Monday, September 3, 2018

In Russia, Muslims and Non-Orthodox Christians Get More from Their Religion than Orthodox Do, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 2 – Russians who identify as Orthodox say they get far less from their religion than do those who identify as other Christians or Muslims concerning confidence in the future, support from their faith, and encouragement to support others, according to a new study by sociologist Yana Roshina of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

            Her study, The Role of Religion in the Life of Russians (in Russian; partially available on line at, concludes that non-Orthodox and Musim Russians are more likely to say that religion plays a positive role in their lives than are the Orthodox (

            Roshina says this reflects two things. On the one hand, those who identify with Orthodoxy seldom know as much about their religion as do those who join other faiths. Instead, they take religion less seriously and view it as a cultural marker about being Russian rather than as an independent matter of belief.

            And on the other, many who do identify as Orthodox are nonetheless put off by the archaic ideas about social life and the individual often promoted by Orthodox priests and the hierarchy. Such people may identify as Orthodox for political reasons, but they do not accept what the church as an institution is promoting.

            Among the most important findings of Roshina’s study are the following: First, “the most tolerant are the non-Orthodox Christians,” with 91 percent of them saying that religious makes them tolerant to the weaknesses of others. Only 82 percent of Muslims say that; and only 67 of Orthodox do.

            Second, “74 percent of non-Orthodox Christians say they receive support by other believers from,” 72 percent of Muslims say the same; but only 28 percent of Orthodox say that they do.  And while non-Orthodox Christians and Muslims look forward to an afterlife (65 and 73 percent respectively), only 35 percent of Orthodox do.

            The strictly hierarchical and authoritarian nature of the Orthodox Church, Eduard Ponarin, another scholar who participated in the study, explains much of this. People are alienated from the hierarchy as well as by its “conservative policy.” Moreover, Orthodox congregations are larger, and often priests don’t know their parishioners well.

            Protestant and Muslim congregations in contrast are smaller, more democratic, and united by a sense that they are minorities and thus must provide greater support to fellow members, Ponarin adds.   

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