes on a Survey of Religion," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 2 (Winter 1994), 4.
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© 1994 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
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