Friday, October 18, 2019

Neither Kazakhs Nor Kazakhstan’s Russians are Religiously Active but Both See Faiths as Defining Ethnicity, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 15 – Two-thirds of Kazakhstan’s residents say they are Muslims and 20 percent say they are Orthodox Christians, but fewer than ten percent of either take an active part in the religious life of the mosque or the church. At the same time, however, in the last generation, both groups have come to view religion as an important ethnic marker.

            That is, the authors of the new study, The Values of Kazakhstan Society in a Sociological Dimension, say, people in Kazakhstan regardless of their own faith or level of activity in it, view religion as linked to ethnicity, with “Kazakh meaning Muslim and “Russian meaning Orthodox” (

            Approximately two out of three of all those surveyed selected the following phrase to express their relationship to religion: “I am a believer, but I practically don’t participate in religious life.” Fewer than ten percent said they participated regularly in the life of the mosque or the church. 

            Urban residents slightly more often than rural ones identify as believers, a pattern that challenges the widespread assumption that “the more patriarchal way of life in the village promotes the growth of religiosity,” the authors of the study say. Gender differences regarding belief are small; those with secondary education somewhat higher than those with higher.

            Roughly a third of those who identify as non-believers are distinguishe d by a high level of tolerance toward those who believe. Approximately half of the non-believers take part in the religious festivals of the people living around them. 

            Approximately 60 percent of respondents say that in Kazakhstan Islam should resemble that practiced by their ancestors; but far fewer, less than a third, say that it must not diverge in any way from the religion’s Arab roots. Kazakhs are divided as to how far individuals should go in defining their own Islamic belief.

            Intriguingly, trust in religious organizations is quite high in all regions, “more than 60 percent” say they trust them but only 21 percent indicate they do so completely.  In the center around the capital, “almost 20 percent of the respondents do not trust religious organizations,” the study found.

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