Staunton, Nov. 30 – The share of Kazakhstan residents who say they are Muslims has remained relatively constant since the 2009 census. Then, 70.2 percent of the population said they were followers of Islam; now 69.3 percent do. But in the interval, the number of Muslims has increased from 11.2 million out of 16 million o 13.3 million out of 19 million.
At the same time, the new census shows that the number and share of Kazakhstan residents who declare themselves to be Christians have plummeted, falling from 4.3 million to 3.3 million or from just over a quarter (26.2 percent) to less than a fifth (17.2 percent) in the latest census (cabar.asia/ru/kak-izmenilos-kolichestvo-veruyushhih-v-kazahstane).
Almost all of this change is a reflection of two things: the departure of ethnic Russians from Kazakhstan and the continued growth of the ethnic Kazakh nation. But experts say that some of it reflects how the two censuses were conducted. In 2009, census takers equated religion and nationality; in 2011, they distinguished the two.
One consequence of that change in method is that the number of people in Kazakhstan who refused to specify their religion rose from only 81,000 in 2009 to 2.1 million (11.01 percent of the total population) in 2011, with the percentages in urban areas such as Almaty much higher than in rural areas.
That pattern suggests there may be a loosening of ties between Kazakh national self-identification and Muslim religious affiliation, although additional investigations would be required to confirm such a trend.