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Religious opinions, beliefs and attitudes

Religious change

According to a survey of Dr. Solveiga Krumina-Konkova, director of the Academic Centre for the Study of Religions, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology (University of Latvia), there were about 339,408 Evangelical Lutherans, about 500,000 Roman Catholics, about 300,000 Orthodox Believers, 6,147 Baptists, about 70,000 Old Believers, as well as 3,927 Seventh Day Adventists and 5,576-strong Jewish Religious Congregation (Community) active in Latvia at the beginning of 1998. Besides, there were about 6,000 Pentecostals and 600 Methodists (these are not officially considered as traditional religions in Latvia).


At present, the number of adherents to new religious and spiritual minorities is proportionally rather small - about 1.5% of the total number of permanent inhabitants in 1997/98 (that is, around 2,6 million people). One of the major reasons for which people turn to some of the new religions is their search for identity. Like elsewhere in the world, the growth in number of the different religions is mainly on account of the youth. Latvia is no exception in this respect. However, it is also typical for Latvia that people from the middle and older generation also join these new religious movements. The majority of these movements followers are Russian-speaking people. The most popular among new religions are different religions of Christian orientation and charismatic congregations of the "new wave" as "Jauna Paaudze" [The New Generation], "Prieka Vests" [Message of Hope], "Dzivibas Vards" (The Word of Life] and some others. Among new religions of Christian orientation The New Apostolic Church of North Rhine-Westphalia from Germany is also active in Latvia. Also, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unification Church. Although this movement is not registered officially in Latvia as a religious organization, it carries out its activities through the mediation of different registered non-governmental organizations, for example, "Sieviesu federacija par mieru pasaule" [Women’s Federation for World Peace], "Gimenu federacija par mieru visâ pasaule" [Family Federation for World Peace].
At the time being, the core of this organisation consists of 55 persons, while the total membership is about 100 people. According to data given by this organization, altogether 10 "Family Festivals" have been held in Latvia. The collegiate organisation CARP also works here. The core of this organisation is around 40-50 people, while together it includes about 250 persons. At present, members of the CARP represent their organisation as an organisation that fights for peace and against AIDS.

Beside the latter organizations, there are several other more or less Christian-oriented groups active in Latvia. Among the Eastern-oriented new religions the main one in Latvia is The International Society for Krishna Consciousness. There are also the Sri Chinmoy movement, the movement of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Baha’i faith, Sahaj Marg movement, Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University, a Sukyo Mahikari Center, an Eckankar congregation, the Messianic congregation "Joshua" and other Eastern-oriented religious organizations in Latvia presently. Several other religions are active in Latvia, their character being very eclectic. One of those is the Last Testament’s Church or Vissarion congregation. This is a new religion with the typical features of Russian messianism. The services of this group are conducted only in Russian, emphasizing the special messianic role of Russia and of the Russian language in the unification of religions. Therefore, the followers of Vissarion in Latvia are mainly from the Russian-speaking community. There are no precise data on the members of this movement.

D 27 September 2012    ARingolds Balodis

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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