Autocomplete Question: “Do Russians Believe in God?” Posted by Maria on Sep 10, 2019 in Autocomplete Questions, Culture
Sometimes, to make sure my blog posts stay topical, I draw inspiration from popular search queries. Some of you might have seen the autocomplete interview series, where celebrities answer the most-searched questions about themselves. This time, I typed “Do Russians,” and “believe in God” was one of the suggestions. I will attempt to answer this question using recent surveys of attitudes to religion.
Faith as Part of Identity
My main source is a Pew Research Center survey of Europeans’ opinions on religion and national identity. In this post, I will use the word “Russians” to talk about all people who live in Russia (россия́не, as opposed to ethnic Russians, ру́сские) regardless of their ethnic background. According to the survey (опро́с), 75 percent of Russians said they believed in God (ве́рят в Бо́га), while 15 percent did not. The majority of respondents (71 percent) identified as Orthodox Christian (правосла́вные христиа́не). Interestingly, this number has gone up considerably since 1991, when only 37 percent identified as Orthodox.
Nine in ten Orthodox Russians have been baptized (adjective: крещёные), along with 44 percent of religiously unaffiliated Russians.
The majority of Russians (57 percent) said that being Christian was important to be truly Russian, but 40 percent said it was not. The publisher also mentioned that Russia has a sizeable Muslim (plural noun: мусульма́не) minority.
Practice What You Preach?
Just how important is religion to Russians? The numbers were not as high as you might expect based on the share of self-identified believers. 15 percent said it was very important, and 17 percent reported praying daily (verb: моли́ться, to pray). Among Orthodox Christians, only 6 percent attended church (це́рковь) weekly, 30 percent monthly or yearly, and 61 percent never.
In terms of observing Christian rites, only 30 percent took communion (verb: причаща́ться) and only 27 percent fasted (verb: пости́ться) during Lent (пост). Only 14 percent read scripture (Свяще́нное Писа́ние) outside of church.
Compared with the Christian populations in Russia, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria, Muslims are generally more religiously observant; higher shares among Muslims than Christians in these countries say religion is “very important” in their lives, report daily prayer and say they attend religious services at least weekly.
The Pew report also pointed out that Russians have retained some pre-Christian beliefs. For example, 60 percent said they believe in fate (судьба́), and 56 percent believed in evil eye (сглаз). That can also be surmised from the superstitions that survive to this day in Russia. Perhaps the icons (ико́ны) that 87 percent of respondents said they had in their house are another sign of this religious syncretism.
As is often the case when we talk about social trends, the answer to “Do Russians believe in God?” is complex. Yes, it appears that most Russians think of themselves as religious, yet not many actually practice their faith.
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