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What Do The Russians Believe In?


In recent decade, the words about “religious revival” have entered the language of Russian mass media. What changes in people’s consciousness are implied by these words? Russian psychologists have investigated the issue.

The Yuri Levada Analytical Center has published the data of the All-Russian representative surveys on the problem of religiousness, the surveys having been conducted annually since 1989 up to now. As only approximately 4 percent of survey respondents called themselves adherents of Islam, all the data refers to Orthodoxy.

First of all - self-appraisal: in 1989-1991, 30 percent of population related themselves to Orthodox, in 1995-1998, 40 to 50 percent and more than 50 percent - in 1993-1994 and after 1999. Women, aged respondents and people with incomplete secondary education most often than others rank themselves believers. However, the growth in number of people who considered themselves believers was also observed in the 1990s among young people, men and persons with higher education. Moreover, the share of people saying “I believe that the God really exists and I do not doubt that” is growing. In 1991-98-2000, accordingly 13-24-30 percent of respondents said that.

What do the Russians specifically believe in? In life after death (the 1998 data) – 30 percent (45 percent among believers), in the paradise and the hell – 24 percent (40 percent among believers), in religious miracles – 28 percent (42 percent among believers). In addition, 30 percent of Russians believe astrologers and 50 to 55 percent believe in prophetic dreams and omens. It is not quite clear how people can consider themselves pious without believing in the paradise and the hell and religious miracles, but the Russians have always been characterized by breadth of thinking. Some sociologists, however, call this phenomenon schizophrenic dual consciousness.

As compared to other countries and nations, the Russians believe in witches more frequently than the USA inhabitants (37 percent and 24 percent, respectively), but Americans believe in the paradise, angels, devil, hell, God and for some reason in ghosts 1.5 to 2 times more frequently. According to international comparative investigations embracing 43 countries, in terms of interest to occultism, witchcraft and unidentified flying objects (UFOs) Russia occupies one of the first places in the world along with Ukraine, Venezuela and Mexico, having left materially-minded and practical Europeans far behind.

The attitude towards the Church as organization is characterized by slow fall of confidence both among believers and the overall society (“quite deserves credit” in 1993 – 57 percent, in 2003 – 37 percent). The persons who visited the church at least once a month accounted for 5 percent in 1991, 9 percent in 1998 (maximum), 6 percent in 2003 (in the US, a quarter of respondents younger than 29 and half of persons of older age visit the church on a weekly basis). Among believers, 18 percent think that they should have privileges in Russia compared to people of other faith and atheists, 26 percent wish that the Communist Party became the most influential political force in Russia again and 18 more percent assume that “this would be rather good”.

In 1998, 83 percent of believers not once in that year perfomed an alms-deed (along with that, it is the charitable function of the church that is considered the most important by 40 percent of believers) and 93 percent did not perform any activity in favor of the church.

That means that the faith has general psychological significance for them, it calms down emotionally but does not impose any obligations, nor dictates norms or anticipates personal responsibility. The Russians do understand all that themselves: 71 percent agree that “many people in Russia only want to show their belonging to faith and church, but few have proper belief”.

It should be added to the above that several years ago psychologists published the data on the society’s attitude towards marginals, and although the findings were fearful, they did not change. For instance, in 1989-1994-1999, 27-18-12 percent of citizens respectively suggested that prostitutes should be killed, 31-22-15 percent suggested that homosexuals should be killed, and 29-26-21 percent suggested that drug addicts should be killed. Now, these numbers have started to grow: in 2003, they made 14 percent, 21 percent, 25 percent in each category respectively. In general, Russians are responsive to propaganda: for example, 27 percent of respondents now suggest to kill members of religious sects (the number was 4 percent in 1989).

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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