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Principal religions and denominations

The Russian Orthodox Church

At the end of 2012, the Russian Orthodox Church comprised 247 dioceses, 290 bishops (including archbishops and metropolitan bishops) and 33,489 parishes. The clergy numbered 34,195, consisting of (...)

At the end of 2012, the Russian Orthodox Church comprised 247 dioceses, 290 bishops (including archbishops and metropolitan bishops) and 33,489 parishes. The clergy numbered 34,195, consisting of 30,430 priests and 3,765 deacons.

(Source: Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2-5 February 2013. Note: these figures represent the total for the Russian Orthodox Church, which includes Ukraine, Belarus and other countries. Figures for Russia alone are not available.)

According to data from the Ministry of Justice of 1 January 2017, from among 17,687 religious organisations (14,277 in 2012) of the Russian Orthodox Church registered in Russia alone, there are 189 main religious organisations (eparchies or dioceses), 16,497 local religious organisations (parishes), 57 institutions for professional religious teaching (academies and seminaries), 469 monasteries and 275 religious establishments (governing or coordinating bodies).

In accordance with the theological principles of the Russian Orthodox Church, each person baptised is regarded as a member of the church (the majority of those baptised are infants and small children). It can be said that the proportion of Orthodox faithful represents about 80% of the population. According to data from the Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion, in 2010 75% of those interviewed claimed to be Orthodox. However, a significant number of these Orthodox do not themselves say that they are members of the Church. According to a survey by the SREDA Research Centre in 2012, only 41% of the Russian population claim to belong to the Russian Orthodox Church and, from among them, one-third (34%) say they practise regularly (i.e. 14% of the total population of Russia).

D 21 February 2017    AMikhaïl Chakhov

Other religious groups

Islam has been rooted in Russia for centuries and numbers millions of followers, mainly Tatars, Bashkirs, Chechens and other Caucasian peoples.
Most Muslims in Russia are Sunni, but there are (...)

Islam has been rooted in Russia for centuries and numbers millions of followers, mainly Tatars, Bashkirs, Chechens and other Caucasian peoples.

Most Muslims in Russia are Sunni, but there are also Shia Azeris. Many Sufis are to be found amongst the Muslims in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

In addition to the 4,551 Moslem religious organisations registered as legal entities, between 3,000-4,000 unregistered religious groups exist (therefore in total in Russia between 7,000-8,000 Muslim religious associations).

According to 2010 data from the Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion, 5% of those interviewed stated they were Muslim. According to a 2012 survey by the SREDA research centre, 6.5% of the Russian population say they are Muslim, but the number of practising Muslims does not exceed 42%.

There is no administrative and spiritual centre uniting all the Muslims in Russia. Three central religious organisations represent Muslims: the Spiritual Leadership of Muslims of the Russian Federation (Moscow) consists of approximately 400 regional religious organisations, the Central Muslim Spiritual Board (Ufa, Bashkortostan) and the Coordinating Centre of Muslims of the Northern Caucasus. Some large regional religious organisations, particularly in Tatarstan, are autonomous.

Buddhism is the traditional religion in the republics of Tuva, Kalmykia and Buryatia. Recently, Buddhist communities have emerged in Moscow, St. Petersburg and in some other major cities.

There is no central religious organisation recognised by the entirety of Russian Buddhists. The largest central religious organisation is called the Sangha, a traditional Russian Buddhist community (Buryatia).

The Old Believers: This refers to Orthodox religious associations separated from the official Orthodox Church during the ecclesiastical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in the mid-seventeenth century. The Old Believers do not consider themselves separate from the Church; instead, they believe they are a true Orthodox Church, with the official Russian Orthodox Church having, in their view, descended into heresy.

There are two branches of Old Believers. The Russian Orthodox Church of the Old Believers is the largest with 10 dioceses and, at its head, Cornelius, Old Orthodox Metropolitan of Moscow and of all Russia. As for the “priestless” (bespopovtsy), they feel that the real hierarchy disappeared during the apocalyptic times of the Antichrist’s reign.

Catholics are few and far between in Russia. Among the Catholic faithful, there are many Germans, Poles, Lithuanians and other peoples for whom Catholicism is the traditional religion. There are four dioceses (eparchies) making up the ecclesiastical province (metropolitanate).

Protestantism is present in Russia in its various forms. Historical, including Lutheran, forms of Protestantism by large stem from Baltic and Germanic peoples for whom it is the national religion. Baptists and Evangelical Christians have been present in Russia since the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, there was a significant increase in followers of Evangelical-Pentecostal churches and Seventh Day Adventists. Despite the impressive number of registered Protestant religious organisations (over 4,000), the number of followers is modest, about 1% of the Russian population.

In the 2000s, Protestant religious organisations created the Advisory Council of Protestant Church Leaders in Russia, bringing together Baptists, Evangelical and Evangelical-Pentecostal Christians, Seventh Day Adventists and Presbyterians.

Judaism is poorly represented in Russia, but its presence is secular. There are two central Jewish religious organisations: the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR), mainly Hasidic, and the Congress of the Jewish Religious Organisations and Associations in Russia (CJROAR).

D 18 April 2013    AMikhaïl Chakhov

Religious pluralism

According to figures from the Ministry of Justice dated 1 January 2019, the total number of registered religious organisations in Russia is 30,896, representing more than 60 different (...)

According to figures from the Ministry of Justice dated 1 January 2019, the total number of registered religious organisations in Russia is 30,896, representing more than 60 different denominations. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest denomination with 18,550 religious organisations.

Muslims comprise 5,954 registered religious organisations; Pentecostal Evangelicals make up 1,034 registered organisations, Baptists 889, Evangelical Christians 878, Seventh Day Adventists 567 and Lutherans 222 organisations. In total there are more than 4,000 registered Protestant religious organisations.
Roman Catholics have 237 religious organisations in Russia, Buddhists 269, Jews 268, Mormons 53, the movement for Krishna Consciousness 86, Scientologists 1. Jehovah’s Witnesses have 398 in 2017.

2014 2017 2019
Total 26 744 29 108 30 896
Russian Orthodox Church 15 455 17 687 18 550
Muslims 4861 5513 5954
Protestant organisations Pentecostal Evangelicals 1228 1151 1034
Baptists 833 880 889
Evangelical Christians 699 727 878
Christians of the evangelical faith - 618 878
Seventh Day Adventists 580 572 567
Lutherans 219 227 222
Jews 259 273 268
Buddhists 242 259 269
Roman Catholics 226 234 237
Movement for Krishna Consciousness 77 83 86
Mormons 58 53 54
Jehovah’s Witnesses 39 398 -
Scientologists 1 1 1

Source: unpublished official report of the Ministry of Justice and personal documentation of the author. Complete data for all religions is available on the website of the Federal statistics service (in Russian).

D 16 May 2019    AMikhaïl Chakhov

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