East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 2004, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

East-West Moral and Religious Values

Jan Kerkhofs

In the present study, Russian results of the European Values Study (EVS) are compared with those of Ukraine and Flanders (sometimes Belgium as a whole), as well as with the Republic of Ireland, a country with values that are often closer to those of the U.S. than those of Europe. Generally speaking, Flanders and Belgium track West European averages.

With a look at Europe in general, it is striking that everywhere the degree of importance interviewees attach to six basic aspects of life is about the same, comparing, as far as possible, 1990 and 1999. Family comes first, then work, followed by friends, leisure, and finally, religion and politics (Table 1).

Table 1: Importance of Various Aspects of Life for Europeans

  West East
  1990 1999 1990 1999
Family 96 97 97 97
Work 90 89 93 91
Friends 90 94 78 85
Leisure 84 88 76 75
Religion 52 47 40 48
Politics 36 40 41 30

Source: EVS, 1990-1999, in percentage; "very" and "quite important."

The Value of Marriage
More and more people consider marriage to be an outdated institution (Table 2). Comparative figures for the last decades in the West show that this is a phenomenon that is increasing in importance.

Table 2: Percentage of Those Surveyed Who Consider Marriage an Outdated Institution

Age Groups Russia Ukraine Flanders Ireland
18-30 32 28 27 28
31-45 25 17 29 25
46-60 15 15 28 18
60+ 10 11 18 16

Source: EVS, 1999, in percentage.

The Value of Education
In the survey, parents were asked which qualities they consider important to teach their children at home. Interviewees selected five items out of a list of eleven. In both Russia and Ukraine, hard work comes first, while good manners and tolerance are much less appreciated than in the West (Table 3).

Table 3: Qualities to Teach Children at Home

  Russia Ukraine Flanders Ireland
Good Manners 58 55 85 88
Responsibility 75 75 81 47
Tolerance/Respect 67 65 83 75
Hard work 91 87 26 38
Religious Faith 9 17 12 41

Source: EVS, 1999, in percentage. Figures represent averages derived from published findings for four age groups. For example, the nine percent of respondents aged 18-30; seven percent of respondents aged 46-60; and 18 percent of respondents over age 60.

In the West as well as in the East, older generations find, much more than younger ones, that clear and absolute guidelines concerning good and evil should always be followed. Younger generations claim that circumstances are decisive for good and evil; for them, "situation ethics: prevail (Table 4).

Table 4: Percentages Believing in the Existence of Absolute Clear Guidelines for Good and Evil

Age Groups Russia Ukraine Flanders Ireland
18-30 28 32 19 34
31-45 39 44 27 34
46-60 42 43 33 41
60+ 46 52 37 49

Source: EVS, 1999, in percentage for "clear guidelines."

Belief in God
Only a minority of people (Ireland excepted) believe that God is a person (Table 5). On a ten-point scale concerning the importance given to God, Russians register 5.2, Ukrainians 6.3, Flemish 5.1, and Irish 7.4.

Table 5: Beliefs

  Russia Ukraine Flanders Ireland
Life after death 36 40 37 78
Hell 35 38 14 53
Heaven 36 40 28 85
Sin 68 74 39 86
Reincarnation 32 28 16 23
Telepathy 58 56 37 34
Personal God 32 41 25 63

Source: EVS, 1999, in percentage.

Religious Belief and Practice
In Russia, 50 percent declare they belong to a religious denomination, 91 percent of whom are Orthodox and six percent of whom are Muslim. In Ukraine, 56 percent belong to a religious denomination, 74 percent of whom belong to one of the three Orthodox churches and 15 percent of whom belong to the two Catholic rites. In Flanders, 63 percent say they belong to a religious denomination (59 percent Roman Catholics), and in Ireland, 90 percent (95 percent of whom are Roman Catholics). Belonging is not the same as believing, nor is believing the same as practicing one's religion. Table 6 shows the percentage who attend church at least once a month and how many go to church less than once a year or never.

Table 6: "Attend services at least once a month or less than once a year or never"

  Russia Ukraine Flanders Ireland
At least once a month 9 16 30 67
Practically Never 50 30 45 10

Source: EVS, 1999, in percentage.

In Russia and Ukraine, religion has a different position than in Ireland and Belgium, religion being more important in Ukraine than in Russia and in Ireland than in Belgium.

Edited excerpts reprinted with permission from Jan Kerkhofs, "Values in Russia: An Introduction" in Russia and Europe, A Changing International Environment, ed. Katlijn Malfiet and Lien Verpoest (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2001): 49-70.

Jan Kerkhofs, Society of Jesus, is emeritus professor, Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain, Belguim, and one of the originators of the European Values Study.

Jan Kerkhofs, "East-West Moral and Religious Values," East-West Church & Ministry Report 12 (Spring 2004), 6-7.

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© 2004 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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