Staunton, February 23 – The Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate both regularly claim that despite their atheist past, almost all Russians say believers and that 80 percent or even more of the population identify as Russian Orthodox. But a new poll by the Public Opinion Foundation calls both of these assertions into question.
It finds that 21 percent of Russian adults do not identify as believers and that only 65 percent say they are Orthodox. The survey also found that seven percent of the population identify as Muslims but fewer than one percent named any of the other religious groups in Russia (politsovet.ru/61898-kazhdyy-pyatyy-rossiyanin-ne-schitaet-sebya-veruyuschim.html).
Women are far more likely to identify as Orthodox than men, 71 percent as against 57 percent; but even that 71 percent is below the share the powers that be secular and religious invariably claim. Moreover, as other polls have shown, the share of those who visit church regularly or otherwise practice their faith is microscopically small.
These findings and especially their source, a polling agency with close links to the Kremlin, are intriguing because they cast doubt on Putin’s traditionalist agenda. Indeed, they suggest that there is far less support in the population for it that either he or Patriarch Kirill believe.
And that in turn means that those political leaders who favor a more secular approach or at least one that does not tilt so heavily to Russian Orthodoxy may find more support among Russians than they and most commentators assume.
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