Number of Believers in Russia Up, Role of Religion in Their Lives Often Remains Small, New Study Finds

File Photo of Russian Orthodox Cathedral with Man in Religious Garb in Foreground

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 2, 2018)

Between 1998 and 2016, the share of Russians saying they are religious increased from 63 to 74 percent, with increases among young less and those among less educated more, according to a new study by Yana Roshina of the Higher School of Economics (Вестник РМЭЗ НИУ ВШЭ 2018.pdf; summarized at

Women were more likely to say they were religious than men in both years; and Muslims of both sexes were far more likely than others to make that declaration. The share of believers among the peoples of the North Caucasus has always been above 95 percent and among Tatars and Bashkirs 82 percent.

At present, Roshina continues, “almost 81 percent of Russian adults are Orthodox. In second place are Muslims – 7.7 percent. But at the same time “more than 14 percent of the Orthodox and five percent of the Muslims” who declare their adherence to these faiths indicated that they do not consider themselves believers.

Only six percent of the population and only eight percent of believers visit a place of worship several times a month. Thirty-five percent of all and 48 percent among believers “do this not more often than once a month” and 32 percent and 43 percent respectively do not do so at all, the sociologist says.

Women and the elderly do so more often than other groups. Nearly half of all non-Orthodox Christians go to church several times a month. Among Orthodox, only seven percent do; and among Muslims, only five percent. Non-Orthodox Christians have the highest incomes on average; Muslims have the lowest.

Non-Orthodox Christians and Muslims are more likely than others to say that religion plays a positive role in their lives. And Roshin concludes that while the number of self-described members of particular faiths is growing, the role of religion for most remains relatively small or uncertain with many shifting their declarations depending on circumstances.

[featured image is file photo]