By Alessio Schiesari
The long slog is over. The exile of the Orthodox Church from Russian society began in ’17 with the October Revolution and the birth of “gosateizm”, or State atheism. Ninety five years on, the Patriarchate in Moscow is reliving its youth all over again. A recent survey carried out by the Levada Centre has captured the religious sentiment within the Federation: 79% of Russians profess themselves to be Orthodox, 6% Muslim and 3% are Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Believers as a whole make up 88% of the Russian population. This figure is higher than what it was before the Bolshevik revolution. The number of agnostics is constantly falling (7%), while barely 5% call themselves atheists. Following the fall of the USSR, just 34% of the Russian population called themselves believers. If this figure is compared to today’s, we see that in the past twenty years more than one in two Russians has discovered the faith. The spiritual counter-revolution affects members of the Orthodox faith above all, those who suffered the forced policies of “atheization”. From its very birth, the regime tried to uproot the roots of the Orthodox faith from Russia’s social fabric. The figures help us to understand the extent of the phenomenon: in 1919 there 54 thousand popes (priests?) active in the USSR. Twenty years later, there were just 500 left. Before the accession of the Bolsheviks to power there were a thousand churches in the capital. After the fall of the wall, only 40 remained. Since the fall of the USSR this number has steadily risen and today there are about 500 churches.
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