Monday, May 6, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Under Three Percent of Russians Attended Easter Services, MVD Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – Approximately four million Russians attended Orthodox Easter services yesterday held at slightly more than 10,200 Russian Orthodox churches, MVD statistics which call into question both the Moscow Patriarchate’s claims about the share of Orthodox in the Russian population and about the number of Russian Orthodox churches in operation.

            This year, as it has done every year since the end of Soviet times, the Russian interior ministry deployed 70,600 police and 1680 internal troops to ensure order at Russian Easter services and then issued a report both on the number of churches where services were held and the number of people attending them (

                Both countrywide statistics are striking: The numbers show that services were held in less than half of the churches that the Moscow Patriarchate says it is currently operating in the Russian Federation and that less than three percent of the Russian population attended them, far fewer  than the 80 percent of the population that the Patriarchate routinely says are Orthodox.

            The MVD also has provided data for each of the federal districts.  In the Far Eastern FD, slightly more than 141,000 believers took part in services out of a population of 6.25 million, or approximately 2.3 percent. In the Siberian FD, more than 175,000 did so out of a population of 19.28 million, or less than one percent of the population there.

            In the Urals FD, 220,000 attended services out of a total population of 12.2 million, just under two percent of the total. The MVD also reported that its officers had found that 65 percent of those attending Eastern services in that FD were in Sverdlovsk oblast and the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous district.

In the Volga FD, more than 600,000 attended out of a population of 29.8 million, of whom 21.2 million are ethnic Russians. There, the most numerous Orthodox services were in Tatarstan, Perm kray and Nizhny Novgorod oblast. In the Southern FD, some 835,000 attended Eastern services, with the largest number in Krasnodar kray, Rostov oblast and Volgograd oblast.

            In the North Caucasus FD, which has a population of 9.5 million of which many are non-Russian and non-Christian, 226,000 believers attended services in 339 churches. The largest numbers were in Stavropol kray, North Osetia-Alania Republic, and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. (For details on this region, see

            In the North West FD, 456,000 attended Easter services, with the largest numbers being in St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast, the most populous part of that district.  And in the Central FD, which includes Moscow, the MVD reported that more than 1.7 million people attended services in 3900 Orthodox shrines, churches, and monasteries.

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