Pew Research shows that over the past 20 years, citizens’ affiliation with Orthodox Christianity in Russia has taken an upswing since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to new research, between 1991 and 2008, the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31 percent to 72 percent, and during that same period the share of Russia’s population that does not identify with any religion dropped from 61 percent to 18 percent. The share of Russian adults who said they are at least “somewhat” religious rose from 11 percent in 1991 to 54 Percent in 2008. And the portion of adults who said they believe in God rose from 38 percent to 56 percent over the same period.
However, this return to religion did not correlate to a return to church. No more than about one-in-ten Russians said they attend religious services at least once a month. The share of regular attenders (monthly or more often) was 2 percent in 1991, 9 percent in 1998 and 7 percent in 2008. This suggests that although many more Russians now freely identify with the Orthodox Church or other religious groups, they may not be much more religiously observant than they were in the recent past, at least in terms of attendance at religious services.
“During the Soviet period, many priests were imprisoned, many churches were converted to other uses or fell into disrepair, and people who publicly professed religious beliefs were denied prestigious jobs and admission to universities,” reported survey scientists. “While it is likely that some share of the population continued, in private, to identify with the Orthodox Church and other religious groups, it is impossible to measure the extent to which these attachments survived underground during the Soviet period and to what extent they faded away.”