The following resource is meant to quickly but thoroughly overview the subject of religion in Russia. It includes statistics on membership, information on major organizations and institutions, and links to sites offering histories. Mention of religion in other FSU countries is made as well. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome! Contact the Author
This Library entry was published as part the free, monthly SRAS Newsletter.
Religion in Russia
Judaism, Orthodoxy, Islam, Budhism, and more
Table of Contents
Color Code: Red links are to sites only in Russian.
Gray links have English available.
1. General News and Information report an error back to top
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World Wide Religious News is a free news monitoring service with search functions by geographic region and faith. Subscription service available.
Forum18 provides news on issues of religious freedom in Russia and the CIS.
Religare.ru is a project partly sponsored by the Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Communications. It is meant to educate Russian journalists about religious subjects.
Mir Religii offers a searchable database of Russian news sorted by religion. It also provides an extensive "Who's Who in Religion" (under "Äîñüå") of people and organizations in Russia.
Stetson University also offers a regularly updated and useful news monitoring service.
Public Opinion Foundation regularly monitors public opinion about religion.
Interfax is one of the largest Russian news agencies - they maintain a separate page for news releases concerning religion. They also offer these stats on Russian religious organizations, though they don't bother to explain them.
Adherents.com offers an interesting collection of statistics related to religion and ethnicity.
Yandex News offers religious news in Russian.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta also offers a news page devoted to religion.
Most Russian newspapers also offer some religious news within their society or culture sections.
2. Orthodoxy report an error back to top
The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest in Russia. Many Russians, although they may never attend church services, consider themselves Russian Orthodox simply because they are Russian. Estimates of adherents in Russia range from 60 million (some 45% of the population), to nearly 100 million (70%), to as high as 80% of the population.
a. History, News, and Information
Wikipedia offers an extensive history of the church.
Orthodox Wiki is a wiki covering all elements of Orthodox Christianity. Wikipedia has also opened a new Wiki printed in Old Church Slavonic.
The Orthodox Church now has its own YouTube channel.
The Church Herald (Tserkovny Vestnik) is the main official publication of the Russian Orthodox Church. Information about the paper is available in English - the rest is Russian.
Ruskii Dom is a conservative publication published with the official support of the Patriarch. Its editor in chief is Duma Deputy Alexander Krutov, a former member of the nationalist Rodina party, which merged with other conservative parties to found the Fair Russia party.
Sedmitsa.ru is "The Orthodox Encyclopedia" and offers lots of documents, news, and analysis. Sedmitsa.ru is published with the official support of Patriarch Alexis II.
Pravoslavye.org.ua is the official press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
St. George Broadcasting is an Orthodox news source covering much of Eastern Orthodoxy. The site includes various online radio broadcasts of Orthodox church services.
b. Related Organizations and Institutions
The Moscow Patriarch heads the Russian Orthodox Church. The site offers extensive information on the structure, philosophy, and dogma of the church, including an extensive listing of Orthodox institutions outside Russia. The homepage is in English, but all others are in Russian.
Pravoslavie.ru is the official website of Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow (as opposed to the above site, which is the official site of his office). The site provides more news and analysis, presumably from the personal opinion of Alexis II.
The Department for Church Charity and Social Service of the Moscow Patriarchate (DCCSS MP) deals with organizing, co-ordinating and developing the social service of the Church in parishes, dioceses and the whole canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was demolished by the Communists and grandly rebuilt after the fall of the USSR as a symbol of the official return of Orthodoxy to Russia. This official site has history, photos, and other information about the iconic church.
See the official websites of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. A new Orthodox church built next to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan recently received a lot of attention in the news as a "new route to heaven."
Portal-slovo.ru is an "Orthodox education project" focused on bringing the Orthodox worldview to students and scholars (who speak Russian).
Icon painting is a sacred art within the Russian Orthodox Church. Only those trained and approved by the Church may produce icons to be displayed in churches for worship services.
Rollins College offers extensive information on icon painting with lots of high-quality images.
Palekhskaya Icon Painting Workshop is one of the most active icon workshops with fourteen icon painters producing modern-day icons.
Ekaterina Icon Painting Workshop is another official producer. Order a personal icon online!
The Orthodox Church and its Icons offers lots more links, pics, and other information.
The Museum of Russian Icons, located in Massachussets has lots of information on its site as well as many icons on display. See this article on the SRAS site for still more information from them. They are not connected to the Russian Orthodox Church.
d. Orthodoxy Outside the FSU
The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has, due to the isolation Orthodoxy suffered under communism, operated as an independent entity and has generally evolved along a much more liberal path than the Orthodox Church in Russia. The two churches recently resolved to reunite, causing controversy particularly with the Russian Orthodox Church in England which has threatened to schism away from the church rather than adopt what it sees as oppressive religious practices.
Texas A&M has a Russian Orthodox Christian Student Organization.
The Russian Orthodox Church in America is headed by Mercurius, Bishop of Zaraisk, and based out of St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York.
Orthodoxy in America describes beliefs and practices and lists parishes across the country by tradition and location.
The Russian Orthodox Church in America has another site which offers liturgical music downloads and more.
St. John's Orthodox Church in Rahway, NJ has an immense site with hundreds of links to Orthodox Organizations around the world.
Orthodox Christianity.ru offers thousands of links. Find out anything about everything Orthodox.
d. Other Links of Interest
Vera i Slovo is a "Festival of Orthodox Mass Media" and gives prizes to the best reporting about the Orthodox Church. It has the official support of Patriarch Alexis II.
The Rural Church Society works to restore rural Orthodox churches, many of which have been abondoned for years.
The Orthodox Electronic Publishing Society presents resources for understanding Church Slavonic - including MP3 files of prayers!
"Spac" is a Russian Orthodox television channel that began broadcasting last year.
Foma is a Russian Orthodox publisher with several publications with online subscriptions.
Miloserdie (Kindhearted) is t he official charity arm of the Orthodox Church - works with the homless, orphans, the infirm, soldier's families, and more.
3. Islam report an error back to top
Islam is Russia's largest minority religion. Believers are estimated at between 9 million (6% of population) and 28 million (20%). A report from the US State Department estimates the number at about 10% of the population (or at about 14 million). Approximately 2 million Muslims are now believed to live in Moscow alone. Generally, Islam is has not politicised in Russia (as the Orthodox and Jewish faiths are, for instance) and has been fairly well doctrinally centralized under the leadership of the moderate Council of Muftis (see below).
a. History and News
Islam.ru is an "independent information portal" with news and original interviews and articles. Unfortunately, it seems the English language side has not been maintained since June of 2006.
The Public Opinion Foundation has been monitoring perceptions of Islam in Russia since 2003.
Mosques of Russia offers information on Russian mosques.
Imam.ru offers still more information with lots of pictures.
Muslim Magazine is a lifestyle magazine aimed primarily at Muslims living in Moscow, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, and Chechnya.
Musulmanka is a lifestyle magazine aimed specifically at Russian-speaking female Muslims.
Islam in the Russian Federation is an open-source report on the current demographics of Islam in Russia with analysis of its possible political consequences.
b. Related Organizations and Institutions
The Council of Muftis of Russia is the head of the Russia's Islamic faith. Their website lists biography information for all leaders, as well as a director of all "Clerical Administrations for Muslims of European Russia," which function as local governing and administrative boards. The council is also in charge of education policy and runs the Moscow Islamic University. The council is headed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin.
Central Spiritual Board of Russian Muslims is a centralized and independent structure with branches in Russia, Belarus, Moldova, and Latvia.
Religious Board of Muslims in the Nizhney Novgorod Region unites 57 member mosques to preserve Islmaic culture and educate the public about Islam. There are similar boards in Perm and Tartarstan with official websites offering information about Islam in those regions.
The Unified Muslim Hotline is a service and site in Moscow where muslims can have nearly any muslim-related question answered for free.
Russian Islamic Heritage is an NGO seeking to preserve and spread Islamic culture in Russia as well as unite all Russian muslims under a single "civic identity."
The All-Russia Muftiyat was founded with Kremlin assistance and is seen as an organization in compitition with the Council of Muftis (see above).
Organization of the Islamic Conference is an international organization formed to advance and safeguard the interests and well-being of Muslims world-wide. Russia was recently granted observer status in the organization.
4. Staroveri (Old Believers) report an error back to top
Staroveri (Old Believers), due to a reclusivity which protects their pre-15th-century Orthodox beliefs, are difficult to count. Estimates of worldwide membership range from 1-10 million. According to statistics from the US government, some 285 Old Believer organizations are registered with the Russian state and membership is believed to be as high as 2.5 million.
a. History and News
Paul Wigowsky compiled a history focusing specifically on a group of Old Believers who settled in Oregon, but also offers lots of information on the general history and culture of the religion.
The Library of Congress offers a short text on the religious flight of the Old Believers. The text is a bit dense, but the picture galleries are worth note.
The SRAS Encyclopedia offers a relatively extensive desciption of the faith and its history. (See also cultural tours to meet them!)
StaroObrad.ru offers a very attractive and well-organized site with news, publications, and links.
Starover.religare.ru is an off-shoot of Religare.ru, a project to educate Russian journalists about religious topics. It has lots of information including official documents, news, and links.
OldBeliever.de offers considerable information about rites, practices, and history, written in a very simple and accessible format.
Oldbelief.chat.ru offers a small online library of Old Believer texts.
Wikipedia and Orthodox Wiki offer informative, if perhaps slanted and clumsily written accounts of the Old Believers.
b. Related Organizations and Institutions
The Office of the Metropolitan of Moscow is the generally recognized head of the Old Believer church. Its current head is Metropolitan Kornilli.
The Churches in Vyatka have an interesting site with lots of info in English about their churches, community, and beliefs. The site is endorsed by the Metropolitan.
Churches in Ostozhenka, and the Baikal Regions also have endorsed websites. St. Petersburg has an unofficial site.
Ostrov Veri is a semi-official Old Believer newspaper published in the Urals.
c. Other Sites of Interest
The Russian-Lipovan Community in Romania offers a short history in English of how they came to live in Romania.
Old Believer communities in Estonia and Latvia also have sites.
Multicultural Canada, a website sponsored by several of Canada's universities, offers a history and description of the Old Believers of Canada.
5. Buddhism report an error back to top
Buddhism has existed in Russia since about the 16th Century. Russia is home to many large Buddhist temples, particularly in Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tuva (all in southern Russia). Estimates place the number of Buddhists in Russia between and 1.5 million and 2 million.
a. News and Information
News.ru has a Russian language news monitoring service for world Buddhism.
Buddhist.ru gives an extensive history of Buddhism in Russia and other resources. See also the Russian-language forum.
BuddhismOfRussia.ru offers several Russian-language publications and a news service.
The Datsan in St. Petersburg has a site focusing on local news. Information on the Datsan itself is available in English.
Wikipedia has an extensive and informative entry for Buddhism in Russia.
Buddhist Painting of Buryatia offers lots of illustrations. See the Russian site for more info.
b. Related Organizations
The Russian Association of Karma Kagyu School Buddhists is one of the largest Buddhist associations in Russia. For more extensive information, see the Russian version of their site. This school of Buddhism is led by Ole Nydahl, a Dane. He is pictured right onboard a Russian train.
The Datsun at Ivolginskogo, located in Southern Russia near Lake Baikal, is one of Buddhism's major centers in Russia.
BuddhismInKalmykia.ru details the activities of one of Russia's largest Buddhist monastaries (located in Kalmykia, in western Russia). The Russian side is much more extensive.
Mantra.ru is the official site of Moscow's large Buddhist Center.
The Buddhist Center in St. Petersburg also has an official site.
6. Protestants and Catholics report an error back to top
The Catholic Church estimated that there were from 600,000 to 1.5 million Catholics in Russia in 2006. According to the Slavic Center for Law and Justice, Protestants number more than 2 million, with more than 3,500 registered religious organizations.
a. News and Information
BibleLamp.ru is a news, information, and Christian dating service in Russian.
Protestant.ru offers non-denominational protestant-centered religious news and articles in Russian with search functions by Russian regions and a subscription service.
b. Related Organizations
BibleLamp.ru offers a massive database of Christian Churches in Russia, Ukraine, and other Russian-speaking countries.
Slavic Gospel Association is an organization assisting evangelical Christians and specifically Baptists in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Russian Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptists offers a Christian news service in English and general information on evangelical movements in Russia.
RusCatholic.ru is run by the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia. Unfortunately, most of the site is still "under construction."
The Anglican Church has chaplaincies in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The LDS Church maintains a Russian language site. According the church's own estimates, as of 2003, 16,000 members worshiped in 44 missions across Russia. Missions have also been established in Kazakhstan , Moldova, and Ukraine.
Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy serves several protestant groups in Moscow including Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists.
The Salvation Army has ministries in Russia and also in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
International Christian Fellowship is one of many non-denominational churches that meets in Moscow. For more churches with meeting times, please see the SRAS Moscow City Guide.
Seventh Day Adventist and the Seventh Day Adventist, Reform Movement have representation and sites in Russia.
7. Judaism report an error back to top
The Jewish population of Russia is estimated at 228,000 by an Israeli-American organization and between 600,000 and one million by the US State Department. Both agree that the population is shrinking due to "marrying out" (marrying outside the faith) and emigration driven by antisemitism and greater economic opportunity for educated people outside Russia. Although they are a small segment of the population, the Jewish community in Russia and the FSU are very active - shown by their prolific organizations and websites.
a. History and News
Jewish.ru offers news and analysis in Russian for the global Jewish community.
JewishVirtualLibrary.org offers a very concise history of Judaism in Russia, from its introduction to modern times.
Wikipedia offers a much more detailed account, with several pictures and off-site links.
The Agency for Jewish News provides news on culture, religion, science, and politics of interest to the Jewish population of Russia, the CIS, and the Baltic States.
The Jewish Society of St. Petersburg has a site focusing on local news.
The Jewish Public Library offers an extensive collection of links to Russian-language Jewish newspapers and literature.
Jewish People Policy Planning Institute produces an annual report on the population and status of Jewish people around the globe. Click here for an extract of the 2006 report on the FSU.
b. Related Organizations and Institutions
Federation of Russian Jewish Communities (FEOR) has representative communities across Russia and is primarily concerned with helping to support Jewish culture in Russia by founding synagogues, schools, charities, and publications. The FEOR is recognized both as the main organization unifying Jewish groups in Russia and as a very conservative religious organization. Its current head is Rabbi Berel Lazar.
The Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Community Center is headed by Rabbi Berel Lazar and is recognized as the official center for Jewish life in Russia. It contains a concert hall, video club, kosher cafes, a library, a conference hall, a soup kitchen and more. A new center, valued at 30 million USD, is set to be built and opened in 2008. More Info in English - Schedule of religious services - More Info in English from the FJC
Bronnaya Synagogue is another of Moscow's major synagogues and is currently undergoing reconstruction after years of neglect under Soviet rule. More Info in English
The Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC) is attempting to restore Jewish life, culture, and religion throughout the lands of the former Soviet Union by providing professional assistance, educational support, and funding to member communities.
The Russian Jewish Youth Conference seeks to unite all Jewish youth within Russia, to build relationships between them, provide social support for them, as well as to popularize Jewish lifestyles, art, culture, family values.
The Euro-Asian Jewish Conference is part of the World Jewish Congress and works to defend the rights and interests of Jewish people within the Eurasian geographic area. Its website offers press monitoring and an online magazine.
World Congress of Russian(-Speaking) Jewry is a non-governmental umbrella organization aimed to unite and represent the interests of the Russian speaking Jewry worldwide.
NCSJ used to stand for "National Conference of Soviet Jewry"; now it is a name unto itself. This American organization works to protect the rights and freedoms of Jewish people in the FSU.
The Choral Synagogue is St. Petersburg's only synagogue. The adjoining "Beit Khabad" Community Center contains a restaurant, library, and other services.
Association "Mitsva" of Kazakhstan represents the interests of Jewish people in that country.
Jewish Confederation of Ukraine is an all-Ukraine union incorporating independent public, charitable, and religious Jewish organizations, whose activities are aimed at charity, reviving of the Jewish national lifestyle, support of humanitarian foundations and humanitarian values. Their website provides news, analysis, and a newsletter.
c. Other Links of Interest
Chanuka.ru tells all about Hanukkah in Russian!
Lavabado House tells the storied history of St. Petersburg's Jewish Cemetery.
An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature: Two Centuries of Dual Identity in Prose and Poetry offers extensive selections of literature that help reveal Russian-Jewish identity.
Russian and Jewish Identity - extract from the 2006 JPPPI Annual Assessment
Need kosher in Russia? Our Moscow City Guide and St. Petersburg City Guide now lists eateries serving kosher food!
8. Shamanism, Paganism, and Traditional Belief report an error back to top
The Evenk are the traditional and most populous adherents in Russia to a mystical and decentralized religion known as Shamanism. There are no reliable estimates for the number of Shamanists or pagans, but it is unlikely there are more than a few score thousand (of either).
News.ru offers news monitoring in Russian for Paganism and Shamanism.
Northern Shamanism is a web community for shamanists. It's flooded with detailed information in Russian about the religion.
The NECEP provides considerable detail of the practices, beliefs, and folklore of the Shamanists. Note that there are more topics on the menu to the left.
BuryatMongol.com has not been maintained for sometime, but offers a wealth of English-language information about shamanistic myths and ceremonies.
Pagan.ru offers lots of information in Russian, including a massive "Dictionary" of Russian Paganism with information and pictures of Russia's ancient gods and a large library of pagan documents and material.
Russian Folklore lists lots of links to sites with more information in English.
The Ukrainian Folklore Project is an interesting site sponsored by the University of Alberta. Lots of info, pics, video footage and other multimedia presentations.
b. Related Organizations, Names, and Sites
There are 14 registered organizations uniting Shamanists. Some of the largest are "Áîî ìóðãýë," "Ëóñàä," and "Òýíãýðè." Unfortunately, none of these have websites. Shamanists also do not have standard churches, but use holy sites and homes to conduct services. There are 8 official pagan organizations. Most of those also do not have websites.
MorinTour, a travel agency in Buryatia, has specialized Shaman tours.
This article from Baikal Land details several holy sites with pictures.
c. Other Links and Resources of Interest
Article: The Day of Ivan Kupola (pagan tradition)
Article: Maslanitsa, Blin! (pagan tradition still popularly celebrated in Russia)
Article: Russian Mythology (introduction to the subject)
Definition: Dvoeverie (Russian "double-faith")
Article: Manas (Kyrgyz mythology)
Article: History of Russian Holiday Ornaments (references pagan tradition)
Article: Religious practices of the Ancient Scythians
Blog: Former SRAS Student Shawn Wheeler studied indiginous culture in Kyrgyzstan.
Article: Shawn Wheeler's Travel Guide to Rural Kyrgyzstan
9. Atheism and Agnosticism report an error back to top
As these are often not considered religions, there are few reliable statistics for the number of atheists and agnostics in Russia. According to a 2006 poll, however, 11% of the Russian population said that they do not identify with any of the religions listed above and 3% found the question hard to answer. Given this, we could roughly estimate the numbers to be something less than perhaps 1.5 million. A different study, taken in 2005, however, estimated the numbers to be as high as 69 million, or nearly half the population. Due to these two reasons (disparity of statistics and debated status), we have left this cateogory out of ranking provided above.
Atheism.ru is the most extensive website available covering atheism in Russia. It also offers this "Report from Russia" about the perceptions of a Western atheist in Russia during the 90s.
Ateism.ru is another extensive site.
Atheism, Religion, and Society lists several books and articles about the subject. It also starts with two quotes from Hitler and lists nationist, facist, and other less-than-savory sources.
Russian Skeptics Club offers some information on agnosticism and atheism in Russia.
10. Interreligious Organizations and Religious Tolerance report an error back to top
The Interreligious Council of Russia drew leaders of Russia's largest denominations as well as international religious leaders together to work for "interreligious peace." The council's website has not been operating since the beginning of 2006.
Forum18 advocates tolerance around the world, including the FSU.
ReligiousTolerance.org offers this essay detailing Russian religious tolerance to 2001.
Religious Journalism: Types, Principles and Institutional Problems is an interesting essay (in Russian) covering multiple issues about religion in Russian society.
The US State Department issues yearly reports on Religious Freedom around the world. Note they are sorted by year on the left. Also please note that while these reports often have liberally calculated statistics and concentrate on issues of religious intolerance reported in these countries.
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