East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 1994, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe


What People Think About Religion

Current comparative data on religious attitudes in various countries of the former Soviet Union and East Central Europe are rare.  Roger Russell Research (RRR), in conjunction with indigenous research institutes, has performed a valuable service by conducting such survey research recently (1991-93) and in quite diverse settings (from the Czech Republic to Latvia to Tatarstan).  It is true that East Central European results from 1991 may not permit definitive comparisons with 1993 results from the former Soviet Union.  Nevertheless, a two-year differential does not seriously detract from the exceptional opportunity to make substantive comparisons among four nations of East Central Europe and four republics of the former Soviet Union concerning religious affiliation, frequency of religious observance, and knowledge of the Bible.

Principals in the project, in addition to the British-based RRR, were the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the Far East Broadcasting Company, Institut pro vyzkum verejneho mineni (Public Opinion Research Institute-Prague), Szonda Ipsos Media (Opinion and Market Research Company-Budapest), PENTOR Instytut Badania Opinii i Rynku (Public Opinion Research Institute-Warsaw) CESSI (Institute for Comparative Social Research-Moscow), the Institute of Sociology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences-Kiev, and Latvian Facts-Riga.
 

Comparative Survey Data on Religious Attitudes in Post-Soviet Societies
 
 
Czech
Republic
Slovakia Hungary Poland
European
Russia
Tatarstan Ukraine Latvia
Sample Size
1,950 961 1,000 995 1,456 228 1,000 1,000
Survey Date
3/91 3/91 3/91 7/91 2/93 2/93 1/93 2/93
Using a scale of 1 ("not at all favorably") to 10 ("extremely favorably"), how favorably do you rate the Church? 
Mean response
4.8 5.7 5.3 6.5 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.4
Tell me, other than for special events such as weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, funerals, and excluding recitals, how often do you attend services, liturgies, or prayers in a place of worship (church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc.)?1 Note: All replies in percent.
Never
42 22 38 2 46 56 31 25
Several Times a Year
8 11 13 17 15 11 16 7
Once a Week
6 21 7 46 1 1 3 4
Many people can say they are Christian, Orthodox, Baptist, Moslem, Buddhist, and so on. Please tell me how you would describe yourself.2 (*Less than 0.5%)
Russian Orthodox
        66 29 21 23
Ukrainian Orthodox
        * 0 38 1
Old Believer
        * 0 * 3
Other Orthodox
* 2 * * * 0 1 1
Lutheran/Slovak Evangelical
* 10 3 * 0 0 0 27
Evangelical Christian-Baptist
        * * 1 1
Pentecostal/Apostolic
0 0 * * * 0 * *
Czech Evangelical Brethren
3 *            
Reformed/Calvinist 
0 2 20       *  
Adventist
1 *            
Other Protestant 
1 1 * * * 0 * *
Czech Hussite
3 *            
Roman Catholic
42 60 64 96 0 0 1 17
Greek/Uniate/Old/Other Catholic
* 4 2   * 0 3 3
Moslem
0  0     5 40 * *
Atheist/No Religion
49 20 8 2 17 15 16 9
How favorably do you rate the Bible?
Unfavorable (1-3)
23 17 12 5 6 5 5 5
Favorable (7-10)
34 47 46 68 56 50 64 56
If you think of your own world view, in which group would you put yourself?
Religious
33 54 50 80 20 32 22 22
Marxist/Atheist
14 11 3 * 19 14 17 13
Tell me, do you believe in God? 
Yes
25 51 52 91 46 62 49 53
Tell me, do you believe in the existence of life after death?
Yes
16 36 22 61 21 33 27 29
Which ONE of these statements comes closest to your understanding about God? 
(* In Poland respondents were able to select all responses that they agreed with, whereas everywhere else they could choose only one option.)3
People can have a personal relationship with God 20 42 22 *60 15 12 16 16
I don't know whether God exists, but I would like to know 25 19 25 *26 n/a n/a n/a n/a
I don't know if he exists, but I would like him to n/a n/a n/a n/a 26 18 22 22
There is no God, spirit, or anything like that 19 10 10 *2 6 3 5 3
Can you tell me, what is the Bible? (Open Question)
Don't Know
12 10 23 10 27 38 23 38
And what is the New Testament ? (Open Question)
Don't Know
40 29 52 29 67 76 52 60
Which of the following Bible stories do you know of? 
Sum of responses giving "know it well," "know it partly," and "know it slightly."4 
The Creation of the World
87 93 87 87 67 52 83 78
The Great Flood/Deluge/Noah's Ark
81 91 87 88 63 47 78 74
David & Goliath
69 76 78 66 36 28 47 60
The Birth of Jesus
83 91 90 70 70 51 85 83
Is there a Bible or New Testament in your home?5 
Yes
33 48 60 57 34 21 54 62
How often do you read the Bible? 
Several Times a Week 2 4 5 2 2 1 5 8
Occasionally 18 25 40 39 25 18 41 39
Never 71 58 49 51 67 75 44 38
Would you buy a new Bible now or in the future?
Yes
31 40 31 28 40 32 47 36
 
Source: Religious and Social Attitudes and the Book Market, Central and Eastern Europe, 1991-1993; Thematic Tabulation and General Summary. Swindon, United Kingdom: Roger Russell Research, 1993. (122 pp., 102 or U.S. $170 for Europe; 109 or U.S. $180 for U.S.A. & other international; 98.50 for U.K.). To order send payment to RRR's distributor: Cornerstone International LTD, Park House, 25-28 Shrivenham Hundred Business Park, Swindon SN6 8T2 United Kingdom. Tel: 44-793-783-300; fax: 44-793-783-558. See EWC&M Report 1 (Winter 1993), 14, and 2 (Spring 1994), 13, for a complete list of RRR publications on religious attitudes in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Endnotes

  1. Poles are by far the most frequent church attenders: half attend weekly and three-quarters are in church at least once a month. Next are Slovaks with about one-third attending weekly.
  2. Affiliations denote nominal attachments, not church membership or active adherence. Poland (especially), Slovakia, and Hungary (to a lesser extent) are predominantly Roman Catholic. Hungary has a large Reformed minority and Slovakia an Evangelical Lutheran one. Russia is predominantly Russian Orthodox. Ukraine is primarily Orthodox and  Eastern Rite Catholic. Latvia is Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. Tatarstan is predominantly Moslem (Suni), with a large Russian Orthodox minority. Protestants, apart from Hungary and Latvia, represent a tiny minority in all the countries surveyed. The Czech Republic seems the most secular country with half the population claiming to be either atheist or attached to no religion.
  3. This question draws out some important perspectives about how people view God. An error in translation that was only picked up after the event enables us to have an insight that might otherwise have been missed. An option given to people in Central Europe was for the respondent to reply that s/he did not know whether God exists but would like to know. Replies give an idea of people's openness to finding out more--an evangelistic opportunity. A quarter of Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians indicated that they would like to know more, as did one in five Slovaks. However, in former Soviet republics the option was translated to read: s/he did not know whether God exists but would like him to. A quarter in Russia and one in five in Tatarstan, Ukraine, and Latvia were effectively saying that they wished God did exist.
  4. Greater awareness of the various parts of the Bible listed was generally in countries with a Catholic tradition. By summing the percentage responses given for each section, the "league table" appears as: Slovakia 248, Hungary 239, Poland 226, Latvia 185, Ukraine 163, Czech Republic 140, Russia 76, Tatarstan 56. The lack of awareness is understandable in Moslem Tatarstan, but in European Russia as a whole it is not much better. It is also notable that despite Poland's record as a religious country, people have relatively little awareness of different parts of the Holy Scriptures.
  5. Latvia, Hungary, and Poland would appear to have the widest distribution of Scriptures, with at least one Bible or New Testament in six of every 10 homes. The Scriptures can also be found in half the homes of Ukraine and Slovakia, and in a third of the homes in European Russia (with wide regional variations) and the Czech Republic, and in one in five Tatarstan homes. It should be borne in mind, though, that nearly two years separate the first polls in Czech and Slovak lands and the last in Russia, during which period the level of Scripture ownership no doubt grew in Central Europe. In Russia and Ukraine half the owners had purchased Scriptures, but in Latvia, only one-third. In Russia four out of five Bibles had been obtained within three years preceding the survey, i.e., since the beginning of 1990. In Ukraine and Latvia this period had accounted for three in five Bible acquisitions.

"What People Think About Religion" East-West Church & Ministry Report, 2 (Summer 1994), 6-7.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

1994 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664


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