Sunday, March 31, 2024

Fewer Russians Now Identify as Orthodox Christians than Did Seven Years Ago but a Larger Share of Those who Do are Active, VTsIOM Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 26 – During a period when the Kremlin has been promoting Orthodox Christianity, the share of Russians who identify as followers of that denomination has fallen from 75 percent in 2017 to 66 percent now, according to a VTsIOM poll. But of those who identify as such, the share who say they keep fasts has risen.

            According to surveys from 2017 to 2022, 71 to 75 percent of Russian Orthodox said they did not keep the fast; but now, only 56 percent say they don’t. And this change has been especially great in the last two years: in 2022, 74 percent said they ignored the fast t; now only 56 percent do (

            At the same time, VTsIOM finds that only four percent of those who identify as Russian Orthodox observe all fasts, with somewhat higher percentages simply restricting their consumption of alcohol or meat or avoiding using foul language. More generally, only 22 percent regularly attend church services, and only 13 percent pray on a daily basis.

            A large portion of all these developments reflect generational change: Only 38 percent of Russians between the ages of 18 and 24 identify as Orthodox (and only 52 percent of those between 25 and 34 do so) while among those 35 and older, the percentage doing so is 69 to 75 percent.

            Commenting on these results, Moscow analyst Aleksey Makarkin says that “with the change of generations, the number of believers is contracting as among young people atheism has become “fashionable” just as three decades ago it was “fashionable” to identify oneself as Orthodox.”

            But “at the same time, among the Orthodox is observed a trend toward following the rules, albeit selectively, with people themselves defining” which ones they will observe and how rather than blindly following what the ROC MP declares.

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