Orthodox Church lobbies to include confessional preference in census data. But the Russian government disagrees. Meanwhile two-thirds of Russians profess faith in God.
RFE/RL- 4 September 2002 – Antonii Ilin, spokesman for the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, has said that the Russian Orthodox Church has a “direct interest” in including a question about citizens’ religious confessions in the questionnaire of the national census, which will be conducted in October, strana.ru reported on 27 August.
Ilin said such a question would be “very useful because it would highlight the real percentage of [the population espousing] traditional confessions in Russia.” Ilin added that not including questions about citizens’ religious adherence would deprive the census of its “spiritual and cultural significance.”
However, Vladimir Zorin, the government minister who oversees nationalities policy, said there is no urgent need to include this question, the website reported. Such data is already available at the Justice Ministry, which he said is responsible for registering religious organizations. Zorin noted that no religious confession — except for the Orthodox Church — has advocated including this question in the census, and it was not asked during the last few censuses conducted during the Soviet era.
More than two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) claimed to be adherents to one or another religious confession, Izvestiya reported on 25 August. According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents declared themselves Orthodox believers, while 5 percent said they were Muslims and less than 2 percent said they belonged to non-Orthodox Christian confessions. Thirty-one percent declared themselves atheists. Of those who said that they believe in God, 60 percent said that they had never read any biblical text. Of those who claimed to be Orthodox believers, 42 percent said that they had never been in an Orthodox church, while another 31 percent said that they went to church “not more than once a year.” “The biggest difference between believers and nonbelievers is not how often they go to church, but whether or not they pray to God,” said VTsIOM sociologist Aleksandr Golov.
This news item was originally published by RFE/RL, (Un)Civil Societies, Vol. 3, No. 36, 4 September 2002. Copyright © 2002. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.www.rferl.org