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

The Extent of Religious Belief and Practice in Russia

Elena I. Bashkirova

Data gathered in 1995-99 as part of the World Values Survey used samples representative of Russia's urban and rural working-age population identified by gender, age, and social and occupational affiliation. According to our study, the Russian population is evenly split in regard to religion: 50.5 percent of respondents consider themselves believers and 49.5 percent classify themselves as nonbelievers. Among believers, 91.1 percent were Orthodox, 5.8 percent Muslim, 0.6 percent Protestant, 0.5 percent Catholic, 0.2 percent Buddhist, 0.1 percent Jewish, and about 1 percent adherents of other religions.

The surge of interest in religion in post-Communist Russia was partly a reaction to the former tacit ban on everything associated with church life. We could say that "religion has become fashionable" as the old value system has broken down. But fashions cannot last and the past three years have even brought a perceptible decline in religious interest. Very few people regularly attend religious services, even among those who consider themselves believers. Only 3.2 percent of respondents attended religious services every week, 5.9 percent every month, 15.2 percent on religious holidays, 7.2 percent only at Christmas and Easter, and 9.7 percent once a year. More than half the respondents had never or hardly ever (except for weddings, funerals, and christenings) attended a church ceremony, and no more than one-quarter indicated they believed in Paradise, Hell, life after death, or the transmigration of souls.

Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from Elena I. Bashkirova, "Transformation of the Values of Russian Society," Russian Social Science Review 44 (January-February 2003): 4-22.

Elena I. Bashkirova is a sociologist with Russian Public Opinion and Market Research Institute, Moscow, Russia, and a member of the steering committee of the World Values Study.

Elena I. Bashkirova, "The Extent of Religious Belief and Practice in Russia," East-West Church & Ministry Report 12 (Spring 2004), 9.

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

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