Russia Religion Religion in Russia Multi-Confessionalism


The Russian Federation is a multi-confessional state. Besides Orthodox Christians, the country is also inhabited by Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Jews and representatives of other religions.

There are at least fifteen million adherents of Islam in Russia. They are mostly concentrated in the Volga region, Western Siberia, the Caucasus, Moscow and Moscow Region. Islam arose on the territory of the Russian Federation in 642, when Arabs came to what is now Dagestan. The practice of Islam is an important element in the self-identification of the Tatar, Bashkir, Chechen, Dagestan and many other indigenous nations. The Islamic peoples of the Russian Federation are currently experiencing a rise in religious self-consciousness. The number of mosques is growing and new Islamic study centres are opening.

In 1841, Buddhism – in the form of Lamaism or Tibetan Buddhism – was recognised as one of the official religions of the Russian Empire. The first Buddhist university monastery – Tamchinsky Datsan – was founded in Buryatia. In 1909, a datsan was opened in St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. Besides Buryatia, the other principal Buddhist region of Russia is Kalmykia. The capital of Kalmykia, Elista, is home to an institute for the rebirth of Buddhism.

Judaism is a traditional confession in Russia, which has the world’s third largest number of Jewish religious communities (after Israel and the United States). More than a hundred years ago, large synagogues were built in both Moscow and St Petersburg. Synagogues function in many other towns.

Roman Catholic churches were first built in Russia in the eighteenth century, during the reign of Catherine the Great. Political relations were established between Russia and Rome. The dialogue between the Vatican and Russia was revived in 1990, when diplomatic relations were restored with the Holy See. Catholic communities now exist in many towns of the Russian Federation.

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