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Christianity in Russia

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Christianity in Russia

Christians in Russia constitute by some estimates the largest religion of the country, with nearly 50% of the population identifying as Christian. The largest tradition is the Russian Orthodox Church. By official information, there are 68 eparchies of Russian Orthodox Church.[1]

There are from 500,000 to one million so-called [2] In Russia today, about 280,000 associate with over 2200 congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports over 20,000 adherents in 126 congregations.

The churches, to register with state agencies, list their funding sources and provide records of all meetings.

According to a 2012 Sreda Arena survey 46.6% of the Russian population is Christian, including 41% Russian Orthodox.[6]

There is no official census of religion in Russia, and estimates are based on surveys only. In August 2012, ARENA determined that about 46.8% of Russians are Christians (including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational), which is slightly less than an absolute 50%+ majority. However, later that year the Levada Center determined that 76% of Russians are Christians,[7] and in June 2013 the Public Opinion Foundation[8] determined that 65% of Russians are Christians. These findings are in line with Pew's 2011 survey,[9] which determined that 73.6% of Russians are Christians, with VTSIOM's 2010 survey (~77% Christian),[10] and with Ipsos MORI's 2011 survey (69%).[11]


Makeup of Russia's Christianity

  Christians not belonging to any denomination (8.8%)
  Other type of Orthodox Christians (3%)
  Old Believers (0.5%)
  Protestants (0.4%)
  Catholics (0.2%)

According to a survey held in Russia by Sreda Arena, and published in 2012, 66,840,000 people in the country (46.6% of the total population of that time, of 142,800,000) identify as Christians.[6]

This includes:[6]

Russian Orthodox Church

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Sergiev Posad

The Russian Orthodox Church is organized in a hierarchical structure. Every church building and its attendees constitute a parish (prikhod).

All parishes in a geographical region belong to an eparchy (eparkhiya—equivalent to a Western diocese). Eparchies are governed by bishops (episkope or archierey). There are around 130 Russian Orthodox eparchies worldwide.

Further, some eparchies are organized into exarchates, or autonomous churches. Currently these include the Orthodox Churches of Belarusian exarchate; the Latvian, the Moldovan, and the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate. The Chinese and Japanese Orthodox Churches were granted full autonomy by Moscow Patriarchate, but this autonomy is not universally recognized.

Smaller eparchies are usually governed by a single bishop. Larger eparchies, exarchates, and autonomous churches are governed by metropolitans and sometimes also have one or more bishops assigned to them.

The highest level of authority in the Church is represented by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, head of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod is the governing body of the Church in the period between the Bishops’ Councils.

By information of Saint Tikhon's Orthodox University and other researchers, from one to several hundred thousands of Orthodox believers were repressed for their faith in the Soviet time.[12]

According to figures released on February 2, 2010, the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has 160 dioceses including 30,142 parishes served by 207 bishops, 28,434 priests and 3,625 deacons. There are 788 monasteries, including 386 for men and 402 for women.[13]

Old Believers

In 1971 the Moscow Patriarchate revoked the anathemas placed on the Old Believers in the 17th century, but most Old Believer communities have not returned to Communion with other Orthodox Christians.

Estimates place the total number of Old Believers remaining today at from 500.000 to 1 millions, some living in extremely isolated communities in places to which they fled centuries ago to avoid persecution. An Old Believer parish in the United States has entered into communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

Old-Believer churches in Russia currently have started restoration of their property, although Old Believers (unlike the nearly-official mainstream Orthodoxy) face many difficulties in claiming their restitution rights for their churches. Moscow has churches for all the most important Old Believer branches: Rogozhskaya Zastava (Popovtsy of the Belokrinitskaya hierarchy official center), a cathedral for the Novozybkovskaya hierarchy in Zamoskvorech'ye and Preobrazhenskaya Zastava where Pomortsy and Fedoseevtsy coexist.

Roman Catholic Church

Catholic Church in St.Petersburg

Roman Catholic Church in Russia (by 2008) has one Archdiocese of Mother of God at Moscow (headed by Arcbishop Pavel Pezzi), three dioceses (Saint Clement at Saratov, Saint Joseph at Irkutsk, Transfiguration at Novosibirsk), one Apostolic Exarchate and one Apostolic Prefecture in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk.[14]

The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow has voiced his support for religious education in state sponsored schools, citing the examples of other countries.[15]

Relations with the Russian Orthodox church have been rocky for nearly a millennium, and attempts at re-establishing Catholicism have met with opposition. Pope John Paul II for years expressed a desire to visit Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church has for years resisted.[16] In April 2002, Bishop Jerry Mazur of Eastern Siberia was striped of his visa, forcing the appointment of a new bishop for that diocese.[17] In 2002, five foreign Catholic priests were denied visas to return to Russia, construction of a new cathedral was blocked in Pskov, and a church in southern Russia was shot at.[18] On Christmas Day 2005, Russian Orthodox activists planned to picket outside of Moscow's Catholic Cathedral, but the picket was cancelled. Despite the recent thawing of relations with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, there are still issues such as the readiness of the police to protect Catholics and other minorities from persecution.[19]

One thousand Russian Catholics gathered in the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Moscow to watch the Pope's funeral in 2005. Earlier Pope John Paul II gave an 18th-century copy of the famous Our Lady of Kazan icon to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian Catholic Church

There are also communes of Byzantine Rite Catholic Church in Russia (in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Omsk, Nizhnevartovsk), which are in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope as defined by Eastern canon law. That tradition is closely connected with the ideas of philosopher and poet Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov.


Lutheran Church in Moscow

There are Evangelical Christians, Baptists (most numerous), Lutherans, Pentecostals, Adventists,[20] Methodists, Quakers [21] and nearly all other known Protestant denominations present in the country. Russia is considered by some observers to experience a Protestant revival in the future.[22][23][24]

By the opinion of Keston Institute, Protestants are widely present and may well outnumber the Orthodox in some places of Siberia. There are very few "nominal" believers among them: everywhere they preach, pray and often struggle against local bureaucracy to acquire their rights. They are also regarded as respectable, hard-working citizens.[25]

Some Protestants, especially at provincial level, report encountering local authorities obstruction of their activities and government restrictions. In April 2007, the European Court of Human Rights obliged Russian state to pay EUR 10,000 (ten thousand euros) as a non-pecuniary damage for the refusal in registration of the Moscow branch of Salvation Army.

Conducted in July - August, 2007, bicycle missionary expedition of Evangelical Christians Baptists faced, by their report,[26] serious obstacles and suspicious attitude from local authorities in several regions of Russia. The evangelization meetings several times were banned in public parks. The initial goal of the above-mentioned tour was to share the Gospel with people in towns and villages throughout the country and, by words of UECB President Yuri Sipko, to "fight their way through on foot or on bicycles to reach even the most remote village and the most despairing person in order to bring them the message of God’s kingdom."


Certain Christian religions consider themselves to have restored primitive Christianity and do not consider themselves part of Protestantism. Many mainstream Christians likewise do not consider them part of Protestantism or even Christianity, but a cult [27] The largest such denominations are Jehovah's Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Zion's Watch Tower (now called The Watchtower, the primary journal of the Watch Tower Society) had subscribers in Russia as early as 1887. Early Russian adherent Semyon Kozlitsky, a Russian Orthodox seminary graduate, associated personally with Charles Taze Russell as early as 1891 and was a member of the Bible Student movement in Russia, Siberia, and what is now Kazakhstan until his death in 1935.

In the 1920s, The Watch Tower was published in Russian, and Russian-language congregations were established in the United States and elsewhere. Although there were restrictions in Russia itself, the Latvia branch translated and printed Russian-language literature and the Estonia branch broadcast Russian-language radio lectures. In 1935, the Watch Tower Society unsuccessfully attempted to establish a branch office in the Soviet Union to support members already there.

The results were just the opposite of what was expected; they wanted to weaken the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the USSR, but in fact they only strengthened it. In new settlements where no one had heard of their religious confession, Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘infected’ the locals by their faith and their loyalty to it.

Dr. N. S. Gordienko (Herzen University, St. Petersburg)

By 1939, thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses were already residing in the

When the religion was formally recognized in March 1991, the organization reported 15,987 members in Russia. Beginning in 1993, graduates of Gilead Extension School in Germany began to be assigned to Russia as missionaries to support the local Witnesses already there. The number of adherents has steadily grown since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. By 2014, Jehovah's Witnesses reported over 170,000 members in Russia.[28]

"Russian Mormons" and Latter-day Saints

In the Novouzensk region about 1855, Ivan Grigorev Kanygin founded religious communities with untraditional marriage and communal practices they derived from the New Testament. Although they called themselves Communists or Methodists (due to a claimed association with Methodism), an Orthodox priest named Khrisanf Rozhdestvenskiy in 1869 labeled them "Mormons" after the contemporaneous American movement, and the term was thereafter applied pejoratively to such adherents. In the 1870s, an unrelated community developed near the Volga city of Samara which avoided alcohol, tobacco, and swearing, cooperated in commercial enterprises, and governed themselves by "apostles" and "prophets". Adherents refused to discuss their theological beliefs with outsiders, and it seems that others incorrectly but perhaps sincerely identified them with Mormonism. The "Samara Mormons" came to tolerate the name into the 20th century, though they too had no known connection to the actual Latter Day Saint movement.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established its first congregation in Russia in 1990, and the Church was recognized in May 1991. By 2010, the Church reported membership of 20,276 in 126 congregations in Russia.[29]

Bible translation

The first attempts to translate books of the Bible into modern Russian language of that time took place in 16th and 17th centuries. But the mentioned works (by deacon of Posolsky Prikaz Avraamiy Firsov, pastor E.Gluk, archbishop Methodiy (Smirnov)) were lost during political turbulence and wars.

Makarios Bible

Mikhail Iakovlevich Glukharev, known as Archimandrite Makarios, was a Russian Orthodox missionary who translated most of the Old Testament between 1839 and 1847, while a contemporary associate named Gerasim Petrovich Pavsky translated Psalms. Makarios was unable to publish the translation during his lifetime, but a journal called Orthodox Review acquired and published the Makarios Bible in installments between 1860 and 1867, under the title An Experiment of Translation Into the Russian Language.

The aging magazines, more than a century old, were discovered in 1993 in the rare-books section of the [30]

Russian Bible Society

The full-scale Bible translation into Russian language began in 1813 since the establishment of the Russian Bible Society. The full edition of the Bible with Old Testament and New Testament was published in 1876. This work, called also Russian Synodal Bible, is widely used by Protestant communities all over Russia and former USSR countries. Lately appeared several modern translations.[31] The Russian Bible Society since its establishment in 1813 and up to 1826 distributed more than 500 thousand of Bible related books in 41 languages of Russia. Several times in 19-th and 20th centuries activities of the Society were stopped by reactionary policies of the Russian Government.

It was restored in 1990-1991 after a pause connected with the Soviet regime restrictions.[32]

The opening ceremony of the Building of the Russian Bible Society in Moscow was visited by representatives of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches, who joined their efforts in Bible translation and distribution cause. The editions of Society are based on the universal doctrine of the early Christian church and include non-confessional comments. Over 1,000,000 Bible related books are printed per year by that institution. The Bible is also being translated into native languages and dialects of Russia's ethnic groups.

New World Translation

In 2002, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania released Holy Bible (with New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures) in Russian.[33] The complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Russian was released in 2007.[34] In 2010, New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) was released in Russian Sign Language.

The New World Translation is favored and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses.

See also


  1. ^ Religion and mass media Institute of Russia site
  2. ^ a b US State Department Religious Freedom Report on Russia, 2006
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ GCatholic Directory
  6. ^ a b c Arena - Atlas of Religions and Nationalities in Russia. 2012 National Survey of Religions in Russia.
  7. ^ Levada Center
  8. ^ Public Opinion Foundation
  9. ^ Pew
  10. ^ VTSIOM
  11. ^ http://www.fgi-tbff.orgs/default/files/elfinder/FGIImages/Research/fromresearchtopolicy/ipsos_mori_briefing_pack.pdf#page=40 Ipsos MORI
  12. ^ N.E.Emelyanov, "How many repressed in Russia suffered for Christ", Pravmir, in Russian
  13. ^ (Russian)Доклад Святейшего Патриарха Кирилла на Архиерейском cовещании 2 февраля 2010 года February 2, 2010
  14. ^ Catholic Dioceses in Russian Federation, GCatholic site
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church Number Two in Russia, Worldwide Faith News, August 1998
  21. ^ Quakers in Russia site
  22. ^
  23. ^ Protestantism in Postsoviet Russia: An Unacknowledged Triumph
  24. ^
  25. ^ The religious maelstrom of modern Russia, Timesonline, July 2008
  26. ^ Baptist Union of Russia site, News
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Country Profiles: Russia", The Official Church Resource..., Retrieved 2010-08-04
  30. ^ "A Hidden Treasure Comes to Light", The Watchtower, December 15, 1997, pages 22-27
  31. ^ Russian Bible Society, in Russian
  32. ^ History of Russian Bible Society, in Russian
  33. ^ "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, February 2002, page 7
  34. ^ "Russia", 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©2007 Watch Tower, page 237

External links

  • Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church official website
  • Catholic Church in Russia
  • Institute for Bible translation in Russia/CIS

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